This week, after it was revealed that The X-Files creator Chris Carter had hired a team of all men to help write the show’s upcoming season, many critics slammed the showrunner for “rejecting diversity.” Even X-Files co-lead Gillian Anderson chimed in, additionally pointing out the show’s lack of female directors.
The popular sci-fi series ran from 1993 until it was canceled in 2002, and it was rebooted in 2016. Over the past 10 seasons of the show — which spans 208 episodes to date — only nine women have earned writing credits. Those numbers aren’t “overly surprising” to Kim Newton, who was a writer for The X-Files Season 3.
“It sort of historically has been a place where more male writers have been for many years,” she told BuzzFeed News of The X-Files. During her time writing for the show from 1995 to 1996, Newton was the sole woman on a team of seven writers. It was her first-ever staff job on a television show.
Although Newton is grateful for the opportunity to have written for The X-Files and admits that “sometimes getting the first job is the hardest job,” she recalled Carter’s writers room being a place without “a whole lot of positive reinforcement.”
Newton said Carter’s writers room was competitive, writer to writer. “It's probably the only job I've ever really had like that that was constructed that way … You pretty much work on your own, and you bring things to Chris. You talk over ideas, and you sort of deal with him one-on-one,” she explained. She’s since produced and written for a number of television shows, including The Blacklist, Cold Case, and New York Undercover. “If I had been there 10 years in as opposed to it being my first job, I think I would've done quite a bit better, and I think I would've lasted longer. When you're in an environment that isn't like a team-environment, more of a ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ environment, it's a real challenge ... On the day-to-day, you are always feeling like your job is at risk.”
All of the women enlisted to write for The X-Files were relatively new in comparison to the male writers who were hired, according to Newton. Each female writer left after only one year working there — “[some] probably happily, and some probably hoping to come back, but [were] not invited back,” said Newton.
“I don’t think it comes from a bad place or a totally sexist place,” Newton said of the lack of women writers and directors behind The X-Files, adding, “I don’t know whether Chris has ever felt comfortable in his approach to dealing with female writers.” (Representatives for Carter did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.)
As for Carter’s newly formed all-male writers room — Darin Morgan, Glen Morgan, and James Wong, who are all X-Files veterans — Newton said that “it’s his prerogative” as a showrunner to hire whoever he wants, and she understands why he asked them to return. “They are tried and true, and they have a shorthand, and there's no substitute for something like that. I'm sure it brings him a great peace of mind,” she said. “I guess my question really is, Were women read? Were women considered?
“In a perfect scenario, I really think having an eclectic staff is best overall for a show because people of different ages, genders, backgrounds, races — they all have an interesting perspective that's worth hearing and considering,” she continued. “Scully's a woman. She's half the show. And while a lot of those guys write her very well, every once in a while, there's a value in seeing through another woman's eyes and not just through a man's eyes. Without at least hearing those voices, I think it can be limiting and repetitive.”
In a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News, Newton also said the following:
“It was just a camp where you needed to have a thick skin. Very survival of the fittest. I liked the other writers very much. They taught me to smoke Cuban cigars and drink single malt scotch out of a Dixie cup before it ate it's way through the paper. But it just isn’t a teamwork kind of atmosphere when it came to writing. It was "designed" to be competitive, for writers to try and outdo one another. That just wasn’t who I was at the time. Now I’d eat those guys for breakfast. Just kidding! Go team.
But that said, as a Monday morning quarterback, I think that if Chris Carter had focused on hiring female writers who were seasoned veterans instead of baby writers, he might have gotten more [of] what he wanted and needed from them. He might not even think twice now in season 11 to round out his staff with some chicks. I don't know. Chris is a big conspiracy guy, but I don't really think this is one of them. But I'm with Gillian, this kind of thing no longer goes unnoticed and social media affects viewership. Things are changing. That's the truth that's really out there."
Susan Cheng is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Susan Cheng at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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