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The X-Files is my nerd blindspot, and I don't know if that's a bad thing

Lucky escape or gap in my nerd knowledge?

The X-Files
Image credit: Fox Television

Here’s my nerd confession: I am not an X-Files fan. Worse, yet; I’ve never really seen the show — not when it was originally airing in the 1990s, nor at any point in the intervening decades. I know, I know; I’m sorry. It’s an oversight that leaves many people (not least of whom, Popverse deputy editor Tiffany Babb) surprised and a little aghast.

In my defense, I watched some of the first season? I have an unusually clear memory of watching the season finale, curiously enough, even though I’m not sure how much of the rest of the season I managed to watch — I think I tuned in because, even at the time, the show had enough of a reputation that I wanted to see what it was all about… but, for whatever reason, it apparently didn’t click for me enough to keep watching beyond that.

I’ve joked before that I could only really pay attention to one grand conspiracy theory fiction of the 1990s, and my heart belonged to Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles — but that comic launched a year after The X-Files, so clearly there was something else about the show that didn’t work for my tastes at the time. Could it have been David Duchovny’s particularly wooden acting? (Sorry, fans, but you know it’s true.) The somewhat erratic sense that the show didn’t really know what it was doing beside Monster of the Week stories, at least in those early episodes? Maybe that I’m not really that into alien abduction stories at the best of times?

Whatever the reason, The X-Files wasn’t for me — and, for some years during its run and immediately after, I've fought the feeling that I was missing out. The show went from strength to strength, in terms of fandom and cult appreciation, with each new season, and from all reports, the mythology of the show (and the many unanswered secrets and mysteries contained therein) just grow bigger and more intricate. It all felt at once like a party that I wasn’t invited to, and something that should have been very much my kind of thing, but somehow, inexplicably, just wasn’t; I juggled what would, years later, be called FOMO with a sense of shame that it was my own fault for missing out.

By the time the show ended, that feeling had successfully faded considerably; like Battlestar Galactica and Lost — two shows I would be very into when they aired, years later — The X-Files appeared to have considerably burned away much of its earlier goodwill by failing to have a coherent answer to its own questions, and a number of the show’s biggest fans seemed to have turned on it by the time the ninth and (at the time) final season aired. What was a regret at my own failure to enjoy something that I felt I should transformed into relief that I hadn’t wasted my time all along. (I’d get there; Battlestar Galactica, especially, still stings.)

Time has been kind to The X-Files, however; I think we can thank both nostalgia and Gillian Anderson’s ascendence to the godhead equally for that. As the show celebrates its 30th anniversary, and I realize that I’ve wasted my time on far less entertaining things, I find myself wondering: did I actually miss out by not getting into The X-Files? And is there a way I can get the full experience without having to sign on to watch eleven seasons of television, two movies and two separate spin-off shows?


Talking about 1990s cult favorites, why not watch the Buffy and Vampire Slayer reunion panel from C2E2 this year?

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