If you have not seen “They Live” you may not want to continue reading.
As part of a continuing series of film screenings the QCDSA presented the 1988 John Carpenter film “They Live” with a panel discussion following the film on March 1, 2019. With a short introduction to the film, organizers of the event explained some of John Carpenter’s previous work and the parallels those films have with his critique of a stratified system of power in society.
The movie was screened to an audience of 15 to 20 attendees. The film starred Rowdy Roddy Piper as a working class laborer who believes in the promise of America, that if you work hard your chance will come along. He meets other working class people in an encampment only to find a church across the street that is a part of an underground movement which attempts to show the world that humans are being marginalized and controlled by a covertly invading force of aliens. As the movement tries to inform the public they are met with a police force which ransacks their operation at the church beating the leaders and razing the encampment across the street. This is when Rowdy Roddy Piper’s character Nada stumbles upon glasses he found in the wreckage of the church that allows the wearer to see messages like, “obey” and “consume” on billboards and in magazines. The glasses also allow the wearer to see the faces of the aliens as they really are. After learning that the aliens are in control and have good jobs while working humans struggle under the aliens messages Nada is found out by one of the aliens when we hear her say, “I have found one that can see.” The police arrive instantaneously and pursue Nada. A fight breaks out and Nada takes the policemen’s’ guns and starts shooting every alien he sees. Again the police pursue him until he meets a woman who he kidnaps only to find out she is in Cable TV management. She then throws Nada out a window and the police follow him once more. After this Nada attempts to enlist a friend from the encampment named Frank to his cause and after a fight scene Frank puts the glasses on and can see the messages as well. After Nada and Frank team up they meet a larger group of resistors preparing to overthrow the alien overlords. Once Nada and Frank learn that a transmitter at a TV station is the source of the signal that is creating messages and hiding the appearance of the aliens, the resistors’ base is ransacked by the police killing all but Nada, Frank and the Cable TV manager Holly who shows up at the meeting and says the transmitter isn’t at the TV station she works for. After being separated from Holly in the Malay, Nada and Frank find a portal to an underground base of the aliens and find one of the other people from the encampment in a tuxedo at a dinner in which the aliens are promoting an alliance with humans who sell out. This collaborator then gives Nada and Frank a tour of the complex ending at a TV studio. When put on the spot for working with the aliens, the collaborator says, “Why not, if this is the way things are going you can make some money,” and then eludes to the fact that this is a free enterprise system. From the TV Studio Nada and Frank begin shooting aliens again and work their way to the TV station roof where they meet Holly again. As Nada goes up the stairs to disable the transmitter, Holly kills Frank revealing she was one of the collaborators. Then as Nada is about to shoot the transmitter he is met with police helicopters and a showdown with Holly ensues. At this point, Nada shoots Holly and shoots the transmitter then the police shoot Nada. After the transmitter is destroyed by Nada however, the roof of the TV station explodes and all of a sudden people can see the aliens for what they are causing mass disruption.
After the film a panel discussion was led by QCDSA members Evan Schenck, Katy Baggs, and James Blue. Some of the topics they covered included the parallels between the film and the stratification of living in a capitalist society. For one, as Nada noticed, all of the aliens had good jobs and dressed in clothes that powerful people wear while the humans didn’t get far in society unless they sold out. The aliens even had expensive watches that served as communication devices and which opened portals drawing a small connection with Rolex watches. Some discussion also involved the fact that the resistor movement centered out of an A.M.E. Church, some of which were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Some in the discussion noticed the heavy presence in the film of the police always serving the aliens interests immediately and how that was similar to a capitalist system where the police serve those in power. Many in the group drew their own connections which led to a robust conversation by all in the audience. After the discussion winded down many were left with a sense that the event was a success and looked forward to the next film in the series.
Please watch for the next event in the QCDSA film series by following us on Facebook or by checking the events page on the website at www.quadcitiesdsa.com.