Felix, I completely agree that the revival’s chances of success have everything to do with the media buzz it generates. Some of my skepticism comes as a result of how stubborn any signs of large-scale response to this news have been. Sure, fans are happy, and everybody has loved having Anderson and Duchovny back on the talk show circuit, but Google search results have stayed pretty consistent over the past 12 months outside of news cycle spikes whenever a story comes out about the production. As much as we’d all like to think that this fire will build in a slow burn up until the show’s premier — and the big movement will surely come with the advertising blitz we’ll be treated to in the weeks leading up to January 24th — this spark could also fizzle out before it even catches. Again, I don’t want to be overly pessimistic, but I wonder if anybody has any evidence (demographic studies, focus groups, twitter hashtags) that this revival will reawaken the sleeping giant of X-Files fandom that drove the show’s original run, or alternatively that the masses have moved on to bigger and better things and won’t be coming back, particularly with the disappointment of I Want to Believe still in the back their minds. That Fox has greenlit this project at least shows that the network’s willing to take the chance, though I doubt we have any access to anything that might have helped to convince the powers-that-be of that fact.
Bethan, I absolutely love the video and your insight into the potential fantagonism surrounding Chris Carter’s involvement in The X-Files revival, particularly when contrasted with other, more mainstream responses. I’ve gotten the distinct impression that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny wouldn’t even come to the negotiating table for this new set of episodes if Carter wasn’t included as showrunner, and sources such as Nerdist and IGN — organizations that like to portray themselves as nerdier and more fan-centric than the traditional news media — have cited his attachment to the project as proof that this is a “real” return to the original series, perhaps ignoring the show’s decline in its last few seasons and I Want to Believe. It’s interesting to hear that going “deeper” into the extensive X-Files fan community reveals less confidence in Carter’s ability to guide a successful return. I’d love to hear more about what you’ve found in your research: Does the community approach some sort of consensus as to what the ideal degree of “Carter-ness” might be? Are fans consistent in their desire for “no supersoldiers, no complex mytharc, no William, Mulder and Scully together?” Or is the response more nuanced than that? I guess another way to put it: What exactly do the fans you’ve spoken with expect from this revival, and do you think the show has any hope of living up to those expectations?
Great post & commentary so far! Jesse’s posts pretty much sum up all of my own questions about the upcoming X-Files revival, and quite obviously, I don’t have any good answers or predictions about how it’ll all turn out either. We’ll probably just have to wait and see. That being said, it seems to me that the revival’s chances of commercial success—i.e. its ability to garner acceptable Nielsen ratings in a period in which the size of the audience for live television broadcasts is still in decline, and its chances of having a successful afterlife on Netflix, itunes, etc—hinge on the volume & amount of media buzz that the show manages to generate before it returns early next year. In this respect, The X-Files already seems to have a head start on any other new network show that will premiere during the upcoming months, since the amount of media coverage and public attention that the revival has received so far—six months before it will actually air, while the filming of the new episodes has barely started—is already doing the much-needed work of increasing the show’s cultural visibility. In this respect, Nerdist, Nanjiani’s X-Files Files, and even this theme week (as well as the various other, more widely read entertainment news outlets that have covered the show’s return) contribute to the X-Files chances of success as they already build its brand and promote its return. In another sense, we could also claim that the X-Files never really went away, as it is still easily available—over here in Germany, for example, the complete series is included in Amazon Prime’s Instant Video library, and I am probably not the only one who has gone back to rewatch favorite episodes (or catch up on the few I haven’t seen yet) since the announcement of the show’s revival. Which is to say that the media coverage of the X-Files revival has already increased the interest in the show, and already been translated into profits for the corporate actors who own it. It’s an entirely different question, however, if the show can live up to the hype when it returns…
(sorry for being late to the theme week, btw!)
John, there was an article in Variety yesterday about exactly the wave of revivals you mention, including The X-Files, Fuller House, Heroes Reborn, Coach, Girl Meets World, DuckTales, Arrested Development, 24: Live Another Day, Prison Break, Roots, Twin Peaks, and The Muppets. The X-Files sticks out for me, though, with its extremely short run; the Variety article mentions the allure of short-order revivals to both actors and execs: less time and resources spent, less risk, less commitment, but also (potentially) more creative leeway and a loosening of the expectations that can come along with bringing back a show that already has its narrative foundation and target demographic in place — as hard as it is to get things started up again, it would conceivably be even harder to keep them going for an entire season. Fox, like the rest of the broadcast networks, is trying to pivot toward creating and releasing content under a more flexible model that might stand a chance of competing in the crowded landscape of cable networks and streaming providers. The trick is to find the right blend, and I’m just not convinced that such a short run coming from a network like Fox actually stands a chance. Who is going to watch this? Will six episodes be enough to capture a new audience? Or will the people who already love the show just stream it online later? And if everybody watches it later, will a network like Fox know how to accept the potentially lackluster broadcast ratings and monetize different revenue streams later on? I’m sure they have a plan, but I’m interested to see if it works.
Thanks for kicking off the week with this illuminating post. One of the interesting questions you seem to raise is the extent to which the timing for this X-Files reboot is perfect for the creator and cast, for Fox, or for both. It does seem that Duchovny and especially Anderson, whose work on Hannibal has been well received, are only recently starting to get away from being closely and primarily associated with The X-Files. On the one hand, this revival is coming late enough after the 2008 film to feel fresh and new, but on the other hand it seems like it could effectively put the actors (as well as Chris Carter) back into the box, so to speak. From the broader industrial perspective, however, the X-Files revival is only one of a number of high profile reboots, re-imaginings, and remakes that are currently in the works, including the much-publicized Twin Peaks revival. Is Fox simply trying to avoid getting left out in the cold here? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the extent to which the revival stands to benefit the network versus, or in addition to, the creative talent.
There’s definitely a lot more to explore on the topic of “Disneyfication” as Beatriz points out. Karal Ann Marling has done some interesting work on Disneyland’s “Architecture of Reassurance,” that points to how the park’s architectural strategies for soothing visitor/consumers have been applied to venues from malls to museums. If the postmodern fear of “Disneyfication” meant fearing some kind of loss or detachment of the real, I think in our post-postmodern era the terms may have shifted. Entertainment, play, and escapism — from Comic-Con to Viking River Cruises — are as real as any other experiences… if you can afford them.
Which brings it around to the issues of class that Ethan raises. I think there are certainly fan communities that are super-savvy about the Disney artifice and all that constructs it. However, what Telotte is getting at is that Disneyland has ways of calling attention to its artifice that enable ALL visitors to be savvy, on some level, about the constructedness of escapist entertainment. I would add to his analysis the fact that Walt Disney himself was on prime time revealing the “secrets” of the park’s artifice during its construction, as well as the “secrets” behind the company’s animated films. Disneyland, in my assessment, was built as an intersection of Play and Technology. The former requires leisure time and imagination, while the later necessitates some level of understanding of the mechanics (literally and figuratively) involved.
The Walt Disney Company has changed substantially, however, in the nearly 50 years since Walt Disney’s death. Disney is opium for the naive consumer masses - according to those who consider themselves above those masses. That is pretty much what is behind the pomo hyperreality argument, which I think is essentially an argument against consumerism in general with Disney being an astonishingly successful instance of it.
I certainly don’t have any answers here, but the reason I’m perpetually interested in all things Disney is precisely because of the brand’s position in the fandom-consumerist-technology-play constellation.
Thanks, everyone, for a stimulating discussion!!
thank you for your comment! Yes, it does indeed echo World Fairs and the like! It’s interesting that you mention that because the Jungle Cruise was partly inspired by an episode of Disney’s 1950s documentary series “True Life Adventure”, called “The African Lion.” That series certainly was meant to be educational, perhaps similar to World Fairs. Also, thank you for your reading suggestions!
Thanks for this post! learned a lot. Interesting to hear the end of the narration about being so fortunate. Fandom and fortune are somehow intertwined. It is not just that we are fans of a cultural representation or become culturally competent about it, narrate it, record it, experience the hyperreal as real, but also that we feel fortunate doing so. As Ethan Tussey mentions above, this is the class and social status aspect of fandom.
Love the post. Such an interesting film. It made me think of the importance of considering class and social status in judging Disney fandom. As you and I are very aware, there are fan communities for Disneyland that know everything about the artifice and hold it to a standard that stretches from camp to “quality.” Are those with the cultural currency, the knowledge and the interest in the constructedness of Disneyland, especially able to take advantage of the invitation to play or do you think this clip shows that “all that come to this happy place” are in on the fantasy?
Great post! You don’t mention the concept of “Disneyfication” but I couldn’t avoid thinking of it in your critique of the postmodern accounts of the Theme Park. I’ve seen this concept generally used in a pejorative way to describe popular forms of entertainment and consumption as less authentic and thus worthy of our attention. It’s really interesting to see how, as you mention, the Barstow’s home movie makes evident the limitations of such conceptualizations.