One of my favourite films is John Carpenter's 'They Live'. It posits a world in which Aliens, (aka 'The Upper/Ruling Class'), control the populace through subliminal messages. The hero of the film, a homeless construction worker played by professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper, discovers special sunglasses, (referred to in the film as Hoffman Lenses, after Albert Hofman perhaps), which let him see how the Aliens are controlling us.
There are many things special about this film:
1) It's a Hollywood picture in which the hero is a homeless person.
2) It has a 'Kubrick-like' structure of 2 acts - with the second act, which takes place after the discovery of the Lenses), having a completely different feel: 1st act is serious/2nd act is action film. In the 1st act the hero is keeping his head down, accepting of the situation, sheep-like / in the 2nd act he instantly becomes an avenging everyman.
3) The infamous 'fight-scene' in which the hero must convince his male friend, (played by the AMAZING Keith 'too much presence for the movies' David), to don the Hoffman Lenses for the first time: this fight goes on for 5 minutes of screen time - and is simultaneously a jab at men's propensity towards violence, a commentary on how the common man is kept down through 'divide and rule' tactics, a satire on the movie convention of 'two guys gotta fight before becoming buddies' and a wonderful example of building tension through action.
I could go on and on but the point of this post is this:
'They Live', like most science fiction, is a commentary on the time it was made - yes, it's a few years old - but it's really about Our Time. Its basic message is that those who rule over us use media to keep ordinary folks trapped in a system of enforced consumption for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful.
In the film, the 'man in the street' is unaware of the surrounding subliminal messages that compel him to shop and value money above all else. The Aliens in 'They Live' have to keep these messages secret lest people rebel and revolt in reaction to being controlled. But look at where we're at now. It's worse.
I took the photos in this post a couple of days ago while waiting for a plane at Belfast International Airport. The information screen there was no longer informing me about my flight times - it was telling me what to do.
Relax and Shop.
Consumer Capitalism has got to the point where the messages telling you to conform to the system don't have to be hid anymore. And why not? Since the Cold War's end there's no competing system to worry about. No reason to hide the persuasion.
Relax and Shop.
But I think we can see the end point a' comin' - when the President of the United States had to say this after a major terrorist attack:
then some thing's afoot. I'm not sure what it is but there's something brewing on the horizon.
There's got to be a better way to live - one that's not based on mindless consumption of products. I'm getting this feeling that we're in for some major changes - when our system has no reason to hide its propensity to order people around, folks are going to notice. Notice and resent. That resentment's gotta go somewhere and people are tired of the lack of spiritual nourishment that we find around us. That's a powerful combo.
OK, that's enough ranting for now, I'm off to read Time Out. Not long ago they renamed their 'Shopping' section 'Consume'.