The X-Files Takes On Trump And Fake News

Donald Trump and Bobby Lashley shave Vince McMahon's head at Wrestlemania 23

Nobody Knows For Sure

Trump's many scandals while in office include his failure to immediately condemn the Unite the Right race riot in Charlottesville, during which a white nationalist drove a car through a crowd of protestors, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many others. Trump's initial response? That "both sides" shared blame. When asked why he didn't directly denounce the alt-right, the president responded, "What about the alt-left?"

False equivalencies like this stem from a lack of moral leadership. This is one way to proliferate disinformation, and it's one method of, as Doctor They puts it, "Sowing the seeds of uncertainty." After all, half the comments on any given story that even mentions Donald Trump will resort to bringing up his political opponent during the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that she is not in power and no longer holds any office in the government.

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As to the truth of Trump and any of the numerous lies and dubious claims made by Trump or on his behalf (most recently, that he is 6'3" and weighs 239 lbs), Doctor They had something to say on the matter:

"Our current president once said something truly profound. He said, 'Nobody knows for sure.'"

As he says this, They raises his right hand and makes a particular gesture, a stilted hand signal which looks like an "OK" sign, but more deliberate. It's a gesture which has been adopted by the alt-right and Neo-Nazi circles as a white power slogan (because the three raised fingers look kind of like the letter 'W,' for white). Every time a known Neo-Nazi white supremacist flashes the "OK" sign, is it a racial dog whistle? Well... Nobody knows for sure.

Donald Trump, But An Alien

X Files Season 11 Reggie Mulder Scully

As if the episode wasn't obvious enough with its opinion of the 45th President of the United States, the grand finale of the episode makes its feelings crystal clear. Throughout the episode, the mysterious Reggie claims to be a victim, or perhaps everybody else is a victim, of memory manipulation or The Mandela Effect (or, as he believes, The Mengela Effect, but that's just The Mandela Effect at work). He even claims to have founded the X-Files, a statement which directly contradicts the lore of the series (the first case dates back to J. Edgar Hoover directly, and Arthur Dales, played by Darren McGavin, was responsible for them in the 1950s, before they fell into obscurity and were eventually picked up by Fox Mulder), but that's arguably the point of that particular revelation.

Earlier in the episode, Reggie alludes to the game-changing final case he ever solved with Mulder and Scully, which, as far as the two agents know, is a complete and utter fabrication. However, as Reggie is being loaded into a car headed for the Spotnitz Sanitarium (a nod to producer Frank Spotnitz; the same mental hospital also appeared in Darin Morgan's Millennium episode, "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense"), Mulder takes pity on Reggie and asks him what happened on their fateful final case.

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According to Reggie, they met an ambassador from outer space, decked out like a 1950s B-Movie alien, who had some bad news for Earth. He makes his entrance by awkwardly riding an escalator down from his ship, an image obviously evoking Donald Trump's often-mocked escalator ride at the very start of his presidential campaign (not to be confused with this, much different, escalator ride). The alien then follows this subtle parody with something a bit more overt, declaring that the "Intergalactic Union of Sentient Beings from all Known Universes and Beyond" are building a wall to keep humans from escaping their solar system.

According to the alien, the wall will be "beautiful, albeit invisible," and will incinerate any probe attempting to venture beyond the celestial border. The alien rationalizes this decision by paraphrasing Donald Trump, stating that Earth is "not sending us your best people. You're bringing drugs, you're bringing crime, you're rapists," which is extremely close to what the president said – out loud and in public – of Mexican immigrants. As the alien returns to his ship and begins the escalator ride back up into the craft, he pantomimes pressing buttons and proclaims, in a direct quote of President Trump, "Bing bing, bong bong bing."

We're Not Alone In The Universe... But Nobody Likes Us

As the episode comes to a close, Agent Scully, when confronted with the opportunity to return to the nostalgia of her childhood, in the form of a package of long-lost Goop-O ABC (not to be confused with Jell-O 123), she opts not to tarnish the memories of her youth, musing, "I want to remember how it was. I want to remember how it all was." Good and bad, the past is in the past, and it can't be recaptured or made new again. Scully can't recapture her childhood by eating a carcinogenic dessert snack, just like there's no way to "Make America Great Again" by electing a reality TV show host to the highest office in the country.

Perhaps Scully's contentedness in leaving her Goop-O uneaten is a subtle nod to Gillian Anderson's decision to retire from The X-Files for good, and a commentary on season 11's controversial storyline involving William's true father, which shocked many fans and caused some to declare The X-Files ruined forever.

The Mandela Effect is rooted in nostalgia, and Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" promise is rooted in a similar wistful melancholy over days gone by, but The X-Files managed to sum it all up in one of the best hours of television the series has yet produced. Simultaneously jolly and grim, cynically defeatist and yet brimming with the possibilities of an unwritten future, "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" is a bittersweet episode which encapsulates the sorry state of America in 2018 and her incompetent, possibly criminal leader, while also offering a dash of optimism towards the future – and indulging in just a little bit of crowd-pleasing nostalgia to remember the past.

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