Welcome to “My First Time,” a recurring section on the blog where we query fellow X-Philes about how they came to the show, and then later on how their fandom developed and evolved over the years.
Case File: JA120114
Today, we’re talking to Ja, another person I knew from The X-Files forums back in the day, who went on to have some very interesting Phile adventures after becoming a fan.
Radhika: What was your first episode of The X-Files?
Ja: My first episode was actually the pilot! I watched the premiere because a spooky (pun intended) show about aliens and conspiracies sounded right up my alley.
Radhika: What was special about the show to you?
Ja: There are quite a few things that were special about The X-Files to me. I loved the way the show was set in the “real world,” but took things that most people are already afraid of and explored them in ways that usually made them even scarier. Monsters living in the sewer? Things that go bump in the night? Fire? Cockroaches? Serial killers? If you were worried about those before, just wait till The X-Files tackled them. I also loved that there was an overarching mythology that fans could [enjoy] debating and analyzing to death.
One of the things that made TXF very special to me was the way that stereotypical gender roles were flipped on their heads with Mulder and Scully. I could have counted on less than one hand the number of strong, independent, intelligent female leading characters I’d seen on TV while growing up. Then suddenly there was this character that was highly educated, a scientist, a medical doctor, a gun-toting FBI agent who was grounded in logic and evidence—and the character was a woman! It was her male partner who ran off of gut feelings and instinct. That was a rarity on TV when TXF debuted.
Radhika: I know you’re a big Star Trek fan and hugely geeky about a number of other franchises as well. So what is special about your love for The X-Files?
Ja: The X-Files will always be special to me because it was the first sci-fi franchise that I discovered on my own and got to enjoy from the very start of its run. I began getting into sci-fi seriously when I read Frank Herbert’s Dune, but I knew about Dune because I’d watched the movie — the one with Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, and Sting — with my sister. I’d watched a few reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series when I was really little, but I was so young that one of the episodes freaked me out and that turned me off to Trek for a long time. In high school, a boyfriend got me into Star Trek: The Next Generation, but those were already in reruns too.
Watching TXF from the premiere and “getting in on the ground floor” with a sci-fi series was a totally new experience for me. The show ended up being the first franchise for which I became part of the fandom at large, and that literally changed my life!
Radhika: Could you tell me a little bit about how the show impacted you in real life?
Ja: Well, I’ve just gotten back from an out-of-state trip visit one of my best friends, and she and I never would have met if it wasn’t for The X-Files, so there’s that. 🙂 I was a latecomer to the official X-Files messageboard and had never used the Internet to interact with complete strangers before, so stumbling across a large group of really fun, smart people (including you, Radhika!) who shared my obsession with this show and were crazy in a good way was amazing. That was 15 years ago and a lot of us are still [real life] friends and/or Facebook friends.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to travel to Las Vegas, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Curacao, and even Singapore to visit with dear friends I have because of The X-Files. And a lot those people have traveled to Los Angeles and San Francisco to visit me. I think we’re all very lucky to have found each other.
Getting on the XF message board in late 2009 also reminded me of how lucky I was to be a Phile living in Los Angeles. I had been living there for a few years by then and I’d started to take for granted all the crazy, unique opportunities that LA offers. I’ll never forget a message board discussion about someone who had gotten to see some of the cast in person. A really nice Phile from Malaysia commented that she would give anything to get to see the actors from her favorite show in person, but she’d never have that chance. That was a big wake-up call for me. I hadn’t grown up in LA; I’d grown up in a little ’burb wishing much the same thing as that Malaysian Phile and the vast majority of other people in the fandom. Why was I wasting this chance? So I started making the time to go to different events and premieres. I had a ton of fun and I got to share really detailed accounts on the message board, with pictures when possible, so more fans could share in the experience. That was a lot of fun. I think I’d have regrets about missed opportunities in LA if I hadn’t gotten that wake-up call.
Radhika: I know you lived in LA and got to attend premieres and whatnot from time to time — what are some of your favorite convention or premiere-related memories?
Ja: Oh, wow. I’ve got a ton of great X-Files-related memories. It’s hard to pick! [Editor’s note: We’ve trimmed down some of them, but left quite a few in because these are some good stories.]
The first day of our get-together, we’re at the Getty Museum where the cell reception is terrible and I notice I have a missed call and a new voicemail. I check it and just about keel over when I hear Mitch Pileggi’s voice in my ear. He’d left a message that he and his family had a birthday party to attend that day, so he was sorry that he was missing us, but he wanted to say hello to everyone and thank all of us for our support. There was a lot of running around and squealing as we played that voicemail over and over again. I’m still amazed that I’m not banned from the Getty for life because of that day. And Mitch Pileggi? Total class act.
At that exact moment, everyone starts piling out of the elevator—including a Scully-trenchcoat-wearing Gillian Anderson on her cell phone and a Mulder-suit-and-trenchcoat-wearing David Duchovny. I am not ashamed to admit that once I was the only person on the elevator, I did some jumping up and down…. Life in West LA is sometimes like the Spanish Inquisition—you’re just trying to get home after work and you get an unexpected X-Files sighting that you remember for the rest of your days.