On a very young Fox network, a sleepy and little funded show about two FBI agents looking into the paranormal started on a Friday night in September thirty years ago. It wasn’t exactly a recipe for getting good ratings. But The X-Files was destine to take a more noble road.
The show, which debuted David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in their early careers, later relocated to a Sunday night primetime spot and invaded several pop culture subcultures as its viewership and budget increased.The “Simpsons” crossover made reference to the show, and the song “One Week”.
The Barenaked Ladies featured Cigarette Smoking Man, the show’s foreboding villain. In the midst of the show’s nine-season original run, “The X-Files: Fight the Future” debuted in theaters in 1998. A sequel was release in 2008, and the show returned for two revival seasons in 2016 and 2018 after that.
What started off as a cult favorite became so popular that both fans and non-viewers knew of the series and the iconic Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (Duchovny and Anderson) characters. The will-they-won’t-they chemistry of the primary couple and the discussion surrounding their relationship altered the terminology used by fandoms.
“The ‘X-Files’ name itself… I think that’s turn into a ‘beam me up, Scotty’ or’set phasers to stun,'” said Paul Booth, a media and pop culture professor at Chicago’s DePaul College of Communication who specializes in fan studies.
It’s just become a part of the zeitgeist of popular culture to call classifie materials “X-Files.”
X-Philes, or fans of the program, convened online to discuss ideas and behind the scenes rumors while submitting fanfiction, fan art, and other content during the show’s peak popularity in the mid-to-late 1990s. I am a Phile who watched the entire series, participated in fanfiction as a teenager, posted on message boards, and eventually co-wrote a rewatch blog as an adult.
In other words, I witnessed firsthand how “The X-Files” influenced internet culture, fandoms, larger pop culture, and even people’s daily lives. Even now, its effect is still noticeable.