Real Men Love They LiveBy Anthony Burch on January 30, 2008 - 8:45 am |
Real Men like a little superviolence with their scathing social commentary; for every political statement, there must be at least one alien shot in the chest with a shotgun. For every piece of cultural satire, two guys must beat the crap out of each other for at least thirty seconds. Since this is what Real Men desire, it should come as no surprise that Real Men Love They Live.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Granted, he doesn't do much more than act alternately smarmy, confused, and badass throughout They Live's 94-minute running time -- pretty much the same sort of stuff he did for the WWF, but more fully clothed -- but it's still great to see somebody like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper blasting aliens and beating the shit out of Keith David for our amusement (and would you look at that hair?). In a sense, They Live sounds like a twelve-year-old's ultimate fantasy movie: "There are these aliens who come down, right? And they're evil! And only one man can stop them..."Rowdy" Roddy Piper! And he's wearing sunglasses the entire time! It'll be awesome!"
And lo, it was awesome.
Anti-Reagan social commentary
John Carpenter has never been a big fan of authority (see also: the ending to Escape From New York), but his irritation with corporations and organized government reached an all-time high with They Live. In the film, Earth has already been overrun by evil, fascist aliens who keep all of humanity dumb and placated through use of subliminal messaging. Every advertisement, billboard, or magazine is actually filled with extraterrestrial imperatives like "OBEY," "SLEEP," "MARRY AND REPRODUCE," and (printed on paper money) "THIS IS YOUR GOD."
Carpenter's political message here doesn't even approach subtlety, which makes it all the more entertaining: the film's premise is so wacky, and casts our society in such a harsh light, that one can't help but be completely won over by what it has to say. Everyone in power, from the politicians on down, is actually a soulless alien in disguise, seeking to prevent others from reaching their true potential. Hell, who hasn't felt that way about their government at one time or another?
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…”
The fucking Duke Nukem games ripped this catchphrase off and perverted it beyond all recognition a few years after They Live's release, but you can still go to the original source and find it in all its nihilistic, angry, badass glory.
Upon finding the magical sunglasses which allow him to see through the aliens' subliminal messaging, Roddy Piper does what any of us would do: he grabs a shotgun and some shells, and sets out on an alien-blasting crusade. Shades in one hand, scattergun in the other, he walks into a bank and tells its customers that he has arrived to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and that he is "all out of bubblegum." He then proceeds to blow away every single alien in the vicinity, much to the shock and confusion of the human customers (who cannot see past the aliens' perception filter).
While Roddy Piper's plan for defeating the alien menace doesn't really make a lot of logical sense, you've gotta appreciate the gusto with which he carries it out. After he puts the shades on and sees the harsh reality of the world he lives in, he almost immediately figures that, as a first order of business, he should start pumping buckshot into some extraterrestrial asses no matter what the consequences. If you can't watch this scene and immediately feel a surge of respect for Piper's character, then you probably are suffering from some sort of testosterone deficiency.
The aliens received what may be reliably called one of the least impressive makeup jobs in John Carpenter's long and arduous filmmaking history -- which makes them that much cooler. Their painted rubber masks make them look kinda creepy, but kinda silly; half dorky, half frightening. Not unlike the movie itself.
Additionally, the aliens look more like zombies or ghouls than evil creatures from outer space. According to Carpenter, this was intentional: "The creatures are corrupting us, so they themselves are corruptions of human beings." I'll be the first to admit that I don't know what the fuck Carpenter means by that (if they're corrupting us, shouldn't we look more like them?), but it does a decent enough job of rationalizing the fact that the aliens essentially look like gussied-up zombies. And I'm cool with that.
The Neverending Fight Scene
Yes, here it is: the longest fight scene about sunglasses in filmmaking history. Lasting a whopping five minutes of screen time, the fight frequently seems like it's just about to end...right up until somebody throws a punch and the whole thing starts over again. Everything about this scene, from Keith David's brilliant delivery of "you dirty motherfucker," to the painful amount of ball-punching which crops up near the end of the scuffle, is so brutal and protracted as to be absolutely fucking hilarious. The entire fight is basically one big piece of incredibly badass, nonsensical slapstick.
And yes, South Park's "cripple fight" between Jimmy and Timmy owes pretty much everything to this scene.
Ambushing the aliens
How else to end a John Carpenter movie about evil aliens, Keith David, and Roddy Piper's hair than with a big gunfight? Okay, perhaps "big" is an exaggeration considering Keith and Roddy only kill about a half-dozen alien guards as they storm the alien news station, but still: this is a Carpenter film and, as was the case with the "bubblegum" scene, one has to really respect how down-and-dirty the protagonists are in their problem-solving abilities. Aliens took over the world? Shoot 'em. Friend won't put on your sunglasses? Punch him. A huge satellite dish on the top of a news station is hypnotizing America's citizens into complacency? Storm the building and blow the fucking thing up. This is how men solve their problems -- not with lengthy political discourse, but with a fist to the metaphorical ballsack of tyranny.
Nada’s final message to alienkind
THIS IS HOW YOU DEAL WITH ALIENS. Blow their shit up, destroy their perception filter, get fatally shot in the process and, with your dying, breath, flip them the fuck off.
Just watching this final scene is enough to make a guy go through a second puberty.