On Relationshippers...

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Title: On Relationshippers...
Creator: Kristel S. Oxley-Johns
Date(s): May 13, 1996
Medium: online post
Fandom: The X-Files
External Links: On Relationshippers..., Archived version
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On Relationshippers... is a 1996 essay by Kristel S. Oxley-Johns.

It was posted to alt.tv.x-files and garnered 46 comments by 26 fans. The topic was the Mulder/Scully relationship, and is one of the first volleys in the Great Shipper War. It is a very early use of the term shipper, at least on Usenet.

Related Discussion

The Essay

Hello. My name is Kristel and I am a Relationshipper.

Actually, this is something of a sad running joke on the mailing list xf-romantics, due to the fact that in X-Files fandom, there has been something of a stigma attached to the title "Relationshipper". Recently posted to the Romantics mailing list was a copy of an article that claimed that "Relationshippers" are not "true" fans of the X-Files. It has also been implied, or stated outright, that "Relationshippers" wish for this happy, sweet and sappy X-Files universe that contains nothing more interesting than Mulder and Scully lying in bed all day and bonking like bunny-rabbits. Because these misconceptions are patently untrue, and due to the tremendous amount of flamage we "Relationshippers" get, as the list-owner of xf-romantics, I have been elected to tell the world, or at least cyber-space, at large, who it is that we "Relationshippers" are and what it is that we truly want from our favorite TV show.

First of all, allow me to clarify one major point: It is assumed that the Romantic fanfic is something that we all wish to see on the television show. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We love the X-Files, as is. We also love the characters (and yes, for those out there who would accuse us of being unable to distinguish fantasy from reality, we DO INDEED realize that they are JUST CHARACTERS) of Mulder and Scully, and see between them an affection and chemistry that rarely exists, on television and off. But just because we see these things and wish for that chemistry to be acted upon does not mean that we want the sweet, gentler side of life often depicted in the romantic fanfic on the show. That is not what the show is about, and that is not what we want to see.

What do we want to see then? Not much more than what we see now--the looks, the touches, and infrequent embrace, and maybe the occasional admittance of the great abiding affection that lies between Mulder and Scully. That's all. That's not so much, is it? We do not want long angst-filled episodes about Mulder and Scully's love affair. If the affair were to play any part at all in the stories, we would wish for it to be in the form of, "How, now that they have acknowledged their affection, can the evil forces working against Mulder and Scully use their love to weaken them?" How much greater would their peril be if they became each other's greatest vulnerability? We do not want to see stories about the realtionship, we merely wish to see the relationship in the stories, in limited quantities...Just enough to know that even in the dark world painted by the X-Files, there can be some beauty and gentleness and hope.

I could say much more, but I won't. I do, however, wish to add this: To date, except in the realm of fanfiction, the "Relationshippers" have been a pretty quiet, unassuming bunch. We tend to get treated unfairly if we should dare, *gasp* have an opinion, so we keep to ourselves except in forums specifically designed for us. That day is coming to an end. We are loyal, legitimate fans who deserve to have our say, ESPECIALLY in the forums where what we have to say just might be picked up on by TPTB. What we think about the direction the characters of the show should take does not in any way, shape, or form disqualify us from the ranks of the TRUE fans. We will have our opinions, and we will not be looked down upon for having them.

What I said earlier about who we are and what we want I have written in a letter that will be posted to Chris Carter. I am gathering names to list at the bottom of the letter of those who support these opinions and wish to be heard. If you wish to lend your support to this endeavor, please send private e-mail including your name, city, state (or country, if outside the U.S.) to kjo...@mail2.alliance.net.

Thank you so very much for your time...

Some Fan Comments


You tell 'em, Kristel - we *will* be heard :-)


You know, it is days like this I get this uncontrolable urge to do a little cleansing with a nice 2X4, with a couple of nails in it, to a few fans that seem to take some "ideas" to an extreme.

I say that: "You should all give this silly notion up!!!!" If Scully ever "impales herself upon his rising affection," the resulting kid (oh god, please don't let such a thing happen!!!!) would be too screwed up for words!!!

I am sorry, but I refuse to buy into this nonsense. And oh please, Flames will be responded with a modest volley of cyberbombs. The red disk is in, and ready to load. Don't piss me off too much.....I have worser bugs to launch.

Anyway, this arguement is getting silly, so let's end it now.


Altogether, everyone -- "hi, Kristel!" *grin*

Great letter!!!! I couldn't agree more... <Glancing about for the flames>

Rhondda Lake:

Jack save the flames for e-mail. You are foaming at the mouth again and it aint pretty.

Don't worry Denmom, I'm still with you 100%. :)

Jerry P.: Well, *if* Mulder and Scully were to consummate their partnership, I would agree that the result would be a Little Spooky.


You know, it is days like this I get this uncontrolable urge to do a little cleansing with a nice 2X4, with a couple of nails in it, to a few fans that seem to take some "ideas" to an extreme.

My, my....we are getting to you, aren't we? Shame you have to resort to violence :-)

But we're not going to go away this time.

genbac: Personally, I am a long time Sci-fi geek who has no need for romance in my stories......however I am a true M&S relationshipper (gee I hope the people in my life who take me *seriously* dont ever find me here - tell'em you never saw me , OK?) because , and I am sure this holds true for lots o' folks -watching the UST is .....uh....."exciting" My husband is delighted that I watch this show. It has done wonders for our marriage.I find it highly erotic , in that subtle way that is so much fun-take the movie "witness" for example - a highly erotic film where the couple doesnt touch until the very end ....so much can be said with word and looks. Keep the UST coming , in incremental doses............Ruth, who is way too old for any of this (but who is enjoying every minute)

Mary Aileen:

"Relationshippers" is an unfortunate term, but it's established, so I'll continue to use it. Unfortunate, because it is obvious to both sides that Scully and Mulder HAVE a relationship--a very close one. The only argument is over what *kind* of relationship--"just" a friendship, or one with a sexual component. The two sides will never convince each other, since they are using the exact same evidence, just interpreting it differently. I personally do not see it as sexual, but I will concede that I might be missing something, if the relationshippers will be courteous to concede that they might be reading too much into it. From Chris Carter's statements on the subject, this ambiguity seems to be as deliberate as it is wise. To make their relationship unmistakably one thing or the other would offend large portions of the audience either way. It would also change the show drastically. The relationship (whatever it is) makes the show, but the show is not *about* the relationship. The X-Files is about a search for the truth, in some very strange guises. That the searchers happen to be very fond of each other and trust one another greatly (we can all agree on THAT, right?) gives an added dimension to the quest, but their relationship is not, and should not be, the main focus.

Regarding the question raised earlier in this thread about the age/marital status of us non-relationshippers -- don't try to psychoanalyze me and I won't try to psychoanalyze me. :)

--Mary Aileen (hoping we can all peaceably agree to disagree).


The relationship (whatever it is) makes the show, but the show is not *about* the relationship.

But that's ambiguous, too. If the relationship were not there, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I would not be watching. I confess that I don't really *care* about the mind control experiment or the killer kitties or the fluke man. Ho hum. Been there, done that, when I was a teen. If the spookiness were what called me to the show, I'd own "Alien Autopsy" and I'd tape "Sightings."

Have I rewatched "2Shy?" Nope. No M/S interaction to speak of. Have I rewatched "Quagmire," even though it was full of plot holes? Darn tootin'!

So, to me, the show *is* about the relationship. Not a romantic relationship, but the one CC has given us, which can be interpreted many ways. The man knows what he's doing, and he knows that great characterization is what makes good TV. I'll take any TV show or movie where the characters are played as truly as M and S are. The genre doesn't matter, the plot can be huge and intricate or tiny and delicate. Just give me *well-played* relationships and characters of depth.

Kim at NYGE:

Am I the only one that can accept a non-romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully because I have the exact same type of friendship in my own life?

My best friend is a man I've known for a very long time. And the kind of friendship Mulder and Scully have is the one we have - deep trust, emotional closeness, and yes, even flirting. Even though I've been seeing someone I'm crazy about for several months now and he was living with a lovely girl.

Doesn't mean that anything would be improved in our friendship if we were to get romantic. In fact, we tried it when we first met. Didn't work. We have too much in common. That's why we're good friends instead - it works better.

I don't see his gender when we're together, I see a friend that I've been through a lot with. It is possible to have this sort of intense, close friendship with someone of the other sex, and *that's* what I see when I see Mulder and Scully.

Others of you out there must know of which I speak, right? We're not the only male/female best buddy pair out there, are we?


Ouch! C'mon, guys. No psychoanalyzing allowed, on either side... Pay attention to the *arguments*. :)

A real relationship (except very young newlyweds) does not revolve, in most instances, around sex. (Or even romance.) It's a big part, but not the whole. It involves caring and support, patience and being able to overlook whole bunches of bad habits. Mulder and Scully already exhibit a lot of this.

Yes, they do, but what you're saying is that the caring, emotional, MATURE relationship carries no value without sex. What you have just said begs the question *snip*

No -- that isn't what's being said, I don't think. If anything, it was the opposite. The relationship, as it is now, carries a *ton* of value. It's one of the main reasons I watch every week, no matter where it's headed. And BTW, I agree with you about >>the sick feeling we all feel in the pit of our stomach at the idea of the relationship being cheapened by sex.<< The key word there is "cheapened." If the show, *or* the relationship, became a "when are they gonna DO IT!?" Obsession, it would be a travesty. *That* has been one of the big problems with shows -- like the M-word -- that have gone in this direction. XF does not, and should not, ever degenerate into that. But that *doesn't* mean that a love relationship can't be explored. I, for one, would never want to see a "Mulder and Scully finally do it!" episode, anymore than I want to see episodes with tons of warm fuzzies. But what I *would* like to see, and what I think a lot of other "relationshippers" would also like to see, is more *emotional* development of a love relationship. (And that, BTW, does *not* equal warm fuzzies. XF is a dark show, and should remain so, but that doesn't mean there is no room for *positive* character development, too.

The two sides will never convince each other, since they are using the exact same evidence, just interpreting it differently.

Y'know, that may well be true. It also might well be true that, as you suggested, CC has made it deliberately ambiguous. What *I* see is, as you also said, partners who are obviously quite fond of each other and trust each other. I also see UST... But I wouldn't want to see it become RST *onscreen*. What *I* would like to see are more small gestures of affection -- NOT SEX <she screams in large capital letters> -- during critical "bonding" moments...like last week's conversation in the hospital, or TCOTR. During the conversation in the hospital, considering the events that led up to it (won't go into detail for the sake of those who haven't seen it yet), it just seemed like a lot was left unsaid and there was a lot of pent-up emotion that wasn't expressed. (And, from the Scully-look when Mulder left so abruptly, I got the feeling *she* felt that way, too.))


Am I the only one that can accept a non-romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully because I have the exact same type of friendship in my own life?

This is exactly the point I was trying - and obviously failing - to make before. Why assume that just because we don't see the M&S relationship as platonic we are unable to accept that such things as platonic relationships exist.

OF COURSE THEY DO! Your [close platonic relationship with a man] is a perfect example. But it is *not* the same as the relationship on the show - at least we don't see it as such. It is a question of perception. Some see it one way and some see it another, but what we 'relationshippers' really object to is a) having what we want misrepresented as a crudely-drawn superficial glossy soap-opera type relationship, and b) the condescending tone of many of the posts putting forward an opposite point-of-view.

Platonic relationships probably form the majority of relationships on this planet and certainly of workplace relationships. But IMO Mulder and Scully's relationship is not platonic - i.e. purely spiritual without any sexual element.

Gail Moore:

As a relationshipper I agree that I don't want the X files to degenerate into a when are they going to do it show... unfortunately that is what appears to be happening... The problem is that it just isn't natural for a relationship with this much love and UST to go on forever without getting resolved... One of three things happens... the couple breaks up or withdraws from each other... the audience gets bored and says this has gone on long enough [like Remington Steele] or the couple commits to each other and the relationship grows and develops.

Would I like to see one five or ten minute scene where they lead up to and actually sleep together [make love]... YOU BET YA! Would I like the whole show to start being about their relationship ala Moonlighting or Lois and Clark... NO WAY! That gets just as boring. And would definitely ruin the show--just as surely as keeping them in a holding pattern for 6 or 7 years would do. But would I like to see little tibits of the romance grow... an almost kiss in one ep... a hand holding in another... maybe waking up in bed together to a call about a case yes... Would I like to see some conflicts arise between work and relationship -- yes also... Just because the show is about weird stuff doesn't mean that part of it can't reflect the daily struggles that real people in relationships have.

I'd like for it to be a little like the Davenport Furillo relationship in Hill Street Blues... the show was never about it but it brought a nice little touch of humanity and character development to watch their relationship over the run of the show.

Here's to hoping that CC realiszes that you can only sit the fense for so long before the audience gets bored.


The joy of discovering three-dimensional characters and relationships certainly transcends all the arguing, doesn't it? Um, doesn't it? It does, right??

I'm sure that if CC knew about the battle lines that had been drawn, he'd be pleased as punch. Hey, he's done his job. He's given us characters worth arguing about.


Indeed .....I wondered about that too. Is [Chris Carter] really as annoyed as he pretends to be about this debate or is he happy with all the publicity regarding 'wiil-they...won't they' which it garners for his show?

Sandra Ballasch:

I'm sure that Chris Carter is thrilled by all the commentary - it means his show gets continuing high visibility. (It is just the kind of thing the media likes to write about - the lack of an explicitly romantic relationship is one of the things that makes the show unique.) However, I don't think that it is going to have any effect on how he develops his show. He has shown over the course of the last three years that while he makes sure that he is aware of the dialogue about the show he has no intention of changing his vision of his show. Since he has been pretty adamant that there will be no romantic relationship I suspect that we will continue to see UST galore but no physical culmination of Mulder and Scully's obvious care for each other.

John Rasnor: The answer is yes. Both are right, partly, maybe. It is the ambiguity that is so charms us, in these ambiguous times, and causes such animated discussions. The ambiguity in what we see, and in what the characters seem to feel, is a platform for half of the dramatic tension in the story.. If it is ever resolved, one way or the other, the story is over...or, at the very least, one of the main characters has to go..

Milton L. Campbell:

I am glad to see another person out there with a different take on the relationship between them. I have men friends as well, I had them before my marriage and continue to have them. I see this relationship as sometimes flirtatious between two good-looking people, but mostly as one based on mutual respect and caring as partners-one as deep and meaningful as a spousal relationship, but different. When he disappeared and she went to "feed his fish", she had a small smile on her face when the woman called to chew him out for standing her up. I saw no jealousy in that, just a recognition of turbulent human relationships in today's world.

Julia Kosatka: Yes, I agree with this part of what you said... but what does it *necessrily* have to do with a romantic relationship (which is what it seems Relationshippers want to see)? They care a *great* deal more about each other than I suspect they will ever admit to each other, but I still have seen no evidence for any romantic 'seed'.


Well, I guess it's just a matter of *how* the relationship is viewed and of where different viewers want it to go. I've said before that I agreed that CC might be keeping the exact nature of it deliberately ambiguous. But for me, the emotional closeness and the intensity of their (admittedly very complex) relationship is what *I* would like to see explored.

I *do* see the seeds of a romantic relationship. But if you don't, I, for one, certainly won't hold it against you. I really think CC would make us *both* happy if he'd explore the emotional intimacy, trust, and affection between these two a bit more. What frustrates me is when opportunities to develop their relationship -- on an *emotional* level -- go unfulfilled.

You also say they care a great deal more for each other than they're willing to disclose. Well, for me, at least, part of exploring that closeness would *be* *admitting* it. Not in any huge gesture, but in small ways -- the episode Pusher is a prime example of this. Intense, and yes affectionate, and you can interpret it your way and I can interpret it mine...I don't hear anyone much saying it was a *bad* episode...

Another prime example is the bbq sauce scene in -- was it Red Museum? Wiping bbq sauce off someone's chin that way is, IMHO, *not* a purely platonic gesture of affection. Assuming heterosexuality, would you do that to/for your same-sex best friend? Most people wouldn't, I think. But that's just my interpretation...

Julia Kosatka:

The deliberate ambiguity idea is a good one and well in keeping with the other themes in the show. Exploring their relationship, IMHO is best done in the little drips and drabs we've been getting. I, for one, am satisifed with it.

John Strasser:

To defend the 'shipper point of view here:

If all we wanted was M+S in bed together alt.sex.stories would suffice. CC and the rest of the crew have developed the charcters to the point that about half of the audience is convinced that they're in love, about half the audience says that they're not, and the remainder don't care; they just watch for the X-files. It's not that either side is wrong, it's that CC & Co. are able to play with our heads so well. We shippers know that CC isn't going to have them blatantly go falling head over heels for each other (at least until the last season anyway). It's just that M&S have become somewhat archtypical and to deny the attraction that we (the shippers) see between them is ludicrous.