This is a guest post by a good friend of mine Drake of The Draking Point (which is currently on hiatus unfortunately while Drake works on his portfolio). The article and art are his original work.
Conservatives increasingly fret about Monsanto and black helicopters, about happy fun camps and government denial of information to the public. Hyperinflation is on the horizon, government routinely exploits tragedies as a pretext to further rob us of rights, and despite whoever rises as the victor in the coming struggles, the one certain thing is that the world can never go back to the way it was. Bill O’Reilly and Tom Hanks keep vulgarly tossing around Lincoln, while Paulistas insist that only Ron Paul can save the Republic. And yet all of these figureheads assume a political solution, speeches, and podiums before chanting crowds. So I’m going to be hip to the fad and posit my own man for the times. Not Gordon Freeman or Sam Fisher. Nope. Agent Fox Mulder. “What? That’s too old to be trendy, but not old enough to be retro!” you might exclaim. And so now as I’m catapulted into my 30s without being consulted about it first, I have begun dating myself with 90s memorabilia about extraterrestrial phenomena. Ah well. I’ve been a fool for lesser things. But for this I have my reasons. Let me set the stage for our moment’s man.
Agent Fox Mulder of The X-Files acclaim was the tragic loner in his genre. He sported a skeptic’s cool aloofness with glib witticism, yet underneath he remained convinced beyond faith of what he knows to be true. Traumatized at a young age by the abduction of his sister, he ascends the most stellar ranks of academia, joins the FBI, and willfully plunges himself into a career nosedive to find what he seeks. Chasing down dark alleys the elusive truth he knows is out there, he stakes his own reputation, academic pedigree, professional career, and peers, pressing onward in an obsessive quest for answers to which the rest of the world lacks even the questions. He microwaves his food, lives like a mole or hopeless night-owl in what could be a student’s apartment, collects oddities, and sees his gun and badge as merely means to an end. We find him ironically working within the very system that suppresses the panflashes that he hunts. His partner Scully is quietly religious yet agnostic toward his own faith, keeping him focused with scientific method, cold stares, and a dry humor they share as they negotiate the shores of federal power and intrigue. And yet Agent Mulder could never love her, because then he would succumb to abandoning his quest as a living ideal. In deep reclusiveness, Mulder owns a streak of nerd intellectualism and quirky immaturity (for which nowadays people turn to The Big Bang Theory for the campy rendition) that juxtapose our preconception that smart, handsome people should not piss their prime years away on utter futility, which naturally spurs some fans to crave a romance with Scully as a healthy replacement. His character is almost a living abstract for the mythic man, digging into the earth and screaming to the skies; haunted by the latter and seeking refuge in the former. A wistful HP Lovecraft on Captain Ahab’s burning quest; an Ayn Rand deuteragonist, burnt out on failure with no Taggart Railroad to show for it, left on the editing floor of Atlas Shrugged. But yet…he keeps on chasing his windmills and living the dream. Why do I respect him so much? Because in quaint remembrance, I was always the last kid to return home from play when the sun went down, and I never saw the end of things. And like so many of us who would rather burn our retinas than shut our eyes, we can all relate. In that vein, the series “ends” with Agent Mulder tried and sentenced by a military tribunal (eerily prescient, eh?), then sprung from prison as a fugitive on the lam, smuggling contrabanded truth to ports unknown.
Yet in the end, the X-Files franchise quietly petered off without much fanfare. Because after all, how does a writer even deliver some vaunted Truth worthy in magnitude of Agent Mulder’s glorious chase? Out of hand, one can only crank out so many episodes, leaving each step open-ended, unresolved, until such an infinite character eventually outlives the weekly format of tagging aliens for answers. Yet despite the breakdown of the series, its legacy on popular culture and public discourse remains deep and lasting, glamorizing the search for the unexplained as one of the highest (and rarest) human virtues. Kolchak: The Night Stalker approached kindred brilliance in its day, but it lacked the dynamism of young Gen Xers and conflicting partners still on the green end of a road to ruin, or the complicated interplay of the protagonist who lost his sister and sublimates his overprotection onto his field partner. Egressing from the vespers of Generation X, the Grunge Movement, piloted to the public when Kurt Cobain was still alive and Ren & Stimpy were spewing up hairballs, it thrived in a decade without social media, and where Internet was a rare treat you had to visit your neighbor’s house to sample. Cyberspace was just opening as a new frontier, yet to dominate the thriller script as it does today. In Mulder’s time, the world was still uncharted by the web and you needed a lab of quirky Lone Gunman before Google, CSI forensics, and code cracking software hit the mainstream. In Mulder’s time, we lived under a sense of normalcy and peace, giving him all the less reason to live the melancholy pursuit he did. The series was one of those nostalgic gems better viewed at a distance adorning my 90s kidhood in suburban Ohio. This was long before Hulu, so I would literally miss football games and outings to catch new episodes after days spent rummaging for trilobites at the Caesar’s Creek reservoir.
Before Jack Bauer, there was Agent Fox Mulder. He was conspiracy’s knight errant of the pre-social media age who predicted the rise of FEMA camps. Nowadays, Jack Bauer just wants your guns and to fist-rape you in the airport. Yet unlike typical extraterrestrial science fiction with gigantic striders like those in War of the Worlds or the gaping finale of Close Encounters in which we can see the day of reckoning, the backdrop of the X-files unfurls years before the shit ever hits the proverbial fan. It stems from a governmental conspiracy of silence around a long-planned invasion of Earth, a day that was foreseen, talked about, alluded to in many episodes, but that we never actually witnessed. No. Our lone agent was the forerunner, a prophet, a Noah, set in the prospering 90s of tranquility when nobody could visualize the day he fears most. When fat interns fellating presidents engrossed us from famine, cataclysm, and war, it was vital that Fox Mulder was shouting alone there and then in the warm years, warning of an impending day when conspiracy blogs would become the speakeasies we now frequent–evermore justified by current events. And so in necessity, we’ve all unwittingly become his disciples. The themes in his story arc were simple and winning; standing by principle, the individual’s impossible struggle, disentangling judgment from emotion and hyperreason, endurance to the end, endless sacrifice, being the lone voice, speaking truth to power, and facing the demon-haunted unknown all alone. The watchwords of the series became “Fight the Future.” Has any of this resonated with you yet?
Kurtzweil: A plague to end all plagues, agent Mulder. A silent weapon for a quiet war. The systematic release of an indiscriminate organism for which the men who will bring it on still have no cure. They’ve been working on this for 50 years. While the rest of the world has been fighting gooks and commies, these men have been secretly negotiating a planned Armageddon.
Mulder: Negotiating with whom?
Kurtzweil: I think you know. The timetable has been set. It’ll happen on a holiday, when people are away from their homes. The president will declare a state of emergency, at which time all government, all federal agencies will come under the power of the Federal Emergency Management Agency–FEMA–the secret government.
Mulder: They call me paranoid.
-X-Files, The Movie, 1998
Why has Agent Mulder (AKA “Spooky”) been so shelved in a time when we need him most? I like to think that after his prison break and final episode in 2003 after 9/11, he passed the baton to all of us now living in the dreary confines of an ever-enclosing police state.
“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” – Albert Camus
Today liberals keep daring Atlas to, but nobody cares if Sisyphus shrugs. Perhapse that’s just where we conservatives can derive our happiness; deep knowing in a bustling world, the anticipation of a better one, the fear of a worse one, the pain of failure that revitalizes the pursuit of happiness anew, and balancing the toll it all takes on our relationships. Above all, the most wonderful trait about my picked warrior is that anyone can be him. He was not remarkably strong or dextrous, was socially inept to boot, and would in no wise fit behind a podium or in a board meeting with a Hank Rearden. A perfect idealist in an imperfect man. Despite his lofty education, he is a failing, relentless, outwardly dry, and suffering man easy to emulate in these times, having millions of incarnations in so many of us forced by Washington to share in his monumental struggle (kinda like time forcing me to be 30). At the end of the day, both Abraham Lincoln and the Smoking Man were in charge; we’re not. Everyone in Congress and the White House has job security; Agent Mulder is overeducated and has zero job security, much like all of Generation Y that followed him. Ron Paul urges transparency with classified material; Julian Assange leaks it from sources; Agent Mulder would steal it. When I opened this trivial “think piece,” I said that I had good reason to dub this pitifully forlorn character the man of the decade, even though he hails from the one prior. I feel I have made a hard-hitting case. Now back to your trite Abraham Lincoln metaphors while I nurture my totally-reasonable hetero-bromance for David Duchovny.
Look around. Mulder has gone missing in the Era of HopeAndChange, yet millions are hot on his trail. And as always…
The truth is out there.
This site is a portfolio of the written word of me. Some of it is professional work originally posted on sites with prominent and expensive sounding names, the rest are blog posts from various places about the net, thelobbyist, or original work produced here.
I'm a technology policy consultant and freelance writer. I also know about other stuff too, but this space is tiny. I'm a native of Atlanta, student at Dallas Theological Seminary, graduate of FSU, life long UGA fan, video game lover, Star Wars aficionado, follower of HaShem, and a Conservative-Libertarian.
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