Born out of the cultural flamboyance and anxiety of the 1980s, They Live (1988) is a hallmark of John Carpenter's singular canon, combining the aesthetics of multiple genres and leveling an attack against the politics of Reaganism and the Cold War. The decision to cast the professional wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as his protagonist gave Carpenter the additional means to comment on the hypermasculine attitudes and codes indicative of the era. This study traces the development of They Live from its comic book roots to its legacy as a cult masterpiece while evaluating the film in light of the paranoid/postmodern theory that matured in the decidedly "Big 80s." Directed by a reluctant auteur, the film is examined as a complex work of metafiction that calls attention to the nature of cinematic production and reception as well as the dynamics of the cult landscape.
About the Author
D. Harlan Wilson is a professor of English at Wright State University.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Becoming-Piper
1. The Cult of the Eighties
2. Wake-Up Call
3. Reel Politik
4. Through a Pair of Cheap Sunglasses Darkly
5. The Pathological Unconscious
What People are Saying About This
Wilson gets what makes They Live live. With all the virtuosity of 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper performing an inverted atomic drop, he grapples with the many dimensions of Carpenter's movie. From the critical, political and schizoanalytical to the simulacral and tonsorial, his short book chews bubble gum and kicks ass.
A great study of a great filmit not only provides an array of historical contexts for understanding the film, but succeeds as an introduction to essential film theory as it relates to cult cinema and kitsch. Very different than Wilson's bizarro fiction, yet reading this book can help to understand the author's thinking about text and reveals his deep affinity forand critical facility withthe power of counter cultural narratives. Recommended to anyone familiar with the film.
Wilson's They Live is an ideal contribution to the cultographies project. Written by a critic fully aware of relevant discourses such as wrestling, fan culture, and historical reception past and present, this is a very stimulating and still timely analysis of one of John Carpenter's key films. Highly recommendable on all levels, especially those of enjoyable and informative reading.