They Live

They Live

Since its release thirty years ago, John Carpenter’s They Live has proved irresistible to all points on the political alignment chart. They Live has lived many lives; even if you’re never worn the glasses, chances are you’ve seen the “OBEY” slogan adorned on the body of a hypebeast thanks to Shepard Fairey’s streetwear brand, or maybe you’ve seen the film’s most iconic moments reworked as memes. Though its iconography may have been appropriated by the alt-right, They Live remains one of the most radical and unapologetically leftist films ever produced in the shade of Hollywood’s superstructure. In a world plagued by centrism and civility, They Live is still a much-needed reminder that debates don’t win revolutions. When literal Nazis are in the streets, appealing to both sides or “reaching across the aisle” is, to quote from the film, like pouring perfume on a pig. As “Rowdy" Roddy Piper reminds us, “White line’s in the middle of the road. That’s the worst place to drive.”

In his monograph on They Live, author Jonathan Lethem notes that lovers of John Carpenter’s left-slouching masterpiece fall squarely into two camps: “those who love it for the fight scene, and those who love it despite the fight scene.” The film, with its plentitude of ass kicking and perpetual shortage of bubble gum, bears a bounty of violence, but “the fight scene” in question needs no further specification. You know it when you see it, and like the “ideology free” Real behind the glasses, once you’ve seen it, there’s no unknowing it.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: www.cinematary.com/writing/2018/11/5/retro-review-they-live-1988-by-john-carpenter