May 19, 1998
The X Factor: Swooning Over Scully at the "X-Files" Con
By David Kushner
"Gillian, light of my cathode, fire of my VCR. My sin, my soul. Gi. Lee. An." This drizzly Saturday afternoon the teenage girls beamed poetic, trancendant love for Gillian Anderson, their heroine, their ass-kicking coroner. When Agent Dana Scully finds undigested pepperoni in a cadaver, she doesn't want to puke, she wants to order a pizza.
The crowd at the "X-Files Expo," a traveling convention that landed at the Javits Center last weekend, awaited Anderson's arrival in a rare appearance before her fans. Here's the kicker: of the estimated 6500 who road-tripped from as far away as Florida, the most vocal, the most passionate, the most out of their minds with Elvisian hysteria weren't the pasty, porn-swapping Web boys, they were the grrrls. Who'd have thunk it? The "X-po," like most sci-fi gatherings, had all the makings of a Trekkie-dude dorkfest. To stoke the flames for the upcoming "X-Files" movie, 20th Century Fox infiltrated airplane hangars and former military bases in 10 cities, transforming them into carnivals of Roswell noir. X-ers got an "evidence bag" upon entry (if Oldsmobile brochures are the evidence, what's the crime?), then wound through a foggy maze of file cabinets into a faux Area 51: spotlights sweeping over dime-store netting, Secret Service agents making mock arrests, weary vendors pawning extraterrestrial chotchkes ("I got alien gel here," barked one saleswoman, waving an oozy test tube of hydrocephalic embryos, "totally eatable aliens floating in apple sour goop!").
Of course, the fans didn't shell out $65 just to have their photos digitally grafted onto Mulder's office, or to bid on dirty agent Krycek's prosthetic hand (which sold for $600; proceeds went to charity). The main attraction wasn't even to talk to Lone Gunman Langly or the enigmatic X. They paid to see Her of the fiery red hair and skeptical mind. "Oh, my God, I just love her, she's such a great actress, she's so cool and tough," cooed Sarah Arnoff, a 16-year-old in a Superman T-shirt, as she waited by the stage clutching a fuzzy green E.T. "I have seven posters of her in my room! I have magazine covers! Books! I can't believe we're actually going to be in the same city!"
"There's just no one like her," said Cami Cho, one of the lucky 900 who won the lottery to get Anderson's autograph. "There are no [other] women characters who are strong and have their own personalities. She's not a bimbo."
Even the guys agreed. "We call her IDDG," explained an incognito hacker who hosts a Gillian chat channel. "She's Intellectually Drop Dead Gorgeous. She's smart first, then she's beautiful."
Judging from the fans, it seems the culture vultures missed the mother ship. While the press hyped her wage wars, her pout, her punk rock past, Anderson and her legions of admirers have been crafting something more complex: a feminist icon. For the fans, she's a blessed chemical reaction of actress and character: she's Gillian Anderson, a 29-year-old single mother who tattoos her ankles with blue turtles-- a Tahitian symbol for peace of mind-- and acts her heart out in a genre ruled (and mostly written) by men; she's Dana Scully, skeptical and spiritual, athletic and scientific, intelligent and sexy. Madonna, Missy Elliott, Lara Croft: none could fight the conspiratorial feds, dissect a spleen, and still be so damn IDDG.
When the black curtains parted and Anderson nervously walked through the flashbulb lightning and hurricane screams, it was one of those strange pop epiphanies, a palpable Moment. From behind a steel barricade, Sarah Arnoff and friends sobbed hysterically, to the point of hyperventilation. Fox's host implored everyone to remain calm: "We're 'X-Files' fans, but we're 'X-Files' friends." Girls stormed the mikes to ask questions, doing "Wayne's World" unworthiness bows.
"Scully is the epitome of womanhood," one shrieked. "Not only can she kick butt, she can work with Mulder without jumping him!" Anderson arched a brow. "So the epitome of womanhood is sexual restraint?" she replied, deadpan. "I don't think so." Anderson mused on Scully's choice of underwear ("It wouldn't be a G-string or Jockeys. Probably some kind of sweet little cotton thing... Nothing with Barneys or strawberries") and the pressure of being a role model ("If it were not for some sense of duty... to stay sane and on a healthy path, I might not have").
By the end, she was leading the crowd in an off-key Scully-style rendition
of "Joy to the World." But it was two girls holding hands
at the microphone who captured it all: "I'm, like, breaking my
best friend's hand, here," one said cheerfully, "because I'm
talking to God."
Transcript appears courtesy of the Village Voice.