i wonder if the xf writers ever realized that their refusal to make msr explicitly romantic or sexual was actually the thing that made the ship so widely popular and revolutionary.
like, because they wanted mulder and scully to be the core of the show but they didn’t want to make their relationship a relationship, they showed them doing other things to signify closeness — such as working as a team, respecting each other, choosing each other over everything, supporting each other unconditionally, and growing together. there was no unnecessary flirtatious comments, no unreasonable jealousy, no sexualization of scully. the dynamic they presented didn’t have the power imbalance that was associated with heterosexual relationships, and scully’s characterization lacked most of the key components that a female romantic lead would normally have. because they left out all of those things, they assumed that the fanbase wouldn’t see scully as his love interest, because she was presented in an entirely un-sexual way.
but their mistake was in their neglect of acknowledging the female audience: women who had always wanted a romantic relationship with teamwork and mutual respect and unconditional support and love. women who did not see themselves as sexualized or even conventionally attractive, and who saw scully, strong and career focused and not afraid of butting heads, as what they wanted to be. women who saw mulder and scully determinedly portrayed as equals who cared deeply about each other with no condescension or objectification, both of them portrayed as actual people, and went absolutely insane, because that was what they wanted more than anything and no love story before had ever felt so profound and real.
so as the writers (read: chris carter) were creating a dynamic without objectification and sexualization in an attempt to take the focus completely off of romance, the female fans were watching this dynamic and perceiving it as the absolute height of romance, because it lacked the male perspective that they saw everywhere else. the writers were saying this isn’t a romance, and the female viewers were saying then you have no idea what romance is.