The Influence of the Media

The x-files (1993–2002)

In 1993 Chris Carter, creator of the television series The X-Files for Fox, fashioned a blend of UFO mythology, increasing public distrust of

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson from the television program"The X-Files." (THE KOBAL COLLECTION)
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson from the television program"The X-Files." (
the U.S. government, and a growing interest in the paranormal that over its nine-year run usually finished as the second-most popular drama among young adults. During its peak season in 1997, The X-Files attracted an estimated 20 million viewers per episode. In 2002, shortly before the last episode of the series, Sandy Grushow, the chairperson of Fox Entertainment, said that The X-Files had made in excess of $1 billion for the company.

At the 1996 Golden Globe Awards, the categories for Best Television Drama, Best Actor in a Television Drama, and Best Actress in a Television Drama were all won by Fox network's The X-Files, in which FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) regularly pursued UFOs and declared to their audience that "the truth is out there." However, because the truth was being covered up by an ultra-secret and exceedingly ruthless government agency, they must "trust no one."

According to the mythos developed by Carter, the alien invasion had begun in prehistoric times and had been rediscovered by the U.S. military and a secret branch of the government in 1947 after the crash of a flying saucer at Roswell. Although Mulder and Scully made side excursions to investigate vampires, ghosts, and a wide variety of monsters, the UFO scenarios comprised the glue that held the series together and kept the fans returning week after week to chart the agents' progress in cracking the ultimate case that would force the secret government to admit the truth about aliens.

Mulder and Scully investigated the entire gamut of UFO phenomena—Men in Black, government cover-ups, alien assassins, abductions, contactees, missing time, and telepathic communication with extraterrestrials. Before the series ended in May 2002, both Scully and Mulder had themselves been abducted and Scully, earlier declared unable to have children, had borne a child under mysterious circumstances.

On June 19, 1998, the X-Files motion picture, Fight the Future, was released, allowing its small-screen paranoia about the government conspiracy to hide the truth about UFOs to spread to big-screen multiplexes across the nation. The film became number one the first week of its release, grossing $31 million. It has since brought in more than $100 million.

Often hailed as a cultural phenomenon and generally acclaimed as the most successful science-fiction series in the history of television, the influence of The X-Files on the mass audience's beliefs concerning such subjects as UFOs, abductions, and government conspiracies is incalculable.

The theme of Dark Skies, the lead television series in NBC's 1996 Saturday night "thrillogy," was that history as the viewers learned it in school was a lie. One of the "truths" that the series revealed was that in 1947 President Harry S Truman ordered an extraterrestrial spacecraft shot down over Roswell, after an alien ambassador had demanded the unconditional surrender of the United States. Subsequently, whatever resources could be recovered from the scraps of the demolished alien craft were doled out to various giants of American industry to be freely incorporated into the current technology—and a sinister and ubiquitous super-secret government agency known as Majestic-12 was created to monitor any undue alien interference in U.S. political and social structures.

Before the series was cancelled, viewers learned that the aliens had the ability to possess human bodies with their larvae, thus allowing them to pass undetected and to accomplish an incredible number of negative historical events—from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the conflict in Vietnam, from the murder of certain celebrities to popularizing the use of recreational drugs among young people.

The summer blockbuster Independence Day (1996) followed a War of the Worlds (1953) plot line in which aliens blow up half the nation, including the U.S. capital, and are about to destroy the world. A tough U.S. president (Bill Pullman) and two heroes (Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum) manage to pilot the spaceship that a clandestine branch of the government has been hiding in a secret under-ground base since the Roswell crash in 1947 and save the day. The Rock (1996) is a straightforward Hollywood action thriller that surprises audiences at the end of the film when the character played by Sean Connery reveals that forbidden knowledge about the Roswell UFO crash was among the reasons why he had been unjustly imprisoned for so long without a trial.

In 1997 the motion picture Men in Black took one of the most sinister aspects of UFO research—the alleged strong-arm tactics performed on witnesses of aerial phenomena by mysterious men dressed in black—and transformed it into a special-effects comedy with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith portraying agents of a secret government branch that keeps the aliens who walk among earthlings under surveillance. In the film—as inspired by real-life alleged victims of the Men in Black— any ordinary citizen who happened to stumble on the truth about the government cover-up

Roy Thinnes was in the "Invaders" television series, as well as the "The X-Files." (ARCHIVES OF BRAD STEIGER)
Roy Thinnes was in the "Invaders" television series, as well as the "The X-Files." (
has all memory of the experience wiped out by a special brainwashing device.

It has been suggested that one reason why so many U.S. citizens are easily convinced that their government is hiding the truth about extraterrestrial contact is that so few people continue to trust the government after decades of cover-ups and scandals that were eventually exposed. According to a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates for Pew Research and published in USA Today on September 12, 1997, only 6 percent of adults in the United States expressed trust in the federal government. The mantra of The X-Files has truly been put into practice: "Trust no one!"

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