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Is THE X-FILES Too Dated To Be Rebooted?

The most interesting buzz to come out of Hollywood last week was the possibility of rebooting The X-Files.

Twelve years after it went off the air, there’s still be nothing quite like it — it was a high point of TV in the 1990s and it left a void that was never filled.

But I’m skeptical if it can work in the mid-2010’s. If there was ever a show that relied on the zeitgeist of the 1990s, it was The X-Files.

The show debuted in the fall 1993 when we are on the cusp of a new wave of technological innovation — everything from the internet to mapping the human genome to cloning sheep.

What The X-Files did which was so magical, was just at the moment when it felt like there were no mysteries left because of technology, it created a world that was just out of sight where monsters and aliens existed.

As life was seemingly becoming more rational, The X-Files held out hope for fantasy.

The running gag of the show was that Mulder would often get glimpses of this fantasy world, but he could never capture any evidence of it.

All he ever had was his eyewitness testimony, which was worth nothing.

Today, we live in a time when if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to see it, there’s probably a camera there that will record it. Whether it’s the NSA, smartphones or taxi cameras, nothing escapes being seen and documented.

An X-Files show set today would slam up against the panopticon society we live, which undermines the very nature of the show. And TV shows like 24 and Homeland have helped train us into believing that virtually every moment of life is recorded by a camera.

Heck, just think about all of the footage there was of the meteor impact in Russia last year.

Or to look at it from another perspective, the mysteries that Mulder and Scully unraveled in the 1990s wouldn’t be mysteries at all today because of smart phones and YouTube.

There wouldn’t be rumors of a Loch Ness monster in Georgia — someone would have video footage of it.

The show of course also famously dealt with government conspiracies.

While no one is any more trusting of the government today as they were in the 1990s, between WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, it no longer seems like anything can be kept secret.

What goes on behind closed doors at federal government agencies is not as impenetrable as it once was. In fact, thanks to Google Maps, we can now see into Area 51 as well as other secret military bases.

In the 1990s these government secrets were still just out of sight — we had reason to suspect their existence but we couldn’t see them.

Today, if the government had knowledge of extraterrestrials, it seems likely that someone would have hacked and leaked it.

It’s also unclear to me if the show’s main villain — the federal government — would still be a plausible adversary. Congress is seen as completely ineffectual, our two most recent wars were disasters, and everybody’s secrets had been leaked. Would we really believe that the government is capable of hiding a massive alien colonization program it’s running?

And if there is one place where The X-Files feels out of step today, it’s with our view of the government. In the 1998 movie the emergency powers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) play a key role in the plot (it’s actually quire ridiculous).

Today, people care less about what government agencies are up to (and what exactly they do), and are more concerned with the actions of the Congress and the President.

The IRS is probably a bigger boogieman than the CIA or FBI.

None of this is to say that a rebooted The X-Files show won’t work and be good, but it’s going to have to be fundamentally different — it cannot pretend that we’re living in the 1990s.

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