They Live is probably not the first movie someone will come up with when discussing the works of John Carpenter. It is certainly not his best or most successful entry but interesting nonetheless. Thematically it shares common ground with acknowledged modern sci-fi classics The Matrix (1999) and Dark City (1998, arguably the better movie).
While humanity is reduced to obedient slaves or expendable resources, one man wakes up and gets a step closer to the truth. Of course brain-dead consumerism was blasted even earlier in Dawn of the Dead (1978), but that movie misses the protagonist who gains sudden insight and understanding.
It is tempting to think that we live in a time where said insight is perhaps not only already gained by some but also slowly gathering critical mass. Without venturing to far into the Fringe, there is an increasing amount of healthy skepticism towards the mass-media. Up to the point where everything they pump out is seen as nothing more than a greedy time devouring distraction, aimed at nothing other than control. “Bread and Circuses”, to appease and manipulate the voters. I do not know if we are getting closer to gaining real insight and understanding. But an almost unlimited access to independent information sources allows us to investigate, think for ourselves and possibly break the illusion. If there is one.