For some reason, whenever I think of They Live (Carpenter, 1988), I remember it as a rip-roaring, good-time kind of movie. Something perfect for summer, perfect for a late night. I probably have that idea because when I first saw it in my teens, I was enthralled by the famous wrestling star I knew, Roddy Piper, that famous catchphrase he improvised, the fight, and the creepy aliens.
When I watch it now, it does not strike me that way at all. The subtext that I did not connect to as a teen, like Reaganomics, yuppies, or the savings and loan crisis, mean so much more to me now. The film continues to speak volumes, and now, as I watch, it is the paranoia and dread that resonate with me. I know the end is coming, and I have to sit with it. These days, it is watching the collaborators explain themselves that cuts through the humor and action like a knife.
I did not realize until doing research for the episode that the film has been co-opted by all sorts of far-right groups to underscore their own brand of hateful paranoia. John Carpenter cut through that garbage simply: “’They Live is about yuppies and unrestrained capitalism…’” He went on to confirm it has nothing to do with a specific group, especially those that become the target of hate, taking over the world. “[That] is slander and a lie.”
We are now covering our third John Carpenter film, which is a total accident. But it is no accident that we have chosen a director who challenges us and our notions of political and moral issues, and when it is right to be paranoid.
What you’ll find in this episode: Cole’s celebrity beef #3567, my celebrity beef on Facebook, and a game of guess the fake wrestling move.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out They Live on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of The Quiet Man.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Informer.
You know it’s a party if Billy Squier, Danny DeVito, and Roddy Piper are there.
Swoon with Keith David’s tribute to Nat King Cole.
More insights both now and then on the film, the fight, and Roddy Piper.