How Gay Do You Want Your 'X-Files'?: "I Was Wrong!" Edition

The thing about being a geek about something is that there’s always a bigger geek out there. Usually, every time I think I’m a seasoned expert on Buffy or X-Men, someone steps up to unmask my knowledge as running only an inch deep and usually that person is my friend and fellow GeeksOut poster Ian Carlos.

But X-Files? I KNOW X-Files. I spent every waking high school moment watching it, daydreaming about it, fan-fic-ing it. Surely, I am this show’s True Steward and Curator.

No. No, I’m not. Opposite!

Last month, I wrote up the news of X-Files’s glorious six-episode revival, but I seized that opportunity to publicly shame it for its perceived gay shortcomings. I praised its lesbian appeal but bemoaned the most recent film I Want to Believe for a heinously homophobic treatment of the main villain. On that score, I wasn’t wrong. Where I fucked up was whinging about the lack of gay male appeal.

The scope of how hugely I fucked up revealed itself as I re-marathoned the show since writing about it. Now that I’m through Season 7, I feel sufficiently embarrassed enough to post The X-Files’s ten greatest gay hits:

10. Blythe Danner, “Fight the Future” – The First Movie

I was just a young lad, sitting in a movie theatre, watching a steel-cool Blythe read an even steel-coolier Scully the riot act at an FBI Disciplinary Hearing. The scene had no aliens, so the rest of the audience checked out, but Yours Truly lunged forward in his seat.

BONUS: Veronica Cartwright appears in Season 5 and 6 as alien abductee Cassandra Spender. Ms. Cartwright has The Birds and Alien under her belt, so she’s high queer quality. She’s also Sean Hayes’s mother in Will & Grace, which means that in a calendar year, X-Files cast both Will and Jack’s moms. Class.

9. Skinner Answers the Door Shirtless – Nearly Every Episode from Season 4 Onward

Season 4, like so many runaway hits before it, was X-Files’s vanity season, that time when celebrity stylists rule the roost and main characters suddenly appear with designer clothes and haircuts; if the lead actor has a band, there will be a moment when he busts out a guitar or sings a bit (Hi, Giles!). It’s the “Fuck It” moment.

Which is why we have Assistant Director Skinner (now officially returning to the show!) answering the door in the middle of the night, buff-bodied and nerdy from the neck up like Ned Flanders, revealing A.D. Skinner to be Dad A.F.

8. Alex Krycek

Villainous toady mainstay Alex Krycek is everyone’s sparkly-eyed, sassmouthed, gay lil’ bro. Aside from the time he killed Scully’s sister and made her cry, Krycek basically resembles newly-out X-Man Iceman.

BONUS: That time he infected Skinner with nanobots so he could blackmail him into doing his will, which I assume involved some kind of dad/son arrangement.

7. B.D. Wong, “Hell Money” – Season 3

Out “And the Band Played On” actor B.D. Wong guest stars as a detective who assists the agents in a case that involves a possibly cursed organ trade game in Chinatown. It’s a goofy outing, but Wong keeps his handsome dignity locked in place.

BONUS: A very young gay icon by the name of Lucy “Alexis” Liu appears as the sickly daughter of one of the game’s participants.

6. Lily Tomlin, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” – Season 6

The queen shows up to haunt our agents during a Christmas special.

BONUS: The best line ever: “We’re Jewish. Boo!”

5. Victoria Jackson, “The Rain King” – Season 6

Holy shit, in this featherlight episode a man is so in love with SNL Alum Victoria Jackson that his emotions start fucking up the weather. Ms. Jackson defines camp here: tragically ludicrous, ludicrously tragic. X-Files would be one of her last appearances before America discovered that she’s actually an anti-gay Zagnut bar.

4. The Gay Man in Black, “Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man” – Season 4

‘Tis but a cameo, but in this rare glimpse behind the scenes at the workaday world of our shadowy government syndicate, the Men in Black discuss their nefarious agenda to rig elections, coup d’etats, and sporting events… until one fierce-eyed, soft-voiced agent asks the Cigarette-Smoking Man about rigging the Oscar nominations.

“I couldn’t care less,” the grumpy old man retorts. We never get to see his reaction, but that agent’s heart tore in half.

3. Charles Nelson Reilly, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” – Season 3

WOW. How I could I have forgotten Famous ‘Mo and game show personality Charles Nelson Reilly appears as titular novelist Jose Chung in one of the best-rated episodes of all time? He interviews Agent Scully with the kind of enamored brio any self-respecting homosexual should bring to a meeting with Gillian Anderson.

BONUS: Reilly narrates the episode, so it’s forty-plus minutes of primetime TV bristling with Gay Voice.

2. The Gay Couple, “X-Cops” – Season 7

I’m a true fool. The only credited, officially out characters to appear on the show were Steve and Edy, a Los Angeles couple that witnesses a supernatural attack and is questioned by the agents in the style of that old Fox Network chestnut, COPS. The couple reads broadly but never maliciously so, oddly refreshing for 2000.

Completely baffled how I failed to remember this. I was a junior in high school when this first aired, so it’s possible I suffered closet-induced memory blackouts. 

1. Cher, “The Post-Modern Prometheus” – Season 5

A sunken treasure. The quiet, crowning gay jewel. Chris Carter’s late-Tim Burton/early-Wes Anderson quirkedy about a small town Frankenstein is so special because it pulses with undiluted gay energy. Firstly, it’s a black-and-white throwback to James Whale’s Frankenstein films, which were themselves gay parables. In “Prometheus,” a lonely freak, hated by backwater townspeople, finds solace and strength in the music of Cher. Mulder and Scully investigate the freak’s house while “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” echoes upstairs. In the rousing finale, the agents take pity on the creature and drive him to a Cher concert (or what looks like a Cher impersonator). “Walking in Memphis” plays us out to the end credits, but I’ve fainted from happiness minutes ago.

adammichaelsass's picture
on April 24, 2015

ADAM SASS begins all his writing in Sharpie on dozens of Starbucks pastry bags. This may cause him to be late making your cappuccino, and he sincerely apologizes. His Writer’s Digest award-nominated story "98% Graves" appeared in the anthology STARTLING SCI-FI: NEW TALES OF THE BEYOND. He lives in New York City with his husband and two dachshunds.

Find Adam at AdamSassBooks.com, his pop culture writing at GeeksOut.org, or keep up with him on his (over)active Twitter @TheAdamSass.