Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Obey. Consume. Watch TV.

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Jonathan Lethem wrote a book about the cult classic film They Live. It was as though Lethem live-blogged the film, but in book form. The book is short but we get his take on John Carpenter's film -- scene by scene -- because it's layered with tons of symbolism both overt and covert. I was kind of cool experience to read a few chapters, then watch the film for a few minutes, and go back and read a few more chapters and watch a little more of the film, etc etc etc.

My brother and I were huge WWF fans when we were kids. Roddy Rowdy Piper was billed as the bad guy and every Saturday morning we'd see some of his douchebaggery. The best moment? He beat up Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka with a coconut. We were excited to see a movie with a wrestler in it. This was still the late 80s before wrestling really blew up and it helped propel their top stars like the Rock into the real big leagues -- Hollywood. The Rock was able to become a true crossover star from deflecting metal chairs to his head to carrying a big budget Hollyweird film. But with They Live, Roddy Piper was able to get top billing in a B-film that flirted the line between cult sci-fi fantasy and campy straight-to-video fodder. We watched it a bunch on videotape and thought it was a cool flick about aliens featuring a favorite wrestler.

Watching They Live as an adult is mind blowing because the cheesy factor of the plot (not to mention how bad it really was) really covered up the incendiary subversiveness of the film. Simply put, according to Carpenter we've been brainwashed by the powers that be. As a result, we're a nation of TV addicts, which is we're either slaves, sheep, zombies, doped up, or sleepwalking through life. The glowing box in the living room is truly the opiate of the masses and we're all complicit by participating in the culture of consumption, even though we want to break out of that dreadful cycle.

There's a documentary called They Live We Sleep, which is a much more tin foil hat version of Lethem's book. But it's short (thirty minutes) and an eye opener.

They Live We Sleep is a nice companion piece to Lethem's book and the actual film. At this point, whenever I watch the film, I'm purposely looking for different pieces of hidden symbolism. Sort of like those maniacal fiends who comb through Kubrick's films frame-by-frame.

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