Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Is John Carpenter an Alien?

Posted by emilyfalicaa on February 3, 2017

The movie They Live! had a main underlying theme about how advertisements control and influence us. While it was a crazy sci-fi example of how media works, it was ultimately an effective one because of its dramatized style.  I felt its purpose was to open our eyes to the “evils” behind companies and how they get us to buy things and go with the flow. At the same time, the movie used these same techniques it criticized to get people to watch the movie to begin with.  In a 1988 interview, John Carpenter (director of the film) said when watching TV everything was designed to sell us more or have us watching more. One of his biggest motivators for working on this film is that everything is made to be sold to us. This is where some problems occur. Throughout the movie, we see key moments and storyline themes that are in every movie. In fact, it seems that they make these stereotypes even larger than they already are. It starts off with a homeless man that doesn’t portray homelessness, a sidekick who is also from a minority group, it shows immediate government conflict, a five-minute fight scene, a pretty white girl, and some brief nudity. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but a Stanford study on movie stereotypes explains that these roles are crucial for a movie to be successful whether in advertisements or to get good reviews. When we create movies we brand them with these roles and types so you will come and watch it. Every movie is the same as the last one because this framing continues to stick the characters and products to you. Carpenter criticizes these techniques in the movie and in interviews but literally plays to these media spreading methods in They Live! Which leaves the question, is John Carpenter a contradiction or a mastermind?


5 Responses to “Is John Carpenter an Alien?”

  1. I love the title you gave this blogpost. You do make some interesting points though. When you talked about John Carpenter’s interview, I had no idea that movies put those particular things in them in order to be successful. In my personal opinion, I think John Carpenter is a mastermind. He’s using technology/media to show people what technology/media does to people. It does seem crazy, but yet it is quite brilliant.

  2. faythleighann said

    Just from the title, this post hit a lot of key points that I hadn’t thought of until the class discussion. The purpose was definitely about a criticizing mainstream media… through media that hit almost every stereotype. The major factors listed above that play into those typical movies are definitely eye-opening that they’re all the same, but I think Carpenter knew that. He is a brilliant director and more than likely added those in (even if the were out of reach from the actual story i.e ending scene with nudity) to emphasize exactly that point.

  3. emilychildress329 said

    This was definitely a criticizing film. I like how you mentioned that the strange scenes in the movie are needed to make it successful. People want to see a little bit of sad and a little bit of action in each movie. The more of that there are the more people that will appeal to the movie. It is so strange to think about some of the stuff you have to do in order to get people to watch a movie.

  4. lillieeastham said

    I think that a lot of the campiness in the film was added in order to make the point even further about how ridiculous media can be. Also, I think it served a dual purpose of making the film itself marketable to the masses.

  5. adusheck said

    I like that you point out how every movie is basically the same because I have never really thought about it in that light. I also agree that for a movie to be interesting their needs to be some element of surprise which this movie definitely had

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