TIME's 25 Most Influential Americans

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    The saga of two FBI agents skulking along the fringes of the paranormal, The X-Files sparked a genre renaissance (including Profiler and Carter's own Millennium ) and spawned a legion of young, wild-eyed followers as fanatical as the older army of Trekkies. Why does X mark the files and the generation? "Clearly, there's a widespread belief that there are secrets that can explain an otherwise unfathomable world," says Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology at New York University. And with the approach of the millennium, he says, "the odds sure go up" for paranoia.

    Carter is wary of claiming to reinvent the form. He feels he's just pumping his love of truth-seeking movies like All the President's Men and The Silence of the Lambs into a medium that he feels has lacked a good frightfest since the mid-'70s. "What I've attempted to do was scare you in a smart way that makes you think and question," he says. "If you just put on special effects, you're not storytelling, you're pandering."

    A TV series can't go too far wrong with killer cockroaches and sinister feds with nicknames like Cancer Man. Yet the show's biggest draws remain the sly, sexy agents Mulder and Scully, who represent the true believer and the skeptic. Their intertwined quests mirror the popular thirst for certainty as well as the hope that "the truth is out there," even if it is way, way out.

    Lisa Schultz, fashion arbiter
    The Gap is an illusion. It appears to be the quintessential place to shop for the basics, for the kids, for Mom and Dad, for Grandma, for Cousin Beatrice and Uncle Dennis. It's jeans, khakis, socks, T-shirts. And then, suddenly, there on the counter is a neon jacket or, by the stacks of blue and black jeans, a proper pair of homeboy overalls. A pea coat at the store last season was redolent of high-fashion stylishness — but priced to sell to customers for whom Bergdorf's is as chilly and distant as Milan. Slowly, delicately, the Gap has ceased to be simply the jeans shop it started out as in 1969. Now it is the place for Americans to pick up clothes that are both timeless and timely.

    Much of the credit for this infiltration of the American wardrobe goes to Lisa Schultz, 42, the San Francisco–based company's executive vice president for product design, who has overseen dozens of collections in the past decade (the Gap changes store offerings every six to eight weeks). Operating out of New York City, she and her team of 80 product developers and designers look for inspiration and ideas everywhere — in magazines, at flea markets, on street corners — before deciding what concepts will work for the season and the Gap. Schultz, who got her start with Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, guides the process. "My responsibility is to say, 'This knit pant and this woven pant overlap. This one goes. This is a better piece.' I have good eyes." This summer, Gap customers will find a seasonal "explosion of blue and lots of white," says Schultz, "pools and sea and summer; white, white, white."

    Schultz's talent for mixing and matching accounts for a lot of the Gap's contemporaneity — and success. Net sales hit $5.28 billion last year, a 20% increase over 1995. Says Schultz: "We're always looking over our shoulder, checking the competition, making sure that we're 'there.'" Right now, where she is, America shops.

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