I do like that line, tho.
First. you must know that They Live is a sci-fi/action movie with a decent budget and fx. Its wildly inventive story: a decent construction worker has fallen on hard times. While camping out in a temp-worker shantyown, he finds a pair of shades. They show some that people as hideous aliens! And subliminal ads are on tv, print ads, and the radio! He fights the ETs.
Second, you must know that They Live dedicates time to being loudly... libertarian (?) and full-on populist. It's weird to see a B-movie try to philosophize, much less so overtly. The fact that it stars Roddy Piper, a pro wrestler, means that TL is hyper-absurd in pandering to the downtrodden everyman.
It also features one of the most stupid/awesome/ridiculous fight scenes of all time:
It actually kinda-sorta works, and They Live is well-regarded, partly from 80s nostalgia and because this movie is just stupid fun. You might enjoy it - but it can't be a guilty pleasure for me because it's simply not good enough. No offense - I have no reason to care about the characters, the dialogue's often poor, and many parts could've been executed better.
Mercifully, it's got all the hallmarks of good 80s action. Not great action (Commando), mind you, or good action in a really well-conceived film (Midnight Run); it's just excessive in the way of that decade, and full of elements that place it firmly in its time. This is flashback-in-a-can - or, rather, in-a-movie.
Carpenter directed & wrote this 1987 pic with a pro wrestler (Roddy Piper) as the lead, Nada. Strolling into town with a whole travel pack and a honky-tonk theme, Nada soon finds himself in a room where a large, blank sign has the heading "Job Opportunities." Next, he's in a park, where a black preacher rails against modern excess; a pair of cops arrive and hustle the priest away.
For a man of action, Roddy does a lot of walking and sitting - he passes by a kid glued to the tv in a store window. Then he's in an alley at night, where he stares at someone in a rocking chair while they watch a badly-written soap. It's very close to creepy, but it always feels silly.
Thankfully, we're soon on a construction site, where Nada asks for a job. He's told it's union-only, and we see (naturally) the employed guys are playing craps & whatnot. But, soon, a real man comes onto the site. At the day's end, super-co-worker Frank (the amazing Keith David), asks if Nada has a place to stay and offers to walk him to a local shelter.
This is when TL injects its first major political message. It's one thing to see people zoning out on tv, or hear that lots of jobs are being sent overseas - it's another thing to see a sprawling Hooverville of shoddy homeless shelters. It's easily in site of downtown. And Frank isn't just walking by - the dude lives there with his family.
This is actually the best of it.
The social comments aren't awful, per se. It fits, as back then, industrial (& other) jobs were "outsourced" and factories were closed often. Folks with no education were hit hard by the 1970's and '80's economic downturns. But the lead is best known for his suplex move, it's still an action film, and the poly-sci stuff is heavy-handed and cliched. Back to the scene:
Staring across the water and looking at skyscrapers in the near distance, Frank expresses his frustration. He struggled to support his family, struggled and failed. Nada actually replies to this thusly: first he claims to have faith in the USA. Then, that he pays his dues. And then, I ---- you not, says "I follow the rules."
It's one thing to have a message. It's another to make it with the shallowness of a kid hopped up on coffee. Or to wrap polemics into a B-movie where aliens are cartoonishly-evil, or seem to have already corrupted everyone (?) with nothing more than bribes. Or features overly-blunt subliminal ads; some are funny, but most are so simple, it's embarrassing.
Even when the action propels the movie forward, it's too over-the-top, especially as I don't think Carpenter was being ironic. Nada is pulled into the alien resistance (who are taking all the jobs, of course) after his temp-community is demolished by... basically, a super-gestapo. I guess it's a thematic match - as is the line, "we're their Third World" - but oh, come on.
And remember above, when I said Nada does a lot of sitting and walking? Yeah, he pretty much watches his adoptive home get bulldozed, then just runs. God, I don't even think he tried to save that kid.
The later action is actually somewhere between nice and good enough. There are enough extra elements in the story to suggest that someone invented a rich little world here. Things and people exist without being explained, and have an improbable credibility. It's like The Running Man in these ways. A lot of people could've gone in a different direction than Carpenter chose, and many would've done it worse, but this is what the audience got.
Still, the story plays out, and it can be very fun - if you expect little intelligence. TL gets credit for its commitment to many absurd and silly ideas, and a tale straight out of classic 1950's sci-fi (well, a 1960's novel actually, and also a comic). Yet it's got big plot-holes, the bad guys are overdone, and I must wonder: why do the glasses alter your hearing?
In the end, all I can say about They Live is that low expectations and a sense of humor are important here. All I can say about the warrior-poet-brick-layer Nada is that he lived as he died: flipping the bird at wrong-thinking people. He was a construction worker, and that makes me think "carpenter," and then potential Jesus parallels are also available.
It's like a normal, silly-til-its-fun dumb B-movie, but on uppers.