On Wednesday, Hollywood legend John Carpenter hit back at neo-Nazis and white supremacists online who had been idolizing his 1988 cult classic, They Live, as an allegory for fighting against Jewish supremacy.
Online conspiracies and “corner of the internet” scrawls have long since crossed over to the mainstream. But Carpenter, rather than counting his millions and resting on his legacy, decided to strike back against the trolls and racists by taking to Twitter to call the myth “slander and a lie.”
They Live is probably one of the most enduring and iconic films to emerge from the Reagan era. It’s a sharp sci-fi satire loaded with ridiculous Double Dragon-style 80's sheen. The film features the instantly recognizable scene of protagonist John Nada putting on a pair of huge-ass sunglasses and realizing the world has been colonized by aliens, who have already enslaved humans into a system of unchecked capitalism and consumption—but no one noticed.
In the surrealist shit show that life post-2016 has become, however, Carpenter had to step in almost 30 years later to clarify that the film is not, in fact, an allegory for Jewish supremacy. Seems reasonable enough! Commenters, however, seemingly from Reddit’s /pol and 8chan, argued against Carpenter (who wrote, directed and scored the film) saying that he was wrong and that the film has clearly discernible anti-Semitic overtones.
Hive-minded neo-Nazi supporters responded with a surprisingly large number of They Live memes photoshopped so that it seems like protagonist Nada actually uncovered a Jewish conspiracy:
It seems that Nazi-sympthaziers are part of a small, but clearly vocal contingent of fans of the cult classic. A 2008 Stormfront post shows that white supremacists actually loved the film. “One of my faves,” says one poster. “Must see!” says another. “The Jews really are the aliens controlling everything,” yet another Stormfront user writes. “Living among us and we don’t even know it.”
They Live is a clear send up of our complacency in a society built on psychotically selfish consumption, but it’s also about the cover-up: how we delude ourselves from seeing some “unpleasant truth.” These commenters, unburdened by anchors like logic or decency, took that aspect of the film and ran with it. Carpenter’s had enough, and good on him for saying so publicly.