February 02, 2016

Source: Shutterstock

So I was wrong. The 1990s Revival is going ahead after all, leading those of us who lived through that decade to ask: “€œWait, things happened in the 1990s?”€

At the time I”€™d left the left, but 9/11 was obviously yet to come, so “€œpolitics”€ came down to my mom having to explain what “€œoral sex”€ is to my grandmother. (Thanks, Bill Clinton!)

There were comatose car-crash victims with hospital-room TVs who knew more about the O.J. Simpson trial than I did.

And it was during the 1990s”€”that is, my 30s”€”when That Thing I”€™d heard tell of and had dreaded ever since finally happened to me:

Every new! hit!! song!!! sounded like it was being played at the wrong speed. By an all-chimpanzee band. From inside a padlocked storage container. Kids these days

Actor Matthew Perry of Friends (okay, Friends happened) now says he doesn”€™t remember taping three seasons of the sitcom because he was so drunk, not to mention high on painkillers.

I”€™ve got a similar dilemma but for the exact opposite reason: For me, much of the “€™90s is a blur of AA meetings punctuated by pill-resistant arthritis attacks. Not quite in my right mind, unable to work or retain much of what I read, I watched a lot of TV. Rosanne, The Simpsons, and, especially, The X-Files.

“€œYeah, I”€™ll watch the new X-Files again this week, and probably next week, too.”€

The X-Files captured the zeitgeist: “€œThe end of history,”€ remember? The fall of the Berlin Wall and all? America (supposedly) had no more real enemies, so The X-Files dutifully presented alternatives: aliens, “€œmonsters of the week,”€ and rogue intelligence operatives”€”the operative word for said operatives being “€œrogue.”€ Because with a baby-boomer Democrat in the White House, one whose crimes were deemed fodder for punchlines rather than impeachment”€”come on: It was just a blow job, and those Waco nuts got what they deserved, right?”€”Government was kinda sorta…cool. And so it came to pass that post”€“Watergate & Woodstock America fervently embraced two clean-cut, besuited, chivalric-ly celibate FBI agents as pop culture heroes, like it was 1935 but with flip phones.

(Remember: The 1990s also gave us the equally pure-of-heart and widely beloved Agents Clarice Starling and Dale Cooper. I presume that sometime thereabouts, J. Edgar Hoover stopped turning over in his grave…)

(P.S.: A note to youngsters watching old X-Files for the first time: No, those ubiquitous office wall photos of Bill Clinton and Janet Reno aren”€™t “€œironic.”€ They really are just bland, historically accurate set dressing.)

I loved the original show, in part because at its height, it evolved into a gnostic super-meta inside joke and cozy, cosa nostra, self-contained universe: a “€œcult phenomenon”€ that was also mainstream and international.

Such rabid affection also prompted geeky scrutiny of the “€œname the freakin”€™ horse“€ variety:

How, after the two-season mark, having experienced actual paranormal phenomena, could Agent Scully continue to stubbornly serve the narrative as Agent Mulder’s skeptical foil? Why didn”€™t someone just kill Mulder and Scully? Why didn”€™t they just kill That Guy? And why the hell didn”€™t they just turn on the goddamn lights? Who cared? Those were features, not bugs. Now back to the bugs and the bugs.

But for those same reasons, like millions of fans, I tuned out after David Duchovny’s departure, and avoided the franchise’s two feature films. I wanted to keep my “€œrelationship”€ with Agents Mulder and Scully as pure as they (mostly) had.

That’s why I cringed when the inevitable nostalgia-exploiting reboot was announced. Not just because I didn”€™t want my memories tainted, but because the debut episode was reportedly entitled “€œMy Struggle”€(!?) and would revolve around one “€œTad O”€™Malley,”€ an Alex Jones-type broadcaster but with Rush Limbaugh’s and Glenn Beck’s money.

So this stringently apolitical series was going to resume, but now with added “€œright wing”€ bashing?

That’s what it looked like to some people. Those people were wrong.


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