“The X-Files” is back. If you missed it the first time around, the TV show aired from 1993-2002 and spawned two movies. It told the stories of FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) who investigate paranormal events and expose a vast government conspiracy to cover up an extra-terrestrial invasion. I’m a fan of the original series, so for me it’s a nostalgia trip to watch the show again, but I’m not so sure the show’s mood fits the world we live in today.
A lot has changed since the show went off the air in 2002. As Anna North wrote in The New York Times, “To watch “The X-Files” in 2016 is a strange thing. The original television show was so much a child of the peaceful ’90s . . . and took place in a version of the United States where the government apparently had so few terrestrial problems to deal with that its highest priority was keeping its citizens in the dark about aliens. That America was never real, of course, but it feels especially far-off now. The post-“X-Files” era has brought with it not just the invasion of Iraq and the war on terror, but the rise of “truthers” and the politically inflected paranoia they spread. Conspiracy theorists now traffic in the idea that 9/11 was an inside job and that gun massacres like Sandy Hook are “false flags” cooked up so the government can confiscate guns.”
In today’s world when leading presidential candidates refuse to believe climate change is real but do believe White people are the real victims of “reverse racism,” watching “The X-Files” feels a bit too much like watching the nightly political news. The absurd reality of politics today has surpassed the speculative fiction of the 1990’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I still tuned in to watch Mulder and Scully investigate the cover up of the UFO crash in Roswell, NM, but when I watched “The X-Files” this week I couldn’t help but think that the real conspiracies we should be worrying about are the ones we are all complicit in. Damage to the environment that will take generations to correct, income inequality that crushes lives around the world, systemic racism that perpetuates violence against people of color and so many more systemic problems ensnare all of us. Where are the agents of change showing us how to escape the grip of these kinds of conspiracies?
The new version of “The X-Files” kept the same cheesy low budget opening credits of the original series which end with the words “The Truth is Out There” arrayed across the screen. The irony of the series, however is that every truth its characters discover only leads to less clarity and more questions. Today, we need help to cut through the spin and “dark money” to reveal truth to us. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free,” and we need to be free of the lies we tell to absolve ourselves of responsibility for our systemic problems. We need people who believe that the Truth may be “out there” but it also dwells “in us.” If we are willing to hear that voice of Truth which speaks from the depths of our being, then perhaps we can unravel the real conspiracies that threaten our world today.
Image from FOX
Chase Peeples is pastor of Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ along with a bunch of other things including a father, a husband and a friend.