The idea for They Live came from a short story called “Eight O’ Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1960s.
The more political elements of the film are derived from Carpenter’s growing distaste with the ever-increasing commercialization of 1980s popular culture and politics.
He remarked, “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.”
To this end, Carpenter thought of sunglasses as being the tool to seeing the truth, which “is seen in black and white. It’s as if the aliens have colorized us.”