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From TV to augmented reality in They Live

by Critical Commons Manager

The genuinely subversive opening to John Carpenter's They Live taps into trite conventions of TV-bashing, while the juxtaposition of patriotic imagery (Mt. Rushmore, bald eagle) with the police and a street preacher's harangue about social power and inequality sets the stage for a class-conscious exploration of American capitalism. Television once again proves to be a schizophrenic conduit for simultaneously allowing resistance fighters to speak truth to power while implementing a powerful system of mind control through broadcast signals. Professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper leads a resistance movement of humans who can see the truth about an alien invasion that purveys mind control via television broadcasts and subliminal advertising. The success of the alien plot hinges on recruiting human collaborators who form a power elite who are rewarded with fabulous wealth. This is an obvious parody of the concentration of wealth begun during the Reagan era and is made explicit by reference to Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign slogan "It's morning in America." The sunglasses that reveal the truth of this new world order offer a prescient vision of augmented reality technologies and spaces encoded with multiple channels of information, while the casting of Roddy Piper may be understood as a progenitor of a transmedia (wrestler, talk show host, movie star) star whose career itself blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction. The slogan "obey" featured in many of the subliminal ads would serve as inspiration for Shepard Fairey's "Obey Giant" street art the following year.

Ronald Reagan morning in America parody

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Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign slogan "It's morning in America" is parodied in They Live

from They Live (1988)
Creator: John Carpenter
Posted by Critical Commons Manager