The Homophobia is Out There in New “X-Files” Movie

Yup, it’s homophobic.

Reports that the new X-Files movie, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, contains a creepy gay couple as its central villains are correct. For good measure, the movie also seems to play on the stereotype that gay people are confused in their gender, and also includes the latest in an endless line of pedophile movie priests who abuse boys.

Many years have passed since Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) last investigated the X-Files (in real life, the previous X-Files movie bowed in 1998, and the series itself ended in 2002, although David Duchovny’s character appeared only sporadically in the last two seasons).

But the years of fighting sewer monsters and talking tattoos have taken their toll: Mulder is now a recluse, framed by the FBI for crimes he didn’t commit, and Scully has returned to her practice as a doctor, though she’s having a major crisis of purpose of late — not surprising, since she’s chosen to work at Our Lady of the Sorrows, the most heartlessly bureaucratic hospital in the known universe.

And Mulder and Scully are now a romantic couple — to the movie’s great credit, this is merely taken for granted, after the slowest subtext-y build-up in TV history. But now an FBI agent has gone missing, and since there’s a psychic element to the mystery, the agency has decided they need Fox Mulder. All will be forgiven, they say, if he’ll help them find their missing agent.

But you can’t do the X-Files part-time. As with Al Pacino’s Don Corleone and the Mafia in The Godfather, once you’re in, there’s no getting out — much to the dismay of Scully who long ago tired of Mulder’s obsession with “the darkness” that he insists on bringing into their home.

July 23rd World Premiere of The X-Files: I Want to Believe
(L to R) David Duchovny, writer/producer Frank Spotnitz,
Gillian Anderson and director/creator Chris Carter

Photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

* Spoiler Alert!*

Who has the missing FBI agent? Mulder and Scully soon discover that she and another woman have been kidnapped by a Russian bad guy and his effeminate partner-in-crime (played by Callum Keith Rennie and Fagin Woodcock). In fact, they’re a couple — “married in Massachusetts,” one detective says with a touch of derision.

But why is this creepy gay couple kidnapping these women (and men too, apparently, though that happens off-camera)? In one of the most preposterous plot-reveals in movie history, Scully is researching stem-cell research for one of her patients at the hospital and just happens to run across research where Russian scientists have succeeded in transplanting the head of one dog onto the body of another.

Wait! Russia? One of the suspects in this X-Files case is Russian! That’s it! The gay couple, one of whom seems to have some kind of terminal illness, must be kidnapping these women so they can transplant his head onto one of their bodies!

This is all so wrong in so many ways. If they’re really gay, why would they even consider putting his head on the body of a woman? Yes, his AB- blood type is rare, but almost one percent of the population has it, so it wouldn’t that hard to find a male body.

Given the movie’s creepy visuals on the matter, it’s hard not to see this as playing into the stereotype that gay men secretly want to be women. But, uh, wouldn’t sex reassignment surgery be a lot easier? (And unlike secret Russian Frankenstein experiments, it’s even covered by some health plans!)

Or perhaps the movie is saying that he’s “not really gay” — that he’s only been acting that way because of the childhood sexual abuse at the hands of another of the movie’s characters. But again, why would this make him want to be female? It’s another completely fictional movie psychosis — Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs all over again.

What makes this doubly ironic is that the movie is dedicated to Randy Stone, a gay man. MSNBC film critic Alonso Duralde noted in his review of the movie that Stone was The X-Files’ original casting director and also co-founded the Trevor Project, a support group for GLBT youth.

Callum Keith Rennie, Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs, Randy Stone

The reality is that Hollywood has a long history of using gayness and gender fluidity to create audience discomfort with a movie’s villain. But while Hollywood has given us creepy gay villains galore, until very recently, gay men almost never appeared as sympathetic main characters in major movies. It’s all exhaustively documented in books like The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo.

Next Page! Well, okay, but is the movie any good? 

Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files series and the writer, producer, and director of this movie, may be unaware of this aspect of cinematic history, but The X-Files: I Want to Believe falls right into this ignoble tradition. What’s surprising is that gay faves David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson didn’t speak up at some point: you know, the couple kidnapping these folks could just as easily be heterosexual, couldn’t they?

The movie is disappointing in other ways too. This seems to have been an attempt to “restart” The X-Files series — focusing on the intimate, personal lives of Mulder and Scully rather than the correspondingly “small” storyline (which no doubt also kept the budget down on this frayed-at-the-edges franchise).

In a way, it’s refreshing to see a summer “blockbuster” that isn’t a bloated, CGI-laden behemoth and that includes real, complicated characters and situations (and a fantastic, intense performance by Anderson). And I loved the movie’s moral ambiguity where an evil pedophile priest is presented as an actual, personable human being, not the cartoon monster that Scully first deems him to be.

But this story is too small, or maybe it just doesn’t have any of the complexity of these admittedly rich characters. There are no great twists, no intriguing reveals. If the first X-Files movie was ultimately too obtuse, this one is too straightforward. A knock on the head with a brick, and the villain is defeated.

And a minor point: while it’s fine that there are no actual aliens in I Want to Believe, the movie contains almost no supernatural elements at all. For me, that was a big part of the show’s appeal. I could watch an episode of CSI anytime — literally, since the various incarnations and rip-offs of that show seem to be omnipresent on television these days.

In this day and age, the stereotypical elements in The X-Files: I Want to Believe are disappointing. The movie itself is a little better, but it ultimately lands firmly in the “nice try” category.