Thursday, February 17, 2011

Invasion of the Yuppie Snatchers: OBEY. CONFORM. CONSUME.

There have been many notable depictions of the Yuppie in 1980s American culture, my favourite being Bret Easton Ellis' darkly satirical novel American Psycho. I've decided to focus on something a little bit more oscure however, as the clip I have posted (amusingly) highlights a number of aspects of American culture in the 80s. Directed by John Carpenter (famous for directing Halloween) in 1988, They Live follows "Nada", a working class man who comes into possession of wayfarer sunglasses that reveal yuppies as predatory aliens. A laughable concept maybe, but the film fascinated me when I watched it a few years ago; not only does it reflect on the power of advertising - an area which I am particularly interested in - but also everything about it is so positively 80s! From former World Wrestling Federation wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper starring as the lead role to the iconic wayfarers revealing hidden secrets and of course the innate American fear of "the other" secretly controlling all epitomises its very American sci-fi nature.

Falling into the genres of science-fiction horror and dark comedy, the film echoed contemporary fears of a declining economy within a culture of greedy consumption, something common among Americans in the 1980s. So Yuppies were in fact concealed aliens controlling humans through the use of subliminal messages in TV broadcasting and other mass media... I knew it.

The story behind Carpenter's inspiration for making the film is particularly interesting as its political elements derived from his growing distaste with the rapidly increasing commercialisation of the 1980s, remarking in science-fiction film magazine Starlog that "I began watching TV again. I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something... It's all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money." But where's the threat in that? If this is the case I guess we all "sell out" every day. Perhaps we are constantly being corrupted with subliminal "OBEY", "CONFORM", "MARRY AND REPRODUCE", "CONSUME", "WATCH TV" and "SLEEP" messages, but we don't really need a pair of funky Ray-Bans to realise that.

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