“You don’t have to lock your doors around here.” That’s a line I know I’ve heard a lot. Someone from a city remarking on small town or country living. And it’s a line from the famous X-Files banned episode “Home”.
Season 4 Episode 2 of the long-running science fiction crime drama, the episode has become well-known for its controversy. It was the first episode of X-Files to have a viewer discretion warning and the only X-files episode to have a TV-MA rating when it was first broadcast in 1996. The first scene really kicks it into gear and could be considered fairly graphic for broadcast television. But the episode is well grounded in a long tradition of what could be called Hillbilly Horror.
The Story of X-Files’ Banned Episode
It begins like many of the classic tales of yesteryear. With the burying of a baby.
It’s quite bold to start the episode the way it does. It is dark in more ways than one, but the events are clear enough. There is a disfigured baby born. And the disfigured family bringing the baby into the world carry it out into the rainy night. To bury it.
And that was the introduction to the episode.
After the dark, creepy opening, we have children playing baseball. And a discovery. Not unlike finding a toe in a garden. But bloody.
As Mulder and Scully become involved, they are introduced to Sheriff Andy Taylor. Sheriff Taylor has been a police officer there for a long time. He is comforted with his home, with the fact that the evil and immoral things are found in places outside of his small town life.
And then Mulder and Scully ask him about the family in the house nearby. The Peacocks.
Raise and breed their own stock… if you know what I mean.
Evil, immorality, and yes, inbreeding, is festering in the place Sheriff Taylor calls home. He talks about how some day he would have to deal with evil intruding into his peaceful town. What is fascinating is that the evil lurked there all along.
The Peacocks keep to themselves, stuck in a time during the Civil War and unchanged by modern culture… the house lacking running water or electricity.
Their sights are squarely on the incestuous Peacock family.
Mulder and Scully examine the dead baby, only to find that it is riddled with malformations that imply that the inbreeding is more deep-seated than they could have ever imagined. Although they don’t understand how, with the family seemingly only “brothers.” They aren’t sure who the mother of the baby is, but they can only suspect that the Peacock boys have kidnapped and are raping a local woman, holding her in their house.
The duo go to the Peacock’s house. At first when they explore the house they find little. But eventually they find a woman strapped and hidden under a bed, screaming and unwanting to be found. And that is when it is revealed. The woman is their mother, who they thought deceased in a car wreck years before. The men had kept her, taken care of her, and the many deformed babies over the years were the results of her pregnancies.
More alarming, the mother of the boys does not want to go. She wants to be there. This is how their family has been for many generations. This twisted inbred family is exactly the way they want to be. This is their home.
The Title “Home”
If it isn’t clear yet, the title of the episode is very intentional. And telling.
In terms of horror tropes, what is fascinating in the X-Files banned episode “Home” is that it is playing off the trope that is common in horror, and that is “Hillbilly horror”… the idea that if you find yourself taking a wrong turn, you might just find yourself dealing with country folk that aren’t so civilized.
Mulder and Scully are the outsiders, coming in to see the small town life and what it entails. If written poorly or looked at from a cursory view, it can be demeaning to rural people. And I would argue it often is. As much as many people may appreciate classics such as The Hills Have Eyes (I’m a giant Wes Craven fan) or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it is hard to escape the problematic aspects of such stories. That is, the implication that if you stray too far into backwoods country, you’ll find that the people there are uncivilized and dangerous.
What I can appreciate about “Home” is that you have a representative of this small town, country life. In Sheriff Andy Taylor you have someone who is comforted in rural life. But he also knows underneath that safety, there is the same derangement that exists in all of mankind. “I knew one day the modern world would find us.” Of course that is a contradiction. The Peacock’s aren’t the modern world. They are the world that has always been there. Decaying. Disregarded, but ultimately disgusting and there nonetheless.
The episode goes out of its way to bring up the fact that the Peacocks don’t represent most of them. Most small town people think they are the “moral” country, the safe space. The Peacocks are the untouched, offensive, immoral nastiness that still lingers in their otherwise safe home.
I’m reminded of Stephen King’s It, in which Pennywise is there in Derry, yet the entire town is in a haze, unwilling to acknowledge the evil that exists there. Sheriff Taylor and others in his town have been unwilling to see the Peacocks, despite them being right there for hundreds of years.
And then you have Mulder and Scully. “You don’t have to lock your doors around here” is what you expect in a small town, but for people like them, the small town is exactly where you should worry about the deranged.
There is talk of “savages,” which to me immediately points to a city-dweller’s stereotypes of rural Americans. But no one thinks of themselves as savages. The Peacocks see them only as outsiders, and they are the keepers of what is “safe” and wholesome. They are a family. And the city-dwellers are preventing them from reproducing in the way they want. When you get past the incest (which I know some people can’t), ultimately there is a struggle between different people’s ideas of what home should be. And people like Sheriff Taylor are caught in the middle, trying to navigate their way through the safety of small town life and the moralities that modernity often represents.
The episode ends with a song that we hear often throughout. “Wonderful, Wonderful” by Johnny Mathis never sounded so deranged.
We’re lost in a world of our own
I feel the glow of your unspoken love
The Peacocks represent an unspoken type of love, that is for sure. They also represent an unspoken and deep-seated depravity that country folks sometimes have to face in order to keep their homes safe.
Last Updated on June 6, 2021.