Back in Time

I don’t remember watching the first season of The X-Files. I may not have. It first aired my senior year of high school and while I had a small black-and-white TV in my room, I was rarely home. Not that I was busy having fun with friends because I was never so great at making those, but I had extracurricular activities and a part time job and a habit of driving randomly all over as many counties because I’ve always thought best behind the steering wheel. (Back then gas was .99 a gallon near the mall (in the next county) and 1.02 in my town, which felt like a ripoff. Yes, I’m older than the moon.) I mean, seriously, I used to keep track of my mileage every week and I tended to average 500 miles a week.

The husband and I started rewatching (or watching) old episodes of The X-Files on Hulu a couple weeks ago because neither one of us is good at keeping up with whatever is actually on the air. I only recently found out how Buffy actually ended. (The first time around I got lost after she jumped into a magic light and the show changed networks and I found a life since that was before DVRs and watching things on your phone.) Which brings us back to The X-Files and how the first season could largely have been shrunken down to a half hour or so if they’d just had iPhones. The show could seriously be used to explain oldentimes to elementary kids. “Children, this is microfiche. It was like Google, but way less reliable and hurt your eyes.” On the other hand, how awesome are some of those old motels?

Tonight the husband’s off with a buddy and after writing the whole time I was supposed to be listening at a neighborhood association meeting (it’s mostly dialog at a victim’s apartment, there’s probably also some notes about city managers and zoning), I thought about zoning out. Hulu suggested Twin Peaks and I realized that despite everyone I know having talked about it to the point that it feels like I watched it, I never saw that either. It aired the year I was a freshman in high school and I don’t know what I was doing, it wasn’t watching Twin Peaks.

Some observations about the pilot:

  • Rotary dial phones. These people could teach 1993’s Scully about old tech
  • The percentage of abusive men in just the pilot is both astounding and probably (sadly) statistically probable for a remote town of that size.
  • The cinematography is pretty excellent. I love it when stuff seems like each scene was perfectly framed. Gotham is pretty like that, but I only know this because they aired part of it on a plane I can’t remember why I was on. I never heard the show, though, because I was near the wing and I don’t like turning headsets up too high. I’ve heard pretty is about all it is.
  • Some of the sets look remarkably like actual homes. So few places on TV look like actual homes. The movie It Follows has houses that look like real houses. I know this because my sister rented it when I stayed with her last time. Some of the sets look like sets they couldn’t afford to fully furnish.
  • I remember all the hubbub about the dead girl trope and since Twin Peaks aired, I have read way more about the feminism and tropes and the line between writing what’s “real,” writing what’s “fantasy” and when torture and murder of female bodies is one or the other. There’s also a lot of discussion about the responsibility of writers to report or reflect reality while also showing consequence or at least not glamorizing, encouraging, making real life worse. There’s a subtle difference between “fiction” as “made up” and “fantasy” as including unreal elements. If people are really raped and murdered, then media representing “real” must include those things (not all, not all the time, but also not never), but at the same time not decent to a level of salaciousness, gratuitousness. It’s a narrow line. But it’s an important one to find the right side of. Because for all the dissection of Twin Peaks, Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak spoke to so many of my students they read books to disintegration, stole them by the dozen, wrote heartfelt notes in the back of.
  • For someone who never drank or did drugs in high school, I have no recollection of any of this fashion being a thing. It’s like a J Crew catalog mated with Desperately Seeking Susan.
  • TVs were much smaller back then. (I say this having only a few months ago finally replaced my 11.5″ TV with the built-in VCR with a “smart” TV because the old one kept cutting out at random.) I suspect they originally shot this a bit wider and it got condensed, though, because otherwise they found an entire cast of people with bizarrely-narrow heads.
  • This was clearly from the era of TV teenagers being old enough have PhDs they got the slow way.
  • The pace is slow compared to modern shows, which is nice. Adds to the suspense.
  • How are these characters functioning at all? The town looks like the place where Seasonal Affective Disorder was born.
  • A lot of the show feels quirky for the sake of being quirky but only if I really think about it from an editing standpoint. Like, if I imagine writing a “log” lady” and think about editing, I’d guess log lady would end up deleted because just weird. Except, I’ve lived in South Florida for 20 years now and before that I lived in a small town that since has become obsessed with pirates. If a lady carrying a log showed up at the grocery store tomorrow, I’d probably just be annoyed she was blocking the cat food aisle.
  • No, seriously, what are these people wearing?