'The X Files': Entries on Meaning

Axel Kruse


The success of The X Files (1993- ) makes it one of the defining programs of a period of transition in which television moves towards a new range of commercial mega-media provided by global communication enterprises. As so many viewers are aware, the narrative basis for the series is that Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully work in the Violent Crimes section of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the X Files, a set of fictional files about violent crimes which involve elements of the unknown and unexplainable. Strange mutations, madness, the paranormal, and aliens are linked under the general category of X, the unknown, with the effect that The X Files brings the unknown and the inhuman into the domestic site of prime time television. In addition, Mulder and Scully become increasingly involved with evidence that the world is threatened both by alien invasion and an international government conspiracy to keep people ignorant about what is happening. In that way The X Files defines itself in terms of news about millennial, end-of-the-world crisis at the same time as it contributes to a new stage of global authority for television as a medium for the definition and communication of meaning. Seeing the series in perspective involves questions about its appeal to millennial horror and its basis in American mainstream television and international corporate culture.

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