If ever there was a movie begging for a kick-ass remake, it’s this one. John Carpenter’s They Live is a textbook overlooked B-grade gem. (Or, maybe that remake has already been made… and it’s called The Matrix.)
The “I’m all out of bubblegum” meme comes from this movie. And the never-ending fight scene is a much-parodied and ripped off piece of comedy torture. But for me, the highlight is this, the sunglasses scene.
Drifter/Hero Nada (played by Roddy “Highpants” Piper) wanders around for the first 30 minutes of this movie not doing much of anything. He finally stumbles across a box of sunglasses, which he’s not quite sure what to do with; but thankfully (before everybody in the cinema leaves from boredom) he decides to put a pair on.
Not only is this scene an ingeniously effective bit of low-budget movie making, it’s also a wonderful wake-up call.
Sure, the climactic part where he discovers that alien overlords have been living around him this whole time is 110% sci-fi. But in the context of advertising, this movie is presenting a real-life demonstration of what one might call meta-language. There’s nothing really sci-fi about it at all.
The meanings and agendas at the foundation of advertising are hidden in plain sight; you don’t need a pair of magic glasses to see them.
I think it’s kinda weird that it takes a sci-fi movie to awaken people to a concept that’s an everyday reality… but I guess if that’s what it takes, then, that’s what it takes!
Just as Strange Days‘ SQUID is simply “going to movies”; Nada’s sunglasses are really just “considering what the sender of a message is actually trying to communicate.”