Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What If Agent Scully is Really the Good Guy?

So I just finished binge-watching season 11 of The X-Files and reflected on my changing feelings about this show and its characters. To be sure, I was a devoted fan during its original run, watched the two theatrical films - own both of them on DVD - and I was looking forward to its season 10 revival in 2016. I was curious, though, if the revival could be pulled off effectively given how every sensible person today should be leery of anyone calling himself a conspiracy theorist. Can conspiracy-believing Agent Mulder still be seen as admirable in an age where conspiracists are propagating offensive nonsense like "crisis actor"" theories and their most visible public representative is a bloviating charlatan like Alex Jones?

It was interesting to see that at the start of the season 10, the show was kind of aware of this. The Internet conspiracy theorist character (Joel McHale) appeared to be the sort of unhinged nut a writer would create if they tried to pay homage to Alex Jones. One couldn't help but completely side with Scully in the scenes where the McHale character unspooled his claims of far-reaching, all-powerful cabals and their diabolical plots. The show could have taken a fascinating opportunity to examine the dark side of the conspiracy culture and conspiracy entertainment itself. It could have made a more pointed commentary about when we cross the line between healthy skepticism of authority and a delusional world of post-fact fantasies so much of American culture is sinking into.

As of this writing, there is still no word from Fox about whether the show will be renewed for a 12th season. The ratings for Season 11, after all, have been declining. Could the reason for this be that viewers, too, are coming to realize that conspiracy theorists are no longer the good guys?

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