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The Sex Files
The mopey, mulish face of FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) hangs over his TV series and recent dud movie The X-Files like a morbid moon of sorrow and self-absorption. Mulder's "crusade" -- to find aliens and expose conspiracies -- is endorsed by both film and filmmakers. Yet one reason the movie wasn't the blockbuster Fox Pictures had hoped it would be is that, for all the aimless running around Mulder and his henna'd, pouty-mouthed partner Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) engage in, it's always other people who bring them the key data. Even more off-putting to the masses, and a key to the tiny ratings the aging series has pulled over the summer, may have been the film's expose of what the series hid.

Think of Mulder as an arrested adolescent, stuck at the age he was when his kid sister was kidnapped by aliens. The character has never recovered from this trauma: thus his non-relationship with the clearly willing Scully and the sublimation of his sexual drive into his crusade (and into a fondness for pornography). S&M (hmm) are further surrounded by such sexually repressive adults as their bald boss Skinner, "Cancer Man," and the elderly members of the evil Consortium, aka "Purity Control." Mulder's big-screen adventures underlined -- perhaps fatally for the series -- the way Carter and company keep their hero trapped in immaturity. (Spoiler alert.) Just as Mulder is about to declare his love for his partner, and kiss her, a convenient killer bee stings Scully and drops her into a coma, re-creating the trauma of his sister's kidnapping and forcing Mulder back into the role of good surrogate brother. Late in the film St. Scully is imprisoned in a gooey alien hive, a goo suggesting bodily secretions of all sorts even as the furious aliens thrashing around inside other nearby human bodies suggests the monstrous changes adolescence wreaks upon once-innocent children.

The movie begins, after all, with the alien takeover of a clever, adventurous All-American boy, creepy alien slime roiling his skin as it crawls up the kid's body. It's sublimated child abuse, a theme carried forth as the new alternate dad (Martin Landau) the film introduces to Mulder is first seen pissing in an alley (you show me yours ...) and is then framed as a child molester. This may well be what The X-Files suggests is the real evil conspiracy: being given information about the world of adults when you're not ready for it. Like kids and sex, the American public is too young to know the truth that's out there.

Thus the X-Files movie serves only to expose writer/producer Chris Carter's contempt for gullible Middle America (anxious to lap up the alien corn syrup now on tap) as well as his plot to keep Mulder imprisoned at the pre-adolescent level. If the character ever grew up -- that is, had a mature relationship -- the show would be over. Carter has vowed that his heroes will never have sex, and Anderson has joked that they should -- in the program's last episode! She's right, but if the movie franchise had established itself then that "last episode" would have never happened. It still seems likely to be an eternally receding goal, like exposure of the conspiracy, or Cancer Man giving up the weed.

-- Gregg Rickman

The X-Files screens Friday through Monday, Oct. 16-19, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. (with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 and 4:30 p.m.) at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight (at Clayton), S.F. Admission is $6; call 668-3994. It also screens Friday through next Thursday, Oct. 16-22, at 7 p.m. (with a Saturday matinee at 3 p.m.) at the Parkway, 1834 Park (at Lake Merritt), Oakland. Admission is $3; call (510) 814-2400.

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