Thursday, October 20, 2011

X-Files Nostalgia

The sf/fantasy/related stuff blog has started doing a rewatch of The X-Files, and that's brought me right back to my Stealth Geek roots. When that show first came on, I had one long-distance friend who watched it, and every episode left me dying to talk about it. At the same time, people were starting to really talk about this "Internet" thing, and we'd finally got access at work. I was working at a university medical center and had a pre-Windows computer, so Internet access meant a VAX, text-only, which mostly meant e-mail. I read a magazine article about how X-Files fandom was really taking off on the Internet in this USENET group called, and I set out to find a way to access it. I ended up finding a way to use gopher to get to a read-only newsgroup server to read the messages, and then found a mail-to-news gateway for making posts. It was like a whole new world opened up for me. I'd usually been the solitary geek in any group I hung around with, barring the college years when I had a big group of geek friends. This was like finding my college friends all over again, but there were hundreds of them, all over the world. It was awesome.

I even got lured away to another job based almost entirely on the basis that the new place offered full Internet access. I could finally get onto a real USENET server. Then I really started posting and having conversations. I made some friends I'm still in touch with (and at least one person who turned out to be someone I knew from my professional life). The term "Stealth Geek" got coined when we were discussing Mulder. He had very much a geeky personality, but was kind of a sex symbol and not the way the media usually portray people with his interests. The Lone Gunmen are the more typical media geeks. The term "Stealth Geek" really touched a nerve, and next thing I knew, it had become this thing that took on a life of its own.

Eventually, I made friends at the new job who were also into the show, so I had real-life people to discuss it with. I developed a few other interests so I was less focused in my obsession. And, let's face it, the show started kind of sucking. Still, I went to an X-Files convention, where I won a trivia contest and got to meet William B. Davis, the Cigarette Smoking Man himself (who may be the most charming man I've ever met -- I switched my character loyalties on the spot. Mulder who?). My now-defunct pen name was an X-Files reference (although it later became a character on SG-1, but I had it first).

I actually kind of liked the last season because the original characters had started irritating me. Although I will confess to having had a crush on David Duchovny (we share a birthday! It must have been fate!), by the end of his run on the series, he seemed to be phoning it in, and his attitude as seen in talk show appearances irked me because he struck me as being almost embarrassed by his claim to fame, like he wanted to distance himself from those crazy people who liked this show. Now, when a commercial where he's done the voiceover comes on, I have to mute it. I was also an extreme anti-shipper. For one thing, Scully could do better, and Mulder would have needed a lifetime of therapy to be good boyfriend material. For another, I remember all the interviews with Chris Carter from the first season in which he constantly said that Mulder and Scully would never hook up romantically, that he wanted to explore the idea of a man and a woman working together and being friends without going the usual romance route, and I felt rather betrayed that he changed his tune. Then there's the fact that the show lost total control of its own mythology, the outcome of the underlying plot question of the entire series (what happened to Samantha) was incredibly anticlimactic, and the series devolved into self-parody, with way too many self-referential comedy episodes.

Sadly, I find that the show hasn't aged well for me. I've caught reruns when the Sci Fi channel shows them, and I can only watch that last season because it's less of a jolt -- I expect those episodes to be weak, but when it's one I remember as good, I get that embarrassing "I liked this?" response.

I taped the whole series while it was on because at one time, I'd watch it multiple times each week, all the better to discuss all the trivial nuances. I realized this summer that I haven't watched any of those tapes in nearly a decade, and I made the momentous decision to start taping over them instead of buying new tapes (yes, I still use a VCR and don't yet have a DVR). Season 2 of Haven is now where the X-Files used to be (a later season, I think).

So, I guess I won't be participating in the rewatch, although I think I remember the rewatch recapper and some of the commenters from my a.t.x-f. days. I do have the pilot on official VHS (from before the days of DVDs -- and this is a series I'd lost interest in before DVDs became available), so maybe I'll give it another whirl to see if going back to the beginning recaptures my interest. It would be a little sad if something that once was such a huge part of my life had become something that now just irks me.

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