Fear and Loathing In the Land of the X

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Title: Fear and Loathing In the Land of the X Or The Truth May Be Out There, But Who The Hell Cares Or How I Learned to Hate X Philes and Stop Watching the Show
Creator: GeckoLiz
Date(s): May 13, 1998
Medium: online
Fandom: The X-Files
Topic:
External Links: the post at alt.tv.x-files; Archive
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fear and Loathing In the Land of the X Or The Truth May Be Out There, But Who The Hell Cares Or How I Learned to Hate X Philes and Stop Watching the Show is an very, very long essay by "GeckoLiz" at alt.tv.x-files on May 12, 1998. It had been previously posted at another X-Files site, as mentioned in the comments below.

It was a rant about both the direction the X-Files had taken, as well as a rant addressing the X-Files fandom.

Topics Discussed in the Rant, and in the Following Comments

  • the quality of the show
  • the quality of fanfic
  • the use of pseuds
  • speculation about who "GeckoLiz" was
  • the poor behavior of fans
  • sour grapes

Excerpts

I kept watching, throughout uneven scripts, murky production values, and the occasional turkey.

Sometime in late 1995, I undertook to find X Files graphics for my daughter. While surfing and searching I happened on the fanfic archives. Big mistake. I was desperate for escape at that time and fanfic promised one.

Most of it was, to put it bluntly, crap. But here and there were scattered pearls of great price, writers just beginning to flex their muscles and develop skill, rough and yet promising.

X Files par excellence, some of them better than any Carter had offered. Some characterizations better than Carter et al wrote.

Of course, there were also the requisite MSRs.
I discovered alt.tv.x-files.creative first, the home of fanfic. Again, most of it was crap. In those days, there was a better representation of what I, for lack of a better term, will call genres.

Straightforward X files, Monster of the Week, Conspiracy Arc, and (naturally) the ubiquitous romances between Mulder and Scully.

These later developed into further subdivisions. Mulderangst. Scullyangst. Muldertorture. (Don't ask.) Scullytorture. (Ditto.) Slash. (You'll never see Mulder, Skinner or Krycek the same way again, I can promise you.) Sado-Mulderism. (Don't ask about that, either, it's scary.)

I'm not going to attempt to categorize any of these things in an academic fashion. The Queen of Mulderangst was Amperage, whose stories Sacrifice and Oklahoma (co-written by Livengoo) was raw and rough and one helluva roller coaster ride. In those days, the Queen of Humour was Youkneek, whose story Round Files was a take off on the great switch between the performers and the characters. Watching the performers deal with the morgue was well worth the reading all by itself.

The Queen of Romance was either Paula Graves or MacSpooky. Juliette was also in the running for that title. I can't speak to those stories, since I don't appreciate romance.
Ultimately, and I confess it to my great embarrassment, I ventured into the playground of atxfc. It broke my writer's block, thankfully, I have other projects in process, and I discovered the nearly lethal ease of writing fanfic. The characters are developed for you, although you have the freedom to fill in certain nuances, the backstory is established in the minds of your readers, and you have the freedom to let the characters develop in whatever direction your muse suggests.

It's like eating dark chocolate truffles. Fatally easy to do. But it broke my block, for which I am, despite everything, grateful.

That first story brought me some friendships that I treasure. From that start, came other acquaintances, some of which ripened into close friendship, some of which, alas, proved to be as appetizing as roadkill on the Electronic Highway.
A friend lured me out to play on the newsgroups. I wasn't overly impressed then and am not now. In fact, I was stunned. Allegedly, Carter maintained a close relationship with the Internet fans during the first few seasons. Allegedly, he prefers to pretend that this is still the case. I believe it, watching the way the show has gone.
Flame wars erupted at the drop of a post, over such things as whether or not Mulder should have a girlfriend, or whether or not Scully was still a virgin, or whether or not Skinner's wife had died or simply vanished into the netherworld of forgotten and discarded television characters.

I began to suspect that the Internet fans were as characterized in popular culture: largely people whose life held little satisfaction beyond watching the show and communicating their most deeply held fantasies about the characters with others of their ilk.

I say largely. That doesn't mean that I think all fans posting on the newsgroup or writing fanfic are people with no life of their own, or no personal satisfaction in said lives. There are many thoughtful and intelligent people who enjoy the rough and tumble of the newsgroups, who enjoy reading thoughtful intelligent posts.
I am convinced that for some of the posters, the newsgroups are the only place they achieve the popularity they so desperately desire and so, like big fish in a small pond, they exercise that popularity again and again and again. Which is sad on several counts, and marvelously puzzling on others.
The X Files touched a cultural nerve. Mistrust of the government, alien abductions, trust no one.....and more importantly, there was a element of archetype to each of the characters. Mulder, making the post-modern hero's journey, Scully his loyal companion, Skinner as the classic hero, standing up for what he believes is right, a leader among men. Contrarily, Cigarette Smoking Man, also a classic hero, only in the Machiavellian mode: All these were elements straight out of myth, given GQ suits and FBI badges. Polished up with twentieth century fairy tales and given free rein to adventure as Carter willed.
With the departure of Morgan and Wong and subsequent preoccupation of Carter while engaged in the first season of Millenium, the characterizations on the show changed. In tune with this, we began to hear more about how put upon Scully was, how much Mulder had put her through, how selfish and thoughtless and self-destructive he was. How Scully was a saint to put up with him.

The strong woman who had kicked Luther Boggs' ass verbally was gone. She was now a martyr. Abducted, her sister murdered, cancerous, and all because of Mulder, she nonetheless valiantly struggled on, covering his reckless ass and denying the validity of any of his crazy theories.

Huh? This was the woman who had, near the end of the Erlenmeyer flask, told Mulder she was wrong. Apologized for it. This was the woman who had been abducted by the so-called Mighty Morphin' Bounty Hunter and seen him change before her very eyes.
The show gradually seemed to follow the perceptions posted on the newsgroup and the show's official website. I watched with growing dissatisfaction as show moved more and more toward mirroring the desires and opinions expressed by a vocal majority. I stopped lurking on occasion and began to post an opposition view. I started posting on the feedback line on the website after each episode, admittedly sardonic reviews. Unless the episode met with my critical standards. And even when they were sardonic, I commented favorably on the positive points.
As I mentioned, I was flamed. I received hate email. And clearly, no one at Fox was interested in listening to the relative minority. Understandably, despite the demographics. The fans they were pleasing appear to fall largely into the 14-24 yr age group. The fans they were displeasing appear to be in a more economically solid age group, but hey, what the hell. Numbers are better. Quantity, rather than quality.
The majority of the fans seemed to just love it. Or at least, the vocal majority of the fans loved it. Of my personal friends in "real" life, the ten who watched it faithfully stopped during Season 4. They said it was stupid. It became embarrassing to admit that I still watched it, that I kept hanging on for a return of the smart, subversive and witty show I thought it had once been. By the time Gethsemane aired, Scully had become an official saint on the newsgroups. There is a group called OBSSE. Order of the Blessed Saint Scully....well, you get the drift. They dislike Mulder intensely, they adore Scully, and would cheerfully be rid of Mulder.
... take a trip to the newsgroups and see how they discuss the character of Scully. Some call her a role model. I find that most frightening of all.

A passive aggressive, tightly controlled woman whose thinking is so rigid that she ignores Occam's Razor while calling herself a scientist. A woman who treats her male partner like a brain damaged child a great deal of the time. That's frightening to me as a woman with a son. That's frightening to me as a woman with a daughter.

It used to just bother me that Carter et al equated a strong professional aspect with these characteristics. Now it worries me that so many young women, in particular, agree with him.

The sociological patterns that are reflected back at the show's creators by the audience scare the hell out of me. Particularly when they're reflected by people with clear difficulty in separating reality from fiction.
And yet, on the 'Net, you'd think Mulder and Scully and Skinner are all heroic for their actions.

I think Carter must be as morally bankrupt as Krycek, one of his creations.

Certainly, I begin to think that most of the vocal fans are.

As Season 5 continued, we were treated to the gala display of Mulder beating a suspect, then kicking the man when he was down. Morally bankrupt, suddenly bereft of his beliefs, the character is no longer even attractive to follow, no one to suspend disbelief for.

An aside: Maybe this is the root of Muldertorture fanfic: the desire to punish Mulder for this behavior. Alas, I do not believe it, I think it's the desire to infantilize and punish the character for not rolling Scully in the hay.
I was clearly naive when I first sampled the electronic culture. I believed that as a species, we were developing a higher sense of consciousness. I don't think that any more. I'm worried about the social implications of a male character consistently being blamed for following his quest, and a female character canonized for behavior I find pathological. I'm worried because so many of the people who do this are young, they're our future. And things don't seem to be getting better.

I'm disappointed by the show itself. I'm worried about the implications of fandom.

I've sampled other fandoms. Sure, they have free for alls there. But you know what? I think that the X Files fans have a lock on being meanspirited and combative. At least to the level of viciousness I've seen, on both atxf and atxfc. Sadly, there seem to be the same kinds of social attitudes there.
The show--well, to be honest, I feel that yes, the show has gone waaaay downhill in more ways than one. But interestingly, I find that my contempt for Carter and 1013 and the show increases with each encounter with their fandom. I admit, other fandoms have the same problems: ignorant, rude and frequently delusory trolls who haven't the vaguest idea of how to discuss issues intelligently, who pry into the performers' private lives, who become over-invested in fictional characters. Somehow, though, the divisions have become more sharply edged to my view in the X Files fandom.

I think that part of the reason I've come to loathe the show is unrelated to the poor scriptwriting, the lackluster performances and the degradation of characterization. I think that part of the reason I've come to loathe the show is the fact that I loathe many of the fans. I've been told to fuck off and die. X Files, love it or leave it. Criticism isn't welcome. Herd mentality is common. And those attitudes.....they make me shudder.

All the while Fox and Carter are raking in the dinero. The network famed for "When Animals Attack" is perfectly happy with the audience it has.
Do I watch the show? Sure, once in a while. Do I watch regularly? Hell, no. As a friend said recently, the characters and plots have become so interchangeable that if you miss half of it, you don't worry. There will be another interchangeable ep coming along soon.

I do keep my tapes of previous seasons. Naturally, the episodes I liked, I've dumped what I consider turkeys. But I've sworn off trying to interact on the Electronic Highway, except for those friends I mentioned above.

The Electronic Highway looks a lot like any third-rate stretch of road filled with honky-tonks, billboards, low-rent motels and truck stops. The Electronic Community has as much, or as little, potential as any real time, real life community, but right now the most vocal members are not people I'd want as neighbors.

Fans' Comments at the Original Post

[BethLynn]:
<sob> :::whispers::: It's here.
[Becca L.]:
Some of your points are valid and well thought out. I can't for the life of me figure out why you invested so much time in writing this, however, if you no longer like the show and loathe most of the other fans. It's contradictory. Another point I would really like to address right now is that you seem disappointed that our "heroes" are not completely untarnished. I accept most (but not all) of this because of the world in which they live. (I am, of course, aware that I am discussing fictional characters, not real people - although I am sure there are real counterparts). Sometimes "heroes" must get dirty in order to shovel the dirt - a point that I feel has been made well a few times by CC and Co. Also, I agree that it is distressing if CC is paying TOO much attention to internet fans. There are plenty of XF fans out there who are not online and their opinions should count as well. Not only that (and I'm sure I will get royally flamed for this, but I have before) you have to consider demographics. A lot of shippers are perceived as more vocal because a lot of them are teens with computers in their rooms and time after school to use them. One more thing - I feel it is ok to critique the show, but I object to folks who slam the show, the actors (except in a teasing way), the writing, etc. and say everyone else is "cattle" following the herd. I don't believe in being a fair weather fan. The day I no longer enjoy or watch the show is the day I disappear from XF net sites. I will leave it all to "fans" of the show. I must disagree with your assessment of the performers. I think GA, DD and MP are all top-notch - the best on TV right now. I think you are right that DD sometimes sleep walks, but GA deserves every award there is (and I'm not a major GA or Scully fan) and MP is one of the most unappreciated actors anywhere. Otherwise, your rant was thought provoking and I thank you for it. You must remember, however, that it takes all kinds to make a world and you can't always choose your "neighbors." The world would be a dull place indeed otherwise.s::: It's here.
[Jane]:
...or Maybe you're just getting your panties all bunched up and making sweeping judgments about people you don't know based on purely subjective assessments?

You've got a couple of points, but the condescending holier than thou tone is ludicrous.

WOW.
[CiCi Lean]:
I can't believe it. The web site didn't get enough bile, so it had to be posted where it could get the maximum amount of flames from those too innocent to realize what the deal is here.

Listen, honey. We already read it on the web site and we get the idea, whoever you may be. You hate the show. You hate fanfic. You hate us. Sure. Fine. Whatever.

Will you now go away and let us be assholes in peace?
[Livengoo]:
I dunno, CiCi. I thought it was pretty funny - road kill? Tire tracks all across my back, you can tell I had MY fun! Cross town traffic . . . Seriously, I thought she had a point. I've been flamed often enough for simply stating an opinion or even for writing a story where I wasn't pro-romance. Until the fifth season, my worst hassle with X-Files was the fans when I tried to find folks to discuss the show with. I'd get in a nice discussion and someone else would decide to strafe me and toss ack ack because I didn't get warm and fuzzy. I even had folks revile me because I wrote fanfic well, but not romances. I wanted to tell them to get their pacifiers changed. That's how this wee rant looks to me, like someone who's gotten flamed enough that she wants to suggest a diaper change. No prob - a good read of a flame war always brings out that urge in me. It made ME giggle and was a really nice change. I've been seeing offensive insults directed at those of us who aren't World Wide Tonsil Wrestling fans, but simpering apologies for anything that might rile the pink lace crowd . . . childish as it seems once in a while it's NICE to see the opposing camp get snarky and given the preponderance of WWTW it'd take a lot of fire power to equal the quantity of WWTW posts. After giving up on newsgroups periodically in disgust at the murder-Tea stories, the slime-non-shipper posts, the mush and the shotgun-DD-for-not-loving-our-St. Scully/GA posts, well . . . it felt GOOD to see a nice, well-done rant. The invective it's incited? Hmm . . . looks like schoolyard warfare to me.
[Binah]:
Some think this rant is humorous. Maybe unintentionally. I never thought bitterness counted as humor.... The atxfc in particular is a very kind group. None of the rough and tumble of atxf. And as for your disdain for the "Sundae Girls", well maybe it's lightheartedness. Go to other ng's and see what groups you encounter. On rec.arts.abc.soaps, there is a Professional Bobbie-Slapping Drill Team. (That's a General Hospital character) Each ng develops a culture and personality and gets OT from time to time because of that culture. Peeps, anyone?
[Sheryl Martin]:
wow that was amazing, bliss... I didn't even see your lips move once... ;-)
[bliss]:
I just want to point out that I had NOTHING to do with this being posted here, despite having posted the addy somewhat earlier. Nothing. Zilch. I don't even KNOW any one in Washington, as far as I am aware.
[Missy]:
<< I think that the X Files fans have a lock on being meanspirited and combative. At least to the level of viciousness I've seen, on both atxf and atxfc. >>

BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!! ::::wiping tears of laughter:::: Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. You're black. Talk about a self-fulling prophecy! <Maybe I'm a cynic who doesn't believe in making a television show a cause worth attacking other people personally.>

::::clutching sides, shrieking in laughter:::::

Hoooo! Stop it, you're killing me!!!

Missy (still chuckling as she heads for Scully Service)
[bliss]:
You know, there's a certain humorous value in being thought the author of all evil, but it's getting a little silly, too. Think what y'all like, I don't much care. In a country of how many millions of people, there's lots of others I can relate to; even here, where few agree with me, I can still find some. <rolling eyes> I'm glad that you could use us poor deluded people with no lives to feel superior about yourself. LOOK EVERYBODY ------------> She feels superior to us! Isn't it great?
[unknown fan]:
Okay, can we go back to our non-existant lives now? Thanks so much. wherever... Whoa whoa whoa!!! Excuse me? If you *really* think that FOX/1013 gives a shit what the people on this newsgroup think, or anywhere else on the Internet, and actually pattern the show after it, then you are the one that has a hard time with reality. Please. I do not for a minute delude myself in to thinking that people that are in charge of the show care what I or any other fan thinks and would actually change the show because of it.
[Richard Finegan]:
Ok, I have a few suggestions on how you might change your approach to the X-Files so that you might be able to find it enjoyable again...

1) Don't read the x-files newsgroups, message boards, or fanfic - clear your mind and take it for granted that the way the story develops isn't influenced by what the writers might see here, and is what they would have done anyway. People on the internet are very free with their opinions, and many flame wars can take their toll on anyone. Try not to let it reflect badly on the X-Files itself. Ok, you shouldn't necessarily swear off the newsgroups, but reading them less might take the load of your mind and help you enjoy the X-Files more.

2) Don't watch the X-Files looking at any of the characters as potential role models for anyone - one of the things I like about the X-Files is that I feel Mulder & Scully are not "perfect" people, and are very different from the "do-gooding" stereotypes on so many other shows. You don't necessarily have to like the protagonists to enjoy the show - it helps, but they're all bound to do lots of things people will dislike. Try to concentrate on the "flow" of the episodes and the story.

Anyway, just trying to help.

A Fan's Comment in a Separate Post

Comments by Steffi from a separate post on the same day, excerpted below:

Hello Geckoliz (...and everyone who's interested in this.)!!

First of all, let me thank you for your post. I'm a newbie on this group and I have to say that this is the most interesting post I've encountered so far. It's controversial and - as you clearly pointed out - doesn't necessarily reflect most x-philes' opinion... which, IMHO is a really good thing. I like diversity. :)...

I've been watching The X-Files from the beginning. I'm pretty sure it was the intelligent story-telling that intrigued me at first, but what really made me tune in each week were the characters of Mulder and Scully and their rather complicated relationship...

Anyway, so when I watched "Deep Throat" you can imagine my surprise. Finally a woman that could stand up to a man. And it became even better: This Mulder guy was treating her as an equal of some sort, valuing her opinion, her integrity as an investigator.

[snipped]

You blamed the younger x-philes. There's definitely some truth in that statement. Several years ago, when The X-Files was still a cult show, there weren't too many 10-14 year-old x-philes around. In fact, most x-philes I knew where aged 20-35. Back then, I always received mocking comments of all sorts when I admitted that I was a fan of the show. The X-Files wasn't "cool"... at least in my area. Nowadays, however, the roles are reversed. The X-Files is *the* mystery show of the century and you get strange looks when you admit that you've never seen The X-Files. The X-Files has become "cool". And that is the problem. The X-Files has become a substitute for "boy groups" for a lot of teenagers (I hate to generalize here, but lots of teens I've talked to just *aren't* mature. That's not their fault, but it's a fact.). To some teens, Mulder and Scully are no different from the Backstreet Boys. For a lot of people, they've become idols, they've been reduced to stereotypes. Too bad, I totally agree. Maybe I should let the cat out of the bag now. I'm a 20-year-old girl from Germany. So yes, I was 17 when I started watching the pilot (I started with the German version of The X-Files in 1994...). I was still a teenager... by definition. However, I've *never* seen Mulder and Scully as heroes. That's why I enjoy the show so much. Both Mulder and Scully have a bunch of wonderful traits, that's true, but they've also got several traits that aren't heroic. They're more like real persons. They've got faults. I admit that both Mulder and Scully *are* role models to me... but only to some extend. I don't want to become either Mulder nor Scully, but I find it highly interesting to detect similarities and differences between them and me.

The OBSSE. Well, I don't think Scully is a saint, either. Sorry. IMHO, they both aren't. They're ordinary (or not so ordinary :D) people who've got problems like we do. Okay, they've both got "good" traits that we could adopt, but as I've said: They're not heros to me. Thank god. The MSR-thingy. Gotta disagree with you here, 'coz I'm one of those (more or less ;D) crazy 'shippers. I don't think that the 'shippers or the people on this NG influenced CC in any way.

Mulder and Scully are partners. Partnerships in law enforcement can be much closer ordinary friendships or even the relationship between some wives and husbands. It's just natural they start to trust each other and eventually care for each other. That's no big deal. That could be expected. Friendship develops, it doesn't stagnate. And as it develops, you get to see more and more facets of the other's personality. It's inevitable. I sometimes think that my two very best friend know me better than I know myself. That didn't come overnight. It happened step by step. Just like in Mulder and Scully's case. You can like it or hate it how CC's handled the UST in season 4 and 5. But even that doesn't mean that you agree with everything that happened.

[snipped]

The wonderful world of fanfic. Yeah, you're right. There are good and there are bad fanfics that goes without saying. And yes, there are several different categories. Romance, slash, Angst, Humor, MulderTorture, etc. You say that MulderTorture is so popular now because the people want to punish Mulder for what he's done (or hasn't done :D) to Scully. Well, there are early pieces of fanfic like Sue Esty's fanfic saga "Relevations" and Frankcina Glass's "Experiments" series that can are labeled MulderTorture, too. Okay, those were two MSR pieces but if you check out the MTA's homepage, you'll find out that only a very small percentage of MulderTorture is, in fact, MSR. So MulderTorture is not necessarily used to let Mulder express his feelings for Scully. There are many MSR/Angst story authors, however, who use that method. I can't blame them.

>> Well, let's face it, my former therapist would have diagnosed serious passive aggressive behavior in Scully, and obsessive compulsive behavior in Mulder. Neither of them are or were what anyone could call balanced individuals. >> and I agree with you. But Mulder and Scully have always been that way, they haven't changed all that much over the last five years... at least in that respect. It's just that now that they've become closer and got to know each other better, it is more obvious than it has been in the earlier seasons. So maybe Mulder and Scully need a little angst to let the walls crumble a little to let the other in. But that's nothing new, not really.

What I didn't like about season 4 was that the stories weren't thought through. The ideas were promising but the result was rather poor most of the time. They could've done better, I agree. But there are also several episodes from other seasons that were just average or rather poor. We expect a lot every week - which is a good thing - and so it's just natural that we get disappointed from time to time.

I remember that someone said "No more negative comments about the X-Files. Why can't we just sit back and enjoy the ride?" *That's* a truely terrifying idea, don't you think?

Lastly, I gotta say that I'm really surprised that you let some stupid x-philes spoil The X-Files for you. Okay, people influence and and we influence them but... aren't you a little drastic? I don't care what strangers think of me. They don't know me. So why did you let those people get to you? [1]

References

  1. comment by Steffi rant.html a 2nd opinion; Archive