Star Of The Day — John Carpenter — The Growing Relevance Of “They Live”

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Robert Phoenix

Robert Phoenix

journalist, blogger, interviewer, astrologer & psychic medium

carpenterHe lives.

Ahhh, that fresh breeze wafting across your consciousness is the subtle change of current, Mercury moving forward again. Sometimes astrology reminds me of this game my kid loves called “Chuzzle.” It’s about matching little furballs with eyes, in at least three-in-a-row. It’s pretty easy until one of the furballs gets locked up and the entire row cannot move. The only way that you can unlock the row is to come up with a combination of three. But it’s not just one little furball that can be locked up–there can be multiple furballs. So you can unlock one, but there are still little furballs to be liberated. That’s what the stars are like now. The Mercury furball has been released, while The Mars furball and Saturn furball are locked up, meaning they’re still retrograded. But thats ok, at least communication is freed up–that little furball can ascend to the next level.

While the likes of Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola are synonymous with the outrageous success of the USC film school, Carpenter, a Trojan alum himself has cut a decidedly different swath through the celluloid jungle. Born 1/16/48, he struck cinematic gold with his first real full length, “Halloween” which was made for $200,000 engrossed $65 million world wide. That’s 1980 millions, not bloated, overinflated post millennial reserve notes. Carpenter is also a composer and crafted the Halloween theme score, which has become an iconic and instantly recognizable tune.

While his craggy countenance captures the the flinty edge of Capricorn’s features, beneath it, he is an artist, with Moon in Pisces, Mercury and Venus, both in Aquarius. These three personal planets work in a synchronous trinity, providing Carpenter with the poetic inspiration of the Piscean Moon and the technical acumen of executing films with the intelligence of Aquarius. Capricorn knows how to wheel and deal with the power brokers and the producers. John Carpenter was born for the rough and tumble world of Hollyweird. No film can be more illustrative of this, from his body of work, then ‘They Live.”

When I first saw they live I was struck by the film on so many levels. First off, it’s budget probably wasn’t all that much more than Halloween’s. The special effects aren’t that special. The aliens are shot in a reverse polarity tone, visible only when a pair of specially prepared glasses are worn by people to see that there are aliens amongst us and that the system/world that we live in is filled with symbolic cues, that prompt us to “buy,” “breed,” “obey,” and “sleep.” The main character played by Rowdy Roddy Piper (Nada) drifts into LA. Set in the not-too-distant-future, there is a widening gap between the halves and have-nots. People are starting to live in tent cities that are bulldozed at night. The rift in the classes is becoming more apparent on a daily basis.obey

Piper drifts into town looking for work, lands at a tent city where he stumbles upon a a group known as “The Resistance.” They are the ones that are making the special glasses that reveal previously unseen layers of reality. They’re also jamming the local TV broadcast with their wake up calls from a small studio hidden in a church. Piper finds the glasses and puts them on as he’s strolling through downtown LA. He begins to see the butt ugly aliens in plain sit for et very first time, while the subliminal messaging of advertising is reveled to him. The world is never the same for Piper’s character from that moment on. He eventually drifts into bank and gets into a shootout, wasting aliens with a shotgun he wrestled free from an alien cop. While he’s in the bank, he utters, one of the great all tim lines of filmdom;
“I’ve come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass and I’m all out of bubble gum.” Piper then unloads on the aliens. It’s a hilarious moment that provides an almost voyeuristic, vicarious thrill.

From there, he eventually meets up with Keith David, another drifter that does day labor. He tries to convince David of the surreality of the alien world just beyond the lens of the special sunglasses. David refuses. It’s a classic case of someone that actually has a perspective into a reality that others do not or choose not to see, willing to remain in ignorance and doubt. There is no point in reasoning with David, so Piper forces the issue with him, demanding he wear the glasses. David refuses and one of the greatest fights in filmdom ensues. For nearly five minutes, Piper and David beat the shit out of one another in an alley. On one level, it’s metaphoric. If Piper wants to impart the truth, he has to go to the mat, risk getting torn from limb-to-limb. It’s also quite symbolic in the sense that there are many times that we want others to see the world the way that we do and noting short of knocking them out of their trance will do. My friend, Alan Howarth, a collaborator with Carpenter on a number of projects was also involved with “They Live” told me that they had chiropractors and bodyworkers on set to work with Piper and David on the fight scene as the two of them were going as close to all out as they could. The visceral quality of a street fight in an alley between two, rugged and burly brawlers is more than just the magic of cinema. It’s about as real as they could get it.

Piper’s character experiences betrayal at the hands of Meg Foster who works for the aliens, but rebounds and eventually leads an assault on the TV station that broadcasts the entrainment frequency. if you haven’t seen “They Live,” I highly recommend it. It’s funny, surreal and chillingly prescient.

When Carpenter made this, I really thought he was committing professional suicide. He had just hit some pretty remarkable thresholds of commercial success with “The Thing” and “Starman,” so maybe he thought his directorial cache could take the hit of “They Live.” Because quite frankly, on the heels of “They Live” Carpenter’s golden touch turns decidedly lead like. He trots out bombs like “Memoirs Of An Invisible Man,” “Vampires” and “Ghosts Of Mars.” To be fair, I’ve heard that he had funding pulled on the latter two films and wasn’t able to fully execute the vision he had for both.

“They Live,” besides being an obvious take on aliens living among us is also part a of small wave of alien movies during that time that look at the Jewish diaspora through an extraterrestrial lens. If you sat Abe Foxman down and made him sit through “They Live” there would be little doubt that he would begin to see this as a critique on Jews on Jewish culture, though Carpenter was really assailing Reaganite conservative culture at the time. “Alienation” starring Mandy Pantinkin and James Caan also orbited around this same theme. For this indirect shot across the bow alone, I thought that Carpenter had committed professional hari-kari. But upon more research, it’s looks like another version of “They Live” that will supposedly hit the screens in 2011. I usually hate re-makes and anxiously await this one, if it ever gets made. Even though the effects and even the actors were low budget, there was inherent charm in “They Live” which directly communicated the unsophisticated nature of humanity against the slick and manipulative forces from another world.

Saturn will conjunct John Carpenter’s natal Neptune in 2010/11 and I think we’re going to see his best and most focused work yet, as his natal Moon will get and imaginative boost from Jupiter. They Live was released on 11/4/88. Venus was in Libra (2 degrees), Mars was in Aries (0 degrees) and Neptune was in Capricorn (8 degrees). In the coming two years, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto will all be aspecting those planets in a fairly significant way. Look for They Live to have a social resonance in the months to comes, especially if the remake does arrive in 2011 as advertised. In the meantime, try on these glasses for me.


Best fight scene of all time.

10 thoughts on “Star Of The Day — John Carpenter — The Growing Relevance Of “They Live””

  1. K

    “I’ve come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass and I’m all out of bubble gum.”

    So THAT is where that line comes from!!! It’s one of my fav. quotes of all time. There was a character in an old PC game that I used to play (Duke Nuke ’em 3) that said that line. I am familiar with the epic fight scene as Family Guy spoofed it and my husband had to show me the real sequence… Now I want to see the movie…lol

    When did Mercury stop being retrograded. Was it yesterday? I felt a huge fog lift out of my head yesterday. For the first time all week I could THINK! And the migranes stopped.

  2. K

    There are so many people that love this film……….I get the premise of it, but other than that………I dunno. When I first saw it, I thought it must have been a “Movie of the Week”, it was so bad (but, in retrospect, actually average fare for movies in the ’80’s, I guess) …….. lol!

    It’s interesting you should mention this topic…..Carpenter being a Capricorn, the Pisces moon, etc.

    Mel Gibson is also a Capricorn with a Venus in Aquarius, Mercury at 29 Capricorn. Moon is 0 Libra. His new film opens 1-29-10. I noticed that on that day, Uranus is sitting right on his MC (as I guess it has for a while, with a slow moving planet, right?). How do you think that’s significant? Just curious…..

    1. a

      First off, I don’t think that Carpenter had the budget to do “They Live” in the way that he might have wanted to and in a weird way it adds to the bizarre and surreal feel to the film. I have very turned on friends who can’t stand it. It’s grown on me over the years and the fight scene, is well, epic. The message is quite relevant (at least for me).

      As far as Gibson goes, with Saturn, moving backwards towards his natal Moon, he’ll have to revisit issues regarding his divorce and the birth of a child with his new, Russian pop-tart. Expect the gossip mills to churn overtime when his new film hits. Uranus in Pisces on the mid-heaven is very erratic. It can be a boom or bust moment for Mel.

      Gibson shares the same birth date as Polly Klaas. Curiously enough, the film is about a daughter (albeit older) who is murdered and Gibson is a man on a mission, seeking answers, kicking ass, taking names.

      I see his issue of displacing native peoples on the set of his new movie to surface once again with the Saturn/Uranus conjunctions.

  3. K

    YES!!! I couldn’t understand what changed. I can’t even tell you if it’s something from outside or within me. It’s really cool that I actually *felt* it.

    How often does Mercury retrograde?

  4. A

    What a horrible reminder of how cheesy the 80’s were….I dont recall ever hearing about it but I am curious enough to check out the movie online.

  5. K

    “Gibson shares the same birth date as Polly Klaas. Curiously enough, the film is about a daughter (albeit older) who is murdered and Gibson is a man on a mission, seeking answers, kicking ass, taking names.”

    Yup, as he is in nearly every movie – at least the successful ones. Which leads me to what I REALLY wanted to ask you (lol! thanks for the segway…..)…..

    his “father” issues. Given that he really does play a dad, usually fighting in some way for his family, that he has a lot of kids in real life, that he has issues (in whatever context they may be) with his own father…….I’m sure there MUST be some kind of inherent “father” indicators in his chart, I’m just not sure how to spot them.

    I’ve always thought so, but with the new film about to be released and then the recent headline with his comments about Tiger Woods (aside from his obvious motivations for defending him, it also sounded “fatherly” to me, like a parent defending a child who screwed up, you know?). Am I misinterpreting it entirely, or is there a “dad” theme somewhere in there?

    And regarding this: ” I see his issue of displacing native peoples on the set of his new movie to surface once again with the Saturn/Uranus conjunctions.”……

    thought you might be interested in this headline, if you hadn’t seen it already –
    (sorry if that link didn’t transfer, no idea how to do that here!)

  6. a

    I’ll have to stare down Gibson’s chart with a more focused gaze. But initially, what I find fascinating is how he is recreating his father’s life in some ways. Gibson, despite his Aussie accent was born in The USA. His father relocated to Australia, because his political and religious views were not in tune with his time and place. Mel is actually doing the very same thing in the jungles of Central America. Like father, like son.

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