Agents of conformity?

by Tom Albrighton 3 December 2010 Fun

John Carpenter’s 1988 film They Live has one of the best sci-fi-horror-paranoia-conspiracy premises ever. Aliens have infiltrated our society and are orchestrating every event, maintaining their grip on power through signals broadcast via TV and subliminal messages concealed in mass media such as billboards, magazines and even banknotes.

Only here’s the kicker: none of this is perceptible unless you have some special sunglasses. Without the shades, everything looks normal. Put them on and the aliens’ disguise is stripped away, revealing them moving among us, undetected.

The sunglasses also reveal the subliminal messages hidden in advertisements and other media: ‘obey’, ‘stay asleep’, ‘no independent thought’, ‘marry and reproduce’, ‘watch TV’, ‘honor apathy’, ‘buy’, ‘consume’, ‘do not question authority’ and, on dollar bills, ‘this is your god’.

In this clip, hero Nada, played by Roddy Piper, dons the sunglasses for the first time and learns the truth about western society.

If you work in marketing, it might make for interesting or even uncomfortable viewing. Do marketers really just connect people with stuff they need, as we usually like to maintain? Or are we agents of a repressive culture, shoring up a decadent established order (and ruining the environment) with messages that encourage rampant consumption, shallow thought and sheeplike conformity?

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