Frank: I’ve walked a white line my entire life. I’m not about to screw that up.
Nada (played by Roddy Piper): White line’s in the middle of the road. That’s the worst place to drive.
Let’s talk for a minute about Roddy Piper. You may remember him as the guy who played the pro-wrestler in that episode of Always Sunny in which Danny Devito hits Cricket with a trash can. Some of you may also remember him as the pro-wrestler Roddy Piper.
And then there’s this movie, in which he somehow ended up with a part that was obviously written for Charleton Heston. Witness:
Alright, so let’s back up. They Live! is John Carpenter’s 1988 critique of advanced capitalism and race/class exploitation in the post-colonial world. It stars Roddy Piper along with Meg Foster (a.k.a. that woman who played the D.A. sometimes on Miami Vice) and Keith David, who did the voice of Goliath. You know, in that old cartoon Gargoyles?
Anyways, sorry. So. Capitalism. Right.
Most of the characters of They Live! are desperately impoverished construction workers who live in a shantytown. Roddy Piper, new in the shantytown, exchanges homo erotically-charged glances with Keith David while the latter operates a jackhammer, then discovers that a nearby church is actually home to some kind of weird drug lab-esque operation which apparently produces nothing but sunglasses that they refer to as “Hoffman Lenses”. Albert Hoffman invented LSD. Hang on to that idea.
Here’s Piper discovering what the sunglasses actually do:
(Shepard Fairey, we’re on to you.)
Or, as a friend of mine said, “The glasses give him all the powers of a sophomore English major”.
Okay, so it turns out that all the wealthiest and most powerful people on Earth are actually aliens from another world who are controlling our minds via the media, advertising and especially TV, which they use to exploit us economically. Then Roddy Piper and Keith David start killing them at random.
Also, this happens, which may be familiar to those who have seen the “Cripple Fight” episode of South Park:
In the end, we’re left with questions. What does it mean that the exploited class is, in this case, ourselves? What does it mean that Roddy Piper is permitted to kill these racialized Others without even first talking to any of them? Is this meant to grant license to marginalized people worldwide to retaliate against their exploiters, or does it merely give license to strong, indignant, displaced males to use violent force against their usurpers? In the end, who is us and who is the other? Is it we or is it “they” who live?
Ponder those questions during the 5-minute fight scene above.
Buy it here. Unless you support the hegemony.