When we think about American cinema’s “best,” “most influential,” or “most important” directors, the conversation almost universally omits John Carpenter. This omission no doubt traces to Carpenter’s association with genre films like Halloween, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China, Escape from New York, and The Thing. But think for a moment about the influence and vision of the films in that list. By any standard, Carpenter’s oeuvre is “important.”
Coming up on the Sectarian Review Podcast, Carter Stepper and I will be discussing another of Carpenter’s films, the cult classic They Live!
This masterpiece of lowbrow social critique offered a scathing critique of capitalism in the 1980s, which has only become more insightful and prescient for our own economic moment. Starring the wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Carpenter regular Keith David, the film follows the adventures of a marginally employed, semi-homeless, unnamed construction worker who acquires a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the subliminal messages in the advertising we’re immersed in as well as the identity of skull-faced space aliens who are secretly controlling the world’s economy.
Slavoj Zizek provides a fascinating reading of how the film explains Ideology in his film The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. I highly recommend checking that sequence out for some great insight into both Zizek and They Live! I also wonder whether the film offers a useful way to understand James K.A. Smith’s “Cultural Liturgies” project. We’ll start to unpack that a bit in this upcoming podcast (and I will hopefully address it more formally in a future writing project as well). In the meantime, I want to open the forum of the podcast to You, Dear Listener. Have you seen They Live? What aspects of it interest you? Is there anything we can discuss for you? Please do submit your questions and ideas. The greatest pleasure of podcasting is conversing with the world’s best podcast audience.
The Sectarian Review Podcast is hosted by Danny Anderson, who is an Assistant Professor of English at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA.