On Sept. 10, 1993, a legend was born. A surfer-dude editor of Surfing magazine, a former Mohawk-touting nose ring-wearing punk girl, and a preppy would-be English PhD, told the story of the man, the myth, the monotone.
For nine years we joined the search for Truth, trust, extraterrestrial conspiracies, and supernatural phenomenon -- and next week, we will find what we were looking for. And it will be sad.
There are people who understand The X-Files and those who do not. Like the true beauty of a Zen rock garden, appreciation cannot be adequately communicated to the uninitiated. X-Files was not about random poltergeists and monsters, or about little grey men or shady G-men. It was about probing the unknown, fighting the good fight, and expanding the realm of reality. It dealt with the epistemology of science versus faith, the psychology of obsession, and, of course, the history and fate of mankind.
What was the message of the show? Any neophyte could dutifully reply “Trust no one,” “the Truth is out there,” and “I want to believe.” But upon a moment’s reflection, it seems only too obvious that the first mantra is completely antithetical to the message of the other two: one expresses profound pessimism, the other unbridled optimism. Do we define our parameters, so we trust not in people, but in the unexplained and supernatural? We could, but that is not terribly profound.
No, the theme of X-Files was actually both pessimistic and optimistic. Fox Mulder perfectly embodied “cynical idealism” -- the proper way to conduct oneself in an imperfect world. A cynical idealist has ideals; he has passions and values and knows how the world should be. But the world is thoroughly unideal. Anyone who thinks otherwise either benefits from the unideality or is ignorant or apathetic.
Faced with a world that disappoints, thwarts, and is seemingly incorrigible, the pensive idealist has no choice but to become cynical. Far from being a negative trait, cynicism is a passionate form of the healthy skepticism that drives science and the pursuit of Truth. It makes one unhappy at times, but it for the cynical idealist, the cause demands such sacrifices. Trust no one because you need to find and believe the Truth.
There is, however, a crucial exception to the cynicism, found between Mulder and Scully, and between Doggett and Rayes. They two, birds in a cage, were all they had in the pellmell of the world. But it was enough, and that even in such an overwhelming world, two people could have such vital, inexorable trust, is a beautiful and wonderful thing. Watching the pair, we can only wistfully dream that someone we too will have someone to believe in, to entrust our lives to, to be more sure about than anything else in the world.
There are unseen forces at work, be them man-made or supernatural, and X-Files demonstrates to us the way to fight back against them. There is passion -- Mulder’s search for his sister, Dogget’s search for his son’s killer, Scully’s love for her son and Mulder. There is loyalty-the fraternity of the Lone Gunmen and the loyalty between partners. (This is a virtue perhaps not well understood; malcontents think it fashionable to lament the decline of the show during recent years, or who have abandoned the show completely after Duchovny’s disappearance.)
And of course, there is openness -- to change and new possibilities, not only with respect to Mulder’s radical theories, but also to the acceptance of Doggett who for he is, rather than as a character to replace Mulder. Last season featured Agent Harrison, whose incessant references to what “Mulder and Scully” used to do mirrored the lamentations of fans. But Doggett and Rayes proved themselves to be admirable characters to those who remained open-minded, as a true skeptic doesn’t allow anything to hinder the contemplation of alternatives.
So we thus learned, and contemplated, and pondered, and discussed, and laughed, and cried. From Mulder’s developing trust for Scully, through Deep Throat and CBG Spender, through Black Oil, through Scully’s cancer, through Mulder and Scully’s first kiss, through cornfields and bees, through William’s birth, through Mulder’s disappearance, through Doggett and Rayes, through the death of the Lone Gunmen, to next week’s return of Mulder and the end of it all, we have been taken through a fictitious, but completely real, journey. And now, the good fight is ending. Doesn’t that make you sad? It makes me sad.