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Arts in Review

I want to believe: A non-review of X-File

So, watch the show or don’t. It’s amazing, but don’t worry about it either way. If “the truth is out there” like the X-Files title sequence suggests, you’re just as likely to find it living your life normally as you are jamming the entirety of a decade-old TV show into your schedule.

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By Alex Rake (The Cascade) – Email

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I tried. I really did try to binge-watch all of X-Files before watching the new season. I thought I could do it before the semester was over. I thought I was a hero of The Cascade’s Arts in Review section. Today, in this last issue before the summer, I realize that I never got that far, that I am no hero.

I got to season seven, which is a bit before the show apparently went to shit, replacing Agent Mulder and Agent Scully with two other dodos nobody cared about. I was really excited to get to see those dodos deal with government conspiracies, aliens, and ghosts. My heart breaks that I won’t get to report to you how awful it was. My heart also breaks that I won’t get to report to you what I thought about the new season, because I haven’t seen it.

So what can I do with this review? Tell you how awesome the first seven seasons of X-Files continue to be? You don’t want to hear that, because that’s what everyone tells you. It’s true that you’re not going to find another show that so masterfully balances the monster-of-the-week format with its continuous and complex overarching plot. You’re not going to find another show that is so funny, so scary, and so mind-bending all at once. You know this already. Go read some other review if you want to hear more.

There’s nothing I can say except that keeping up with pop culture is difficult. There is so much media begging for attention. “Watch me,” the TV shows say, “Watch me or you’ll never understand what your peers are talking about.” I’ve got work, I’ve got school, I’ve got to sleep once in a while, but if I ignore this voice I am haunted by the possibility of missing out on this generation’s Shakespeare. I need to stay awake and consume and consume and consume cultural content.

Even if I know the show doesn’t appeal to me, knowing that the rest of the world has seen it lands me in the category of pop-ignorance; not having seen all of How I Met Your Mother, for example, has made me a tedious member of many conversations. And so not having seen the new X-Files makes me anxious about my social life, as if I now have to avoid talking about the show as a whole in order to not come across as an ignorant poser, even though I sincerely love it. I know this anxiety is stupid because that’s not how I view other people who haven’t seen the entirety of the same shows as me, but the anxiety exists nonetheless.

There must be some way to assuage this anxiety. Some solution, other than actually binge-watching the shows that everyone’s talking about or giving up on media entirely, exists. Maybe we need to find more to talk about in reviews and in social settings than ranking what shows we’ve seen, what books we’ve read, or what games we’ve played. These things say something about life — they aren’t life itself. So I propose that rather than watch a show and tell people to see it ad nauseum, we shoot for a different conversation.

Let’s not talk about how good a show is so much as what the show is trying, even if unintentionally, to tell us. “X-Files rules” is a true statement, but a better conversation would be that it has a lot to teach about being open to the mysteries of subjective experience and not taking the words of authority at face value. These are ideas anyone can chime in on, so the discussion becomes inclusive rather than an exclusive stream of inside references.

So, watch the show or don’t. It’s amazing, but don’t worry about it either way. If “the truth is out there” like the X-Files title sequence suggests, you’re just as likely to find it living your life normally as you are jamming the entirety of a decade-old TV show into your schedule.

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