“Rowdy” Roddy Piper stars in John Carpenter’s classic low-budget sci-fi allegory about the role of ideology in our unconscious daily lives (“the most anti-Reagan film ever to come out of Hollywood,” Lewis Beale noted in a profile of Carpenter at the time of the film’s release). Piper is John Nada, a dim but upright “post-hippie lumberjack” who, while coping with his own underemployment, stumbles upon a pair of magic sunglasses that permit him to see the truth of reality: namely, that a race of alien conquerors control the population’s minds through the products they consume and the coded messages they constantly receive from the culture industry. Writes Hoberman, “For Carpenter, They Live was made at a moment of crisis in response to an actual problem. He assigned himself a mission that he had to work outside of Hollywood to fulfill . . . They Live was designed to alter the viewer’s perspective—which is, in fact, its subject.”
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