E14 -

Anthony Comegna and Jesse Walker join the show to discuss the seemingly unexplainable that occurs throughout The X‐​Files.

We asked Anthony Comegna and Jesse Walker to join the show to crack open unexplained phenomena and paranormal activity cases that are explored throughout The X‐​Files. The X‐​Files is perhaps the very first, long‐​running, science fiction show to earn a primetime slot. FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully take on open cases that involve extraterrestrial life, alien abductions, future tellers, and so much more. Come seek the truth with us.

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Music by Asylum

Photo credit to IMDB.

Transcript

[music]

0:00:01 Landry Ayres: Welcome to Pop & Locke. I’m Landry Ayres.

0:00:04 Natalie Dowzicky: And I’m Natalie Dowzicky.

0:00:05 Landry Ayres: Make sure you’ve got your shoulder pads in, and your pager charged because we are cracking open the cases, of unexplained phenomenon, that are the X‐​Files.

[music]

0:00:24 Landry Ayres: Joining us to discover if the truth is out there, are historian and former assistant editor for intellectual history here at Libertarianism dot org, Anthony Comegna.

0:00:34 Anthony Comegna: Hello.

0:00:35 Landry Ayres: And books editor at Reason and author of “The United States of Paranoia, A Conspiracy Theory” Jesse Walker.

0:00:42 Jesse Walker: Howdy.

0:00:44 Natalie Dowzicky: So, everyone I thought it’d be good to start with. What makes you love The X‐​Files? Why is it just quintessential 1990s TV?

0:00:54 Anthony Comegna: Oh, man, I’ll start with this one. There’s this great literary scholar Paul Canter who’s in the libertarian world, and he has this argument that I just love that the X‐​Files and The Simpsons are the two greatest cultural products of that whole era. In generations‐​worth of time, and that they completely reflect the times in which they were made and the ideas floating around the world. And I personally now that I’ve thought quite a bit about it, in preparation for this show, I don’t think any single thing has been more influential in making me who I am now. The kind of academic I try to be, and the kind of libertarian I think I am and just sort of my general approach to life is so much been shaped by this incredible show. It’s just fantastic.

0:01:47 Jesse Walker: Yeah, it’s interesting that the Simpsons and The X‐​Files actually aired on the same night on Fox for a while in the ’90s And between them, they had King of the Hill, which had that kind of anti‐​authoritarian cartoon flavor of the Simpsons, but a little bit more of a sort of populous libertarian angle. And also on that night, right before the Simpsons, a crappy show, but it sort of fit in too was America’s Funniest Home Videos…

[laughter]

0:02:12 Jesse Walker: Sort of like the awful corporate TV, a precursor to YouTube and so on. So you can sort of see all the spirits in advance of social media era, anti‐​authoritarianism in the Fox line‐​up of the mid‐​1990s. And I don’t know quite what to make of that, but occasionally just find myself thinking about it at random while driving or showering or something.

0:02:39 Anthony Comegna: I think that’s something that deserves a bit more elaboration ‘cause this is part of that Paul Canter argument that I mentioned, he points out that Fox was on this quest to break into the field, of the major networks. There was only NBC, CBS, and ABC like forever and Fox was doing everything they could to avoid the kind of regulations that came along with being an official network, and yet run original programming, and break into that network space. And they broke, they broke all the rules they threw everything at the wall and saw what stuck. One of those rules was “No Sci‐​fi in prime time”, ever since Star Trek went down back in the ’60s, there was no Sci‐​fi in any primetime slot and no Animation in prime time. And they said, “Screw it, we’re gonna do it. We got these great, great shows” and it really made Fox, the titanic organization, we know now.

0:03:43 Natalie Dowzicky: Do you know why that rule came to be? Because Sci‐​fi is obviously a huge genre. I’m just wondering why from a business perspective why no Sci‐​fi was in prime time?

0:03:55 Anthony Comegna: I think it was just that people thought it was hokey and weird and not it was not fit for massive consumption but what they did by giving it a shot as with so many of their other shows… Fox had this thing where they would start a show, and cancel it right away. Start a show cancel it, start a show cancel it. And they would cut shows before their pilot season even ended. And they were just trying whatever they had in the pocket to see what worked and they knew that if they tried a whole bunch, they would get some really, really big hits so they just decided, “You know what we think there is a mass market out there for a really, really good Sci‐​fi program”, and it stuck.

0:04:41 Jesse Walker: So I think there were some prime time science fiction shows they weren’t necessarily seen as genres, shows. I’m trying to remember what time did 6 Million Dollar Man was on, or Quantum Leap, but these weren’t sort of processed as genre shows, even though they obviously had science fiction elements. And one thing about TV, and that kind of tightly regulated… Three network, ad‐​driven era, was that since there wasn’t as much room for experimentation, there was a whole lot of imitation and it was a sort of environment where it was a lot easier to just fall into path dependence and to assume that because something didn’t work, it wouldn’t work again. And just to do the umpteenth attempt to re‐​make friends with a slightly different cast, and that’s the sort of thing that we’ve really… I mean cable started breaking out of that. And then the addition of other networks helped as well and of course now we live in the streaming era, and the rules have changed completely.

0:05:53 Jesse Walker: But the vast wasteland thing was real, and it’s just that, although I think the particulars of the complaint about the vast wasteland were wrong, it was sort of a snobbish complaint from the FCC Commissioner about all this kind of low brow material, the idea that networks were afraid to experiment and to do something different was true, but the main reason for that was because of institutions like the FCC and the limits they put on competition and innovation and creating something different and just creating another space for things and which is the irony of that speech since, of course, it was an FCC Commissioner who wanted even tighter regulations the impetus behind it. Do you remember, Anthony, the first time you saw “The X‐​Files”?

0:06:46 Anthony Comegna: Absolutely. [chuckle] I love the story too. ‘Cause it’s the first TV show I remember clearly watching. It made that big an impression on me. I must have been about 5‐​years‐​old, I think, it was during the first season. It was in November. I think we were headed to my step‐​grandparents’ house in Altoona Pennsylvania. Probably for early Thanksgiving and we got caught in the mountains in a really terrible snow storm and we had to pull over to a motel for the night and stay there. And my family, we were all… There were four of us. The heat was broken in this room and so we were all huddled on the one bed under the covers together. And we turned on the TV and it was… The episode is called “Ice”. It’s in the first season. It takes place in Antarctica.

0:07:36 Landry Ayres: One of my favorite episodes.

0:07:38 Anthony Comegna: Everything…

0:07:38 Landry Ayres: It’s so good.

0:07:39 Anthony Comegna: Yeah. I mean, it’s basically… What’s the movie that it’s kind of a rip off of The Thing? Yeah. It’s just isolation and coldness imagery everywhere. It fit the context perfectly. And we’re all huddled there in the dark, in the cold watching this and right as somebody is about to be murdered by the body‐​snatching parasite alien, the lights went out in our room and the TV went off.

0:08:05 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh, my gosh.

0:08:07 Anthony Comegna: And we just all screamed. And it just stuck with me forever. I was absolutely in love by how they made this show and the kinds of terrifying stories that they would come up with. It was just fantastic.

0:08:21 Landry Ayres: That sounds like a cult open to an X‐​Files’ episode. Like having to pull over in a storm on the way to Altoona and going to a roadside motel and the lights going out, just, like, I hear the music swelling as you tell it.

0:08:39 Anthony Comegna: It was a perfect moment.

0:08:40 Jesse Walker: So, I do not remember what the first episode I saw was, but what I do remember I had… In the 1993 I was a couple of years out of college, I had stuck around Ann Arbor for about a year, I was working at a bookstore, and then I got a job in the Pacific Northwest, and I had moved out to this small town. I didn’t have cable. It wasn’t really worth it because the local cable system just meant better reception and they didn’t have many choices. I didn’t have the internet because I had left that behind my university account and I wouldn’t rejoin for a few years. This is like a level of sort of media baron that’s unimaginable to people today. [chuckle] But I stayed in touch with my old friends in Michigan and who, among other things, we had got in together every week to watch “Twin Peaks”, which I think we’re gonna get into later. It’s kind of a precursor to “The X‐​Files”.

0:09:33 Jesse Walker: Certainly an example of that kind of new readiness to experiment in the 1990s. And I remember one of them just telling me, “Have you seen this show, The X‐​Files?” And I said, “No, I haven’t heard of it.” And he says, “Oh, well, it’s… ” I said, “What is it?” He says, “Well, it’s this show. I guess the ideas are these the files of the unexplained things that the FBI blah, blah, blah.” And I kind of got this big sense that it was some sort of Leonard Nimoy in search of type. [chuckle] So where they have some sort of fake to‐​do about something a lockness monster or whatever. So, I came out of this bad explanation with the sense that I had no interest in this show, whatsoever, and I stumbled on to it. I remember it was one night where they were trying to bring in more of viewers by showing a bunch of episodes in a row and I just watched that whole evening and realized that, no, this was something very different. And in retrospect, being in a tiny apartment in the rural Northwest is kind of the ideal place to start watching “The X‐​Files”, but, yeah. And I remained a fan or I kinda tuned out for the last few seasons, but watched pretty consistently through 1998 or ‘09 or so.

0:10:51 Landry Ayres: Jesse, you bring up a point about the media landscape today and how that your type of disconnection and isolation from media would be shocking to a lot of people today. Do you think a show like “The X‐​Files” is there an equivalent today that you think is sort of accomplishing similar things whether in tone or in sort of popularity? And would a show like “The X‐​Files” in its purest most appreciated sense be appreciated today?

0:11:27 Jesse Walker: So it’s difficult for me to answer that because my media consumption patterns have changed so much. I watch more shows, just binge watching after they’re over or three seasons in now than I do by paying attention week‐​to‐​week. They’re like maybe three or so shows at any given time I will actually watch from week to week, and even then I might fall behind. So I’m just sort of not plugged in in the way you could be when there was four commercial networks plus PBS. But I will say that since… I mean, part of that sort of change to the landscape we’re talking about was this discovery that you could pursue a niche audience that you could pursue a cult audience. That was sort of a big buzz word in the ’90s. Not cult as in get in the circle in the woods and sacrifice somebody, but cult as in the devoted fans of a particular property.

0:12:24 Jesse Walker: And obviously that was part of the discovery of the science fiction audience in prime time was being able to do this. And so that’s actually one of the ways I think the X‐​Files is a precursor even if people consume the X‐​Files differently than they might today, consumed Riverdale or… I’d say that ‘cause I actually watch it, but whatever other… Or Mr Robot, which I guess went off the air about a year ago, or something else that’s kind of in the same lineage as X‐​Files.

0:12:54 Natalie Dowzicky: That’s also funny because right now, I feel like we see an explosion of these Sci‐​fi shows. They’re much more popular than they were back when the X‐​Files first started, but they all look very different. So even if it’s Dystopia so something like The 100 is very popular, it has a very cult‐​like, again, not like Kool‐​Aid cult, but very loyal audience. And I think partially it’s due to X‐​files that we have this off‐​shoot of many different Sci‐​fi genres. ‘cause they were… So this is, I’m gonna out myself here, this is the first time I’ve ever seen in X‐​Files episode. It was last week. I still think it is popular today, as getting to Landry’s question that it can still be consumed today and seen as popular and interesting. I thought it was very entertaining, I really liked it and I was skeptical going into watching it.

0:13:49 Natalie Dowzicky: But I think one of the biggest things that struck me was that it seemed so ahead of its time in terms of casting, I noticed right away that there’s a strong female leads. There’s always a strong female lead, which was from my understanding, not, especially in prime time, not something that occurred normally, unless it was a soap opera show, then there were obviously more females in those but… And then I read up on it later that the creator of the show, actually, did that intentionally, hoping that more shows would… More shows would respond with more female characters or strong female leads. And I was even thinking like, going back to The 100, The 100 has a strong female lead as well. So I’m wondering if, X‐​Files kind of opened the door to a more robust Sci‐​fi genre that we have today?

0:14:40 Jesse Walker: Yeah, its influence is considerable. Just because it was so successful and so well‐​written and had such good chemistry between the leads and all the things that make people still watch it today. It also had I got to say one sort of negative influence one… And this is something which you don’t necessarily get when you’re watching it retroactively. But when you were watching it, week‐​to‐​week, there was this kind of shift, where at the beginning the mythology episodes were something you looked forward to. Like you were unlocking these larger pieces of a bigger puzzle. And after a few years, at least for me, any time there was a mythology episode, I would be like, “Oh God, it’s gonna be more of this stuff that doesn’t add up. Just get back to the damn monster‐​of‐​the‐​week.

[laughter]

0:15:27 Jesse Walker: Gimme a well written show that is resolved… I mean story that has resolved in 50 minutes, and some shows are able to actually keep the momentum. Have a overarching plot that they’ve thought out in advanced or that they’re able to in an improvisatory way turn it into something that works, and they even sometimes get better as they go along. But… There have been so many examples of places that just kind of wrote themselves into a corner, the way The X‐​Files ultimately did. I mean Lost is kind of the famous example.

0:16:07 Natalie Dowzicky: Lost.

0:16:08 Jesse Walker: There are other ones…

0:16:09 Natalie Dowzicky: Dexter.

0:16:09 Jesse Walker: Yeah, it’s… So I think that that was… The X‐​Files should have been more of a negative lesson, but I think, “Don’t do this”, but a lot of people thought, “well I’ll just won’t make the mistakes the X‐​Files did, I’ll do it this way”. There’s actually a moment in the final episode of the original run of the X‐​Files where Mulder is testifying before a secret government tribunal or something like that. And at one point the judge or whoever is in charge turns to him and says, “Is this going anywhere?” And I thought, “Oh so many times I’ve said that to the screen”… While watching this show.

[laughter]

0:16:46 Anthony Comegna: Yeah, so much of the show, just became… They did have a really great balance though, I thought between those story arc, series arc episodes and the monster in the box episodes because they did really draw you back in. Like you said… For years and years until maybe you ended up getting tired of it in the long run. Everybody wanted to see another smoking man scene, right? And I mean it even made it into that that song… Whose name I can’t remember, I hope the smoking man’s in this one. People definitely wanted that. This might get us into talking about Twin Peaks a little bit because, as I understand the… I use my quarantine time on advice of Kaito Zone, Kayla Brown to watch Twin Peaks. And as I understand it, David Lynch’s intention going into that show was to always leave the murder of Laura Palmer unsolved specifically because he hated how TV had become this throw‐​away thing where you tune into a meaningless, episode each week that goes nowhere, except with somebody dying at the end, and justice being served and whatever.

0:17:58 Anthony Comegna: And what he wanted to do is show how the murder of a single person like Laura Palmer could so deeply impact people’s lives across this place of Twin Peaks, and so he never wanted it to be solved, and in that way she keeps moving on affecting people and affecting the viewer and essentially the audience and the network muscled him out of that plan and made them wrap up the murder of Laura Palmer earlier in season two. And so David Lynch quit the show and it just went downhill from there, it was terrible for most of that season, right up till the very end when he came back. And I think I get the sense… At least, that the X‐​Files tried to learn from that and decide, “we’re never gonna really know whether the aliens exist or not”, or “whether Mulder is correct about… Or any of his theories or not”. We’re gonna keep this sense of doubt and mistrust going on and on and on and on, throughout the course of the entire show. The main characters won’t even know what they think anymore by the end of it. And I think you see that play out over and over and it does. For me at least, it adds a really good flavor to the dynamic, especially between Mulder and Scully, and the questions involved about who to trust and what to do with certain types of authority.

0:19:25 Jesse Walker: Although, I gotta say, at some point, when he was saying, “Maybe I don’t believe in aliens anymore”, I wanna say, “Well remember, on that monster of the week alien episode where you actually saw an alien?”

[laughter]

0:19:38 Jesse Walker: There is this failure to sort of collect those as part of the clues as well that started to get on my nerves. But yeah, I mean, you’re right, about Twin Peaks. I don’t remember if Lynch actually left the show or not. It’s been so long, but.

0:19:49 Anthony Comegna: He did he did…

0:19:51 Jesse Walker: Yeah, I do remember that…

0:19:52 Anthony Comegna: He quit in rage…

0:19:53 Jesse Walker: Is that I had… During the first season when it was super popular, I thought it was bizarre that the hype around it was sort of in that kind of “who shot JR” style, who killed Laura Palmer, when to me that was not what was interesting about this show and certainly those… I would watch that as a communal thing with a group of people, and I don’t remember any of us afterwards, trying to theorize about… Maybe a little bit. It was more like these sort of weird moments of the FBI agents suddenly going off on a rant about Tibet, and throwing stones. I mean, that was the sort of stuff we wanted to re‐​watch, we were interested in these characters, we are interested in the surrealism, we were interested in the humor. And if an episode had a lot of those moments then our housemate might get home from work and we say, “Oh we’re gonna watch this again” ‘cause we would always record it on VHS tapes. Again, this is like another media era.

[laughter]

0:20:52 Jesse Walker: And it was bizarre to me that I don’t know how typical we were, but I felt like there was a disconnect between what a lot of the fans were getting out of the show and what a lot of the network hype‐​machine thought we wanted to get out of the show, and what they were playing up in the advertisements. And of course, back then there were online discussions, but the web didn’t even exist. We’re talking about, Usenet and its counterparts, and so you can actually go back and look at those, but I’m not so sure that it was influencing network, for better or for worse, network decisions the way online discussions can today.

0:21:32 Natalie Dowzicky: This is kind of a good segue into the very first episode, and I saw that Jesse pointed this out in his notes, too, is that in the opening credits, it says the following story is inspired by actual documented accounts. And I think this is, again, at that surrealist point I looked at that and I had a very puzzling look, I was like, “Wait isn’t this show about aliens, and like… “

[laughter]

0:21:58 Anthony Comegna: That’s right. That’s right, Natalie.

0:22:00 Natalie Dowzicky: And I was like, “Am I reading this correctly?”

[laughter]

0:22:06 Jesse Walker: That’s the sort of thing that makes you think you’re watching In Search Of, and I think that there was really that kind of genre influence of those old 70 shows on the X‐​Files. And also, of course, the other thing is that this is at the peak or one of the peaks of public interest in the idea of alien abductions. You had all these people who had said they’ve had recovered memories of being abducted by aliens. This was a huge pop culture thing right then and a lot of people believed this was actually going on and I think part of what was going on there was kind of an effort to appeal to that audience and maybe there is some half‐​assed way that it’s half true, like it’s documented that somebody claimed this happened to them, under hypnosis. But that’s itself part of the political context of the pilot.

0:23:01 Jesse Walker: The two most important things to me as far as when the X‐​Files started is, first of all, it’s in that moment, a historical moment after the Cold War and before the War on Terror, and this is the one time in my life that the United States has not been sort of… In the sort of permanent mobilization against an enemy, an outside enemy. And that had a real interesting impact on the culture, and part of… I think we might get into this later. One thing, the X‐​Files does is to rewrite the history of the Cold War. But another thing it does, and this is related to that is to start imagining enemies elsewhere, which really fit what a lot was happening, suddenly on the political right had the sort of people who in the past might have been suspicion… Suspicious of the Soviets, were now looking at something like WACO or Ruby Ridge, and casting their eyes upward and being much more suspicious of government, that they were cheering on “Ra Ra” just five or 10 years earlier.

0:24:04 Jesse Walker: But also the abduction story goes back a different sort of abduction story goes back a long ways in American history. You have… Captivity narratives in the earliest… Some of the earliest literature of the colonial era, people talking about being captured by Indians and living among them, and then coming out this was not… There’s actually an even earlier version of the genre in Europe with people being captured by pirates and there’s a passage I brought here from Richard Slotkin who’s a historian literary scholar in a great book called “Regeneration Through Violence”. In describing the archetypal captivity story, he says, “A single individual, usually a woman stands passively under the strokes of evil, awaiting rescue by the grace of God, in the Indians’ devilish clutches the captive had to meet and reject the temptation of Indian marriage and… Or the Indians “cannibal” Eucharist, to partake of the Indians’ love or his equivalent of bread and wine was to debase to an English the very soul.”

0:25:09 Jesse Walker: There was this idea of you being a captured by an alien force, and I should add that in a lot of the early conspiracy theories of colonial era, it’s not just Indian conspiracy. They were believed to be actually being directed by Satan, and even in some cases to have been brought over from Europe by Satan when Christianity spread Europe, and he wanted his own base elsewhere. And then… To be violated their body in ways. So I think we’re familiar from later alien abduction accounts. And to be the threat of being turned into something that is not fully human yourself, and over the course of the X‐​Files this idea of hybrids among us, becomes like a big part of the scare there so in the underlying master plot.

0:25:58 Jesse Walker: So you’ve got this old story that has come up in different guises, that’s now being sort of presented in this extra‐​terrestrial context and it’s popping up at this time when you don’t have a natural sort of enemy like Osama Bin Laden or Leonid Brezhnev that you can point to, just a sort of more ethereal force in the skies that may or may not be aligned by forces within our own society, that’s a really potent combination. And in some ways one that has some kind of creepy underlying politics, but it can be a really potent story, a source for sort of paranoid storytelling.

0:26:41 Jesse Walker: So, and then one other thing I’ll throw in, but I’ve talked too long is this is also the tail end of the satanic panic and in the pilot episode, there is of a throwaway reference to my… Well, maybe it’s a satanic cult. No, I think it’s this. But that also had that kind of idea of people under hypnosis having recovered memories of something terrible being done to them and for a lot of people I think aliens kind of took the place of what was believed to be the devil itself or people who believed in the devil in this story. So this was the context in 1993, when you have this pilot story which is echoing Twin Peaks, you’ve got the FBI going to the rural Northwest to investigate a crime, but then ultimately winds up going in a very different direction.

0:27:31 Natalie Dowzicky: Well, it’s also interesting that you bring up this as kind of the height of alien abduction kind of being a real fear or maybe not a real fear, but it’s talked about more, ‘cause isn’t this also the time period that Independence Day and Mars Attacks, like those movies came out which are like… Yeah, I think those were the late 1990s, like ‘96 or ‘97, I think, which are some of the most popular alien abduction movies still today. They just did a sequel to Independence Day actually not too long ago, but okay, I have to ask, do you think this show may convince anyone that aliens are real?

0:28:13 Anthony Comegna: Oh, definitely, definitely, definitely.

0:28:17 Natalie Dowzicky: Okay.

0:28:18 Anthony Comegna: And I’m not saying me, Landry. I know you’re thinking it. [chuckle]

0:28:22 Landry Ayres: No, I was just waiting for it, I was waiting for someone to be like, “And I am one of those people.”

0:28:29 Natalie Dowzicky: Yes, that’s true. [chuckle]

0:28:30 Anthony Comegna: No. No, my family actually used to make fun of me ‘cause I had a really, really big head and big ears as a kid and they said I looked like an alien, so I was maybe predisposed against the whole idea in the first place, ‘cause I’m a human damn it. [chuckle]

0:28:46 Jesse Walker: By the way, this was also the big boom in pop culture of alien, I mean, of angel stories. I was working in the original Actual Borders bookshop if you remember that chain in Michigan before I left town and there was suddenly all these books about angels, people buying angel books, people buying angel tchotchkes. It became a…

0:29:06 Natalie Dowzicky: Interesting.

0:29:06 Jesse Walker: Big pop culture thing, and there was sort of the Christian version, there was sort of the new age version, but it was palpably the benevolent counterpart to the alien narratives, especially the new age versions of it where you get completely detached from sort of familiar theology and it just becomes this benevolent force in disguise, intervening in people’s lives. So that’s also a part of the context. And it would be, I don’t remember the X‐​Files doing an angel episode, maybe I missed one but that would have been an interesting genre cross over if they ever had.

0:29:45 Landry Ayres: Well, there was certainly, there’s huge elements of the discussions of faith, especially, like one thing, we’re not gonna talk about much ‘cause it’s not that good, but I… My father, who is a big X‐​Files fan and the reason that I got into the show, we saw the movie that came out several years ago, the, I think it’s I Want To Believe, which is a huge exploration of faith and angels, and I, going back and re‐​watching the show, that sort of theme is certainly prevalent throughout X‐​Files as well, and the sort of comparison of belief and blind faith, whether it’s in aliens or in god or angels, is certainly palpable as well.

0:30:35 Anthony Comegna: And I think it’s important to note, along with Jesse’s last point there, that this is also the era when Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods was massively huge and he was coming out with sequels to that now and then and that whole field of sort of ancient pseudo‐​archaeology was booming and people very clearly started relating angels and aliens as the same thing, and that was sort of no longer looked at as some kind of purely off the wall, new age‐​y thing, but it was now something that real religious people who adhered to the biblical dogma could actually get behind and not feel like they were renouncing their faith by believing in aliens.

0:31:24 Jesse Walker: Although, there’s also… I mean I looked at some of this literature when I was writing The Conspiracy book, there was a rich vein of Christian literature in which, the… Which was against the angel boom because they believed the angels, the people who believed they were contacting were demons in disguise. So a lot of this stuff gets sort of switch, but you’re right, von Däniken, his big moment was in the ’70s, early ’80s, ‘cause I was a little kid, I remember that being something we talked about in the playground, but there was this next wave of it from people like Graham Hancock in the ’90s, which I think made it even more mainstream, at least in some circles and that’s part of the backdrop to this too. I think you’re right.

0:32:07 Anthony Comegna: Coast to Coast AM also, started up in this era and fuses these kinds of narratives together and tries to make sense out of all of it and fit it into people’s pre‐​existing worldviews. I love the dynamic of of course Scully is the skeptic and Mulder is the true believer but Scully’s a Catholic at least for most of the show and she professes this belief in God and she wants to believe too, even though she well knows that she has no conclusive evidence one way or the other, but she can’t… She still can’t seem to relinquish that because it provides her some genuine comfort, something she feels like she can hold on to and count on, the more that she sees the world go to hell, and everybody is a liar, and everybody’s dis‐​trustworthy or mis‐​trustworthy and she still finds value in simply believing in her faith, even though it is challenged over and over again.

[music]

0:33:13 Natalie Dowzicky: I think this might be a good time to get into the specific episodes that we watch to maybe dive into those a little bit more. I’m just, I’ll go right out there. Clyde Bruckman was my favorite episode by far of the five that we watched. Actually watched the one we said we weren’t gonna watch too, but and I was… I think it was my favorite by far because it was one of the ones where I was… It was one of the ones where I was hoping this could actually happen, if that makes sense. I was like… Thought out from a cool angle that of like, “Oh, if this, if any of them are to be real, it would be best if this one was real.” And I was wondering what you guys thought of the Clyde Bruckman episode. Do you think, would it be cool to know how people die? Would you not want that superpower? Let’s call it super power.

0:34:04 Jesse Walker: Yeah, I definitely would not want that superpower.

0:34:08 Landry Ayres: No! [laughter]

0:34:08 Natalie Dowzicky: Okay, me neither.

[laughter]

0:34:11 Jesse Walker: First of all, let’s just say, Peter Boyle is fantastic in this episode.

0:34:15 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh, absolutely.

0:34:17 Jesse Walker: I always enjoy Peter Boyle, but this is one of my favorite performances he ever did. And also, just like one of the Easter eggs here, is that there was a real person named Clyde Bruckman, who was a Hollywood director in the silent era. He worked with Buster Keaton and others, and he ultimately committed suicide. So that’s part of the…

0:34:40 Natalie Dowzicky: Wow!

0:34:40 Jesse Walker: Yeah. This is one of the episodes that Darin Morgan wrote. He’s the best writer whoever came to the show in my view, and he regularly undermined all the basic ideas of the show. But this is not my personal favorite of these five. I think it’s definitely one of the best episodes they ever did. And you can see that the way it mocks Mulder in particular, the way that it mocks… It gets more into this with the other Morgan episode we’re talking about, but kind of mocks the idea of whether… Of the truth and whether you actually want to know the truth. And then there’s this underlying discussion of free will versus determinism, which is there in a smart way, but never in a heavy‐​handed way. And that it’s just very well‐​written. Also, that our ability to see patterns in coincidence, which is a big part of what… Again, poking fun at the very raison d’etre for The X‐​Files, which is finding conspiracies everywhere.

0:35:50 Natalie Dowzicky: On the subject of free will, we had a long discussion about Westworld a few months ago, and obviously that show is very, very heavy‐​handed on telling you that it’s about free will. I can’t think of a show that’s more heavy‐​handed on it, but, I think, on a whole for the episodes that we watched, X‐​Files is much more subtle, which makes it a bit less like in your face and a little more believable, if that makes sense. So for instance, like we talked about earlier, they’re not coming out and saying whether or not aliens do or do not exist, they’re leading the audience on, and I find that much more entertaining than hand‐​holding us and telling this is how it happens, then, this is how it ends, that kind of stuff. And I really appreciated that from the show that I… From parts of the show that I’ve seen so far, and I’m gonna keep watching too now that I’ve gotten hooked…

0:36:43 Anthony Comegna: Yes. Good.

0:36:44 Natalie Dowzicky: Onto the show. [laughter] But I did think it was really interesting, ‘cause I am a huge Westworld fan, and I did pick up on the elements of free will throughout the Clyde Bruckman episode, but I thought it was done in more flawlessly than they do when they talk about free will in Westworld.

0:37:01 Anthony Comegna: See, I think my favorite episode is probably the least subtle of the ones that we watched, post‐​modern Prometheus. And it’s right out there. Obviously, a Frankenstein remake, and they do just throw the message right at you. Mulder has this little soliloquy he gives about, “Look. Look what you’ve all become.” But it’s just, it’s great. It’s such a great episode. It’s quirky, goofy, artsy, funny. And I love it when a really dark and serious sci‐​fi show can break out of that so well and write a comedy episode or an artsy episode, and I think this is both. And to me, the only other show that does it maybe as well as the X‐​Files, is Stargate, the original Stargate series. And I think that was in part at least, because nobody took that show seriously. It’s just one of these pew pew laser battle type shows with lots of big explosions in space. And so when they wrote a comedy episode, it was just great. And I think that people may not have even really thought to do that, if not for a show like The X‐​Files breaking out of it at least twice a season, and doing such a great job at it. It’s not cheesy and dumb, like when Star Trek does it. It’s still so good, absolutely top‐​notch.

0:38:31 Jesse Walker: You know what show is like, to my mind, the extension of The X‐​Files comedy episode was Gravity Falls. Did any of you guys watch that cartoon?

0:38:41 Landry Ayres: Yeah, I’ve seen some of it. It certainly does. It leans on that, certainly.

0:38:45 Jesse Walker: Yeah. So can I make two points about post‐​modern Prometheus? ‘Cause this is one of my favorite episodes.

0:38:49 Natalie Dowzicky: Absolutely.

0:38:50 Jesse Walker: It’s certainly my favorite one that Darin Morgan didn’t write.

[laughter]

0:38:54 Jesse Walker: But this is the one that happens when the show was confident enough in itself that it’s willing to end an episode by having Mulder and Scully take Frankenstein’s monster to a Cher concert.

[laughter]

0:39:07 Jesse Walker: And that’s the kind of thing you do, either you’re jumping the shark, or you are reaching new levels of the sublime. And in this case, that final scene is one of the most… Whatever else do you think about the rest of the episode, which I enjoy. They have J. Peterman as Frankenstein it’s… But that is one of the most joyful scenes I’ve ever seen on television, certainly the most joyful scene in this show. But the wild thing about it is that it’s preceded of course by Mulder saying, “This is not how it should end. I wanna see the writer. I want a new ending.” And I think that scene is the alternate ending for this series as a whole because the central heart of the X‐​Files is this idea of alien invaders abducting people and violating their bodies and producing hybrids. And this is a story about this alien seeming creature invading people’s homes, violating their bodies in ways that are actually really kind of creepy to think about and producing hybrids. And then that final scenes, re‐​imagines the whole idea as a utopia. They all come together. Everybody is happy. The monster is at the peak of happiness and Mulder and Scully are dancing together and it’s like everything you would want from what if everyone all this could get along?

0:40:30 Jesse Walker: In this story that in itself, it’s just really kind of effective and it’s been Chris Carter who created the series and wrote the mythology episodes and so on. He wrote this episode and I think he was not just setting out to write a Frankenstein pasties, not just setting out to do his version of a Darin Morgan episode. Not just saying How can I do an homage to the universal movies and have a sound track that makes it feel like Tim Burton and so on. I think he was saying, “This is a completely alternate take or re‐​imagining of the X‐​Files” and that’s part of what makes it such a resonant episode. Even if some of that works on a more… And that is a way that I think it’s being subtle. Even if he, kind of hold your hand and shouts in your face and at other moments like that.

[laughter]

0:41:19 Landry Ayres: Yeah it’s certainly… I had seen a lot of the X‐​Files before. Not getting into the later seasons, I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there but for some reason, I had never seen Post‐​Modern Prometheus at least not to my recollection. It really stuck out to me because it didn’t feel like an X‐​Files episode but not in the way that other episodes that are supposed to be lampooning different things necessarily do. Those still feel… They have that sort of X‐​files’ banter or like odd pacing but it still feels like within the same vein. Whereas Post‐​Modern Prometheus really did. And the ending was a big shift for me. Like I could justify it, watching the first 90% of it but when they get to the night club where the… I was really hoping that they actually had gotten Cher for the episode.

[laughter]

0:42:18 Landry Ayres: And then when they kept avoiding her face, I was like, Oh that would have been… That would have been the perfect cherry on top to actually get Cher for it. But it was so odd to me. Even for an X‐​Files episode and I wasn’t sure what to think of it and something that Jessie had mentioned. The hybridization, violation of the people of the town to create these human‐​animal hybrids. It made me uncomfortable. But then, when they were… The juxtaposition of the animals versus the humans in the town. At first, because it’s this mob moment where they’re pointing up and saying, “Look what you’ve become.” I was like, “Oh they’re trying to compare the people. We’re no better than the animals or something like that.” And then I realized what they were trying to insinuate and I was like, “Oh this is even worse.” And then they all get together at the end and they go see Cher and everyone’s like, “You know what, it’s cool.” I couldn’t square it, so it certainly… I will never forget it and I didn’t hate it. But I was not, it didn’t give me what I wanted out of an X‐​Files episode.

0:43:36 Landry Ayres: But then I also, as soon as it ended and the book cover closes and you see, Chris Carter’s name on the back. You are reminded that the entire thing is framed as a comic book. It’s [0:43:48] ____, The Great Mutato, that book. And that at the very end, is a reminder of how you have to conceive of the episode and I think taking that comic book‐​esque framing justifies it and makes it all the more palatable in a way that if you just remove those two frames from the very beginning and very end with the comic book covers and fade ends. I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much but I think that justified it for me.

0:44:26 Anthony Comegna: Shout out to the Jerry Springer show here too. ‘cause a lot of those violations, the people in the town didn’t seem to mind it too much because they got what they really wanted which was some excitement, some attention, some story to tell and that’s what really mattered to them.

[music]

0:44:47 Landry Ayres: And I think this leads into another episode that we watched and we picked a handful for Natalie to watch because she had not experienced the show before and we picked quite the grab bag for her.

0:45:01 Jesse Walker: Some of these are not very representative Natalie.

0:45:04 Landry Ayres: Yes, but I think you still appreciated them. And I think eventually you’ll be able to go back and appreciate some of that mythology arc that Jessie was talking about. So we watched the pilot. We watched Clyde Bruckman which is one of my personal favorites, ‘cause Peter Boyle was so great in it. We watched Post‐​Modern Prometheus and another one that kind of bucks the trend of X‐​files’ episodes. But to me, is a little bit more true to the tone is the next one and another one of my favorites. Jose Chungs from Outer Space. Another Darin Morgan episode, a Rashomon style rehashing of events from a collection of unreliable narrators. That, another masterful guest performance by Charles Nelson Reilly who is an incredible character but also more cameos from people like Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek.

0:46:04 Anthony Comegna: Let’s be respectful here, it’s the body. Okay. Governor Jesse, the body Ventura.

0:46:13 Landry Ayres: Of course, his… Of course.

0:46:14 Anthony Comegna: Please get the name right.

[chuckle]

0:46:17 Landry Ayres: My apologies, governor.

[overlapping conversation]

0:46:20 Jesse Walker: This was before he was a governor and before he was a famous conspiracy theorist and I like to imagine this was the beginning.

0:46:28 Landry Ayres: This is what did it, yeah. What made you both interested in discussing this story ‘cause I believe, I believe you both suggested it, if not, at least one of you?

0:46:42 Anthony Comegna: I just think it’s another very fun episode and I love the fun episodes because they’re done so well, almost universal. I really can’t think of a fun episode of the X‐​Files that just is not fantastic. I’m sure they’re out there, especially in the Agent Doggett seasons, but it’s just so great and yeah, you gotta love Jesse, the body, popping in there, it’s the real Men In Black.

0:47:09 Jesse Walker: I will say on the topic of fun episodes, the Forrest Gump pastiche did not quite work for me, but I’m sorry I interrupted you, go on. [chuckle] Go on Anthony, I’m sorry, I just [0:47:20] ____.

0:47:20 Anthony Comegna: No, no, that was it. I just love how fun it is, and yeah, the cameos are great.

0:47:26 Jesse Walker: Yeah, I…

0:47:26 Anthony Comegna: And unreliable narrator stories are so interesting, so…

0:47:31 Jesse Walker: Yeah, this is my favorite episode of the show, it’s one of my favorite episodes of any shows. It… And it’s back to that original set up of the pilot, an alien abduction in the Pacific Northwest or seems to be an alien abduction, but this is the one that really, I think turns the whole, in a different way than Post‐​Modern Prometheus, turns the show on its head because the big quest in the X‐​Files is to determine the truth and this is an episode that among other things is about the impossibility of ever quite getting to the truth and about just the sort of misperceptions and mis‐​communications that make up human communication or just human society. And at a very least a truth that can be captured by a single master narrative, it’s even more post‐​modern than the episode with post‐​modern in the title. And it’s also, if the show kind of, if the big flaw in the show as a whole was the fact that it tried to sum things up in a master narrative and failed to, this is the one that… I mean Philip K. Dick had a great essay called, How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later, or Two Hours or whatever it was and he basically says in there, honestly, I get a great pleasure in building universes that do fall apart two days later, [chuckle] which if you read Philip K. Dick makes sense.

0:49:08 Jesse Walker: Well, this is an episode by someone who loves just pulling the strands of pulling the yarn on the sweater and having it all fall apart, I’m completely mixing metaphors there. [chuckle] I mean and it’s got all these…

0:49:22 Natalie Dowzicky: We got the point.

0:49:22 Jesse Walker: Embedded in jokes. Jose Chang is a sort of mash‐​up of John Keel with Richard Condon, people whose names are mash‐​ups of UFO believers and UFO skeptics, it’s, always has its tongue in its cheek it’s a, and it really kinda gets down to the fact that alien abductions aren’t real. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it’s my view on this subject, but belief in alien abductions is real, and this is a story that talks about the nature of belief and memory and self‐​doubt and self‐​deception and the fact that on the one hand, even if you can’t quite bring yourself to believe, a lot of believers can’t really believe themselves full, bring themselves to fully believe in this, the flip side is a lot of skeptics still have nagging moments of doubt about stuff they can’t explain. So like this episode, a lot of stuff can be ultimately explained if you think about it, but there are a couple of things that are just flatly contradictory.

0:50:25 Jesse Walker: I mean the big one being when we have the two versions of Mulder going into the coffee shop, in one, he talks with the person who gives him the whole, and in the other, he just sort of comes in, and he’s like, he’s almost doing an Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks.

0:50:39 Landry Ayres: And literally what I was thinking…

0:50:40 Jesse Walker: Impression.

0:50:41 Landry Ayres: It’s the most Twin Peaks, yeah.

0:50:42 Jesse Walker: Yeah, and just sort of does that sort… And there’s that one of my favorite jokes in it is when, ‘cause this is not just the one where we meet, we find out the Men In Black are Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek, this is the one where someone else meets Mulder and Scully and thinks they’re the Men in Black and actually calls, what was it that he calls Scully like the woman Men In Black, the female Men In Black?

0:51:04 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah. [chuckle]

0:51:05 Jesse Walker: And it’s…

0:51:06 Landry Ayres: She’s trying to pull off an impression of a red‐​haired woman and not doing it very well.

0:51:11 Jesse Walker: Yeah.

0:51:11 Landry Ayres: [0:51:11] ____.

0:51:11 Jesse Walker: A little too red, yeah. And some of the, I mean like the alien, the parody of the alien autopsy dissection video which was, those of you who weren’t around in the ’90s, this was a TV, a big TV event, a, what was supposed to be an on‐​camera abduction, I mean not abduction, dissection of an extra‐​terrestrial which is up there with going into Al Capone’s Vault in terms of teepee belly flops and just, it’s a wonderful episode. And the only prob… As with Post‐​Modern Prometheus, the only problem with just setting someone down and saying, watch this is that you appreciate it much more if you have sat through a couple of seasons of this show and see all the ways that it’s parodying and answering and engaging with what the show usually does.

0:52:07 Anthony Comegna: Plus there’s the cigarette smoking alien who’s freaking out.

0:52:10 Landry Ayres: Right.

0:52:10 Anthony Comegna: And that’s just great. They’re…

0:52:13 Landry Ayres: Yeah.

0:52:13 Anthony Comegna: This episode that is most like this in my mind that is also absolutely fantastic, is in the latest season, called The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, which is a terribly unreliable narrator, telling an absolutely ridiculous comic‐​bookified story of his, having actually been Mulder’s old partner, Mulder and Scully’s partner and then, it replays all these scenes from the old show where he’s just sort of popped in the background and says some clever quip and they cut to the next scene and it’s just great. They do this so well.

[music]

0:52:52 Landry Ayres: The final episode that we watched is I think, one of the more traditional style episodes and it leans towards but doesn’t get directly involved in ideas of the mythology, arc and the sort of government conspiracy and involvement with things though not necessarily with aliens, but leans more less on aliens and more on the government conspiracy theme is The Pine Bluff variant in which Mulder is undercover. Trying to infiltrate a militia like group that is spreading some sort of a bio‐​weapon in different places and not even Scully knows what’s going on until a certain point in this episode. And I was curious, Jessie you suggested this one because of its comparison with another episode from season four, called Unrequited. Because they both deal with militia like groups or something like that. Would you care to explain why you think these two are interesting?

0:54:09 Jesse Walker: Yeah, well this is another part of locating the original x‐​files in the time period that it was produced. The militia movement emerged in the 1990s. And I talked earlier about sort of in the context of Waco and Ruby Ridge and not having the Cold War around and not having a war on terror, yet. And on the one hand, the militias held a lot of conspiracy theories including, some did overlap with the conspiracy series and The x files. And there are a lot of conspiracy theories about the militias in the main stream and so there was this kind of double paranoia happening at that time.

0:54:52 Jesse Walker: So it was interesting that the show sort of engaged them directly twice but in very different ways. In unrequited they encounter a veteran who’s sort of a bog rights, he leads a militia style group called the right hand and he initially seems like he’s gonna be the villain. But At the end, we find out that what he’s claiming about a POW MIA cover‐​up is turnout to be true. It’s like the Vietnam… For those of you who are younger don’t remember the big… There was the question of whether the US government was covering up the fact of Vietnam was still holding American POW’s.

0:55:29 Jesse Walker: And in this one, the Pine Bluff variant. The militia is more clearly set out to be a villain, it’s plugged into this fear after the Oklahoma City bombing with at acts of terror, we’re gonna be conducted by militias. In this case it was actually really interesting to re‐​watch this one right now in light of all the bio‐​weapon conspiracy theories. We’ve been hearing during the one virus period but there is… But even then it gets more complicated. Not just because Mulder you don’t know to what extent he’s bullshitting, the guy in to what extent he sincere, but he says he shares the… A lot of the militia’s concerns he just doesn’t like their methods but by the end, we find out the feds have infiltrated the militia, that they’re manipulating the militia, that there’s it’s basically laid out that they’re hoping to have this sort of effort failed, that be used as an excuse to pass new laws which kind of gets into some of the conspiracy theories you would hear about Oklahoma City within militia circles. And also the means of spreading the bio‐​weapon was gonna be to spread it on cash, which of course turns like a central institution in American society into a tool of terror. So, basically, even when the X‐​Files does a story about dangerous aversive by the end it turns out to be a story about the secret government coming to get us which is pretty interesting.

0:57:02 Natalie Dowzicky: So I thought maybe just because I was able to relate to it more, I thought this was the most plausible to possibly happen. Maybe that’s [chuckle] a little bit of me reading into conspiracy theories just because there’s no aliens or there’s no people talking to dead people, or reading the future or men in black. So I guess I was able to suspend disbelief just enough in this episode to be like, “Okay, this could potentially happen.” Like Jesse hinted at, there’s been conspiracy theories of late about how the coronavirus was brought into society or at least and then I think it’s been a fear probably for at least the last 10 to 15 years about one country having a bio‐​weapon and just being able to absolutely demolish civilization. So I guess [chuckle] this show kind of just fed into that, but I think definitely of the five we watched that this one was the most almost believable. I still gotta put almost in there.

0:58:08 Anthony Comegna: It’s interesting to me, you say that because the couple of times I’ve heard Alex Jones, for example, ranting about The X‐​Files he uses it as evidence of the things that he believes in. And so this example of the Feds infiltrating and to a large extent orchestrating the actions of one of these militia groups… Mulder points out to the guy at the end like you killed all those people in the theater, that actually happened. And the guy in the bank, and your credo, is, well, “The ends justify the means,” and that’s awful. And Alex Jones will use these examples as part of the argument that the X‐​Files is actually predictive programming, and that what Chris Carter is trying to do is tell us that, “Look, this is how it works, and you’re gonna gradually find out that all of this stuff is true.” And he’s in a way, leading the edge here to change the culture so that people are willing to finally face up to these things, that the FBI does run most of the militias or hate groups and things like that in the country.

0:59:20 Anthony Comegna: And at a certain point you can’t really separate them. And I think it was Landry asked earlier, “Did this show convince anybody of aliens existence?” Well, it definitely convinced a lot of people that all of these things, the media, the government policy, the secret shadow government policy, they’re all related and helping each other out and that this is an example of media that tries to move us to the point where we accept these things or we can’t understand these things anymore and we can’t disentangle all of these threads. And so sometimes the militia people need to pay attention to storylines like this because it’s trying to show you how your group actually works and you need to wake up. The hero for him in an episode like this is the militia guy who loses, not the undercover Fed, but the militia guy who wants to take over the group.

1:00:20 Natalie Dowzicky: I know this episode kind of feeds into a little bit of cold war history coming up and I know that Jesse had hinted at earlier that the X‐​Files attempts to almost re‐​write Cold War history. Could you elaborate on that a little bit, Jesse?

1:00:34 Jesse Walker: Yeah, every time or almost every time they talk about the overarching mythology, it goes back to the original boom in UFO sightings after World War II at the beginning of the Cold War, which is a whole other topic [chuckle] we can get into it. And it sort of re‐​imagines the history, especially of like the 1950s but also, and this actually happens in that Forrest Gump episode, things like the Kennedy assassination and all through the lens of what all these people have been doing, and it’s kind of this moment when after the Cold War is done, it’s possible for a lot of… And of course during the Cold War a lot of people were able to say, “Hey I think our government is up to no good, but a lot of folks who were sort of loyal citizens or whatever you wanna call it, during the Cold War were perhaps more willing afterwards to at least in the bounds of fiction to say, “Hey let’s question this, let’s see what insidious forces might have been at work.”

1:01:39 Jesse Walker: But by the way, this sort of relates to the Cold War, and also to the bio‐​weapons side of things. But earlier, I think it was Anthony who mentioned Paul Cantor. He has a line where he says, “The central image of threat during the Cold War was a nuclear explosion, destruction that starts at a clear central point and spreads outward. The central image of threat in the X‐​Files is infection, a plague that may begin at any point on the globe and spread to any other.” And that’s something which I don’t think went away when the war on terror began, and that certainly still feels resonant right now. Just generally there’s this generalized dread about globalization and cross borders and what kind of invisible enemies might be even in the air literally, and that’s a big part of the X‐​Files. You can see that at work as one of the fears in this episode, and obviously it’s still with us today.

[music]

1:02:44 Landry Ayres: And now for the time in our show that everyone looks forward to where we explore the other types of media and content that we are enjoying during this time of social distancing. This is locked in. So Jesse, Anthony, what else are you enjoying during your time at home?

1:03:07 Anthony Comegna: Well, apparently I must hate myself quite a bit because I spent the weekend watching the entire Libertarian National Convention online.

1:03:17 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh wow. [laughter]

1:03:18 Anthony Comegna: The the world’s first virtual convention by a major political party nominating the first woman candidate for President in the party’s history. It did end up with some pretty interesting results, but yeah. What an [1:03:35] ____ show that was. [chuckle] Yeah, I guess I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment, but it was very interesting to see how that virtual convention unfolded. And now I’ve been using as I said earlier, I watched all of Twin Peaks and that’s just been fantastic. So I’ve been watching a ton of David Lynch interviews too, and I’ve been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching a fantastic series called Best of the Worst, by Red Letter Media where they have a panel that selects three awful B movies and they watch them and critique them and it’s just fantastic to see them turn really, really terrible movies that do practically everything wrong all in one big long string into complete gold.

1:04:19 Jesse Walker: So I just finished doing a binge watch over a few weeks of Person of Interest, which is one of those post‐​X‐​files shows. It’s in this sort of space where it’s too old to be contemporary, but not old enough to have like a hipster revival. So I might be the only person who was watching it, but I might write about it because it’s really interesting politically, especially to revisit now, and it’s also a case of a show that does the mythology thing right. Not only does it gets better as it goes along, the last three seasons are much better than the first two seasons, which are kind of I’m half enjoying it, half mocking it but also every time they fill in the mythology a bit more, it never gets ridiculous, it actually winds up turning into a master narrative that’s really compelling. And the final season in particular, I liked a lot, I’ve also been in my case, re‐​watching, in her case, watching for the first time with my teenage daughter Cheers, which is fun and my family has been…

1:05:31 Jesse Walker: Yeah, my other daughter is eight, so there’s not a whole lot of stuff that’s fun for both the 14‐​year‐​old and an eight‐​year‐​old, but we have had some family movie nights that have often been Pixar movies, and we watched all but one of… And we didn’t watch the Toy Story 4 because we had just seen it last year but we watched the first three over the course of a week and it’s really interesting to watch those all together rather than spaced out as they came out in the theater which is how I originally saw them. The first two, I had not seen in more than two decades and I gotta say they hold up, hold up really well, better than I remembered. Yeah, I mean I liked them a lot the first time and they were even, in some cases even better than I thought they were the first time. So if you haven’t seen them recently, go watch a Toy Story movie.

1:06:19 Natalie Dowzicky: It’s funny, my… So I have a two‐​year‐​old nephew who is obsessed with Toy Story, like he only knows the names of a few Disney characters at all and he knows all the Toy Story characters and he has like… We got him Toy Story bedroom and all that kinda stuff, so I actually do the same thing. I watched them all with him within a week or so, not too long ago, and I thought it was very interesting because just the way it grows up, is interesting to me ‘cause obviously, I saw them when they came out and I loved them then, but I love them for different reasons now, just because Disney and Pixar do a really great job of leaving in things for adults to get giggles out of as well. And I kinda enjoyed watching my nephew see it too and be so excited about Toy Story, although his favorite Toy Story character is now Forky just because it’s in the most recent one. [chuckle] If you don’t know who Forky is you definitely need to see Toy Story 4, but that’s also how my nephew learned the word trash because Forky’s always trying to throw himself away. [chuckle]

1:07:22 Natalie Dowzicky: So it’s like little stories like that that I really love about Toy Story or some of those older movies that kind of grew up with me. Other things I’ve been watching, so when I was younger, we used to watch Survivor pretty religiously as a family, we would like, every week we’d sit down and watch it at 8:00 PM. That probably stopped when I was around 12 and I forgot the show existed, but now that I have Hulu, I have been binge‐​watching Survivor again, just something to have on in the background, since I’m working from home and kinda like having noise on and I kinda see the drama. I also am into this weird show called Selling Sunset. It has Chrishell Hartley in it which is…

1:08:03 Natalie Dowzicky: Justin Hartley’s in the NBC show, This Is Us, that’s her husband, but it’s like a cross between Love It Or List It or like House Hunters and Real Housewives, so [chuckle] it’s a really interesting… So it’s about the Oppenheim Group which works out of the Hollywood Hills and they sell real estate in Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills and Bel Air and stuff. And it goes to all of their office drama but then for a solid 20 minutes in the show too, they’re showing you these crazy expensive gorgeous houses in the Hollywood Hills, so it has just enough drama to keep me hooked, but also, I also like the Fixer Upper Love It Or List It type shows, so it’s an interesting cross between… It’s on Netflix if you haven’t seen it. [chuckle]

1:08:49 Landry Ayres: During my time at home, I… We are finishing and coming to the end of something I mentioned during our last recording, which is another excellent bravo television show called Below Deck [chuckle] about Yardies that work on a mega yacht.

1:09:06 Natalie Dowzicky: Terrible. It’s awful, it’s so bad.

1:09:07 Landry Ayres: Oh, it’s so awful, but I do love it. So I’m kind of trying to find some new things, but I have recently been listening to the newest season of a podcast that has just started back up again called Articles of Interest which is produced by Avery Trufelman, who is one of the producers for another very, very popular podcast called 99% Invisible, which is generally about design, hosted by Roman Mars. But one of their producers has this limited series project called Articles of Interest as I mentioned before, that’s mainly about clothing and it tells these really incredible stories about how certain pieces of clothing came to be, became popular, accessories. So, there’s episodes about blue jeans, there’s one about pockets, there’s another about… The one that I just listened to, that was really, really fascinating that I had never thought about before was about perfume and it became not just about perfume, but the scent aroma industry and all of the different scents and products out there that have scents that you wouldn’t think do, and how that industry and trends have changed from the ’50s and ’60s into the ’90s and today.

1:10:29 Landry Ayres: And it was really interesting, but also very emotional because of all of the sort of scents memory and evocative nature that smell, our sense of smell has that they discuss. So I learned a lot, but at the end, there is some really emotional moments where they talk about appreciating your sense of smell and the memories that that can… And the emotions that those things can bring up and it really got to me. I was walking back from the grocery store when I finished it and I was tearing up a little, but it was in a good way. [chuckle] And I also have been listening to another few podcasts by another former 99% Invisible producer named Sam Greenspan and they have produced one called Bell Weather that I think there’s only one episode out of and they’re currently trying to finish up the rest of the first season and it’s what they deemed speculative journalism.

1:11:27 Landry Ayres: So not like speculative fiction but it… So there are fiction, there’s a sort of fiction frame narrative of someone in the future going through and cataloguing and tagging this podcast that is a character with an AI, discussing this project that they’re cataloguing and then you listen to the project itself, and it’s this pieces of journalism that Sam Greenspan, the actual person making this is conducting about, usually technologies that are in development. So, the first episode was about the driverless car that hit that woman in Arizona and it’s a really interesting discussion of artificial intelligence and the decision‐​making processes that they have to make for driverless cars and things that they call like the crumple zone and those split second decisions that they have to make within this nested fictional narrative, and it’s also just really, really sonically interesting, amazing music and production that sounds at once very analogue and organic, but still science fiction‐​y.

1:12:46 Landry Ayres: So if you’re into that, I highly, highly recommend it. I’ve also been trying to catch up on some old short story magazines that I had bought several years ago. They sadly stopped publishing the magazine, I think about a year ago, but Tin House publishes an amazing quarterly magazine of short fiction and poetry and reviews that I really, really enjoy and I plan on watching Howl’s Moving Castle very, very soon because my fiance really, really wants to watch it, and I think that’ll be a nice escape. So I’m looking forward to some miyazaki films to distract me from our current climate.

1:13:32 Landry Ayres: Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, have any tips leading to the solving of an X‐​file or just wanna let us know that you’re one of our reptilian overlords who enjoys listening to the show, follow us on Twitter @popnlockepod, that’s pop, the letter N, lock with an E, pod. Make sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. We look forward to unravelling your favorite show or movie next time. Pop & Locke is produced by me, Landry Ayres as a project of lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org. To learn more, visit us on the web at www​.lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org.