Roddy Piper Dies. Rewatch his SF film “They Live.” Almost a documentary

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, WWE legend, dead at 61

One of my favorite films in the 80’s was “They Live.” Not just because of the science fiction aspect of it, but because of the biting satire.

On the surface it’s a standard “Aliens take over Earth” story, but underneath that it showed how some in the media and government really see Americans and what they want us to do.

When our heroes put on special glasses they could see the messages that were embedded in our media, all in black and white. (Video link)

Frank: What do these things want?

Gilbert: They’re free-enterprisers. The earth is just another developing planet. Their third world.

The main character, Piper, comes to town looking for work. He is directed to a camp of other men and women looking for work. His interview:

Female Interviewer: Last place of employment?

: Denver, Colorado. I worked there for ten years and things just seemed to dry up. They lost fourteen banks in one week. So, well…Female Interviewer: There’s nothing available for you right now.

 This movie came out in 1988, at the end of the Reagan years. Homelessness and yuppies existed side by side. It was an awkward juxtaposition for people with empathy.

During that time many people figured, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Even if it meant having no empathy for others. Look out for number One, especially if he looks like you!  Get that BMW and Rolex! If people have a problem getting work it was their fault, not the power structure or the system.

What kind of people would act this way? Certainly not good Christians given what that guy Jesus said in the parables in the New Testament. It was hard to believe that decent humans could act this way. Therefore they must not be themselves. So that is what the filmmakers did, made greedy, selfish people into actual ugly aliens.

Yes it’s a simplistic metaphor, but the movie creator then went beyond it to include humans who weren’t aliens, but who believed in the alien “values.”  Let’s call them “aspirational aliens.”

 Drifter: What’s wrong with having it good for a change? Now they’re gonna let us have it good if we just help ’em. They’re gonna leave us alone, let us make some money. You can have a little taste of that good life too. Now, I know you want it. Hell, everybody does.

Frank: You’d do it to your own kind.

Drifter: What’s the threat? We all sell out every day, might as well be on the winning team.

Join the winning team! Why associate with the poor, even if they are like you. Don’t be a loser!  Outsource the jobs at your company and you get a cut of the profits. Get that juicy government contract, then bitch about welfare for, “those people.” Winner!

Frank: The steel mills were laying people off left and right. They finally went under. We gave the steel companies a break when they needed it. You know what they gave themselves? Raises.

 One of the themes of the movie was how the aliens in the media helped the aliens in the government. The media amplified the messages of consuming goods and obeying authority. Meanwhile, the aliens literally sent our wealth away from Earth.

Some of the people who Piper wanted to join him in the struggle against the aliens had to be forced to see the truth. (This involved a classic alley fight scene with Piper and Keith David video link )

When Keith David finally sees what is happening, the scope of the alien’s power and control is stunning.


The media attacked the people handing out the glasses that let everyone see the truth for themselves. It’s easier to write the truth tellers off as nuts. Fortunately, some in the media were still human, and helped.

The heroes’ crime was trying to open people’s eyes to what was hiding behind media and government fronts.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Have you heard a story like this lately?

Together they do the best they can to fight the aliens and their human collaborators. They become hunted criminals in the process.  Who can they turn to for help? Who are their allies? Not the media, they had profits to make.

Today the actor Rowdy Roddy Piper is dead, but “they” live.

We have always had greedy humans selling out fellow humans for profit, demanding everyone submit to their authority and obey, no questions asked. But we need to keep fighting them in our life and within our fiction.

Watch the clip below as Piper gives the inspiring words of screenplay author John Carpenter

It’s 2015 America, and I’m all out of bubblegum.



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