We learn so many fascinating things from whacked out neo-Nazis. Like how the Holocaust was completely faked, for instance, even though the Jews totally deserved it. Or how all of history has been manipulated by a tiny cabal of Jewish financiers (who helped pay to fake the Holocaust, maybe?) And then there’s this relatively new idea, that John Carpenter’s 1988 science fiction/horror film They Live is actually an allegory about how brave Aryans, enslaved by the International Jewish Conspiracy, can free their minds and fight the power! We’d never heard that one until Carpenter Tweeted about it Wednesday:
Have to say, coming on that out of nowhere, it was a bit of a surprise, but apparently this has been a thing out in clod-cuckoo land for quite a while! And we can see why, because after all, They Live is a tale of an ordinary guy named “John Nada” (GET IT????) played by the late wrassler Rowdy Roddy Piper, who finds out that when he puts on a special pair of sunglasses called “Hoffman lenses” (it’s a Jewish name!!!!!!), he can see a reality hidden from our Modern Consumer Society. Advertisements and billboards actually contain subliminal messages like “OBEY,” “CONFORM” or “SUBMIT,” and a lot of the people we think are human are actually evil aliens intent on dominating earth through mindless consumerism, as if mindless consumerism wasn’t bad enough all on its own.
Needless to say, almost as soon as Carpenter posted his “Knock that shit off” tweet, the Flying Monkey Brigade arrived to tell him he has no idea what his own movie is really about:
— Erwin Rommeow (@Rommeow_Arises) January 4, 2017
Posts on the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront claiming They Live is really about the Jews running everything have been around at least since 2008, with additional posts along similar lines in 2011 and 2015, usually by some sharp Aryan who’s just had his own blurry eyes opened. There’s also any number of crappy YouTube videos on the topic, including a 51-minute rant exposing the hidden message of They Live, which is that a shadowy conspiracy runs everything, and obviously the aliens are stand-ins for the Jews.
While we’re quite content to agree with Carpenter that They Live is satirizing yuppies and consumerism, we also have to give a nod to Jesse Walker at Reason, who points out that once a movie or TV show or book is out there in the world, the fans are going to do with it what they will, sometimes going very far away from what the creator had in mind:
Audiences are constantly adapting texts for their own ends, as any devotee of Kirk/Spock slashfic could tell you. And conspiracy stories are easily restructured to replace one fear with another. Carpenter wants his viewers to resent yuppie capitalists rather than Jews, but viewers sometimes have their own stubborn notions about how they’re going to perceive things. […] Jonathan Lethem’s excellent little book about Carpenter’s film, also called They Live, pointed out way back in 2010 that an anti-Semitic website had tried to link those “Hoffman lenses” to the Holocaust-denying writer Michael A. Hoffman II. Lethem’s conclusion: “setting your open-ended conspiracy metaphors loose upon the world, they become (like anything) eligible for manifold repurposing. Free your mind and an ass may follow.”
Now, if you find that sort of thing as interesting as Yr Dok Zoom does, go read Henry Jenkins’ excellent book Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, which is all about fans’ sense of ownership over the objects of their fandom, which — especially in the case of TV series — fans often assume they understand far better than the mere producers of the show. Consider allllll those fan discussions of the various Star Trek spinoffs bitching about how The Powers That Be (“TPTB”) had utterly ruined Star Trek, for instance. Or the nutball who found an anti-“social justice warriors” message in My Little Pony. In a world where Ted Cruz thinks The Simpsons speaks to him, it’s difficult to impose a true meaning on fans, who’ll insist on seeing all sorts of weirdass stuff in a movie. We hear some people even think Twilight is a beautiful love story rather than a hellish meta-commentary on how people will spend perfectly good money on crap.
Strangely enough, some of Carpenter’s Nazi detractors agree his argument is invalid, because Postmodernism:
So, sorry, Mr. Carpenter, you aren’t going to convince any wingnuts you only made a movie about Yuppies. Besides, they know you had to Tweet that because The Powers That Be were afraid of the truth about They Live getting out. Also, be on the lookout for postmodern Nazis.
OK, you may commence to open-thread yapping … NOW!