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The Problem With Obsessions: Boys and "The X-Files"

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Think Pieces | February 19, 2013 | Comments ()


scully2.jpg

"The past longs to be remembered. The past is constantly sending us letters, dropping notes in our path, phoning us up trying to make dates for lunch. The past has no wish to die."

-- Garrison Keillor

Everyone has obsessions, and much like farts, slippers and babies, our own are OK but other people's are intolerable. Understanding another's obsession is often impossible, be it the relentless fandom of "Doctor Who," or trying to figure out why your best friend has such a terrible boyfriend. I think we forget how easy it is to find things online today, whether it's other fans of obscure TV shows or dates with boys who might think we're pretty and want to buy us drinkies. When I was in high school, the Internet was fairly new, but I used it to foster and elaborate on my lifelong obsessions: boys and tv shows.

In high school I wasn't what you'd call popular, per se. The cool kids who had kind of ignored me when I was younger were finally nicer to me and I was still trying to ascertain my place in the world, what kind of person I was gonna be. Naturally curious and artistic, I was mostly interested in reading and very worried about being liked. I had always been known as kind of a weird kid, I didn't know how to integrate my large reader's vocabulary into normal conversations, except with adults, and I lived out in the country, and had trouble making good friends who weren't just as pathetic as I was.

I spent hours in my room taping songs from the radio onto carefully curated cassette tapes, or building tree houses in our backyard with my four younger sisters. I made late night telephone calls to a boy I met through my school on the Internet, my hand nervously holding the ringer button down and waiting until I could hear a faint ding through the wire, alerting me that he was calling me so it wouldn't show up on my parent's phone bill. Tyler Acorn and I talked about movies, books and ideas and emailed each other a lot about movies. I once told him how much I liked the movie Notting Hill, he loved the movie Conspiracy Theory. Pretty tame stuff, considering what other teenagers were up to, I imagine.

In high school I cared about somebody liking me, and I cared about the "The X-Files." I cared about lots of other things, but these two things consumed my mind mostly.

I first came to "The X-Files" courtesy of my parents, who are intensely intellectual, avid readers, fans of foreign films and watched "Twin Peaks" when it was on the air. I loved Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, their obvious affection for one another and stone cold professional abilities. I loved the intricacies of the show, the complicated multi-season ploddingly slow conspiracy plot arcs, the one off episodes that explored monsters and madmen, everything from the burgeoning relationship dynamic and well beyond. I bought action figures of the pair, and dressed up as Dana Scully for Halloween, replete with home made FBI badge, carefully replicated from one I'd found online. I bought "The X-Files" magazines at the local bookstore, and "The X-Files" novelizations of episodes, season guides that had transcripts of the episodes that I'd pore over, looking for clues. My Hotmail email address, long since lost to the sands of time (along with stacks and stacks of love emails from Tyler) was scullygyrl. I played "The X-Files" computer game on PC, where you'd put in disc after disc and it was kind of choose your own adventure. The movie came out in 1998 and it was everything I had ever wanted and more, a big-budget, glorious realization of all my hopes and dreams.

Photo on 2010-04-07 at 13.32 (1).jpg

There's a lot going on in this photo, so take it all in.

My dad especially loved the show, and we'd watch it, appointment television in the days before DVRs and such, though I would often meticulously tape copies onto tapes in our VCR, to be watched over and over and analyzed. At one point, my mother wanted the TV out of the house, so it was out in our standalone garage, and my father and I would trek out there, sitting in beach chairs, one of us messing ever so slightly with the damn bunny ears to try and get a crystalline image. Bunny ears were the plague of my TV watching childhood, long aerial receivers that had to be adjusted and readjusted for each channel. My dad had the innate ability to get it right on the first try, and often the rest of us would get very close to a clear signal, but then be tempted to readjust for even more clarity and lose the whole image in a haze of white interference.

In a way, it was as if all my endless desire to love and to cherish spilled out onto two platforms, one worthy and one unworthy. Just as I would stay obsessed with "The X-Files" for years, through bad seasons and good, through endless relationship drama and alien conspiracies, Tyler would lead me on for years, professing feelings and rescinding them plenty of times, the two of us caught up in something I couldn't seem to let go of, no matter how bad it got. We kept in close contact throughout high school and just before his first marriage, and immediately afterward when I was in college, before it all blew up one last time and he broke my heart again. If you want to talk real disappointment on a similar level, we can discuss the second X-Files movie, put out in 2008, a movie so stunningly bad and worthless that I felt betrayed and heartsick, though I was many years removed from my obsession.

Obsessions do you no favors in the long run though they may give you intense pleasure at the outset, yet they often keep you from a thing you maybe really wanted. I spent so much time obsessing over Tyler, that I missed out on parts of my life I wish I had been more present for. "The X-Files" was a worthy thing to love, and did no harm, but I still wonder if the amount of time I spent on it was worth it. I've nothing to show for all the time and investment, much as I've nothing to show for all the years I spent loving Tyler. Pouring your love into a void never repays the returns you hope it will, and loving someone who can't love you back is... well, obvious sometimes and sneaks up on you again and again, if you can't seem to learn your lesson.

But we are not doomed by the past.

After a while, you simply stop caring. Just as you drift away from a show, to new other shows that hold your interest, you eventually stop wondering what the person you loved is doing. Who they're seeing. You forget, and that is a blessing only time can give you. You stop Googling keywords and phrases, you give up on ever getting an apology even though you may feel you richly deserve it. You box it up and start moving on. Details of both begin to fade in your mind until you have to actively recall important events or timelines in order to make yourself feel bad, and new things arise to occupy your busy mind.

scully-muldernotebook.JPG

I recently cleaned out boxes of my childhood belongings from my parent's house and found the action figures, magazines, plenty of floppy disks with "The X-Files" logo on it, and this. I wrote fan fiction just for myself, long hand, in this binder that I carefully decorated with my favorite picture of the pair, and some tiresomely bad drawings of aliens. I opened it up, unsure of what I'd find, but the few pages I read that I had written so long ago, seemed to follow Mulder and Scully on a darkened road, driving together, Mulder asking Scully about some directions and she, clarifying as they went. "Yes, it's this way." "About five minutes?" "Yes, I think so." No great danger, no big reveals, the minutiae of every day existence. I closed the notebook, unable to read any further.

Even in my wildest dreams, a private place where I could write down anything I thought of, about two of my favorite fictional people, I managed to write about myself. It seems as if all I ever wanted is someone to travel along an unknown path with, whiling away the hours and keeping each other company, talking through our problems and figuring things out together.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • audrey roget

    Thanks for taking me back to my first full-blown fannish obsession. You describe the experience perfectly. And I totally posted a link to the Haven. :)

  • Buck Forty

    That picture (of you) really does say a thousand words. If I was your age and lived in your area I would have totally been trying to date you. Where is Tyler now, I'd like to punch him.

    On a separate tangent, your "When I was in high school, the Internet was fairly new" made me laugh. There's a whole column right there - get readers to fill in the blank:

    "When I was in high school, _______ was fairly new"

    I'll go first:

    "When I was in high school, Disco was fairly new"

  • Replace any mention of liking "boys" with "girls", replace the name "Tyler" with "Alyssa", and disregard the fact I grew up in a city and not the country, and this could have been written - pretty much word for word - by me. It's good to know the void isn't always quite as lonely as it seems.

  • Jemiah Jefferson

    I wrote a longish thing about this, and how it relates to my life, but deleted it instead - but I am still an obsessive about the things I love, and often times, those things are really great TV shows. I have tried to give up obsessing over boys because, really, no good ever comes from it. (Also, I write fan fiction, and I am immensely proud of it; and I can say that, subjectively anyway, as a published writer, my fanfic is up there with the best writing I have ever done elsewhere. There's no reason why fanfic HAS to be badly written; I give it my full attention as both a writer and a professional editor, and do not let it be seen until it is as close to publication-quality as it can get. Yeah, I'd be better off if I wrote as much original fiction as I do fanfic, but ... I write what I'm inspired to write, and until I get paid a lot more for the writing I do get paid for, I'm damn well going to keep writing fic because I love it.)

  • audrey roget

    Do you write under Jemiah Jefferson, or do you care to share your fic nom de plume?

  • Jemiah Jefferson

    That's probably no less sad and pathetic than what I originally wrote. Oh well... I can't be funny all the time.

  • chanohack

    I very much enjoyed reading this (although at first I thought the title meant "The problem with boys who are obsessed with the X-Files," and it took me a little bit to catch on to what was actually happening, but I got there). I too have an obsessive personality, and I'm codependent, so I can relate.

    Your Halloween photo is adorable. When I was a kid I was obsessed with Egyptology and marine mammals, and unfortunately I never tried to dress up accordingly.

  • ,

    You look pretty in that photo.

    I'd have asked you out.*

    Just thought you'd like to know.

    *--If I went to your school and we were approx. the same age and all that ...

  • Superasente

    Week after week Scully encounters irrefutable proof of aliens and the supernatural. Despite this, she is forever skeptical.

    Week after week Shaggy & Scooby encounter irrefutable proof that aliens and the supernatural are lies and deceit. Despite this, they always believe and are terrified.

    X-Files is the anti-Scooby Doo.

  • This is beautifully stated, the final paragraph in particular.
    I never really got into writing fan fiction, not even privately. I've always admired the love that goes into it, though.

  • Louise

    So did we interact on alt.tv.x-files, or was your family not online yet? Your essay took me back to those crazy days on usenet, debating and discussing every moment, every word. I have friends today that I met online, discussing the show or laughing over badfic. Everything I know about how pop culture germinates I learned as a Phile. I'll never be as "focused" about another show, but I wouldn't have missed that experience for anything.

  • Lulu

    Same here, Louise. While my love for the show faded as time went on, I still look back fondly on the debates, discussions, creative efforts, and level of interest I had in that show. Like you, I still have on-line friends who I "met" on the official website's boards, including my board crush, who just finished tucking our two kids into bed. Being a Phile was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

  • Amanda Meyncke

    We had the Internet but oh wow not sure why this is italics oh well, we had it but I didn't know much about IRC or anything like that. I had ICQ though!

  • Robert

    I still like the second movie, but I was always partial to the monster of the week episodes.

  • Heatseeker

    I love this. I could have written this. Not nearly as well, but with the same gist--no, not just gist, details, too. We seem to have shared the same semi-lonely adolescence, searching for that intangible something better, something exciting, someone to share it with. Only now, 15 years later, did I realize that of course the show mirrors these themes of searching and loneliness, and that's probably why I was so obsessed with it.

    When I was 13 years old I was honestly certain beyond a doubt that I was going to be a forensic pathologist FBI agent when I grew up, and it wasn't because I particularly wanted to do either of those jobs, but I believed it would land me a Mulder, someone who felt that kind of crazy passion for me, and who needed me the way he needed Scully, in such an epic, globally crucial context. "Us against the world" was a powerful draw for a nerdy, awkward girl who'd never been kissed but who'd read more books than all her classmates combined at that point.

    Also, the sheer security of knowing I could get kidnapped to Antarctica, frozen in a block of ice, and an alien fetus shoved down my throat, and this person would STILL come rescue my ass, was highly attractive. Hell, it's still attractive. I like to think I'm more evolved emotionally, but whenever I'm dating someone and it starts to get serious, I think to myself, "Yeah, but would he go to Antarctica for me?" When the answer to that question is yes, that's the guy I'll end up marrying.

  • Scully

    I *so* get this.

    Obviously.

  • DS

    Beautiful sentiments, eloquently described. I will always love the X-Files and I will never not love Jeanie Hamilton... wherever she may be.

  • DarthCorleone

    Enjoyed this much. I love it when Pajiba goes a little outside the lines with think pieces and personal sharing. For me, it gives this site the texture that puts it a cut above many of the other movie/television/pop culture sites.

  • Frank Booth

    This was quite touching and very honest. Can't have been easy to write or share. Thank you

  • baxlala

    There are so many things I want to say about this, but I will shorten my thoughts thusly:

    1. Having read this and, having also been obsessed with A) being liked and (mostly) B) The X-Files, I think we may, in fact, be the same person, though I'm not entirely sure how that would work (Mulder and Scully, on the case!).

    2. That second movie...UGH. I can't even.

    3. I'm really glad I'm not the only one who had an X-Files binder.

  • Amanda Meyncke

    Schilbo told me about your great X-Files love, and she has deemed you more in love than I. You win!

  • lowercase_ryan

    I think that for me and many in my generation, the X Files was our first exposure to serial science-fiction/fantasy. It hooked me right away and I've never looked back. There is something about it that is unbelievable comforting. We've all pretty much moved on from the show, but for me it was the first of many. I'm always looking for, and finding, new pulp series to satisfy the need the X Files made me realize I had (Angel, Torchwood, Arrow, and on and on and on).

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    I loved this show back in the day as well. But how weird is it that all these years later David Duchovy and Gillian Anderson are (allegedly) hooked up in real life?

  • Jemiah Jefferson

    I guess the world is over it... which means they chose the right time to reveal that fact. I personally think it's great, if true.

  • Milly

    I enjoy reading your articles, because they capture what many of us do in our lives but in a way that is at one part removed yet engaging.

    In a less flowery way, I like the way you write.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Great piece.

    I've never really obsessed about a TV show (at least until I really got into Doctor Who two years ago, and that obsession is rather mild). For me, it used to be books and music. I didn't collect merch stuff, but I used to go on the internet and rant endlessly about how a particular band was superior. Everyone with a different opinion was wrong, obviously.

    In hindsight, though, Scully is probably to blame for my taste in women, both in terms of mindset and looks. That would explain a lot.

  • John W

    That 1st picture is awesome I must say.

    I used to obsess over X-files too (or more accurately I used to obsess over Gillian Anderson) but in hindsight I think they lost their way on that show much like they did on Lost.

    One of things I like about Buffy is how they resolved every plot thread by the end of the season.

    With X-files (and later Lost) they just kept adding another layer of mysteries on top of old ones seemingly in the hopes that people would forget about the old mysteries and concentrate on the new ones.

  • Tinkerville

    You do an incredible job of describing how television can grab us and refuse to let go for years and years. If I'm feeling very brave I might even be inspired to take a look at some of my own fan fiction. I'll need to be less sober when I take that leap though.

  • boo

    As I am currently working through a massive X Files marathon right now, (in the middle of season 4 as we speak), I love this post.

    But, allow me to speak to something you said, Amanda. You didn't lose the love you had for the boy, or the show. We go through life and experience these levels of emotional attachment and understanding, and like a ball rolling through paint, these experiences stay with us, shape our personal landscape, and unconsciously filter our view of the people and world around us. Yes, you may have had your heart broken, but you also cultivated a capacity for love. No one can take that away from you, and it will always be yours to give.

    Cheers on an unexpectedly touching post.

  • Zirza

    The eyebrow. The glorious Eyebrow of Scepticism. Oh, how I miss it.

    I, too, used to be obsessed with this show. You could have written this piece about me. Thanks for that.

  • Maguita NYC

    This was truly beautiful. Your devotion and search for same in return is lovely, and the parallels with Mulder and Scully's relationship are very moving.

    The X-Files is still to this day so much more than just a TV show for the generations it touched. For some it was science (whether fiction or not), for others, it was just a love story like none other. But the X-Files did cradle you into thoughts of life beyond the ordinary, and made you hope for something other. Something more, painted with lifelong loyalty and silent yet stalwart love.

    Wish you to find that devotion in the one you desire as your own Amanda. Your piece was a truly beautiful read.

  • HMDK

    I tried rewatching the X-files about a year ago. I was never a big fan to begin with, but holy nuts has it aged badly. Some shows do, some don't. I can still watch Homicide and it's more than great. Hell, Twin Peaks, I wish it'd gone on longer. But X-files just don't work. Maybe if I skipped ahead a few seasons... but, why bother, I remember the later seasons as worse.

  • I think Amazon Instant accidentally killed the show for me. The old Garfield holiday specials are available, and I went tumbling down a rabbit hole of nostaligia. Then I tried to watch X-Files for the first time since it originally aired, immediately after finishing one of those Garfield specials. That was when I discovered David Duchovny sounds just like Garfield, and I just can't watch it with a straight face now. I couldn't possibly comment on how it's aged, the fashion, the acting, the plotting, the pacing, none of it. Mulder sounds like a cartoon cat and I can't take it.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I did much the same last year (I think we left off somewhere abound season six), but I found that besides the clothing it held up rather well. In one odd example, Mulder and Scully seem to make better, more practical use of their admittedly gigantic cell phones than most of the characters in a lot of recent shows.

    But yeah, the 90's power suits were just god-awful. Drown the tiny lady in another boxy beige monstrosity, why don't you?

  • Zirza

    It's the pantsuits.

    Seriously, though, I think, for latecomers, selective viewing is required. Episodes like Home, Bad Blood and José Chung's From Outer Space are still fun.

    At least, I still like them.

    But what I do find telling is the following: sometimes, when I have time left and the holidays are approaching, I let my students watch an episode. I teach the upper levels of secondary school. They love it; to them it's cheesy horror-light, scary enough to get sucked into but cheesy enough to enjoy. I skip the mythology arc, usually, but they seem to like it for what it is.

  • HMDK

    Heh, no.
    I couldn't care less about the wardrobe choices. It's the uneven action and acting.

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