The X-Files (1993-2002), about two government agents investigating unsolved cases relating to paranormal activities, was a quality drama which became a cult hit with audiences and subsequently an international cultural phenomenon, generating vast amounts of secondary texts including merchandise products, online communities and fan fiction. Some of the questions we can ask relate to the text's cult status and its position as a mainstream success. Indeed, we can focus on the characteristics of the show that made it credible as a cult text and ensured that it gained a much larger audience than what was customary for a television based cult text in its time. The X-Files drew on a range of processes commonly applied to cult texts, mainly through a hybridisation of generic forms and intertextual references as well as its mythological features. However, as Johnson (2005: 3) observes, ‘Producers may attempt to create a media cult text, but it is only through the activities of audiences that a television programme can become a cult text'. Therefore, a text can only become cult if it is activated as such by its audience.
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[...] et al Deny All Knowledge: Reading The X-Files. New York: Syracuse University press, p.23. Reeves, J.L., Rogers, M.C., Epstein, M ‘Rewriting popularity: The Cult Files' in Lavery, D. et al Deny all Knowledge: Reading the X-Files. New York: Syracuse University press, pp Reeves, M.C. et al In Lavery, D(ed) This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos. London: Wallflower, p. 44-45. Seiter, E.1999. Television and New Media Audiences. New York: Oxford University Press, p.119.Silence of the Lambs Jonathan Demme (dir.). Stark, S Twilight Zone: Science [...]
[...] Indeed, if the conspiracy in The X-Files concerns the hybridisation of humans, the text itself is a hybrid of generic forms. Intertextuality between those texts and self-reflexivity are also very present. Like Twin Peaks, The X-Files attracted a lot of critical attention. Both shows are often labelled as post-modern as they share common features. Just as Twin Peaks combined many generic forms including the soap opera, the detective story, the teen drama and elements of the supernatural, The Files drew on abduction storylines and the conspiracy genre, as well as the FBI drama, science-fiction, and an element of romance. [...]
[...] Hence, even if the text itself contains elements that seem to highlight its potential for becoming a cult text, it is only through the activities of fans that a text becomes activated and subsequently gains cult status and value. Indeed, fandom can determine the cult value of a text. Reeves (et al; 2002: 44-45) express this idea through the characteristics of television programming of in the 1990s: The most telling development of this period was the advent of cult programming, like The X-Files, that inspired what we have called “avid fanship” level of quasi-religious engagement with television that may involve taping and archiving episodes, purchasing ancillary merchandise, and interacting with other fans in online discussion groups. [...]
[...] In conclusion, we can say that a test's cult status is not imbued in the text itself. Although it might have a potential for such status, its cult value is only validated when the text is activated by viewers. As Casey (et al; 2000: 236), express, Meaning in The X-Files, then, is ‘refracted not only through the multiple discourses of the text but also through those which the viewer applies to the text. Meaning is produced at the point where text and reader ‘meet' and is not simply a property of the text itself. [...]
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