Fox Mulder and Masculinity

Bryan Cebulski
14 min readFeb 24, 2019

American media in the early 1990s was a bit strange. The bizarre small town detective show Twin Peaks garnered mainstream praise throughout the country. Bret Easton Ellis’s transgressive novel about a yuppie cannibal rapist serial killer American Psycho reached widespread controversy and acclaim. Things weren’t following the wholesome, no-nonsense precepts of Ronald Reagan’s 80s. American popular media was expressing itself in ways previously pocketed away in the niche culture of ghost hunters and conspiracy theorists.

If American popular media was weird, its representations of masculinity were weirder. Twin Peaks’ “pinnacle of manliness” comes from a quirky FBI agent by the name of Dale Cooper, who values nothing more than a good cup of coffee, a slice of cherry pie, and starting each day by hanging upside down from a rafter in his hotel room for a few minutes. American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman meanwhile is a less-than-subtle satire of the 80s corporate masculinity model — even more depraved than Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko, Bateman’s utter lack of humanity and disturbed dedication to consumerism suggests a disillusionment with the ideals of the previous decade.

Within this landscape, a television writer named Chris Carter came across a 1991 Roper Poll on UFO abductions, which suggested that at least 3.7 million Americans have been abducted by extraterrestrials. Great. He gets an idea for a TV show pitch, one revolving around alien abductions. He combines inspirations: The Avengers (not the Marvel one) meets Kolchak: The Night Stalker meets Twin Peaks meets Law and Order. In other words, wry sexual tension, freaky monsters of the week, a dark and quirky atmosphere, and a compelling mystery.

Long story short, this marked the creation of The X-Files.

The X-Files is best known for its leads: Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. (Played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson respectively.) A duality of faith and skepticism, the pair famously goes against gender norms by placing Mulder as the believer and Scully as the skeptic.

If there ever were a posterboy for 90s weird, it would be Mulder. This, at last, is our…

Bryan Cebulski

Journalist and writer of quiet queer fiction. Point-and-click adventure protagonist. He/Him. Contact @

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