Rowdy Roddy Piper’s death last Friday leaves a very unusual hole in the film world. Though he made occasional guest appearances in TV shows and movies – usually either playing himself or a similarly hard-knuckled character – Piper is best known even beyond his wrestling career as the star of They Live (HU DVD 9020), John Carpenter’s cult 1988 sci-fi thriller. Piper plays a construction worker who finds mysterious glasses that allow him to see the hidden mind-controlling messages throughout society. It’s a bizarre but deeply loved film, and Piper’s death has prompted plenty of media retrospectives about it.
Our favorite comes from Slavoj Zizek’s documentary A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (available in the collection, HU DVD 11194). Zizek uses the film as a critique of the concept of moving outside ideology. It’s complicated, and we’ll let him explain it; the video is embedded above. He even discusses the over-extended fist-fight midway into the movie, calling it “the extreme violence of liberation.”
They Live‘s second life in the cult film canon isn’t surprising given its total weirdness, and we like that critics are revisiting its ideas with a little more acceptance. And even though Zizek’s analysis is a few years old, it speaks to what a special movie Piper contributed to.