One of the problems with making a bona fide cult classic – or, as in the case of director John Carpenter, numerous such films – is that, whilst inspiring such fanatical devotion, your work may also wind up being wildly misinterpreted by some members of the audience.
This certainly seems to have been the case with Carpenter’s 1988 sci-fi thriller ‘They Live,’ which stars the late Roddy Piper as a destitute construction worker who’s famously “all out of bubblegum” when, thanks to some unusual sunglasses, he discovers the world is dominated by evil aliens who live among us in secret, whilst controlling our minds through subliminal messaging.
Though not a huge hit on release, ‘They Live’ has long since grown in popularity for its heavily satirical, anti-authoritarian overtones, and has inspired countless internet memes with its iconic images of fluorescent skull-faced oppressors and billboards reading ‘OBEY’ and ‘CONSUME,’ dollar bills reading ‘THIS IS YOUR GOD,’ and so on.
Carpenter himself has always openly declared the film to be an attack on the ethics of Reagan-era America, but certain other readings on the film compelled the 68-year old filmmaker and musician to make this clear on Twitter this week:
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.
— John Carpenter (@TheHorrorMaster) January 4, 2017
Tweet reads, “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.”
Carpenter does not specify whether he is responding to any one particular party to have made this claim about ‘They Live,’ although Bloody Disgusting suggest his angry comments may be a late response to a 2014 Youtube video posted by a far-right conspiracy theorist.
Given that far-right conspiracy theorists have now alarmingly made it all the way to the White House, it’s good to see Carpenter sticking to his guns, so to speak.
Again, this is hardly the first time the director has stressed the anti-Reaganomics anger underlying ‘They Live.’ The director told the LA Times in 2013, “a lot of the ideals that I grew up with were under assault [in the 1980s], 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.”