Arnold, as the Austrian transplant, works in the Running Man as the cop of the future-the future being a post-Cold War blend of capitalism and communism, a world of two classes: the priveleged and the proles. Maria Conchita Alonso(ooh baby): the reluctant companion, and we have seen Arnold's film characters often with a reluctant woman. I think of the fresh-faced Rae Dawn Chong taking up the fight with Arnold in Commando, actually using a rocket launcher to secure the freedom of the protagonist. This is the Fordian tradition of John Wayne dragging the kicking and screaming Maureen Ohara; a woman is a prize then worth fighting for, striving for, and she herself remains skeptical of the hero until the later in the work, until the man has proven his virility, his worthiness. Also Richard Dawson appears herein as game show host and baddie, Killian, perhaps his last film role, and arguably perfect casting.
The baddies are the classical fat opera singer Italian who represents of course, Italy and art, that Arnold and crew must fight art itself, and not in the penultimate moment, but earlier in the piece. The operatic baddie is armed with electricity, claiming a victim before being dispatched. There is an Asian baddie called Sub-Zero which could be argued a reference to the rising sun, the national symbology of Japan. The film veers a left turn on the final obstacle, which is an American portrayed by Jesse Ventura, a patriotic hero faced in a spike-lined arena, like a gladiator, in a match to the death; Arnold's face is superimposed over the patriotic hero's face to enforce the lie of the government/network. But this is like being raped with broken glass, watching the hero fight the obviously American patriot, and then the great lie, but to make the subtext work, I have to cite Aryan patriotism, which is not apparent in the piece. So the subtext dies there.
A word about the book by Stephen King/Richard Bachman: there are two classes in the book, just as in the film. Games shows are also therein the opiate of the masses, but the game show is less controlled, less Hollywood, and more reality television, which seems prescient for a book from the seventies. King the lefty brings up all manner of economic concerns without a lot of political subtext, save for hunger, air quality, healthcare. I'm sure we all remember the birth of the conservation movement in the '70s, and it had an obvious effect on the then-unknown writer. The conclusion references terrorism, in my mind, and would make an interesting remake if the producers went back to the source material, shying from some broken World War II symbols and making the subtext exclusively American, with a horrifying, bleak ending of Ben Richards flying a jetliner into the giant Games Building.