Bowled Over by Responses to my X-Files Revival Research

Yesterday (9 May) I published a questionnaire asking for reactions to The X-Files revival (here, for those of you who are interested: I’ve been thinking about the revival for a while, though haven’t written anything about it on the blog yet. This is mainly because of a lack of time (seriously, I have so many posts I want to write that I just haven’t got round to yet!), but also because of how relatively quickly the rumours went from rumours to greenlight.

(C) Creator unknown

Personally, I’m mostly excited and a little bit anxious. I’m excited because The X-Files is coming back! With David, Gillian and Mitch. And it’s coming back on TV, which is where its spirtual home (for want of a better word) is. I’m a bit anxious because I Want To Believe didn’t do so well (possibly an understatement, I know) and the last few seasons were pretty divisive in the fandom. I don’t want the show to be screwed up. Because there is potential for that and I don’t want to fall out of love with a series that’s been such a big part of my life (I don’t think that’ll happen, but it’s a mild concern. I mean I found stuff in IWTB to like, and I’ve defended the film from people who really, really did not like it so if I can cope with that I’m sure I can cope with a revival).

What I really find fascinating though, and this is where my research comes in, is the impact this may have on the fandom. I think to a large extent it’s already divided the fandom. Lots of my friends don’t think it should happen. Others are really excited. On both sides people are worried they can’t say what they really think because they might get abuse for it (which is a paper in its own right). But there are definite divisions about if it should come back, what should and shouldn’t be in it and how much involvement Chris Carter should have. I’m curious to see how this develops, and I’ll be following reactions to the revival prior to and after it airs with interest. The revival also ties really nicely into my PhD research, which is on how we navigate fandom through our lives, and our fandoms’ lives; how we deal with disappointments, changes and fluctuations.

To that end, and while the survey is still open so these are no means definitive, I thought I’d share an overview of some of the responses I’ve had so far. This is limited to tick box answers as I haven’t started analysing the in-depth responses yet.

XF1The majority of my respondents describe themselves as fans of The X-Files (though by no means am I looking just for fan responses) and most have been a fan for at least 16 years. Given how popular the series was when it first aired – it was lauded as a cult series and both Duchovny and Anderson featured in ‘Top X hottest’ lists as well as on the cover of various magazines. What I do find interesting, and which I’m looking forward to reading about, is those respondents who’ve only been fans for 0-5 years. How did they get into the show? What are their viewing patterns? Do they view IWTB and the later seasons differently to older fans?

xf2Most respondents have watched I Want to Believe, though from the few responses I skimmed through reactions to the film were mixed to say the least! I know from seeing the film with fans (and family) when it was released (I saw it 9 times in the cinema, don’t judge) that a lot of people were disappointed with it so I’m eager to see a) why people didn’t watch it and b) whether reactions to IWTB will affect how people view the Season 10 comics and the revival itself.

XF3And speaking of the Season 10 comics, so far the majority of respondents haven’t read them. I have to admit I haven’t read them myself yet (though I’ve got them all in single issue and trade paperback format). Partly this is because I don’t know how the canonical series will fare in comic format. I’ve got the old Topps comics, the episode novelisations, the novels, but for me none of those are canon. I can enjoy them outside of what happens in the TV series. the S10 comics on the other hand are canon. They directly affect the story of TXF and they’ll impact upon the revival. What if they’re not that good? Plus – and this is the other reason I haven’t read them yet – 40 minutes of a TV show does not equate to one issue of a comic. I read pretty fast so I’ll get through a comic in well below 40 minutes, but they’re totally different mediums. The timeframe (of reading versus watching) is different; the representation of characters is different; the restrictions afforded by the medium are different. I love comics, and I’ve got a big collection, but I wonder how turning a TV series into a comic format can be successful. I’ll be reading the S10 comics before the revival, and I’ll be writing about them here, but I’m curious to see how others who haven’t read them feel about them being canon and how that might affect their responses to the revival. Will people who haven’t read them read them now? What do people who have read them think?

XF4The last piece of data I want to share is the age of respondents so far. I’ve take a lot of demographic data, partly because it means I can see who my respondents are (in the larger sense of the word) but because I can also look for trends or discrepancies in the different ways fandom is expressed. So does a white, middle class person’s fandom different from an Asian, middle class person’s fandom? How does class, ethnicity or location affect why and how we are fans and express that? What readings do people from different sexualities or gender identities find in the series? A lot of fan studies work is – rightly – criticised for focussing on middle class, white, (often male) participatory fans. To some extent this research falls into that trap – I’m conducting an online questionnaire so I’m potentially missing out on a number of fans who aren’t online – but having demographics for my respondents can hopefully open up new ways of looking at X-Files fans from different backgrounds and the way they engage with fandom. That was a bit of a tangent (!) but what I want to say about the age of fans is that there are fans in each age group. The largest number, so far, are 26-35 which is the age group I also fall in. I was 12 when The X-Files started in the UK in 1994; those at the top end of this bracket would have been 14/15. That chimes with many accounts of ‘becoming a fan’ stories I’ve read in XF fandom – we seem to have started young! But I’m also interested in how the other age groups, particularly those under 26, became fans; how and if the internet has facilitated that fandom; and what all of my respondents think about the revival.

I’m not sure whether sharing results and thoughts so early in the data collection stage is common (or even a good idea!) but I wanted to share these because I’ve been bowled over by the response so far. Even in the time I’ve written this I’ve had another 11 responses (which technically means the data in this post is now out of date, maybe getting me around the sharing results issue!) and I honestly didn’t expect the survey to be taken up by this many people. I’ve also had a lot of people get in touch to say they’re interested in the results; they think the research is really interesting; or they’re just massive Philes so I wanted to record some of this early data and my thoughts about it, in a kind of authoethnographic account of my response to my research’s response.

Seriously though, thank you all. Those of you who’ve responded, who’ve shared the questionnaire, who’ve emailed and tweeted me with your thoughts – I’m grateful and humbled by your interest and I’m looking forward to sharing more results with you. And if you’d like to take part in the questionnaire, please do:

(C) Creator unknown

(C) Creator unknown


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