In New York now for nearly 3 weeks and besides Midnight Cowboy, John Carpenter's cult classic They Live (1988) is the one movie that keeps running through my mind.The idea that money is our God is suggested in They Live as it depicts the declining economy of the 1980s and the strong consumer culture of America. This evidently couldn't be more relevant today with the current recession and enhanced consumer culture through the rapid development of new media. Since I am currently unemployed and highly jealous of all these douchepackers on Manhattan with their fancy jobs and internships, I can relate to Roddy Piper's character's frustration with the constant bombardment of advertismement when you can't afford the products. Obviously I can't relate completely to the film as I am not homeless or 6ft and built like a brick shithouse, but there are certainly aspects I correspond to. I found it similar to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead in relation to the portrayal of consumerism and the power it has over us. However I find that Carpenter delved deeper into the function of consumerism and advertisment suggesting that it keeps the public docile, especially the working class. Carpenter also focuses on the notion of subliminal messaging through advertismenmet with phrases such as "obey", "submit" and "watch t.v."
Besides of the obvious homages to the writings of Karl Marx there are other elements of excellence that complete this film and make it an 80s classic such as the best fight scene in film history between Piper and Keith David, the relentless gun action and the cheesy one liners: "I came here to do two things...to kick ass and chew bubble gum...and I'm all out of bubble gum." It is difficult to say that this is Carpenter's best film when he has Halloween and The Thing in his cabinet, but it is clear that it is his most socially conscious.