They Live-A Political Smackdown in SciFi


From the time that movies as an idea have arrived as a medium of stimulation, they have been extended in their utilization for different methods for expression in a variety of manner – social messages, political parodies, agitprop, educative documentaries and other such adjustments. Movie may have differed understandings as to their effect on the watcher but still, it generally has a method for leaving an enduring impact on the psyche of that watcher. This makes it standout as the most intense types of media and thus, is utilized broadly to reflect different aspects and substances of society.

The purpose behind conducting a movie review is to enhance our ability to critically understand the content and its audio-visual representation. Generally, the feature films will have symbolic and melodramatic presentations of a fact.

While reviewing such movie the reviewer has to catch the key points around which the Movie is woven. The reviewer should understand this essential point and write how the filmmaker tries to put those points before. Thus, a movie review also requires some essential reading about the key points. On the whole, capturing the essence of the movie and critical description of portrayal of that subject is the crux of the movie review.

They Live is a 1988 American sci-fi horror movie written and directed by John Carpenter. It takes after an anonymous vagabond (“John Nada” in the film’s credits) who finds that the bourgeoise are in actuality extra-terrestrials concealing their appearance and controlling the masses to spend money, breed, and maintain the status quo with subliminal messages in news and media sources. The movie is inspired by Ray Nelson’s 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning”.

download (2)

Cinematography And Plot Development

John Carpenter talks about the concept of “Greed is Good” in They Live. A pirate network broadcaster questions the human worship of greed in the opening shots of the film, as pictures of vagrants fill urban ghettos and swarm around TVs to perceive how the rest of the nation lives. This setting of disparities and monetary hardship is a striking scenery to what is mostly a basic B-film around an extra-terrestrial invasion unnoticed by the masses, indistinct from the people next to them but for one thing: they are the 1%.

In the film, John Nada our nameless, homeless hero shown to depict the everyman and a quintessential social nobody (portrayed by professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper), someone who holds no political beliefs and has a quintessential American belief in the principals of perseverance and justice, holding no curiosity towards the conspiracy theorists lurches into a genuine universal conspiracy when he finds a pair of shades that allow him to see the world as it truly seems to be.  Billboards now uncover their subliminal subtexts: OBEY and SUBMIT and CONSUME. MARRY AND REPRODUCE. NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT. Further, he would now be able to see that around one out of 10 of the general population around him are fiercely revolting and frightening mechanical animals with bacon-like skin and bulbous eyes. They’re an extra-terrestrial race, as it turns out, oppressing the Earth, basically using TV, and abusing its occupants until nothing remains. At that point they’ll proceed onward to their next target planet.

“We are their cattle … We are being bred for slavery,”

says one individual from the underground protection (for the most part individuals living off the system, and along these lines unsusceptible to media’s mental programming).

“We’re like a natural resource to them … All we really are is livestock.”

Everything peaks in the TV studio that, with the assistance of willing earthling partners, spreads out subliminal purposeful publicity to the dumbfounded earthlings at home.

Roddy Piper as a professional wrestler frequently played the heel or antagonist and he regularly got beaten up. Some of that whipped persona shows in the character of Nada, himself having head west subsequent to escaping job scarcity in Denver.

“I believe in America,”

the character says as he looks into the dusk, implying a better and more hopeful film yet still viably showcasing that announcement’s gullibility.

The initial segment of They Live is set in Justiceville, a shantytown place arranged on the fringe of downtown Los Angeles. The film’s storyteller, squats here with a varied gathering of different vagrants. The rich high rises of the cityscape linger over Nada and his associates, highlighting the dissimilarity between downtown riches and periphery destitution. The director attempted to make an air of suffering reality around They Live. Remaining on the edges of downtown Los Angeles at the Justiceville area, it is anything but difficult to envision how isolated the genuine destitute must feel: The emotional background of skyscraper office towers, expressway lights and airplanes flying over balance pointedly with the shadowy cottages on the set.

John Carpenter, as indicated by his official site, recorded They Live

“on locations that bore the closest possible resemblances to the settings in the film; no studio set was used to create Justiceville or the old church or the flophouse on Skid Row.”

He did this to pass on the best level of verisimilitude for the physical scene as well as for the class divisions it meant. A great part of the movie was shot during the evening, which required Gary Kibbe, head of photography, to feature the dramatization of every scene while working with a restricted supply of light.

They Live presents its setup from the viewpoint of the destitute. This is fundamental to its plot and stems entirely from Carpenter’s own involvement.

Analysis of The Film

For all its B-film auteur sensibilities claimed by it, They Live is a scorching prosecution of the Reagan administration, the way of life of pitilessness and grimness, disparity of riches, magnates, corporate media, classism, bigotry, and unequaled envy and greed.

They Live for the most part addressed the Reagan government: Was Reagan a cultural alien? As a film star and “cowboy”, Reagan had a place with the Los Angeles culture, and his rise as upper-class father figure, patriarch, hero, and puppet master fits with the organization of the film, unseen opposition. In this, Carpenter’s “reel politik” works most proficiently, constraining Americans to confront the feelings of trepidation and wants evoked by the powers of a questionable hyper capitalistic administration. The movie expresses what many individuals were considering yet were hesitant to openly state.

“By the end of the ’70s there was a backlash against everything in the ’60s, and that’s what the ’80s were, and Ronald Reagan became president, and Reagonomics came in,” Carpenter said. “So, a lot of the ideals that I grew up with were under assault, and something called a yuppie came into existence, and they just wanted money. And so, by the late ’80s, I’d had enough, and I decided I had to make a statement, as stupid and banal as it is, but I made one, and that’s ‘They Live.’ … I just love that it was giving the finger to Reagan when nobody else would.”

In interviews, Carpenter flatly calls the hidden fiends Republicans. They Live depicts these gatecrashers, seen only by means of shades, as suit clad, being pushy and coldblooded, cheerfully advising their colleagues to “Go for It” And when they’re at long last observed for what they are, by this nobody construction worker, they freeze and panic.

A lot of movies since Carpenter’s have vehemently criticized Reaganomics; it’s excessively restricting of They Live’s ideology to call it a political propaganda. Significantly more ambitiously, this is a thriller — a movie pandering to the masses — that tries to reinvent its audience into anti-consumerist in nature.

They Live is to be seen as a seminal film for the current socio-political minute; it has much to educate the American individuals as they battle to understand wanton police severity against non-white individuals and the poor in the new Gilded Age, a time of lethal white manliness, and unreasonable reactionary nature of the conservative governmental and related issues.

The idea of reality and its relationship to the truth are foundational philosophical worries from Plato’s famous allegory of the cave through to the massively mainstream Matrix films. At the point when Roddy Piper wears his shades, he sees an agitating and startling world—one which he at first keeps running from, stunned and seeking disavowal. Initially, Piper believes himself to be crazy due to the merciless reality of hegemonic control presently uncovered before him, with its organs of control through the media, surveillance, advertising, the big companies, and the police state.

All that we watch to some degree asks us to see the world as it does. They Live, however, literalizes that thought, compelling the shades on us to show a completely alternate point of view. The first occasion Nada is properly aware of the mystery world and alternate reality, he’s strolling down a city road on an ordinarily murky L.A. morning. He slips on the glasses — and what we see throughout the following a few minutes is something no other film has endeavored as clearly. Advertisements end up as capitalized bold messages. A two-piece clad lady is supplanted by “MARRY AND REPRODUCE.” Magazine racks admonish us to “CONSUME” and “OBEY.” A wad of bills in a merchant’s hand says “THIS IS YOUR GOD.”

download (1)

Nothing can set you up for this sequence in the film, a piece of sociocultural revelation snuck into a science fiction film. Author Jonathan Lethem, a colossal They Live fan, has called it

“10 minutes of cognitive dissonance as sublime as anything in the history of paranoid cinema”.

They Live exhibits one of the central decisions citizens must deal with when confronted with neoliberal inconvenience and tumult: does one live willfully ignorant or does one acknowledge reality?

The neoliberal system through a blend of surveillance, financial force, detainment, and advancements in technologies relating to joy and diversion (for instance: online networking, mass media, consumerism) has possessed the capacity to constrain the potential outcomes of genuine law-based activity and change. The American citizens (and a lot of those in the West) have seen genuine vote-based system undermined by force and financially powerful groups of people, policy groups, the rich, and those holding corporate influence that seek strategy objectives contradictory to the will of the general population.

They Live shows how a gathering of discriminated and suffering individuals who are composed out of the supposedly socially weak can battle for and win a more inclusive and fair world. These saints made a decision to beat and progress towards becoming active and powerful citizens.

Interracial organizations uniting over lines of class and bigotry can improve the world. The creation of whiteness in the seventeenth century is one of the essential means through which racial domination has come to overwhelm worldwide society. Racial oppression as an arrangement of keeping up unmerited favorable circumstances for “white” individuals has truly paid critical material, mental, political, and financial wages to its proprietors and different recipients.

Be that as it may, during a time of globalization and gross imbalance of wealth and riches the focal lie of whiteness is further uncovered: whiteness has dependably profited white elites to the detriment of the material and political advantages of even most white individuals. From numerous points of view, poor and working class white individuals have more similarities with poor and common workers of ethnic minorities than they do rich and high society whites. White racial hatred and the inebriating impacts of racial oppression have blinded an excessive number of white people to that reality.

They Live intercedes against the possessive interest in whiteness: the tycoons, the elites, and the “aliens” are the genuine adversary that people, in support of our mutual mankind and the benefit of everyone, ought to battle. They Live advises us that there are individuals with no empathy, sympathy or care for other individuals. They are obsessed with a barbarous arithmetic analyzing outcomes in a misshaped and reprehensible biopolitics that uses the “market” to calculate human worth: these flawed individuals are identified as homo economicus as sociopathic condition.

The earthly traitors in They Live are members of neoliberal system and ideology, where benefits trump human belonging and ethics, who try to wreck the social wellbeing of the rest of the masses, dispose of the individuals perceived as useless, and experience a reverse Robin-Hood ethos benefiting the corporations and private enterprises. The extra-terrestrials may control the Earth, however they are in a position to do so only because of the fact that they are assisted by dishonest and corrupt individuals.

At the end of They Live, Nada and his associate leave on a suicide mission to demolish the satellite dish on the top of a neighborhood news station that is communicating the subliminal messages keeping the people of Earth sleeping, defenseless, oppressed, and subservient to the wants of the extra-terrestrials. In this symbolically rich moment in the film, two poor men, one white and one black, fight back to stir humankind to the realization of their actual mistreatment.

In the present, They Live mirrors an America (and world) where a few people have put on the glasses, stirred to the terrible reality of the way of life of brutality, starkness and superfluity, and chose to oppose it. They are the people in Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter; the general population who have battled the IMF and World Bank in places like Greece; the Occupy Wall Street.

Marking the film’s 25th anniversary Carpenter said,

“It’s a documentary. It’s not science fiction,”

a comment even more enlightening considering the country’s current Trump-led political turmoil.

Carpenter seeks to make a political statement: the guarantees of the American Dream are fake. When he made the film, he saw a culture of monetary theft on great scale and a nation where the rich were getting wealthier, the working class was vanishing, and the financial system was fixed by those with cash and influence. It was relevant in 1988 and, in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street crash, looks considerably more judicious at this point. He basically surrounded his perceptions of society in the traditions of sci-fi.

In the end, the movie is a deep metaphor for how the “aliens” still dominate the way American politics is set up and life and culture as a whole.


The Republican Debates are a parade and showcase of political demons. In recent Republican Party history, these debates have highlighted audiences that cheer murdering individuals, shocking Hispanic and Latino outsiders, and who boo gay Americans. The candidates for the 2016 election pandered to the monstrosity of a human zoo that is the Republican vote-base with a specific end goal to win their endorsement and ensuing nomination.

Therefore, the potential Republican presidential competitors incorporate individuals who hold the belief that God has appeared to them and sent supernatural portents that they should be running for leader of the United States. They seek to demolish the advancements made in the Civil Rights Movement, deny essential logical actualities, such as Global Warming, and long to attack and bomb nations around the globe. They are birthers, Islamophobes and tycoons who see the American individuals as languid. Also, obviously, as a collective the Republican presidential candidates display a need to additionally wreck the essential assurances of an officially beat up and fatigued social security net.

These are the legislative issues of spectacle, deception, diversion, and craziness They Live advised its watchers about.

When we consider the movie in the time of the Tea Party and especially Trump, an interesting juxtaposition arises. They Live becomes as contradictory as the candidate himself. Obedience, greed, and mindless servitude underlies Trump’s very career, and yet he rails against the rigged system that got him there; he is a raging populist who would have himself in the crosshairs. Trump would undoubtedly be a member of the film’s upper-class milieu, who sport overly-coiffed hairdos and expensive suits, not to mention horrific bug-eyed extra-terrestrial faces. But he is smart enough to know how to co-opt the language of the discontented masses for his own gain, one-upping the corporate class who use sunny language to distract the masses.

Trump’s ability to stoke wild accusations could also easily align with Nada’s own patriotic paranoia, which leads to him trying to convince anyone who will listen that something is very wrong with the world. When Nada tries to get the reticent Frank to literally see what is wrong by putting on the iconic glasses, the pair engage in an elaborate fist fight. Its notoriously comical length works to illustrate Carpenter’s view about how tough it is to make people realize the hard truths, but it could also now represent the idea that people are allowing Trump’s radical, racist, and bigoted proclamations to go on around them and do nothing about it.

images (1)

There’s that possibility when your work is praised and hailed for all the wrong reasons by precisely the wrong kind of people.

That happened to John Carpenter when neo-Nazis and anti-Semites took to asserting on white powers online portals that Carpenter’s campily suspicious 1988 science fiction thriller movie They Live, was a moral story for “Jewish control of the world”.

The extra-terrestrials are the Jews, as claimed by the neo-Nazis, a parasitical, obtrusive race of barbaric exploiters, and the associates are those strict betes noires of the far right, the “race traitors”. The media, in this perusing, is only the “Jew media” of the white right’s fervently flawed imagination. Then, the destitute legends as shown by the protagonist John Nada are the racially powerful legions, and the shades speak to the soul changing experience, the “racial awakening”.

Carpenter tweeted something he most likely never envisioned himself saying:

“THEY LIVE is about yuppies and unrestrained capitalism. It has nothing to do with Jewish control of the world, which is slander and a lie.”

They Live is, when stripped down to its barest bones, a savvy B-film that grasped the way of life of disreputability so as to disclose some fundamental facts about power, envy and related legislative issues in the neoliberal age.


In terms of social reality, the viewer is expected to take back the message about liberty, legitimacy of authority, agency of the individual and the discourse on State action, and transmute these ideas in practice in the society around them.

They Live was a direct response to rampant consumerism, the idea of an American police state, and the increasing economic inequality of the 1980s.

The film closes with the extra-terrestrials, their disguises and covers dropped, as the general population see them for what they really are, beasts who are our business pioneers, sweethearts, supervisors, media elites, government officials, and urban dreamers.