The Portrait of an X-Phile as a Collector

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Title: The Portrait of an X-Phile as a Collector
Creator: Wendy Williams
Date(s): April 30, 1998
Medium: online
Fandom: X-Files
External Links: online here
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The Portrait of an X-Phile as a Collector is a 1998 essay by Wendy Williams.

It was one of the essays at The X-Files University.

Some Topics Discussed

  • fans as consumers, good fans consume more
  • listening to fans
  • the Scully action figure is too grumpy looking, and too tall. "The only good news from these action figures is that, for 'shippers, they are fully poseable."


One cannot possibly understand the X-Phile as a collector without an understanding of what it means to be an X-Phile. To quote the esteemed Gizzie, "We're not obsessed, we're focused." The X-Files is a show that appeals to people of all different ages and on all different levels. There are those who are drawn to the show because of the "Monster of the Week" episodes. Others are drawn to the Mytharc episodes. Still others are drawn to the characters and the various relationships (or lack thereof) to each other.

After the initial drawing in period, each viewer is faced with the choice to either become an X-Phile or to continue on with their mundane existence. Many find that resistance is futile and willingly submit to Philehood. Once that happens, a burning desire to know all and collect all that is X-Files occurs, and some are drawn even further to write fanfiction.

This is where true Philehood is attained, and while some have likened it to an addiction, it is a most positive addiction - similar to being addicted to air. As many Philes will attest, The X-Files became an overwhelming facet of their lives, which led them to behaviors (designing web pages, creating pseudo-religious orders worshipping a TV character, writing fanfiction, going to conventions, vacationing in Vancouver) that they otherwise would never have thought of doing. This powerful phenomenon is the force that is behind the X-Phile as a collector.

In the beginning, new X-Philes collect things such as episodes, magazines, small nick-nacks. But as the Phile becomes more focused, the need to collect all things X-Files also becomes more focused. Autographed items, limited issues, scripts and other more expensive things are desired.

A second mistake was that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson did not comprehend the popularity potential that their characters had when they first signed their contracts. This is not meant to be a criticism, because nobody really had any idea that the show would become as popular as it is today. However, neither David nor Gillian receive one cent for their images on collectibles. It is with this in mind that I ask all X-Philes collectors to make a donation (which represents what their royalties would have been) to one of the actors' favorite charities.

With the release of episodes on video, The X-Files took a baby-step into catering to the X-Philes community. While they were still available at discount to the fan club, select stores, and specialty catalogs, they started showing up on the shelves of major store chains, such as Wal-mart and K-mart. This marked the first time that an X-Phile could buy an X-Files item, other than a magazine, at the same time they were buying common household items like pet food. The X-Files had truly become a part of mainstream culture.

The most common complaint is that the dolls do not really resemble the characters and that in one version of Scully, she is practically scowling (I wouldn't want to play with Scowling!Scully) and that in another version, Scully is smiling (which, while pleasant, is not true to the show). Another problem with one of the versions of Scully is that the doll is roughly the same height as the Mulder doll, which any Phile would think of as almost sacrilegious. The only good news from these action figures is that, for 'shippers, they are fully poseable.

X-Philes as collectors differ from most of the rest of the collector population in that they are the hands-down most Internet experienced collectors. While most people who collect things do not even own a computer, the average X-Phile spends a considerable amount of time on the Internet. In fact, a large portion of the X-Phile community began surfing specifically because of The X-Files. From that experience Philes began branching off and exploring other parts of the Net, but a significant number will confess to signing up with their Internet Service Provider just to commune with other Philes.

Feedback from X-Phile collectors is almost instantaneous. That's the power of the Internet, and it can have a positive effect or a negative effect. Word-of-mouth is magnified exponentially on newsgroups. Philes are very vocal and opinionated, and they are not afraid to express themselves in any of the X-Files newsgroups. Collectibles executives need to understand that if Philes dislike something, they will broadcast it loud and clear to hundreds of thousands of other Philes. It would be extremely prudent for industry executives to survey the likes and dislikes of Philes and get feedback before releasing the product, because word-of-mouth on the Net can sink a collectible.