The X-Files Uncovered

Rolling Stone ISSUE 734

The truth about "The X-Files" is in here. At least I hope so. If I seem confused, suspicious or even full-out paranoid, trust me -I have reasons. From the moment I fearlessly choose to accept this assignment, strange things started happening. Unexplained things. Totally paranormal shit.

First, how can I explain away the phenomenon of finding myself entranced by a show that I -and much of the Western world- initially dismissed as goofy, spooky kids' stuff? After all, The X-Files was a series that even the Fox network considered less promising than "The adventures of Brisco County Jr." The cast's star power was unproven. Gillian Anderson was a complete unknown; David Duchovny was most familiar for wearing his skirt in Twin Peacks as well as for breathing heavily on the Showtime sex serie "Red Show Diaries." Chris Carter, the show's creator was a former Surfing magazine editor whose most notable credit may have been "Rags to Riches", a short-lived musical-comedy series starring Joe Bologna. The X-Files premiered on Sept. 10, 1993, with little hype and less hope. "This show's a goner" proclaimed one critic.

Gradually over the last three seasons, as if part of some uncannily orchestrated scheme involving alien DNA, this unlikely show has struck a big, paranoid chord with the American public. The X-Files marks the spot where our collective fears get the best of us. It has become massive cult phenomenon, a sober but trippy conspiracy Ü go-go.

The X-Files chronicles the adventures of Fox "Spooky" Mulder and Dana Scully -two FBI agents investigating paranormal cases who share a profoundly sexy yet chaste relationship as they take on sinister foes. They attempt to shed light on the shadow government that would keep the truth about aliens covered up; meanwhile, they also battle with the occasional liver-eating serial killer, Satan-worshipping New Hampshire PTA, sideshow murderer, flukemen, vampire and -is this one redundant?- woman-beast from New Jersey. Dramatically lit and eerily scored, The X-Files has proved that even at a time when many humanoids take Pat Buchanan seriously as presidential candidate, we've not entirely lost our ability to be scared.

"The X-Files touches a pulse and taps into a public perception that the government can't be trusted and that rational science isn't giving us the whole picture, " says Bud Hopkins, a leading UFO investigator. In terms of convincing others of the reality of aliens, Hopkins says, "On balance the show is probably doing more good than harm, but it's not an unmitigated blessing."

At first, staking out this was strictly a professional obligation, but gradually my behavior became curiouser and curiouser. I found myself planning to be home Friday nights to watch The X-Files. As if in some 90's twist of an old Kafka plot, I woke up one morning to find myself an X-Phile. Could this inexplicable adjustment of my aesthetic judgment perhaps be the result of some complex and sinister attempt at mind control? Or could I possibly have been watching too much TV?

Having been sucked into the show's vortex, I decide to drive to Burbank Airport Hilton, near Los Angeles, to check out the Official X-Files Convention. While the truth may be out there, some of the attendees seem way out there -imagine paranoid Trekkies who think the Vulcans might actually be out to get them.

I don't make it to the Official X-Files Prop Gallery, and I miss a seminar on "Mulderisms/Scullyisms." Some unseen foe conspires to make me purchase all sorts of merchandise. I buy X-Files novelizations, comic books, the official series guide, a diary, a phone card -even an Alien Autopsy(Fact or Fiction?) video. Later I will pick up "Songs in the Key of X: Music From and Inspired by the X-Files" and the new X-Files videos. As it says in TV ads for the videos, owning is believing.

Properly accessorized for convention duty, I laugh and cry during the screening of "The Gags Are Out There" the official X-Files blooper reel. At one point I hear the hundreds of people in the audience -who paid about 20$ to attend- cheer wildly as they watch video of an oozing wound. At least they look like people.

Intrigued, I decide to press on my investigation. When I finally arrive in the Vancouver, British Columbia, where The X-Files is shot, things only get stranger. At the airport, I notice that the "dollars" here have pictures of some middle-aged woman on them. After I order the penne arrabiata from hotel room service that night, my food arrives immediately as if They already knew exactly what I wanted. Later that same evening somebody eats every last one of the overpriced Famous Amos cookies in my minibar. On a music-video channel, somebody -or something- actually plays a Rush video.

At the show's suspiciously placid-looking production office the next morning, I closely encounter Chris Carter and realize something is very wrong here. Supposedly the show's creator, executive producer and leading writer, he's not remotely pasty -as a writer's supposed to be- but handsome and boyish at age of 39. When I watch David Duchovny at work, again something is suspicious. Some scenes end with Duchovny saying "motherfucker", yet strangely this word never appears on the air. The next morning I meet up with Gillian Anderson in a faux cemetery set that's been erected in a frigid Vancouver park. As her colleagues adjust the fake gravestones, she looks around and says "This is so weird".

Actually, the set seems almost lighthearted. The two real stars are Duchovny's beloved dog, Blue and Piper, Andersons 1 and a half -year-old daughter with husband Clyde Klotz, whom she met when he was an art director on the show. "Piper's cuter" says Duchovny. "But Blue has nicer hair. Blue used to be smarter, but Piper has eclipsed her in that area. I don't see Blue gaining." Charmed but unconvinced that I understand exactly how high this thing goes, I head back to Los Angeles, where I interrogate Carter.

What follows, then, is my best effort to make Carter and his two stars explain the unexplainable. But as Deep Throat -Mulder's dear departed government source- said in his words "Trust no one". Not even me. That said, I'm ready for another assignment -maybe delving into mysteries of Savannah.

 

 

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