August 11, 2018

FARCE AS TRAGEDY: Jonah Goldberg on They Live! — John Carpenter’s 1988 B-Movie Masterpiece and the Students of Marxism.

Still, it seems rather obvious that Carpenter would have made this movie even if Marx had never been born. The targets of his film weren’t the industrialists of the last 200 years but the yuppies of the 1980s. He detested what he saw as the rank commercialism of the Reagan era. “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,” he told Starlog magazine.

So while we cannot rule out the osmosis theory, there is another, more obvious answer: This stuff isn’t that clever. After all, if Carpenter can stumble into making the perfect Marxist film without even trying, how complicated can it be? Carpenter made a fun, left-wing action movie about a construction worker with unnaturally good wrestling skills fighting alien invaders. The fact that a bunch of Marxist eggheads read so much ideological brilliance into the movie doesn’t prove that the movie is ideologically brilliant; it demonstrates that its critical fans aren’t.

Exit quote:

Reading the Frankfurt School Marxists today is a bit like waiting in line at the DMV, an exercise in tedium punctuated — if you’re lucky — by rare moments of absurdity or even hilarity (“Why is that guy wearing a bathrobe?”). When Robert Downey Jr. explains in Back to School that football is nothing more than a “crypto-Fascist metaphor for nuclear war,” he is arguably being more reasonable than cultural Marxists.

Read the whole thing, which is terrific, even if you’ve never seen Carpenter’s movie.

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