Kristin Recommends: “Walking in Memphis” by Cher

I love The X-Files. Like, a lot. But there’s no denying that quite a few episodes have not aged well. To start, Mulder mansplains literally everything until he disappears periodically in the later seasons to make shitty movies. There’s also at least one stereotypical Gypsy curse, ableist portrayals of folks on the autism spectrum, and the fact that most of the POC characters are either cast as bad guys or quick to get dead. For good measure, there’s a nice handful of unaddressed sexual assault; somehow, one of the most charmingly irreverent episodes is also rapey as fuck. “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is about a lonely mutant — created by his evil scientist daddy — who drugs women and throws one-person Cher parties in their houses before impregnating them with mutant babies because he’s wicked, wicked lonely.

Mulder also menaces a bunch of chickens in a barn with his firearm in this episode. Just so you know. But the Cher part is more important, probably. And there’s a lot of Cher in this episode. But the crucial Cher moment is the last scene where Mulder and Scully take “The Great Mutato” to a Cher concert because, other than his jolly assaults on the local women, this gentle creature has never left the basement where he eats peanut butter and watches Cher things on VHS.

Cher — disappointingly not dressed in the low-low-cut, ass-baring fishnet thing from the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video that had every decent mother clutching her pearls in 1989 — appears on stage performing her new single “Walking in Memphis” (originally recorded by Marc Cohn). And it’s powerful. Powerful enough to get Mulder and Scully to dance for a perfect shipper moment and a sweet ending to this still horrendously gross but somehow feel-good episode of The X-Files from 1997.

Cher’s “Walking In Memphis” is one of the most perfect examples of her vocal prowess — the proof that she can sing gospel or disco or folk or rock and it will be next-level excellence. “Walking Memphis” is about a spiritual experience. Yes, the original version will make you tingle. Cher, though, will give you full-body goosebumps. You believe her magical, smoky contralto. You feel it in your bones. That’s a kind of magic we need right now, and I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s good to know that Cher lives. That Cher sings. Maybe it will help you get out of bed tomorrow. (Or today, if you’re reading this in bed on your phone in a blanket fort or cocoon.) Let a few good things in. Start in Memphis.

(Song recommendation by E. Kristin Anderson)

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