This past February, Chris Carter and FOX brought back the FBI’s special task force: the X-Files. We had not seen our friends and agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully since the series ended in 2002 overlooking the second X-Files movie in 2008. Now, after fourteen years, The X-Files has proved it can endure the test of time as well as satiate our society’s need for paradoxes and throwbacks from the 90’s. Although the X-Files cult following has since expanded, millennials still seem to thrive on possibilities that exceed what can be answered by the government, scientific research, or even rationale.
Part of The X-Files’ popularity can be found in the way it bridges the gap between conspiracy theory and critical thinking. Agents Mulder and Scully were originally assigned to each other as partners to debunk the work of the X-Files. Instead, their work verified several preternatural possibilities and an overarching government conspiracy. Mulder and Scully, or what many fondly refer to as #Sculder, have been the purveyor and skeptic of the paranormal respectively. Though they frequently encounter the disbelief of others in their quest for the truth, they must also face their own uncertainty. Throughout the series, #Sculder actively question science, the government and the natural world, providing alternative theories that are typically laughed out of question. There are even episodes that point out that their case is bogus because it is based on a true conspiracy theory. This connection between their fictional world and our own world that the characters bring to the show is refreshing and gives the viewers a dose of reality.
Simultaneously, the X-Files depicts that the breakdown of conspiracy theories and critical thinking is not always black and white. Many conspiracies start off small, then are blown out of proportion with possibilities, differing factors, government cover-ups, alternate universes – I digress. However, an even larger misconception of conspiracy theories is that many have been proven true. Nonetheless, with a critical thinking approach, we are able to analyze these theories and distinguish what is utterly preposterous and what has some merit. The X-Files blends a healthy amount of skepticism and conspiracy with a hefty dose of critical thinking that leads viewers to question everything and trust no one. Using carefully crafted scripts, the X-Files rewrites the narrative of conspiracy theories versus critical thinking with each episode, calling into question what is the truth and who we can trust. We, too, rewrite the narrative on what is or is not conspiracy out of our love for the show, the characters, and their passion; thus, further blurring – or maybe defining – the line between conspiracy theories and critical thinking.
We may not have definitive answers, and while they may not have solved every case, the X-Files presents viewers with the one real fact that the truth is out there, now it is up to us to go find it.
While season eleven already exists in comic book format, the creator, director, and writer Chris Carter is in agreement with Fox chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman that there is a possibility and desire to continue another installment of the X-Files. David Duchovny (Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Scully), #Sculder, have not been contacted about an eleventh season and are still continuing with their personal schedules and other projects but both have expressed active interest in participating in a series resurgence.