This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
The Running Man is the other great mid-1980s SF-action satire. Whilst the original Robocop is still fondly remembered for its dryly satirical take on the creeping militarisation of the police force, The Running Man is rather overlooked these days – which is a shame, because as others have noted it’s suddenly become extraordinarily timely.
It’s 2017, in the wake of an economic collapse, and the country has taken an alarmingly illiberal turn. If that doesn’t sound familiar yet, there’s a weird connection between the authoritarian powers that be and the kayfabe world of pro wrestling. Where in our world that takes the form of the cordial business relationship between Donald Trump and WWE’s Vince McMahon, here it takes the form of a cozy co-operation between the Justice Department and The Running Man, a high-octane combat sports television show in which contestants plucked from the prison population and snatched from the street by the TV network’s private security forces are forced to do battle in a dilapidated labyrinth with colourful characters reminiscent of mid-1980s pro wrestling. (Jesse “the Body” Ventura appears as Captain Freedom, for instance, and many other bodybuilding and pro wrestling professionals fill out roles as the show’s “stalkers”.)