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William Gibson episodes of the X-Files

by Critical Commons Manager

Two episodes of The X-files were written by cyberpunk icon William Gibson and co-writer Tom Maddox at the height of the show's popularity: Kill Switch (S5E11 originally aired February 15, 1998) and First Person Shooter (S7E13 originally aired February 27, 2000).

Both episodes explore familiar Gibson topics: artificial intelligence, the line between virtual and real and the possibility of transferring consciousness into a computer network. Both episodes are among the most stylistically baroque in this era marked by high camp on the X-Files. Both episodes are densely packed with symptoms of televisual attempts to come to terms with the rising cyberculture of the 1990s and both take an ironic and excessive approach to portraying the cultural imaginary surrounding artificial intelligence, cyberspace and video games. It is possible to analyze these episodes along multiple vectors including gender politics, paranoid culture, anxieties about technology and stereotypes related to video games, cyberculture and computer hacking. The schizophrenia of these episodes may also be understood through the basic incompatibility of the fundamental anarchism of cyberpunk fiction and the middle brow constraints of prime time network television. The snide televisual critiques of the extreme violence and sexism of video game culture ring hollow when these same elements are used to spice up network programming with shamelessly lurid camera angles and scantily clad cybervixens.

Fox's last diegetic line of dialogue in First Person Shooter, "That's entertainment" is uttered with painful irony as he and Dana finally escape from a virtual environment where digital bullets can kill. But the ironic, self-satisfied giddiness of this proclamation is quickly reversed with a dark rumination on man's fundamental relation to technology that is pure Gibson: "Maybe past where the imagination ends, our true natures lie, waiting to be confronted on their own terms. Out where the intellect is at war with the primitive brain in the hostile territory of the digital world, where laws are silent and rules disappear in the midst of arms. Born in anarchy with an unquenchable bloodthirst we shudder to think what might rise up from the darkness." The sentiment is played straight as part of Mulder's voice journal, but this too is undercut when, on screen, what rises up from the darkness of a resurrected computer system is an adolescent male fantasy video game character.

Geek stereotypes and cyberpunk fantasy in X-Files "Kill Switch"

Sex and technology converge in the figure of a cybervixen hacker who seeks to upload her consciousness into the internet

from X-Files S5E11 "Kill Switch" (1998)
Creator: Chris Carter
Distributor: Fox
Posted by Critical Commons Manager
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