"gonzo satire destined, even designed, to be misunderstood."
November 8, 2013 7:48 AM   Subscribe

 
Sure the John Birchers and Teabaggers of the world give the Jon Stewarts of the world plenty of material, but why would a noted McCarthy apologist, right-wing activist, and socialist turn coat write a parody of his own rabid beliefs?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:54 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get that ST was supposed to be satire, but for my money, Verhoeven did a much better of job of achieving that in Robocop than in ST.

ST just smacks of trying too hard to make the point.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:00 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, Verhoeven's the one who made a satire, yeah? Not Heinlein.
posted by HeroZero at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


Starship Troopers is one of the few movies that I will always watch if I come across it some night. It is simultaneously so stupid, and so smart, and so funny; and the effects, especially the many amputations, are terrific.
posted by Mister_A at 8:04 AM on November 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


i love starship troopers. the satire was awesome, it was hilarious, and it was fun. robocop is also a good movie but they weren't trying to do the same thing in the same ways.
posted by nadawi at 8:05 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The best part is how he picked dumb actors who were clueless and delivered their lines like they really believed it. Plus everything was contradicted by the plain facts seen on screen.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:07 AM on November 8, 2013 [25 favorites]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: “Sure the John Birchers and Teabaggers of the world give the Jon Stewarts of the world plenty of material, but why would a noted McCarthy apologist, right-wing activist, and socialist turn coat write a parody of his own rabid beliefs?”

Who?
posted by koeselitz at 8:07 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's said that verhoeven didn't even read the book - this is definitely his satire, not heinlein's.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 AM on November 8, 2013


Right, HeroZero: I have never been convinced that Heinlein didn't actually believe that.

In others of his books of that era, self-organizing into a "traditional" society is the key to surviving (in Tunnel in the Sky) or that a single, benevolent organization can be trusted with all of earth's nukes (Space Cadet).
posted by wenestvedt at 8:08 AM on November 8, 2013


In The Story of Film (which I give a tepid recommendation), the writer of the film talks about how Verhoeven wanted to make a movie about young, dumb Nazis in the late '30s ready to go off to war, before everyone knew of the horrors the Nazis would commit, but that that was a totally unfeasable project. Ten years later, he got the chance to make a Starship Troopers movie, and this is what we got.

Also, not everyone missed the point at the time.
posted by cthuljew at 8:09 AM on November 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


And Nazi Doogie Howser and regular crazy Michael Ironside were great! Plus Hank from Breaking Bad has a bit part!
posted by Mister_A at 8:09 AM on November 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I daresay the way the similarities with the book are framed tend to cut deeper than the differences.
posted by mobunited at 8:14 AM on November 8, 2013


Verhoeven's the one who made a satire, yeah? Not Heinlein.

And yet many of the details this article cites as evidence that the film is so obviously satire are pretty much word-for-word from the book:

In a world where “service guarantees citizenship,” Mr. Rasczak explains that only citizens (as opposed to their second-class counterparts, “civilians”) are allowed to vote because “something given has no value,” and that violence is the supreme authority. “Naked force has settled more issues in history than any other factor,” he says. “The contrary opinion that violence never solves anything is wishful thinking at its worst.”
posted by ook at 8:14 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah but the context in which they're delivered renders those lines as satire. Brilliant, actually.
posted by Mister_A at 8:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Well, Verhoeven's the one who made a satire, yeah? Not Heinlein.

True, but when your "satire" goes clearly over the heads of your audience, gives the right wing a shining example and leads more readers to Heinlein, it's not a satire any more.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


We feel the same way about Rock Star, right? Cleverly-disguised satire? I honestly thought so the first time I watched it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2013


This is Rasczak, prepare for attack. I repeat, prepare for attack!

This a great, terrible movie for all kinds of reasons. The only Heinlein references are in the 'do you want to know more?' sequences and even then it's bastardised.

I watch this movie every time I come across it.
posted by h00py at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2013


The cow getting eaten is censored, but the bug getting his brain drilled is not? Brilliant.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I still love ST. I agree that whenever it is on I have to stop and watch. I never understood how people did not get the satire when it first came out... It was beat-you-in-the-face obvious. Hilarious, and brilliant in my book.
posted by Benway at 8:17 AM on November 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I thought it was always pretty obvious that ST was satire. That said, if you remove all the inserted asides (the recruitment ads, "Want to know more?" etc.) I think what satire remains would have completely failed.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:19 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the places where the film is pretty unfair is in whitewashing the cast. In the book, Johnny Rico is Filipino.

The hilarious modification of Heinlein's gender-essentialist wackiness into equality for the sake of co-ed showers is sure something, though.
posted by mobunited at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I need to rewatch the movie. I totally wrote it off as straightforward Big Dumb Movie when it came out, and even now that I know Verhoeven absolutely intended it as satire I'm not at all sure I agree he succeeded. Maybe it's just that reality has caught up with it but even those clips of the kids playing with the soldiers' big rifles wouldn't look terribly out of place on FOX News.
posted by ook at 8:21 AM on November 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


The best part is how he picked dumb actors who were clueless and delivered their lines like they really believed it.

Kyle MacLachlan: 'I thought 'Showgirls' would be hard-hitting'.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:21 AM on November 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


When it came out I was dragged to it by my active duty military roommate who thought it was the greatest film he had ever seen, thus we both missed the satire. Him because he wanted to believe and me because I had him telling me how awesome it was and how we should go shooting in the morning.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:22 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's so weird to see this movie being reevaluated after such a long time. I loved this movie when I first saw it in the theaters - I mean, I loved it. My friends and I came out laughing our asses off after having been fully entertained by amazing special effects and nonstop bloody action. It's like it was made for us. But even while we were leaving the theater, and even one or two people among our own group, it became quickly apparent that a lot of people just didn't get it. At all. I was thoroughly disappointed by the clueless reaction of many audience members, including plenty of critics who should have known better. I think it's just more obvious to people in the wake of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. So sad that the movie had to predict rather than innoculate.
posted by Edgewise at 8:23 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


> I totally wrote it off as straightforward Big Dumb Movie when it came out, and even now that I know Verhoeven absolutely intended it as satire I'm not at all sure I agree he succeeded.

This is why Showgirls is also brilliant.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:24 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw it in the theater when it came out and loved it. I never had any doubt that it was a satire, it seemed obvious to me and my friend. But I guess I was already well versed in Verhovian humor at that time and was expecting it. It's always fun trying to explain it to someone who still hasn't grokked it.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:24 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would you like to learn more?
posted by ocschwar at 8:24 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The only movie I saw three times in the theatre. I was 18 years old at the time and.. it just rocked me. Everything about it was just perfect.
posted by dobie at 8:25 AM on November 8, 2013


True, but when your "satire" goes clearly over the heads of your audience,

it didn't go over my head or heads of my friends or other people in this thread...
posted by nadawi at 8:26 AM on November 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


This a great, terrible movie for all kinds of reasons. The only Heinlein references are in the 'do you want to know more?' sequences and even then it's bastardised.

Nah, there's lots and lots from the book. Citizenship and military service. Whipping people (Heinlein thought not beating children would weaken society, folks!). Blather about naked force. The bitterest pill to swallow is that it gets the book right enough to show you why the book is kind of fucked up. You cannot just disown it on the basis of the lack of powered armor. Hell there's stuff the film excludes to the benefit of the book's image. It doesn't talk about how it's stupid not to have chaplains shoot people and, as noted earlier, doesn't get into Men in MI, Women Pilots stuff.
posted by mobunited at 8:28 AM on November 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


It went over lots and lots of people's heads. If it hadn't, we wouldn't be "re-examining" it now.
posted by ook at 8:28 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually just read the book for the first time a month ago and was amazed at how little science fiction there was in it. Except for periodic references to the bugs or powered armor, the whole thing read like basically every other first-person account of military life that I've ever read, give or take Heinlein's bouts of right-wingsplaining about How Things Are And Ever Have Been.

In this case, I'll gladly take the movie over the book.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:28 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't bother to see the movie in the theater because I had already read the book, and I thought the marketing made the movie look straight-faced. If I'd known it was satire I might have…well, gotten it from the library in the intervening years, anyway.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:29 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Strange Interlude, have you read "The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:30 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


One of the places where the film is pretty unfair is in whitewashing the cast. In the book, Johnny Rico is Filipino.

Of course, the point is that it's supposed to whitewashed, in a blond and bland Nazi-ish kind of way.

True, but when your "satire" goes clearly over the heads of your audience, gives the right wing a shining example and leads more readers to Heinlein, it's not a satire any more.

Is there any evidence it did any of this? I don't recall a surge of Heinlein-esque Birchers et al when it was released.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:30 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


True, but when your "satire" goes clearly over the heads of your audience, gives the right wing a shining example and leads more readers to Heinlein, it's not a satire any more.

A Modest Proposal prompted a bunch of shocked and appalled letters to the editor (or their 18th century equivalents) IIRC. Good satire is subtle --- just far enough beyond the line that when you balk at it, it makes you realise how fucked up the placement of the line is in the first place.
posted by Diablevert at 8:31 AM on November 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Of course, the book is worth reading as a culturally important work, along with the Forever War. The Forever War has its own problems (a literal death panel in one sequence, and homosexuality standing in for cultural alienation from 60s youth) but Haldeman actually served, and it shows in the portrayal of war as an ultimately technocratic exercise chock full of dumb luck and stupid shit.
posted by mobunited at 8:33 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think part of the problem is this: I remember reading (no cite, sorry) that this was another movie entirely that got stretched onto the Heinlein frame. So, the parts that are most interesting about the book (the changes military training and active combat have on an individual, the comraderie/responsibility to one's cohort, the in/activity or social responsibility of the individual in a republic) are almost completely ignored. Instead, you have the same general story-line that is attempting to make entirely different points.
Ultimately (and to REALLY stretch an analogy), Verhoeven hit a home-run in satire-baseball, but he hit the foul-pole. He did a lot of brilliant stuff but executed it so well that people didn't get what he was trying to do.
posted by mfu at 8:33 AM on November 8, 2013


Starship Troopers is a movie I can watch over and over again and never grow tired of it. I just re-watched my new Blu-ray copy this weekend and, damn, I am really surprised the effects hold up in such high-res.

True, but when your "satire" goes clearly over the heads of your audience...

I think the only people I've ever witnessed not grasp the satire are:

-Warhawks on gun forums and the like.
-Louis, who told me about the movie during 7th grade science class.
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Neil Patrick Harris, as a brainy military intelligence officer who struts around arrogantly in a Gestapo-like trenchcoat, is the only young cast member who seems in on the joke.

This. A thousand times this.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:34 AM on November 8, 2013 [35 favorites]


Of course, the point is that it's supposed to whitewashed, in a blond and bland Nazi-ish kind of way.

Yeah, but that's bad because it situates fascism in a past context we can separate ourselves from, instead of the context in which it's in danger of arising.
posted by mobunited at 8:34 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


OH!

Can someone clarify a scene for me?

The scene right when they decide to give Rico administrative punishment, the drill sergeant and corporal have an exchange along the lines of "maybe we shouldn't kick this guy out, how about administrative punishment?" "Ok."

Was that just a show put on for Rico? I always had the suspicion that they never intended to kick him out and wanted to punish him ahead of time, but also didn't want him to think they were taking it easy on him (or just needed more bodies.)
posted by griphus at 8:36 AM on November 8, 2013


Is there any evidence it did any of this? I don't recall a surge of Heinlein-esque Birchers et al when it was released.

As griphus noted above, the gun forums and other righty sights are rife with people who LOVE this film for the the wrong reasons. My roommate for example did not like it because it spoofed his beliefs, it fed him new ideas!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:36 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like the initial dislike of the movie was fans wanting a faithful adaptation that didn't draw attention to the book's fucked-up politics. There were always people in on the joke.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:38 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, there are moments of very subtle satire in the movie. For instance, Rico repeats Rasczak's lines -- including the "I'll shoot you myself" line -- verbatim to the new recruits when the Roughnecks become Rico's Roughnecks. That's the point where the movie just becomes an infinite loop. You can easily see Rico eventually retiring from service, teaching high school, and then chastising a kid for not understanding what "citizenship" means because he read it verbatim out of a book.
posted by griphus at 8:40 AM on November 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think the only people that didn't get it straight away were the knuckleheads it was taking the piss out of.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is why Showgirls is also brilliant.

YOU GO TOO FAR SIR
posted by ook at 8:42 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The scene right before they decide to give Rico administrative punishment, the drill sergeant and corporal have an exchange along the lines of "maybe we shouldn't kick this guy out, how about administrative punishment?" "Ok."

Can't tell you how they mean it in the movie but it's a scene taken directly from the book and was an actual question and answer.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:44 AM on November 8, 2013


There's a distinction to be drawn between those who thought it promoted fascism (never met one yet) and those who thought it was brainless trash. I must admit that at the time I was one of the latter and it was the lead actors and the nature of their performances that sold me on that point of view. It was only when I caught it on TV a few years after 2001 that it actually dawned on me what a great piece of satire it actually is.
posted by vbfg at 8:45 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that Verhoeven, the guy who brought us Robocop, elected to ditch the powered armor from the book, in favor of presenting the Mobile Infantry as a mass of WWII style cannon fodder on foot is, to me, the clearest indication of his satirical intent.

If he just wanted to make a good straightforward sci fi action film, it would have made more sense to keep some aspect of the powered armor in the movie: lots more options for spectacular effects and feats of daring-do.
posted by fikri at 8:45 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


THe first time I saw the movie, I thought "Man, what the hell is the message here? Fascism is fun, all the good-looking cool kids are doing it? What the fuck is Verhoeven selling?"

Then I heard an interview with him about being a child when the Nazis marched into Holland and I got it. Mebbe it as the director's commentary.

It's okay if some people don't get the satire. It's okay if it goes over some people's heads. It wasn't for them in the first place.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:45 AM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Strange Interlude, have you read "The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman?

I haven't, although I will admit that my patience for military SF is not necessarily the greatest. I've heard good things about the book, and heard comparisons between it and jscalzi's "Old Man's War" (which I actually enjoyed, thanks jscalzi!) so I might have to bump it up in my queue, wenestvedt.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:46 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the only people that didn't get it straight away were the knuckleheads it was taking the piss out of.

I'm not here to defend their sanity or intelligence, just reporting what I've seen in these forums.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:47 AM on November 8, 2013


As griphus noted above, the gun forums and other righty sights are rife with people who LOVE this film for the the wrong reasons. My roommate for example did not like it because it spoofed his beliefs, it fed him new ideas!

Yeah, but he was kind of pointing out that they were already following those ideas or predisposed to them, and that converts were minimal to non-existent. I don't think it actually made a noticeable impact in promoting those ideas to those who weren't following them in the first place.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:48 AM on November 8, 2013


Can't tell you how they mean it in the movie but it's a scene taken directly from the book and was an actual question and answer.

Yeah, I figure in the book it is totally genuine, and in the movie Sgt. Zim definitely drank the Kool-Aid considering he demoted himself to private just to fight on Planet P, but there are a number of hints throughout the film that the top brass are completely aware they're fighting a pointless, losing war and that the bugs are a meat grinder, and I just wonder if the colonel knew it as well.
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on November 8, 2013


The fact that Verhoeven, the guy who brought us Robocop, elected to ditch the powered armor from the book, in favor of presenting the Mobile Infantry as a mass of WWII style cannon fodder on foot is, to me, the clearest indication of his satirical intent.

Budget was a major factor there as well.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:49 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The hilarious modification of Heinlein's gender-essentialist wackiness into equality for the sake of co-ed showers is sure something, though.

For my money, one of the top-five co-ed shower scenes in modern cinema.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:51 AM on November 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also: kudos for the "itsafraid" tag. Nice one.
posted by fikri at 8:51 AM on November 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Man, people just won’t give up on this movie. Every couple of years there’s a new article about "you just don’t get it man, I did!"

It may be possible to realize it’s satire and still think it’s a shitty movie.
posted by bongo_x at 8:53 AM on November 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


Is there some sort of list for that sort of thing ZenMasterThis? My thought would be it's one of the few co-ed shower scenes, modern cinema or otherwise, but I'd be happy to concede the point.
posted by Carillon at 8:54 AM on November 8, 2013


I did watch one of the sequels. It seems the guy who played Rico produced it because he loved it (the original) so much as an action film? The sequel was animated, even. And sucky. Rico-dude needs a friendly talk and heads up, I think.
posted by Iosephus at 8:55 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Starship Troopers is an amazing movie. I like Heinlein as an author, but I'm sure as hell not going to defend what he thought was right behavior. I've read Farnham's Freehold. That's pretty much all you have to do. But Starship Troopers is, in tone alone, so far removed from the book that it really is an entirely different work. It reminds me of Idiocracy versus The Marching Morons. I like both, but the messages are not at all the same.
posted by Sequence at 8:57 AM on November 8, 2013


I first saw it as a teenager and simply loved it as a gory action film but it wasn't until I rewatched it a few years ago that I recognized the satire. It seems to me that Rico and the rest are fictional characters in a government propaganda film and the commercial interruptions are simulating what it would be like for a citizen of the Starship Troopers world to watch it on their T.V.
posted by aldurtregi at 8:57 AM on November 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I saw ST on its opening night with a few hundred people in Denver, and I cannot imagine that I was the only person in that crowd who realized that it was a satire -- and I think most people came around by the "they sucked his brains out" scene, if they hadn't come around before. I think it might be time to watch it again.
posted by barnacles at 8:57 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heinlein's gender-essentialist wackiness

Not for nothing, but when the book was written the idea of women serving in any capacity - and particularly combat roles - in the military was.... controversial.

That he had women - smart and capable women - serving more or less side by side with men was sort of left wing idea in 1957. and POC! hell, Rico was Philipino! The main character in Tunnel in the Sky was black! In 1955!

I get that it wasn't the platonic ideal of feminist literature or nothing, but credit where it's due.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:58 AM on November 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


I admit I have not seen the film and therefore cannot judge its quality, but I remember being told "THIS FILM IS A MISUNDERSTOOD SATIRE!" about 75 times within a few days of its coming out and again every few years since then.

This makes me dubious about the "misunderstood" part.
posted by kyrademon at 8:58 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


A metafilter clone where the opening description of posts is just a youtube link followed by a "more inside" you hit with a "Would you like to know more?" popup would make a pretty decent 10-foot browsing experience.

Matt, you want to get Metafilter into the living room, right?
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:59 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I first saw the movie as a 14 year old boy excited for explosions and tits. The satire seemed obvious to me then and I don't understand how it got missed. It has fascist propaganda newsreel interludes and Doogie Howser, Obersturmführer.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:00 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Starship Troopers had a coed shower scene, right? I hope that part wasn't satire.
posted by mullacc at 9:01 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, to my modern sensibilities, I thought the action scenes were slow and boring.

Was that satire?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2013


Starship Troopers had a coed shower scene that Paul Verhoeven filmed naked to put the actors at ease.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is why Hollow Man is also brilliant.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2013


This is why Hollow Man is also brilliant.

OH I GET IT NOW: THIS WHOLE THREAD IS SATIRE

IT'S SATIRE ALL THE WAY DOWN
posted by ook at 9:05 AM on November 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


Well, Verhoeven's the one who made a satire, yeah? Not Heinlein.

For what it's worth, the original script was titled Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine and was not intended to be an adaptation of the Heinlein novel. The book was optioned and elements and scenes from the book were inserted, and, yes, Verhoven never read the book, giving up after a few chapters claiming it made him "bored and depressed." The satire was certainly Verhoeven's, who described the theme of the film as "war makes fascists of us all," but does so by borrowing from American war movie tropes, which provides a real sharpness to the satire. Depending on your sensibilities, Doogie Howser's Nazi costume is either the only thing that really tips the theme of the film or is just a bit too obvious; I like it, but mostly because it's a hilarious visual image.

There is a case to be made that Heinlein was actually writing satire with his original novel, made previously on the blue. In this theory, Space Cadet is the juvenile entertainment, and Starship Troopers the adult, problematized, balmy satire.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:05 AM on November 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


The best part is how he picked dumb actors who were clueless and delivered their lines like they really believed it.

I saw it either the day it opened or the next day. I remember wondering if some of the actors knew it was supposed to be basically a joke. NPH clearly knew but some of the others...not so sure. Anyway, I'll always love those gigantic bugs and I can never hear Song 2 without immediately thinking of Starship Troopers.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:06 AM on November 8, 2013


Anyone else go to the rifftrax of Starship Troopers?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:06 AM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, to my modern sensibilities, I thought the action scenes were slow and boring.

Was that satire?


Sort of! The action scenes generally fall into two categories:

-Machine-gunning the human-sized drone bugs
-Fancy tactics taking down the enormous bugs

In the former scenario, there's almost always many, many more bugs than humans, and the techniques to take them out are always ridiculously dangerous or inefficient. In one scene, it takes three soldiers each unloading their clip to take down a single bug. They act like Action Movie Tough Guys (and Gals) but it's plainly obvious that the human race is severely underpowered and outnumbered even for the most basic of combat maneuvers. There's also scenes where they use nukes to kill large amounts of bugs while they're on the ground but it's not like this movie was filmed in 1945 when we didn't have a realistic idea of things like "fallout" and "radiation."

The latter scenes are just purposefully nonsensical. Rico et. al. are shown to be born soldiers and all ascend up the ranks at blistering speed (and usually because their commanding officer dies.) The sort of things they pull off on the battlefield don't scale to the rest of the army. Even when you see them win, it's a loss because the movie makes it plainly clear no one else can do that.
posted by griphus at 9:08 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I got the satire, but I'm not sure how terrible acting, boring romantic subplots, and the bit where Denise Richards flies the ship and shes really good at it and its super boring are satire. I feel like those bits are just a badly made movie. I do need to rewatch it, but my main memories from it was mostly hammy action and unengaging characters with a layer of clever satire to taste.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 9:08 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, Verhoeven's the one who made a satire, yeah? Not Heinlein.

True, but when your "satire" goes clearly over the heads of your audience, gives the right wing a shining example and leads more readers to Heinlein, it's not a satire any more.


I think the entire point of the satirical elements of the film is that the mass of viewers and even most of the actors don't get it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:12 AM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's also scenes where they use nukes to kill large amounts of bugs while they're on the ground but it's not like this movie was filmed in 1945 when we didn't have a realistic idea of things like "fallout" and "radiation."

Wasn't part of Heinlein's initial impetus to write a counter to the left's call for Eisenhower to dismantle the nuclear arsenal?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:12 AM on November 8, 2013


hammy action and unengaging characters

There's a thin line between barbed parody of bad filmmaking and just bad filmmaking. Sometimes that line is invisible and just a matter of taste. Everything you just complained about I found hilarious. Just knowing that movies exist starring Casper Van Dien makes me laugh.

You know he's the 6th Casper in his family? WHAT FAMILY NEEDS SO MANY CASPERS?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:13 AM on November 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


While we're talking about Heinlein , should I read Stranger in A Strange Land? I've avoided it because of Heinlein's politics but that seems a stupid reason. Is it really that good? I'm trying to catch up on classics I've missed.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:14 AM on November 8, 2013


Anyone else have suspicions that Carl was psychically manipulating Rico in considerably greater ways than just giving him a "vision" of Carmen?

The scene where they initially reveal Carl's psychic powers, Rico says "I hope you don't use that on me" and I mean that's a Chekov's Gun if I've ever seen it. When Carl reveals that he helped Rico find Carmen, there's some brief dialogue I can't recall where I definitely got the feeling that Rico was going against his better judgement a few times.
posted by griphus at 9:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I saw this movie in what I think is the best way possible: lonely, sleepy, still a little drunk from the bar I had gone alone to that night, and in a dub that rendered everyone's speech as lisping Madrid Spanish. I loved it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:22 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I have to say that Basil Poledouris' score, a parody of military bombast, is awesome in a thrilling non-parodic way.
posted by aldurtregi at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


yesss. my dad worked on the special effects for Starship Troopers. one of the last movies he worked on, actually, before his eyesight went. it was right toward the end of the golden days when real explosions still outnumbered CGI ones. if anyone has any questions I can call him up. he's 81 and cranky but he still likes to talk about explosions.
posted by changeling at 9:29 AM on November 8, 2013 [55 favorites]


if anyone has any questions I can call him up. he's 81 and cranky but he still likes to talk about explosions.

I aspire to be your dad.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


So what of the sequels? The animated series?

I see that Verhoven was a producer on the series, at least, and I'm wondering if there was a total abandonment of the satire after the initial movie, and it just turned into Meathead SF Action, or if there is a current of the original bite behind all the iterations of the thing.
posted by Shepherd at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2013


Put me in the "gets it's satire, still thinks it's crap" camp. There used to be a copy of this movie somewhere in a vault in Paris, right next to the official kilogram weight and the official meter-long stick, as the reference standard for "bad movie." (It was replaced in 1999 when more precise measurement technology enabled the release of The Wild Wild West, which remains the standard in the vault to this day.)

And now here come all these mefites going on about how its satirical...ity? makes up for its cosmic awfulness. Someone even tried to extend that to Showgirls.

All I'm saying here is, I'm willing to let this thread go, but you have a right to know that if someone tries to argue that Wild Wild West is a satire on... post-civil war race relations, bromance, arachnophobia... anything really, and therefore somehow a brilliant piece of moviemaking, that the consequences will be immediate, violent, and severe.
posted by Naberius at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


to be clear, i think it's a hilarious fun movie and i think it's satire - i don't think the satire "makes up" for anything because i don't think there's anything to be made up for.
posted by nadawi at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just knowing that movies exist starring Casper Van Dien makes me laugh.

It is funny, but the problem with stunt casting him and Denise Richards is that you get a movie starring him and Denise Richards. The result is unwatchable. The parts of the movie starring actual actors like Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Ironside are the only parts of the movie worth watching.

Imagine Robocop starring Paul Reubens. It would have been a hilarious satire of action movies and it would have been remembered only as a joke. That's Starship Troopers.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:35 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


my dad worked on the special effects for Starship Troopers.

Tell your dad that some shmuck on the internet sends his regards and respect.

...but the problem with stunt casting him...

Was that a stunt cast? I thought they had just cast some unknown for Moviemaking Reasons. Or was it a stunt cast because Verhoeven generally star-studs his casts and van Dien was an unknown.
posted by griphus at 9:38 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


True, but when your "satire" goes clearly over the heads of your audience

Of people I've spoke to about it, exactly zero did not understand the movie was satire.
posted by spaltavian at 9:42 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Saw the sequel on Netflix, and my advice is DON'T. Truly terrible.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:44 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone who thinks Starship Troopers is an international reference standard terrible movie has obviously never seen Splice, starring Michael Caine, Jr. (Adrien Brody).
posted by Mister_A at 9:44 AM on November 8, 2013


I know exactly zero people who did not understand the movie was satire.

why are so many people so determined to insist that the whole "widely misunderstood" part of this never happened

yes we're all very impressed that you and your friends are so perceptive congratulations
posted by ook at 9:46 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


No, I think the point is that people who still have enthusiasm for this film tend to be the ones who grasped its intent.
posted by Mister_A at 9:48 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


NPH clearly knew but some of the others

His character was in military intelligence; the smartest guy in the film with access to the most information. He would have been fully comitted to total victory for humanity while wryly acknowledging to himself that they weren't on the right side. Also, as a member of the elite, the system was kind of working for him.

The other characters were dumb kids; if they actors "knew" the film was satire, they shouldn't have shown it.
posted by spaltavian at 9:48 AM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


ook: why are so many people so determined to insist that the whole "widely misunderstood" part of this never happened

Because it was not subtle satire. A character actually says out loud that they are going to study the "failure of democracy". Anyone who just bought that is who the movie is satirizing.
posted by spaltavian at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as I'm concerned, Starship Troopers is the film that proves that it's possible for a film to be satire and straightfaced and shitty and amazing all at once.
posted by forgetful snow at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


ST is why I decided to earn my full Citizenship.
posted by buzzman at 9:52 AM on November 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


So what of the sequels?

I have actually seen the third one. It is good and bad in more or less the same ways that the first one is good and bad. The fascist-propaganda-cult government gets an Inspirational Religious Leader, who (spoiler, like anybody's really going to watch it) turns out to be under the telepathic control of a Brain Bug, which he worships as a god. Scenery is chewed, there is two-fisted satire, and Johnny Rico shouts, "Come on you apes--do you want to live forever?" while you wonder if he gets the joke.

From the reviews on Netflix, I gather that the people who made the second one decided the satire got in the way of the shooting, and left it out. Nobody likes the second one.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:54 AM on November 8, 2013


"I have never seen [Starship Troopers], but by all accounts it was terrible. However I have seen the [beanplate] that it built, and it is terrific." - Maurice Mickelwhite
posted by blue_beetle at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


but Haldeman actually served

Heinlein served (in the Navy), though as far as I know did not see combat.

Starship Troopers (the book) is well worth reading, and is more interesting than a brief description of its politics would make it sound. It isn't half as good as The Forever War, though.

Starship Troopers I'd recommend to anyone who reads science fiction, if only to understand a good chunk of what the genre was arguing about for decades after. Plus, it's short.

The Forever War I'd recommend to any sentient human ever.
posted by feckless at 9:58 AM on November 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Because it was not subtle satire. A character actually says out loud that they are going to study the "failure of democracy".

And we've circled right back to "direct quotes from the not-at-all-satirical book become satire because Verhoeven." (Also, something something US Congress debt ceiling.)
posted by ook at 10:00 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Put me in the "gets it's satire, still thinks it's crap" camp. There used to be a copy of this movie somewhere in a vault in Paris, right next to the official kilogram weight and the official meter-long stick, as the reference standard for "bad movie." (It was replaced in 1999 when more precise measurement technology enabled the release of The Wild Wild West, which remains the standard in the vault to this day.)

Surely Battlefield Earth over Wild Wild West. WWW was, at the very least, goofy and light.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:00 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of what makes the movie work is also Verhoeven's outsider perspective, something that gives the film an extra bite for non-US viewers that Americans might not necessarily see. That's where the "but if this is Buenos Aires, why does everyone speak with American accents?" objection breaks down. Americans might see that as simple stupidity or clumsiness; for Brits, Australians, or continental Europeans, however, it speaks directly to their sense of being culturally colonised by the US ("Of course, everyone in the future will be essentially American in cultural mores and outlook; thanks, mass media!") and the result will seem darkly comic and nihilistic in a way Americans might not see.

Personal pet theory time: the attack on Buenos Aires was a false flag episode. The only explanation we see about "bug plasma" comes from a segment on the Federal News Network, which the viewer has already been tipped off not to trust. I know in the novel that the bugs have the power to do this; in the universe if the film, however, there's no corresponding proof. Sure, we see specialised bugs firing meteorites at attack ships. (I remember reading somewhere that Verhoeven was trying to reproduce the spectacle he'd seen as a child of burning RAF Lancasters being brought down by German anti-aircraft fire.) But that's very different from being able to send a meteorite across the galaxy and hit a specific city, as the official explanation has it, which just seems patently ridiculous.

Oh dear. Does that make me some kind of Starship Troopers truther?
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:01 AM on November 8, 2013 [36 favorites]


If everyone got it, it wouldn't be satire. Satire relies on the clueless (few or many) to make its point. It's at its finest when you don't get it until later, at the malt shop, when the light bulb snaps on above your head and you are gobsmacked, blinded by the light; you spend the rest of the evening in denial, because your paradigm has been spray painted with irreverence and you don't like it that you happened to be one of the clueless clowns your friends were laughing at.

Which, clearly, is illustrated by the various reviews of this movie.

Heinlein was a mixed bag. He believed in civic responsibility. In his version, a citizen ought to serve his country in some capacity in order to have he benefits of citizenship. His version was universal military conscription. He also thought you ought to be able to write a sonata and shoe your own horses.

I didn't see any heavy irony in Heinlein's version of Starship Trooper. The Bug War was only one of several episodes in that story. I saw the (original) story as a coming of age tale, wherein, when you begin to act like an adult by taking on certain responsibilities. When I read him as a young man I thought he was wise. I still do, but, although I don't quite agree with all the details of his version of civic responsibility, I have more in common with him that he does with, say, the Tea Baggers.

The movie was a brilliant display of the difference between patriotism and nationalism. The one leads to libraries, parks and bridges, the other to guns, ammo, and bigotry.
posted by mule98J at 10:08 AM on November 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


The film "Starship Troopers" is kind of amusing, but really is only tangentially related to Heinlein's book, using the character names and basic situation, and throwing out whatever else didn't suit Verhoeven's purposes.

One key example of this is that in the book, the mobile infantry are not cannon fodder; they're bad-asses outfitted in suits of armor that seem to be only a little less powerful than the one worn by Iron Man.

But portraying them as near-superheroes would have undercut the director's message, so in the film, they're given ordinary rifles and fatigues, and then sent to fight the monsters, with predictable results.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:13 AM on November 8, 2013


Starship Troopers is the greatest post-9/11 movie made pre-9/11.

I'm kind of baffled by the proposal that it failed as a satire because it didn't make it obvious to the lowest common denominator
posted by brundlefly at 10:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


Coming in very late just to say Starship Troopers is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's brilliant. I too will watch it anytime I come across it.

My love of ST may or may not be partially wrapped up in the fact that ST, along with Braveheart, formed many of my adolescent sexual fantasies.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


While we're talking about Heinlein , should I read Stranger in A Strange Land?

It's a mixed bag. The early part of the novel (in which Valentine Smith claims ownership of Mars) is pretty much vintage Heinlein, taking an idea and running with it. IIRC, Heinlein took a long break from the book at this point and from there on the novel has a very different voice.

I think the latter part is worth reading mainly for Heinlein's take on his colleague's pet religion, Scientology.
posted by SPrintF at 10:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner: "But portraying them as near-superheroes would have undercut the director's message, so in the film, they're given ordinary rifles and fatigues, and then sent to fight the monsters, with predictable results."

Yeah. If Verhoeven had put the troops in armor his references to westerns, Zulu, etc., would have been pretty much impossible
posted by brundlefly at 10:18 AM on November 8, 2013


I think some people confuse satire with parody.
posted by Mister_A at 10:19 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner: “The film 'Starship Troopers' is kind of amusing, but really is only tangentially related to Heinlein's book, using the character names and basic situation, and throwing out whatever else didn't suit Verhoeven's purposes. One key example of this is that in the book, the mobile infantry are not cannon fodder; they're bad-asses outfitted in suits of armor that seem to be only a little less powerful than the one worn by Iron Man. But portraying them as near-superheroes would have undercut the director's message, so in the film, they're given ordinary rifles and fatigues, and then sent to fight the monsters, with predictable results.”

I'm confused – this does not seem like a very essential detail to the plot to me. How would making the soldiers more powerful undercut the director's message? Also, it's not strictly true that it's only tangentially related to Heinlein's book; whole conversations are lifted directly from the text.
posted by koeselitz at 10:21 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also I just used a stock photo that looks like Denise Richards.
posted by Mister_A at 10:21 AM on November 8, 2013


The film "Starship Troopers" is kind of amusing, but really is only tangentially related to Heinlein's book, using the character names and basic situation, and throwing out whatever else didn't suit Verhoeven's purposes.

One key example of this is that in the book, the mobile infantry are not cannon fodder; they're bad-asses outfitted in suits of armor that seem to be only a little less powerful than the one worn by Iron Man.

But portraying them as near-superheroes would have undercut the director's message, so in the film, they're given ordinary rifles and fatigues, and then sent to fight the monsters, with predictable results.


Well, in the book the technical propaganda of the US military is taken at face value and imported to the Federation, along with propaganda about personnel training. The book has the same kind of crazy shit the Pentagon says about their elite elites flying elite shit right up until the planes fall out of the sky and the pilots bomb random people because they're fucked up on speed.

Totally the same.

Meanwhile, the film transmits the moral stance and Utopian aspirations of the book quite well. It's just that in the book, you're reading a book and you're 14 years old, wheras when you see the movie you're more likely to be a grownup, and on film a lot of stupid shit like getting whipped for your own good doesn't fly.
posted by mobunited at 10:22 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was Very, Very Conservative at the time that ST came out (a year later, Clinton's impeachment made me realize it was all a dog and pony act), unversed in subtlety and such, and I got that it was satire.

Wait, people *didn't* get that? Holy fucking corn syrup.
posted by notsnot at 10:23 AM on November 8, 2013


Warning about Stranger in a Strange Land: Read the original 1961 version. Do NOT read the more recently published, 1991 "uncut" expanded version that reversed all the editorial changes.

There was indeed one scene that was censored for content and makes less sense in the original version. In exchange for getting that, you also get to slog painfully through over a hundred extra pages that were mercifully cut by a sensible editor. The trade-off is NOT worth it.
posted by kyrademon at 10:26 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's too much grinning in it.

It makes me crazy.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


How would making the soldiers more powerful undercut the director's message?

Because then they'd stand a chance. Verhoeven makes it clear that it isn't even that the deck is stacked against the soldiers, it's that they have no hope whatsoever to win and the scenes where they overcome seemingly insurmountable odds are the exception to the rule (again, driving home that Earth bit off much more than it can chew.)
posted by griphus at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2013


And we've circled right back to "direct quotes from the not-at-all-satirical book become satire because Verhoeven."

Yes. Are you being deliberately obtuse? I haven't read the book, myself, from everything I've heard, while the jingoistic, "if you don't serve in the military you don 't deserve a vote" elements are presented straight-faced in the book, they're also presented in a context in which robot-powered übermensch really are winning a just war against the bugs. Veerhoven, in contrast, has characters say stuff like this who are deluded pawns of a fascist government fighting a clearly un-winnable and very likely unjust war. What is presented as a serious political philosophy in the one becomes mindless sloganeering parroted by fools who can't recognise the situation they're in in the other. The fact that all this is presented deadpan --- that the viewer themselves has to use their intelligence to discern the disjunction between the character's viewpoint and that of the movie --- is what makes it satire.
posted by Diablevert at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


if anyone has any questions I can call him up. he's 81 and cranky but he still likes to talk about explosions.

This sentence is perfect.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


I actually just read the book for the first time a month ago and was amazed at how little science fiction there was in it. Except for periodic references to the bugs or powered armor, the whole thing read like basically every other first-person account of military life that I've ever read, give or take Heinlein's bouts of right-wingsplaining about How Things Are And Ever Have Been.

Yes! I hated the book and was shocked that there was, like, one chapter of Real Science Fiction and otherwise much boring grandstanding.

I actually wrote a post on the website thereadventurer on it awhile back.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2013


Starship Troopers (the film) was fine satire, but it was unforgivably shitty of the director and the studio to use the novel and author's name in it. I'd have had no problem at all with it had they given it some other name that only cleverly referred to the book without pretending to present itself as something it wasn't.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:32 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


HOw do you say that - is it "There Adventurer" or "The Readventurer" ? I cannot abide ambiguity of this sort.
posted by Mister_A at 10:34 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also nice post, blah blah.
posted by Mister_A at 10:34 AM on November 8, 2013


It's not satire if everyone "gets" it. That's the point.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:44 AM on November 8, 2013


Of course, that doesn't absolve a shitty movie. Which this isn't.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2013


if anyone has any questions I can call him up.

I HAVE QUESTIONS but mostly they are about how awesome face/off was to work on.
posted by elizardbits at 10:49 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I assume the awesome was over 9000
posted by elizardbits at 10:49 AM on November 8, 2013


Starship Troopers (the film) was fine satire, but it was unforgivably shitty of the director and the studio to use the novel and author's name in it. I'd have had no problem at all with it had they given it some other name that only cleverly referred to the book without pretending to present itself as something it wasn't.

It's a satirical take on the source material. It doesn't verge so far into parody, but (despite claims that Verhoeven didn't read it, which I don't buy) is largely adapted directly from the book, albeit with some changes. That it isn't worshipful of the source material doesn't make it any less an adaptation.

HOw do you say that - is it "There Adventurer" or "The Readventurer" ? I cannot abide ambiguity of this sort.

The latter! It's in the header and all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:51 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


had they given it some other name that only cleverly referred to the book without pretending to present itself as something it wasn't.

Though if we must, clearly the only acceptable name would have been Starship Poopers.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:53 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


me: “How would making the soldiers more powerful undercut the director's message?”

griphus: “Because then they'd stand a chance. Verhoeven makes it clear that it isn't even that the deck is stacked against the soldiers, it's that they have no hope whatsoever to win and the scenes where they overcome seemingly insurmountable odds are the exception to the rule (again, driving home that Earth bit off much more than it can chew.)”

I guess other people just have a very different idea than I do of what the "message" of the movie is.

I just watched it again, and "humans are super brave to the point of almost being foolish and bite off more than they can chew, winning against insurmountable odds" is not the message I got out of it. Hell, people get their arms broken and hands nailed to walls with knives to prove points in military training because apparently futuristic space science medicine is so incredible that if you have your abdomen slashed through entirely by a massive spindly leg of an insect they can just stitch you up and you'll be good as new. People die in the movie, but it's generally because they get actually blown up; even when a guy gets cut in half at the waist, he has to actually turn to someone else and ask them to put a bullet in him to kill him and put him out of the pain.

I mean, I'm not saying humans are indestructable in this movie, but the fragility and vulnerability of people really didn't seem like one of the primary messages Verhoeven was aiming to convey. And I really don't think he was trying to say "fascism is bad, because it makes you bite off more than you can chew." If he were, the humans might not have won; or at least their victory at the end would be sort of presented wryly, with indications that it wasn't true victory. But it wasn't. It was pretty whole as victory. It was just morally questionable in the highest degree.

If there's a bit of winning-against-all-odds in the movie – and I won't deny that that's there – it seems to be just part of the superficial actiony stuff that masks what's really going on. Verhoeven is good at the film language of action movies, so he's adept at building a fun dumb story with fun dumb characters that are actually pretty fun to watch on their own level. Their defeating the odds to succeed seems like part of that. I really don't think it's an essential part of the message of the film, though.
posted by koeselitz at 10:55 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The film "Starship Troopers" is kind of amusing, but really is only tangentially related to Heinlein's book, using the character names and basic situation, and throwing out whatever else didn't suit Verhoeven's purposes.

No, it actually has the characters make a lot of the same points that Heinlein did. It just makes it plain that it disagrees with those points.

But portraying them as near-superheroes would have undercut the director's message

I think the earlier comment about budgets is probably more right. Filming power armor in 1997 would have been way more than a b-movie could afford. Verhoeven could still have made his point with power-armored Mobile Infantry -- he'd just have made them obnoxious, racist (speciesist) ubermenschen that were difficult to like. The bit with the MI being weapons-grade assholes to the Skinnies would have been in the movie, for example.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:56 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The lack of powered armor works better as propaganda - an "our boys don't need fancy armor, our will is enough" kind of thing, which adds to the theme.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:58 AM on November 8, 2013


Yes. Are you being deliberately obtuse?

I'm honestly not trying to be obtuse here. It just seems odd that so many of the examples of "of COURSE it's satire, DUH, it's so OBVIOUS" people keep pointing to are the very same details that are presented as serious philosophy in the book.

Like you said earlier, good satire plays it close to the vest; I'm not at all arguing that this movie wasn't intended as satire, just that it plays it so close to the vest that I'm not convinced it didn't land on the wrong side of the, uh, vest.

The fact that the bugs were winning the war in the movie was a detail I missed completely when I watched the film (once, more than a decade ago) -- and I hear the case you're making for how that change in context could change the meaning of those details, it's by far the clearest argument to that effect in the thread so far. (It's been a long time since I read the book, too, and I don't remember if the humans were winning there, but for the sake of argument let's assume you're right about that.) But I'm not sure I agree with the argument. Authorial intent aside, it doesn't seem completely ridiculous to read the doomed against-all-odds jingoism in Starship Troopers as all that different from the doomed against-all-odds jingoism of Red Dawn, or the doomed against-all-odds jingoism of Rambo, or the doomed against-all-odds jingoism of any number of other Big Dumb Action Movies that ST at least superficially resembled.

I kind of feel like a lot of the "oh how could ANYONE have POSSIBLY mistaken that for just a DUMB ACTION MOVIE, only a KNUCKLEHEAD could have missed THAT" is people retroactively applying their knowledge of Verhoeven's intent to their memories of the actual movie. But like I said, it's been more than a decade since I saw it myself. My wife's out of town so I'll watch it this weekend; maybe afterwards I'll feel like a Big Dumb Idiot for ever making this argument.
posted by ook at 10:59 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just watched it again, and "humans are super brave to the point of almost being foolish and bite off more than they can chew, winning against insurmountable odds" is not the message I got out of it.

Me neither. The message I got was "a war started with poor intellgience (or false pretenses) and rallied with propaganda puts children -- and at least a single city -- into a meat grinder with nothing to show for it but the bodies." No matter how good the soldiers are, no matter what technology we have to revive them, they don't stand a chance against the bugs.

The speech the teacher in anatomy class in the beginning supports that: the bugs are better than humans, inherently. No matter how powerful or strong or brave a single soldier or the entire Earth army is, they will never win.
posted by griphus at 11:00 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


And the biting-off-more-than-they-can-chew is a criticism of human beings, not of fascism or the government or the army.
posted by griphus at 11:01 AM on November 8, 2013


Why would anybody give the soldiers power armor? Nobody really cares what happens to them. Power armor costs money. You tell them dulce et decorum est etcetera, and send them out to get ground up into meat.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:02 AM on November 8, 2013


Starship Troopers (the film) was fine satire, but it was unforgivably shitty of the director and the studio to use the novel and author's name in it. I'd have had no problem at all with it had they given it some other name that only cleverly referred to the book without pretending to present itself as something it wasn't.

I think that fits well with straight-faced, enough-rope-to-hang-himself depiction of Heinlein's ideology in the book. What it lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for with meanness (which I have no problem with here).

Is there any other adaptation that seeks to satirise its own source material through faithfulness to its message?
posted by ocular shenanigans at 11:02 AM on November 8, 2013


My dad took me to see this in the theater when it came out.

Most uncomfortable coed shower scene EVER.
posted by mikurski at 11:02 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not satire if everyone "gets" it. That's the point.

No, the point of satire is to ridicule a point of view or human condition through humor regardless of who "gets" it. You're defining subtlety. What the problem is here is that the nuts that didn't see the satire in the film use the film as a manual for living and it has drawn them to the works of a guy that otherwise would have been mostly written off as a bad Sci-Fi writer. The attempt to ridicule propaganda has become propaganda.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:03 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also I just used a stock photo that looks like Denise Richards.

So nice enough to look at, but ultimately flat, two-dimensional and static?
posted by Naberius at 11:03 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Starship Troopers (the film) was fine satire, but it was unforgivably shitty of the director and the studio to use the novel and author's name in it.

Nope. They bought the rights to do that on the free market, willingly given by Heinlein or his heirs and assigns.

If you respect Heinlein and his libertarianism, you should respect Verhoeven's right to do whatever he wanted with the book within the bounds of his contract. If he, or his heirs and assigns, did not wish to run the risk of a satirical adaptation, they should have been more selective about who the rights were sold to and what control they would retain over the adaptation.

Tl;dr: Verhoeven's adaptation was made with all the consent Heinlein, or his heirs, cared to give.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:05 AM on November 8, 2013 [32 favorites]


If you respect Heinlein and his libertarianism, you should respect Verhoeven's right to do whatever he wanted with the book within the bounds of his contract.

This is the most evil argument ever, and I love it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2013 [40 favorites]


Is there any other adaptation that seeks to satirise its own source material through faithfulness to its message?

But that's begging the question; whether the film is faithful to the message of the source material is exactly at issue.

In any case, not a fictional adaptation but Tina Fey satirized Sarah Palin's performance in the Couric interview during the 2008 election simply by repeating, pretty much word for word, some of Palin's actual answers. One could also argue that the Twilight films are exactly what you're asking for but I doubt the filmmaker would agree. Still, they are very much self-parody.
posted by Justinian at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2013


Dina Meyer was super hot in this movie. There, I said it.
posted by Mister_A at 11:08 AM on November 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have a friend and former coworker who's not dumb and not a warhawk, and he still hates the movie and wishes it had simply been faithful to the book. (I think mostly he wanted to see guys in powersuits lobbing nuclear grenades.)


But then, I also have intelligent friends who hated The Fifth Element and my very own parents are cilantro haters, so I guess not everyone's opinions can be right all the time.
posted by Foosnark at 11:12 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am seeing a lot of confusion about something an author writes in a fictional book or story and what the author actually believes. This worries me, because I think this shows a distinct lack of thought in understanding the purpose or fiction. This would be like saying that anything any author puts into their books is the literal truth of their beliefs about everything and that anything they say is tainted by the fact that they believe in x which they wrote about in a fictional story.

So, if Heinlein is a fascist right-wing socialist turncoat, I guess the following must be true as well:
Kurt Vonnegut is totally against egalitarian ideas because he wrote "Harrison Bergeron".
J.K. Rowling really hates muggles and believes that everyone is racist against elves.

I mean, those are just two obvious ones, but every time any one brings up Heinlein, it's like suddenly the only thing he ever stood for was every theme he approached in his books.

Don't ever read any Harlan Ellison. You'll think raping, killing, time-travelling while raping and killing, and psychotic computers that torture the last humans to insanity are his political beliefs.
posted by daq at 11:13 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes but the elves themselves are racist against dwarves.
posted by elizardbits at 11:15 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, if anyone has ever bothered to watch the director commentary on the Starship Troopers DVD, almost every point anyone is making was covered in the commentary track. It's actually really funny, because from the beginning of the commentary, Verhoeven is very loud and adamant that the whole point of this movie was to show how shitty fascist society would be, using over the top satire. Apparently when this movie came out, there were a lot of people who just did not understand the use of art to mock bad ideas.
posted by daq at 11:16 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


my very own parents are cilantro haters, so I guess not everyone's opinions can be right all the time

So you're using your own horribly wrong WRONG opinion of cilantro as an example here?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:18 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Um. Excluding "fascist" and "turncoat" as overly loaded, Heinlein was (later in life) certainly very right-wing. While there's never a one-to-one relationship between an author's beliefs and the plots of their books, RAH did like to ... go on a bit ... about his actual beliefs in his books. As is clear if you read any of his non-fiction. People are complicated, and their political beliefs change over time (this the "turncoat" label, he was much more liberal when younger), and RAH was always an odd conservative with his own quirks. But conservative he was, and proudly so.
posted by feckless at 11:19 AM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you respect Heinlein and his libertarianism, you should respect Verhoeven's right to do whatever he wanted with the book within the bounds of his contract.

You make a strong argument that doesn't make me feel any better about the matter at hand. Not being a huge Heinlein follower, I have no sense of whether he's a libertarian or not. As an author myself, though, it's things like this that make the notion of one of my books becoming a film (if I'm ever so successful) absolutely terrifying. I can't imagine selling the rights to something I created without having significant creative control/input/veto, and I can't imagine any film studio ever accepting that... so I guess there'll never be a movie for one of my books.

That it isn't worshipful of the source material doesn't make it any less an adaptation.

I really feel like there's a line between "adapting" something and throwing the original author's name on it vs. deliberately (if cleverly) pissing all over it and, again, putting the author's name to it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:20 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dr. Strangelove it ain't.

Tommy Wiseau tried to pull this whole "it's a satire" thing with The Room, and I didn't buy that either.
posted by Otis at 11:20 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, those are just two obvious ones, but every time any one brings up Heinlein, it's like suddenly the only thing he ever stood for was every theme he approached in his books.

It's more than just because he wrote quasi-facist books but because he founded quasi-facist real life organizations and worked to elect quasi-facist Presidential candidates!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean, those are just two obvious ones, but every time any one brings up Heinlein, it's like suddenly the only thing he ever stood for was every theme he approached in his books.

Heinlein wrote a number of non-fiction pieces that outlined his personal politics and philosophy, and his communiques with other authors/editors/fans seem to back up a good bit of what he espoused. That's not to say he believed you should be screwing your underage sister(s) or that he thought a fascist military society was ideal, but it's not inaccurate to say his ideas on sexuality and nationalism could be problematic.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:22 AM on November 8, 2013


HOw do you say that - is it "There Adventurer" or "The Readventurer" ? I cannot abide ambiguity of this sort.

Godspeed You! There Adventurer.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2013


I really feel like there's a line between "adapting" something and throwing the original author's name on it vs. deliberately (if cleverly) pissing all over it and, again, putting the author's name to it.

Is the "pissing all over it" a function of the satire? I'd think something like From Hell or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen does ten thousand times more a disservice to the author of those books by trying to appear as a 'straight' adaptation' than Starship Troopers does by appearing as plainly obvious satire.
posted by griphus at 11:23 AM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Godspeed! You there, Adventurer!

Yeah, you! I said Godspeed!
posted by Naberius at 11:24 AM on November 8, 2013


I can't imagine selling the rights to something I created without having significant creative control/input/veto, and I can't imagine any film studio ever accepting that... so I guess there'll never be a movie for one of my books.

Pretty much. Shitty adaptations are the rule, not the exception, especially when authors' estates get involved.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:25 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


at least their victory at the end would be sort of presented wryly, with indications that it wasn't true victory. But it wasn't. It was pretty whole as victory.

I think you misread that, too. After they capture the brain bug, not a whole lot seems to have changed. Rico gets promoted, he leads a new squad of cannon fodder into the meat grinder, and the propaganda film tells us, "THEY'LL KEEP FIGHTING...AND THEY'LL WIN," but that has a certain desperation around it. I am pretty sure their victory was paltry, but it was the only real one they got, so they acted like it changed everything, when it really seems to have not.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:30 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Misunderstood satire" == I didn't realize it was satire until 3/4 the way through
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:32 AM on November 8, 2013


I can't imagine selling the rights to something I created without having significant creative control/input/veto, and I can't imagine any film studio ever accepting that... so I guess there'll never be a movie for one of my books.

The Postman and Johnny Mnemonic were both adapted for the screen by their original authors, and are notably terrible, not just in comparison to the source material but just terrible, period. A good screenwriter knows his art better than someone who is not a screenwriter. The trick is to get a good screenwriter instead of a schlocky hack.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:33 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the "pissing all over it" a function of the satire? I'd think something like From Hell or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen does ten thousand times more a disservice to the author of those books by trying to appear as a 'straight' adaptation' than Starship Troopers does by appearing as plainly obvious satire.
There's an argument to be made that Francis Ford Coppola did a more considerable disservice to Bram Stoker by faithfully following the plot of Dracula in all its gaudy ridiculousness (while also making it look like a particularly elaborate Annie Lennox video) than either Murnau or Herzog did by departing from it.
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:33 AM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Talking about Heinlein's intentions WRT Starship Troopers is hard because he's on record as being wrong -- as in just plain factually incorrect -- about what the books says in a few places. One is about the nature of "federal service" -- he says that the book says that most people are just civil servants, but the book itself says that all federal service is at least as dangerous and unpleasant as military service. I forget what the other things he mistakenly remembered were. Either way, there's no way around him being a right-libertarian whose characters say right-libertarian things he approves of. He's not nearly as capable of sympathetically portraying political ideas he's (probably) opposed to as, say, Ken MacLeod is.

I really feel like there's a line between "adapting" something and throwing the original author's name on it vs. deliberately (if cleverly) pissing all over it and, again, putting the author's name to it.

But you have the right reaction: being selective in who you sell the rights to, and what those rights consist of. Heinlein* sold the right to piss on his book.

*Presumably Virginia, though I wouldn't want to bet on whether the rights were sold after RAH's death or during the same medical crisis when, IIRC, she sold the arguably unfinished I Will Fear No Evil.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:34 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's an argument to be made that Francis Ford Coppola did a more considerable disservice to Bram Stoker by faithfully following the plot of Dracula...

Bit of a derail but was it a faithful adaptation? I last saw the film around the same time I read the book (10+ years ago) and I thought it was a pretty significant departure in all aspects save for the names and maybe 3/4ths of the plot.
posted by griphus at 11:37 AM on November 8, 2013


Verhoeven could still have made his point with power-armored Mobile Infantry -- he'd just have made them obnoxious, racist (speciesist) ubermenschen that were difficult to like.

And then he again would have been changing the source material to make a point, just doing it in a different way. In the book, the mobile infantry are essentially updated stock characters from a WWII movie, a bunch of average Joes with the basic likeability that implies. Make them into bad guys, and you've changed the book. I'm just sayin'.

There is dialogue in the film taken directly from the book, but as is inevitable with any book-to-movie adaptation, there's lot of stuff that's truncated, or left out completely. In this case, the cuts, in addition to making the story short enough to fit into a feature film, also leave out things that would have complicated the director's take on the material.

It's a valid artistic choice, but it does make the movie's politics kind of straw-mannish in terms of engaging whatever argument Heinlein was trying to make about service, responsibility, and selfishness vs. the greater good.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2013


I think some people confuse satire with parody.

It might be both. The movie exaggerates everything to criticize/satirize the fascistic, militaristic aspects of the pre-9/11-post-9/11 (great comment, btw) modern culture that the director grew up with during WWII, seeing its tendrils growing again, but he also mocks/parodies Heinlein's book in the process of making his satire.

My suspicion is that the director was more concerned with making a satire about culture than parodying Heinlein — a satire would be more important, in the long run. I mean, we're still talking about this movie today, and it's not so much because he's making fun of Heinlein's book, per se.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got the satire, but I'm not sure how terrible acting, boring romantic subplots, and the bit where Denise Richards flies the ship and shes really good at it and its super boring are satire. I feel like those bits are just a badly made movie.
posted by Cannon Fodder
Well, that's just you and your blatant anti-Navy, pro-Mobile Infantry ground-pounder bias. That whole sequence was 2001 ballet-in-space brilliant.
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:39 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's okay to say people who treated the troopers movie as a kind of positive nationalist propaganda piece were predisposed to being kind of dumb -- it did not convert many people. Baring a real come to Jesus moment in their lives, they would've found something else to justify their beliefs, that's how it works.

I missed the satire the first time, and I just thought it was overly violent and kind of disturbingly fascist ("is this what action movies are like now?"), not some great representation of proper human values. When I finally caught on to the satirical intent, I felt better about the film, but I still don't think of it as a masterpiece.
posted by smidgen at 11:42 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sing Or Swim: "Why would anybody give the soldiers power armor? Nobody really cares what happens to them. Power armor costs money. You tell them dulce et decorum est etcetera, and send them out to get ground up into meat."

"Because it was a prominent feature in the book" would seem to be the obvious answer to this. The discussion of whether there should have been power armor in the movie isn't "should the soldiers have power armor", it's "since they had power armor in the book, should they also have had it in the movie?"
posted by Lexica at 11:43 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


WRT what Heinlein actually thought and said IRL, not in his books: it's worth reviewing this letter, written to Forrest Ackerman during WWII. A little background: Ackerman was one of the few people in the entire history of science fiction and fantasy who deserved the title of Big Name Fan, as he not only was heavily involved in fandom during American SF's formative years, but was also a publisher, writer and agent. Heinlein, here, is telling Ackerman that not only is he disappointed that more fans aren't involved in the war effort, but he's telling Ackerman that he, Ackerman, isn't holding these fans adequately accountable--and using Ackerman's own brother, recently killed in action, as a cudgel against him. Chew on that for a minute.

Heinlein, here and in Starship Troopers, is displaying precisely the sort of attitude that you'd expect from someone who was indoctrinated into the military mindset in Annapolis, but never saw action himself. (He briefly served aboard a couple of ships, but was discharged due to tuberculosis well before America entered the war.) However he really felt about the military by the time he wrote Starship Troopers, the staggering arrogance that he displayed in his letter to Ackerman doesn't commend him very well.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:44 AM on November 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


The Postman and Johnny Mnemonic were both adapted for the screen by their original authors, and are notably terrible, not just in comparison to the source material but just terrible, period. A good screenwriter knows his art better than someone who is not a screenwriter. The trick is to get a good screenwriter instead of a schlocky hack.

I've never read the book of The Postman, but rather than hating the movie I always felt it was maddeningly almost something really good and interesting. Like, just a tweak here, a little more effort there... but it was always just beyond the movie's grasp.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:45 AM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The other characters were dumb kids; if they actors "knew" the film was satire, they shouldn't have shown it.

Yeah but I have a hard time believing actors like Denise Richards and Casper Van Dien were capable of making such a choice.

Warning about Stranger in a Strange Land: Read the original 1961 version. Do NOT read the more recently published, 1991 "uncut" expanded version that reversed all the editorial changes.

There was indeed one scene that was censored for content and makes less sense in the original version.


Just out of curiosity, what was the scene about? The audiobook edition (2009) I listened to was stated to be unabridged but it's not clear to me whether it was based on the 1961 version or the later one.
posted by fuse theorem at 11:45 AM on November 8, 2013


I'm not sure whether to call Starship Troopers parody, or satire, or kidding on the square. But whatever the right word, it's irony, and it's hard to imagine now anyone watching it and taking it as a straight up story. I blame the marketing and the concept of sci-fi blockbuster epics.

Also Neil Patrick Harris was fucking hot in his not-quite-a-Nazi uniform. The bits with him mind-melding with the latex monster are, um, regrettable but the scenes of him reuniting with his old buddies are just delicious.
posted by Nelson at 11:54 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the war-porniness totally drowned out any sprinkling of subversiveness. A lot of the satire is regular comedy, it doesn't undercut the message. The story is a group of kids that sign up and overcome adversity to rise through the ranks and all become elite and successful. It's subversive like Top Gun, ie. not really, but people like to say it is.

my active duty military roommate who thought it was the greatest film he had ever seen

Yup. Pretty much.
posted by anonymisc at 11:56 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh dear. Does that make me some kind of Starship Troopers truther?

The correct term is Starship Truther.

And yes. Yes, it does.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:56 AM on November 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


The Postman is the platonic Bloated Costner Epic.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:57 AM on November 8, 2013


it was unforgivably shitty of the director and the studio to use the novel and author's name in it. I'd have had no problem at all with it had they given it some other name that only cleverly referred to the book

heinlein's estate would have sued the pants off of everybody if they didn't put his name on it. they sold the rights to be used and they were used. authors/estates get to set the rules, it's up to them if those rules are too restrictive to sell or too permissive to be comfortable with. you've decided that you think you're rules are too restrictive, heinlein's estate decided something different.
posted by nadawi at 12:06 PM on November 8, 2013


The Postman is the platonic Bloated Costner Epic.

I thought Waterworld was the platonic Bloated Costner Epic. Man, I'm wrong about everything today
posted by ook at 12:09 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I'm wrong about everything today

Wrong.
posted by kmz at 12:10 PM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Kevin Costner is satire, but most people don't catch that.
posted by griphus at 12:11 PM on November 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


The Postman is the platonic Bloated Costner Epic.

I thought Waterworld was the platonic Bloated Costner Epic. Man, I'm wrong about everything today


See, and for my money, it's Robin Hood. Equal parts good and too far up its own ass. The Postman and Waterworld mostly just felt like they were taken out of the oven before they were fully cooked. They all fall under the Peak Costner umbrella, though - I always thought he was better the further off the radar he got.

I... have opinions about Kevin Costner, I guess? It's kind of news to me, I think they subconsciously wormed their way into my brain growing up in western South Dakota with all the "Dances With Wolves filmed here!" tourist trap billboards and talk of him opening a casino resort and rumors about a hidden vacation home in the Black Hills. Dude had a long shelf life there.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:15 PM on November 8, 2013


There was a Waterworld game released for the Virtual Boy which really just sums everything up in a neat little package.
posted by griphus at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2013


Starship Troopers is in drag. It wears the semblances of a dumb tits-and-gore action movie, and it wears those semblances way better than a lot of sincerely dumb tits-and-gore movies. If only we could find + replace "Michael Bay" with "Paul Verhoeven" on the transcript of film history...
posted by serif at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the indicators that Starship Troopers, the film, is satire, is that the asteroid strike on Earth seems to make very little sense as an alien attack but perfect sense as a Tonkin incident. I'm going to have to watch it again to try to see what he was going for there, it's been a long time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:22 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's also a moment when a reporter indicates that the bugs would have left us along if we didn't repeatedly encroach on their planets, but he is abruptly cut off.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Lexica is correct in noting that the powered armor was important in the book, and therefore notable in its absence from the movie.

With it, the MI have some semblance of agency, and a fighting chance. Without it, they're chumps who have been duped and sent effectively naked into a fight they can't possibly win. Given that the director's viewpoint pretty much requires the soldiers to be chumps, this seems fairly important.

Also, imagine what a recruitment tool powered armor would be. Today's ads about joining the military show off the hardware quite prominently. For an 18-year-old with nothing better to do, the chance to be Iron Man could be pretty appealing. It might even be a reason to join the army that has nothing to do with serving the ideals of a fascist regime, which again, would seem to undercut the point the director was trying to make.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, Starship Troopers is an amazing movie. I love the inclusion of truly horrific 'bad guys', and the gender equality. Just enough to make you sympathetic to this Nazi society.

Anyway, the most powerful bit of satire isn't in the recruitment ads, it's near the very end. This clip: When NPH reads the wimpering brain bug's mind and says, soberly, "It's afraid." There's a grim, thoughtful pause. Then: "It's afraid!" He yells, and everyone bursts into cheers as jarringly triumphant, Star Wars-esque music plays.

It's such a pristine moment. Legitimately funny and ghoulish, all the more so because it was so prescient. If you're arguing about whether humans achieve victory in the end, I think this moment is key in showing how much they've lost in the war.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Starship Troopers is one of my favourite films. I've seen it at least ten times. I'm still not sure what to think of it though. It surfs over the edge of self-parody and back.
posted by ovvl at 12:34 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


why are so many people so determined to insist that the whole "widely misunderstood" part of this never happened

Psst, the vast majority of mainstream movie critics... are complete idiots.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:41 PM on November 8, 2013


Anyone else go to the rifftrax of Starship Troopers?

Yes. Surely we can all agree on the delightfulness of the commemorative T-shirts they gave to top-tier contributors.

FWIW, the Rifftrax guys are also in the "knows it's satire, still thinks it's crap" camp, despite the allegations of the Atlantic article. They're not stupid, they just know the value of the occasional stupid joke. Nothing stopped them from riffing Road House, and we all know that it was a parody to begin with, so why not satire? Mike Nelson sarcastically responded to the article on Twitter this week:

This article convinced me of 2 things: 1) Starship Troopers is a work of misunderstood genius 2) I am not funny.

Then he retweeted from a fan:

No, we "got the joke" with Starship Troopers. I "got it" when I was 15. It's satire, but it's lazy shitty satire.

posted by heatvision at 12:42 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Put me in the "gets it's satire, still thinks it's crap" camp.

People have a low bar for what they're willing to call satire. I came out of the theater thinking Verhoeven really must have hated the book to spend the budget of a first-run movie just to remake it as a lowbrow lampoon. It's "satire" at the same level as going to the (US) National Portrait Gallery, picking somebody you don't like--George Patton, say--and painting a silly moustache on it with Cheez Whiz.
posted by jfuller at 12:46 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's "satire" at the same level as going to the (US) National Portrait Gallery, picking somebody you don't like--George Patton, say--and painting a silly moustache on it with Cheez Whiz.

Well now you're just praising with faint damnation, because that would be awesome.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:50 PM on November 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


ook: "This is why Showgirls is also brilliant.

YOU GO TOO FAR SIR
"

I am your second, my good fellow.

/off to buy pearl-handled pistols.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:59 PM on November 8, 2013


Mike Nelson sarcastically responded to the article on Twitter this week

I have no problem at all with Mike's defending his and the Rifftrax crew's take on the movie. But lord, do I ever hate the sycophantic circle jerk that is every celebrity twitter feed ever.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:00 PM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


do what now?
posted by lazaruslong at 1:08 PM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's amazing to me that this movie gets such a passionate response from people, one way or the other, sixteen years out.

Just for the record, I love the hell out of this movie, the original book, and all things Robert Heinlein and Paul Verhoven. So there.
posted by KHAAAN! at 1:13 PM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder how much of this is Truffaut's line that you can never really make an anti-war film.
posted by The Whelk at 1:15 PM on November 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


There is an excellent found footage disaster movie to be made from telling the first chapter of Starship Troopers from the perspective of the skinnies. A lovely wedding party interrupted by an assault by terrifying flying monsters blowing up everything they see, knocking out the power as the wedding party cowers, ending in dropping a "30 second bomb" in front of the camera. It seems like the assault will never end, until the monsters are called away by a mysterious song.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:17 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


While we're talking about Heinlein , should I read Stranger in A Strange Land?

NO NO NO NO

It's hooey.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:18 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


confusing hippie sex hooney.

Also, that is a cult. He built a cult. (Valentine, in the book, I mean)
posted by The Whelk at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I accidentally read the title as "Super Troopers" and was very confused by the direction the comments took.
posted by RobotHero at 1:26 PM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


jfuller: “People have a low bar for what they're willing to call satire. I came out of the theater thinking Verhoeven really must have hated the book to spend the budget of a first-run movie just to remake it as a lowbrow lampoon. It's 'satire' at the same level as going to the (US) National Portrait Gallery, picking somebody you don't like--George Patton, say--and painting a silly moustache on it with Cheez Whiz.”

Oh, I don't think that's really fair at all. For one thing, I don't think you're calibrating your assessment of "lowbrow" very well. I saw Movie 43 the other day – now there's a lowbrow movie, something to make you regret you watched it. What exactly is "lowbrow" about Starship Troopers?

One of the things I like about the film is the way Verhoeven successfully lampoons Johnny Rico's silly liberal peace-loving bourgeois parents. If he were just going to be consistent with his theme, I imagine he could have made them out to be secretly actually very nice people who are misunderstood. But they come off as privileged and clueless, too – just like everyone else in the movie.

I gather some people feel it's not quite fair play to make a film that is ironic, a film whose plot is engineered solely to subvert itself, and that it's furthermore unfair to Heinlein to take his book and basically turn it against itself. But films have done these things before, and I think it's the price of writing a book and releasing it publicly; it becomes part of the conversation society has about it. Moreover, I think that, though Verhoeven may not have finished reading the book (or so he claims) he quite successfully captures and counters Robert Heinlein's political arguments. I don't think he's being unfair to the book at all. I think he confronts it thoroughly.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on November 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I accidentally read the title as "Super Troopers" and was very confused by the direction the comments took.

Wow, that would be confusing!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:38 PM on November 8, 2013


Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner: “Lexica is correct in noting that the powered armor was important in the book, and therefore notable in its absence from the movie. With it, the MI have some semblance of agency, and a fighting chance. Without it, they're chumps who have been duped and sent effectively naked into a fight they can't possibly win. Given that the director's viewpoint pretty much requires the soldiers to be chumps, this seems fairly important.”

"A fight they can't possibly win"? But they do win. That is what happens. There is never any intimation that the foot soldiers are any more chumps than anyone else. There is a moment when Johnny Rico disgustedly implies that he's being taken advantage of – "you do the flying, we do the dying" – but he's immediately proven wrong when they turn around and see that the air command is coming in for backup and to initiate a special operation to retrieve the brain-bug.

The implication throughout the film is that the MI is integrated into the rest of the military in a wholly rational and benevolent way, and that the military works together, without abusing its members unequally.

All this is necessary to make Paul Verhoeven's point, which was, in his own words: "war makes fascists of us all." That's "us all," not "the people who become soldiers."

One may disagree with the movie or its message, but it is clearly and absolutely not making the military out to be a bunch of idiots or dupes. It's pointing to the problems involved in turning all of society toward a particular way of seeing the world, a particular frame.

“Also, imagine what a recruitment tool powered armor would be. Today's ads about joining the military show off the hardware quite prominently. For an 18-year-old with nothing better to do, the chance to be Iron Man could be pretty appealing. It might even be a reason to join the army that has nothing to do with serving the ideals of a fascist regime, which again, would seem to undercut the point the director was trying to make.”

Again, the point of the movie wasn't "only fascists join up." And you'll note that, in fact, the advertisements that are interspersed through the movie are exactly as you describe; they have all kinds of technology, gear, special armor, special weapons, etc. Check out how cool it is! Hey there, kid in the park – you want to hold this awesome space-gun? And they really are portrayed as having crazy sciency space-weaponry and stuff in the film. As I said above, if they don't have flashy armor, they have medics that can do crazy miraculous things. It's basically exactly the same as having fancy armor, really, except for the budget it requires to portray it on screen.
posted by koeselitz at 1:42 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I accidentally read the title as "Super Troopers" and was very confused by the direction the comments took.

You must have eaten, like, a hundred bucks worth of pot, and, like, 30 bucks worth of shrooms man.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:53 PM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "You know he's the 6th Casper in his family? WHAT FAMILY NEEDS SO MANY CASPERS?"

Better than that - he had a role in "Casper: A Spirited Beginning" (as "Bystander" - you just know he was hired for his name).

And... according to IMDB, he and his wife "have formed a company together with a unique vision to produce socially responsible, quality family entertainment with the intention of uplifting and transforming people.

I shudder with horror at what this could mean.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:54 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I accidentally read the title as "Super Troopers" and was very confused by the direction the comments took.

You must have eaten, like, a hundred bucks worth of pot, and, like, 30 bucks worth of shrooms man.


I'm going back through and replacing Super Troopers in every reference above and this becomes a WAY better thread!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:55 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sonny Jim: "Personal pet theory time: the attack on Buenos Aires was a false flag episode. The only explanation we see about "bug plasma" comes from a segment on the Federal News Network, which the viewer has already been tipped off not to trust. I know in the novel that the bugs have the power to do this; in the universe if the film, however, there's no corresponding proof."

I think you're right. In the book the Bug War is a natural consequence of imperial expansion: the humans and bugs are trying to colonize the same part of space, so they fight. But in the movie the bugs seem more like a convenient enemy, selected by the government to be the other side in an endless war that justifies the militarization of society.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:00 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]




how have we gone this far without linking to the thread's theme song?

Nor have we mentioned that Starship was a complete mockery of Airplane!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:08 PM on November 8, 2013


Some people still thing Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA is an "America: FUCK YEAH" anthem. They were never going to get it.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:12 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


spaltavian: "A character actually says out loud that they are going to study the "failure of democracy". Anyone who just bought that is who the movie is satirizing."

So, the framers of the US Constitution, for starters?

"Democracy", like "terrorist", is a value-laden word that seldom is used to mean what it means. Also see: "entitlement", and judging by this thread, "satire".
posted by IAmBroom at 2:14 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know he's the 6th Casper in his family? WHAT FAMILY NEEDS SO MANY CASPERS?

I wouldn't be so judgmental. You don't know how many things the family has that need to be casped.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:21 PM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some people still thing Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA is an "America: FUCK YEAH" anthem.

God, who would be so stupid as to miss that one?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:21 PM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


The same bazillions of people who think "Every Breath You Take" is a romantic love song. (or for that matter "Baby, Now That I've Found You," which is best if you imagine it being sung by Buffalo Bill down a well)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:30 PM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


"It might even be a reason to join the army that has nothing to do with serving the ideals of a fascist regime, which again, would seem to undercut the point the director was trying to make.”

From the co-ed shower scene:
KITTEN SMITH
We all have one thing in common. We were all stupid enough to sign up for Mobile Infanterie. What's your excuse, Breckinridge ?

BRECKINRIDGE
Well, my family is all farmers. I hate farming. Mobile Infantery's pure picnic by comparison.

KITTEN SMITH
So the grow 'em big and dumb on the farm planet, eh ? Djana'd ?

DJANA'D
I'm going in for politics. You gotta be a citizen for that. So here I am.

KITTEN SMITH
C'mon, keep it going... Katrina !

KATRINA
I wanna be a mom. It's easier to get a licence if you've served.

ACE
I'm going career... officer's training. That's why I wanna be squad leader. They look for that.

JOHNNY
Wanting it doesn't make you the best one for the job.

ACE
Oh, yeah ? I don't see anyone else here with the chops to lead.

JOHNNY
Well, maybe you better look again.

SHUJUMI
Federation's gonna give me a scholarship when my hitch is up. I wanna be a neurologist, study brain chemisty and associated stimulus...
Verhoeven really dropped the ball there if he wanted to say that people would only sign up to serve the ideals of a fascist regime.
posted by RobotHero at 2:43 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, the things I've learned today.

* Some (many?) people loved Starship Troopers as a straight up vision of what society should look like?

* Elves are racist against dwarves.

* Kevin Costner is satire, but most people don't catch that.

* "Baby, Now That I've Found You" should be heard as being sung by Buffalo Bill down a well. (This is now seared into my brain, along with the fact that Little Susie never woke up from the thread last week.)

* Starship Truthers 4EVAH!!11eleven!
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I saw this movie for the first time in a vacuum, when it had worked its way into the Showtime rotation. I remember very clearly thinking that it was an anti-war parable. Scenes like when Neil Patrick Harris psychically determines that the alien slug vagina monster is afraid and it's treated as the best news they possibly could have gotten clinched it for me. As a semi-amusing aside, since this was waaay before NPH's career revival when Showtime ran promos for the movie the announcer would say "Starring Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, and Doogie!"

In many ways, a movie like this so wildly over the top in its rah rah war sentiment that people miss that it is in fact subverting the idea of a wartime glory couldn't get made today. There would inevitably end up being some heavy handed message moments at the beginning of act one and the end of act three that ruin the whole damn thing. Hell, the new trailer for the RoboCop remake comes out with the heavy handed parable right at the start showing an ED-209 in some unnamed country of brown children and other bipedal drones presumably just about to kill an innocent child.
posted by mediocre at 3:17 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does that make me some kind of Starship Troopers truther?

As much as I love this theory, there is a scene on the spaceship with generic pretty brunette and her loverboy pilot where the meteor comes out of nowhere and almost destroys the spaceship. So we do actually see the meteor coming unexpectedly at earth from space.
posted by litleozy at 3:18 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


should I read Stranger in A Strange Land?

Unless you are a horny, 15 year old libertarian, the answer to this question is always NO.

If you are a horny, 15 year old libtertarian, the answer is HELL NO.

One of the worst books I've ever read, and the person who recommended it to me (raving, no less, as a horny, 19 year old libertarian) immediately shrunk in my eyes as lots of their previous beliefs and statements took on a horrible new light.
posted by smoke at 3:24 PM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've watched both this and Robocop recently for the first time in a while and remembered how brutal the satire is in both of them. Robocop is probably better but I love so much about ST. I certain that Verhoeven cast the actors by how dim and vapid they could look. I can imagine casting calls where they rejected actors for showing even a slight flickering of self awareness (Harris excepted, of course).
posted by octothorpe at 3:34 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think Iron Sky (2012) is a lot better a satire than Starship Troopers, which still seems a tad apologetical to me.
posted by elpapacito at 3:57 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a pretty good read, though the politics will probably offend everyone somewhere in it.

Stranger in a Strange Land is muddled mess, but I'm pretty sure it catches more praise and more scorn than it really deserves.

Starship Troopers is much better if you actually read it back to back with Forever War, and think a little bit about how one of them is kind of about Korea and the other is sort of about Vietnam.
posted by poe at 4:31 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, this movie.

(a) Super cheesy smiley totally white poster children from "Buenos Aires." Like "Johnny Rico." Suuuuuuure. I always figured they called it "B.A." to make the foreignness of Buenos Aires less noticeable.
(b) Denise Richards. Yeah.
(c) Super gross bug gut explosions death I had to not watch certain parts.
(d) Poor Dizzy or whatever her name was.

On the other hand:

(a) the shower scene.
(b) "Would you like to learn more?"
(c) the satire.

As someone else said above, it is satire and straightfaced and shitty and amazing all at once.

I didn't want to watch the movie--a friend of mine made me and then held me while I freaked and cringed at the gory deaths. (In retrospect, this was probably why he did it.) But hey, for some reasons, it was worth it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:51 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, koeselitz - you're entitled to your interpretation, but you'll never in a million years convince me that the movie doesn't treat the soldiers like dupes. That's the whole point of the interstitial ads, and the conversation RobotHero quotes above. That dialogue is exactly like something out of an old war movie, and from where I sit, it seems to be there to highlight the fact that the recruits have no idea that they've been lied to and are about to be fed into a meat grinder.

Also, as a recruitment tool, the possibility of getting fancy medical treatment is not even remotely the same thing as being put into a suit of powered armor. One forces you to contemplate your own mortality in a rather unpleasant way, the other makes you into a superhero. The two are not even slightly equivalent, and I stand by my earlier points about the armor.

Verhoeven made the movie he wanted to make, and that's OK - I just don't see it as some brilliant piece of satire, or even a legitimate takedown of the ideas expressed in Heinlein's book, dubious though they may be. Basically all he does is set up a straw man and then knock it over, which is not that hard to do.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 5:16 PM on November 8, 2013


I love how gratuitous AND unsexy that shower scene is. I meam here's all these young naked ubermen (and women) having the most human conversation of the whole film and it's just like "aw, these poor well-meaning kids are throwing themselves into a meat grinder for a government that doesn't really give a shit in a war that probably doesn't need to happen". And then if you don't care about the sentiment it's like "sorry nothings blowing up right now, feel free to enjoy these boobs and butts".

Is it just me or is it shot in a very un-gaze-y way for a scene full of unnecessary t&a?
posted by elr at 5:47 PM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


As much as I love this theory, there is a scene on the spaceship with generic pretty brunette and her loverboy pilot where the meteor comes out of nowhere and almost destroys the spaceship. So we do actually see the meteor coming unexpectedly at earth from space.

That was from a manmade asteroid-flinging weapon. But twist: the mass driver was fired not by the Federation itself in a false flag attack, but by a group of angry libertarian space miners rebelling against the authoritarian government's heavy-handedness, imported from one of Heinlein's other works.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:51 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Robocop also has a non-sexy co-ed locker-room scene with male and female nudity. It's a Verhoeven Sci-Fi-Satire thing.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:53 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


the other makes you into a superhero

In the movie, our hero gets whipped for taking someone's helmet off.
In the book, our hero gets whipped for misuse of a shoulder fired tactical nuclear weapon.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:03 PM on November 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


the recruits have no idea that they've been lied to and are about to be fed into a meat grinder.

But the meat grinder doesn't grind - they rise and rise and rise and become Epic War Heros. All their fantasies (that service leads to greatness) come true. And then some.
posted by anonymisc at 6:07 PM on November 8, 2013


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a pretty good read, though the politics will probably offend everyone somewhere in it.

I think that one of the indicators that something is 'on the mark' is that it ends up pissing off everyone.

And Dina Meyers FTW. ( I searched the page to see if someone else had mentioned that ) ( Birds of Prey was totally underrated and should still be on the air! )
posted by mikelieman at 6:09 PM on November 8, 2013


I first saw the movie as a 14 year old boy excited for explosions and tits.

MetaFilter: Explosions and tits.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:10 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, koeselitz - you're entitled to your interpretation, but you'll never in a million years convince me that the movie doesn't treat the soldiers like dupes. That's the whole point of the interstitial ads, and the conversation RobotHero quotes above.

I'll agree the movie treats them like dupes, but you were saying they could use the power armour as an enlistment tool, and I don't see how it makes someone look less like a dupe if they signed up so they could drive the cool power armour versus signed up for a scholarship, a political career, or a baby license.
posted by RobotHero at 6:30 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner: "Sorry, koeselitz - you're entitled to your interpretation, but you'll never in a million years convince me that the movie doesn't treat the soldiers like dupes. That's the whole point of the interstitial ads, and the conversation RobotHero quotes above. That dialogue is exactly like something out of an old war movie, and from where I sit, it seems to be there to highlight the fact that the recruits have no idea that they've been lied to and are about to be fed into a meat grinder."

I guess my point is that I really don't get the impression they've been lied to. They've been told a lot of things that aren't true, but they haven't been lied to. Maybe that's too fine a distinction, but it is the interesting one to me.
posted by koeselitz at 6:46 PM on November 8, 2013


I'm surprised to be the first to link to this: The Joke Is on Us: The Two Careers of Robert A. Heinlein.
The problem, as I see it, is that these three periods, even though they can be clearly identified by different markets and certain obvious similarities, do not accurately define the career of Robert A. Heinlein and have led to egregious misinterpretations of several key works. Thus, I wish to argue instead that there were, in fact, only two periods in Heinlein’s career: from 1939 to 1957, Heinlein wrote science fiction, and from 1958 until his death in 1988, Heinlein wrote satires of science fiction. Or, if that language seems too strong, say that from 1939 to 1957, Heinlein took his science fiction very seriously, and after that, he no longer took his science fiction seriously.
posted by gerryblog at 6:54 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean - seriously, when you call these kids "dupes" you make it sound like there's someone in a tower or a dark office somewhere cackling that they've fooled them. But there is no moneyed class happily soaking off of the 'dupes' here, no set of elites who get to smile confidently, happy in the knowledge that idiots will die for them. That's kind of the whole point of fascism: we all must take part in this culture of force and violence which gives us nobility, and those who don't are to be spurned and cast aside, no matter who they are. The point of the shower scene quoted above, where they're discussing why they joined up, isn't just a crass "oh look at all these idiots who are being fooled" thing. They all have reasons, and most of them sound like damned good ones, frankly; they are not stupid reasons, and there's no sense I can see in which the characters are misunderstanding the bargain they're striking.

This is kind of essential since the movie is supposed to be about American culture. It's not about a strict class society; in fact, it's about the imposed cultural hegemony in which we are all required to take part, with its little mandatory rituals of violence and force. It begins by adopting the tone of one of those high school dramas for this reason - football stars vying for a girl, dances, history classes with a favorite teacher, etc.

To try to be more explicit about my point above: you've said that Verhoeven's "message" is that the soldiers are dupes. But that is absolutely not his message, and in fact if he sends that message he undermines his true message: that war turns us toward fascism and makes us blithely accept monstrous things. If the soldiers are dupes, they are not morally culpable. Dupes are people who were deceived and thus induced to do things they otherwise wouldn't do. Do you really think the soldiers in this movie are innocent stooges? No, they are fascism, ultimately; some of that burden rests on the shoulders of the people who raised them, but the people who raised them were raised by the same types of people, one presumes, and every adult really has to be judged on their own moral responsibility.

Verhoeven is saying that fascism is bad. He is absolutely not saying that fascism is bad because it will trick you and your friends into fighting and dying for it. If he were, then there wouldn't be a relatively rosy ending where an all-grown-up Rico gets to go on living and presumably get back together with his old girlfriend. If it were about the horrors of war for the human soldiers, then those very soldiers wouldn't show a steely resolve at the end; they'd be broken and tired of it, like the soldiers in All Quiet on the Western Front. Sure, there are sad things that happen to humans in the movie, but they aren't dwelt upon, and it really ends on a triumphant note.

The point of the movie isn't the suffering of the humans under fascism. The humans don't really suffer much at all. It's about the death and apparent eventual extinction of an entire alien race that seems to be intelligent and appears to be doing everything it can to save itself - and the fact that humans don't seem to care in any way whatsoever that they're killing intelligent living creatures.
posted by koeselitz at 7:08 PM on November 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


Cookiebastard: "Robocop also has a non-sexy co-ed locker-room scene with male and female nudity. It's a Verhoeven Sci-Fi-Satire thing."

Fun fact: Wikipedia tells me that, on Starship Troopers, the actors didn't want to do it unless Verhoeven himself directed it naked, too - so that's what he did.
posted by koeselitz at 7:13 PM on November 8, 2013


I think that's interesting as a thought experiment, gerryblog, but not something anyone really should take seriously as fact.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


While discussing the finer points of Starship Trooper's homoeroticism via MeMail I was compelled to take this still from the film, from the scene where Rico is deliciously tied up and whipped. (By a black man, to hammer in the irony.) This little sequence is unbearably erotic and it's killing me that I can't remember which 1950s sword-and-sandals epic Verhoeven is explicitly recalling. (Spartacus?) Between this scene, the shower scene, and the Aryan Neil Patrick Harris in the hot not-Nazi uniform I'm reminded what a gift Verhoeven has for agitprop imagery. It's worth remembering Verhoeven was a child in Nazi-occupied Holland; the fascist imagery is not abstract.

Now I need to go watch The Fourth Man again. Or maybe the (NSFW) shower fight from Eastern Promises, to see Cronenberg take this same sex/violence pastiche up three notches past hot to truly disturbing.
posted by Nelson at 8:04 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Verhoeven is recalling Lawrence of Arabia with that scene.

I remember watching the movie sometime around '99 with a bunch of University of Chicago students. When the flogging scene started, everyone started to count down. The count continued into the next scene (in the film, the scene cuts after 5 or so). I'm pretty sure some people figured out it was satire back then.


The shower scene is pretty much about how a fascist mentality can infiltrate all aspects of life and seem totally mundane.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:10 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Elves are racist against dwarves.

How is it possible to not know this? I don't even like fantasy and I know this.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:13 PM on November 8, 2013


So hey, new Hobbit movie coming out! Hobbit 2: Return of the Handsome Dwarves or somesuch.
posted by Mister_A at 8:34 PM on November 8, 2013


Very tall people can be easily prejudiced against very short people, and vice versa, one would think.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:42 PM on November 8, 2013


Justinian: "I think that's interesting as a thought experiment, gerryblog, but not something anyone really should take seriously as fact."

Well, it's right about Starship Troopers, at least, which clearly really was his paranoid reaction to his cold-war fever dream about the nuclear test ban treaty spelling the doom of Western Civilization.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 PM on November 8, 2013


– it actually mentions a full-page advertisement-editorial that Heinlein placed in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph on April 12, 1958, which supposedly inspired him to write Starship Troopers.

The ad is called: "Who are the Heirs of Patrick Henry? Stand Up and Be Counted!" It's evidence, I think that the film kind of nailed Heinlein's tone. In any case, it argues that nuclear weapons must be cultivated and proliferated, else "the Communist Dictators" will win and take away our freedom. "We love life and want peace... but not 'peace at any price' - not the price of liberty! Poltroons and pacifists will think otherwise. Those who have signed that manifesto [encouraging a nuclear test ban treaty] have made their choice; consciously or unconsciously they prefer enslavement to death. Such is their right and we do not argue with them - we speak to you who are still free in your souls." This is all after hinting darkly about the type of people who protest in the name of peace – "It may well be that none of the persons who whose names [appeared on the letter encouraging a test ban] are Communists and we have no reason to suppose that any of the local people are Communists - possibly all of them are loyal and merely misguided. But this manifesto is the rankest sort of Communist propaganda." It footnotes this by naming Colorado College and saying "over one-third of the local instigators of the propaganda are associated" with that college; "They have made their choice," which sounds rather grim and threatening to me, quite frankly.

So, uh – yeah. All of this should be familiar. The essential and important nature of nuclear weapons, which are indispensible as a weapon of defense, and the re-characterization of the Russian Communists as "bugs" – it's pretty clear that Heinlein was quite in earnest.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Elves are racist against dwarves.

untz untz untz untz

you dwarves can't party with us
posted by elizardbits at 11:25 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I prefer the Hard SF version: "An alien race launches a meteorite at Earth! 10 million years later, it passes within a thousand light years of the solar system."
posted by happyroach at 11:37 PM on November 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


Probably this has been said, but what I think is the true art of the movie is that it has it both ways. It works as a big, dumb assed, Lucas/Spielberg, old school "B" sci-fi action movie -- you might say it's a bit over-the-top, and the performances are not great, but he cast young and pretty and the movie's got tons of energy, it's well crafted and it's a lot of fun. A guilty pleasure popcorn movie.

And then it's got all the fascist, Riefenstahl, self subverting stuff going on, too.

How many movie makers even try to do that much?

An all time fave.

(I'm willing to believe his intentions were good with Showgirls, too. It's easy to miss when you make your target so small. Or that one day people will get that film and they'll write articles like these about THAT movie, and laugh at us and pity us for how dense we were.)
posted by Trochanter at 8:11 AM on November 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


bunny ultramod: Starship Troopers the adult, problematized, balmy satire.

Which was news to me, because I didn't think Heinlein did satire. Turns out I was wrong, but in an uncomfortable way.

Here's something else: I wonder if Starship Troopers isn't one foundation of Ender's Game. ST from the perspective of a more carefully drawn participant.
posted by sneebler at 9:27 AM on November 9, 2013


This thread is satire, right?
posted by mazola at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2013


So I stumbled across this hollywood mindcontrol website while following one of the links about NPH in his nazi-esque uniform. I ended up there because the guy collects photos of celebrities with a droopy eyelid as evidence of them being victims of mind control, and one of this photos were NPH that google image search so helpfully found.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:07 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


mrzarquon: if it weren't so detailed, I'd write that Project Monarch site off as an Under the Dome viral marketing effort.
posted by Nelson at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2013


I can't believe we've gotten this deep into a thread about Starship Troopers without mentioning the best line ever uttered by a slightly sleazy dude trying to hit on a hot chick in a cheesy sci-fi movie: "Three weeks on a starship and you think you can lick my navs?"
posted by palomar at 11:12 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The best way to evaluate ST is to compare it with ST-2 and ST-3. Slash and Bash V Satire.

T'pol looks better with elf ears.

And anyhow I like Kevin Costner. Okay, there was that DWW thing, but still.
posted by mule98J at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2013


"I wonder if Starship Troopers isn't one foundation of Ender's Game. ST from the perspective of a more carefully drawn participant."

Sure, sort of. No doubt Card read Starship Troopers. For good or ill, it's one of the foundational books of science fiction.

I wonder if we'll ever see a Bill The Galactic Hero movie?
posted by Kevin Street at 11:51 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I watched Iron Sky last night on the suggestion of this thread (and it's been in my Netflix queue across three different accounts so far)

It was fun, and a bit of a satire on the genre in a "we're going completely over the top and we're totally revelling in it" but it never stopped winking at me and I didn't feel like there was any deeper satire.

But I'm an unabashed Paul Verhoeven fanboy. Hes just so good at delivering movies that work on a surface level of dumb action and dumb action sci fi and blood! and guts! and beefcake! and tits! with a deeper vein of dark intelligent humor, antiestablishment sentiment, and some pretty good world building. His characters are not people though. There is no development or self awareness or rich inner life. They just play their parts in the story like animals in Aesop's fables and I can see how some people can't get behind that.
posted by elr at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


mazola: "This thread is satire, right?"

It's a parody, mate.
posted by Mister_A at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great, I managed to miss a ST thread; just like I was in boot camp instead of Buenos Aires.
posted by ersatz at 2:35 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know it has only the most tenuous of connections to the thread, but I was just so happy to see that this blog is still going: The Criterion Contraption on Rififi, which, Dessem argues, subverts its source material just as Starship Troopers does.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't see ST as a parody of Heinlein's classic SF or a satire of German fascism or American militarism as much as it is a comment on Action movies, which contain both of those things.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:28 AM on November 10, 2013


A symmetry I never really noticed before is that both the aliens and the humans have brain bugs. NPH uses his psychic powers to control the movements of Johnny Rico, and I'm sure the other psychics are doing the same to other soldiers. The humans aren't so different from the bugs.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:54 AM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, I hadn't put it together before, but that ties in with Rico saying "I thought you couldn't do Human." and Carl (NPH) replying "That's classified." Also, when he says "we've got one of their brains now, and pretty soon we'll know how they think" that's suggestive not just of military victory but learning how to do centralized mass telepathic control.

He goes on to say "one day it will be over, and everyone will forget that this was the moment when the tide turned". That's a curious way to put it -- that everyone would forget, rather than, say, everyone will remember. Almost as if he's already thinking ahead to when they'll edit history to make the public forget inconvenient facts.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:12 AM on November 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't see any heavy irony in Heinlein's version of Starship Trooper. The Bug War was only one of several episodes in that story. I saw the (original) story as a coming of age tale, wherein, when you begin to act like an adult by taking on certain responsibilities. When I read him as a young man I thought he was wise. I still do, but, although I don't quite agree with all the details of his version of civic responsibility, I have more in common with him that he does with, say, the Tea Baggers.

Yeah, this matches in broad strokes my take on Heinlein pretty well. I recently reread a bunch of his stuff for the first time in nearly 40 intervening years, and I liked it, mostly, though often for quite different reasons. Not the the least of which is that I've long since outgrown the need to idolize or even agree with authors whose work I enjoy reading.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:00 PM on November 10, 2013


OK, so I watched it last night, tried to keep an open mind. My reaction:

1) It's a better movie than I remembered. The love quadrangle is by-the-numbers dull, but other than that I didn't feel like the movie as a whole was shit or anything.
2) The news clips, all the "do you want to hear more?" stuff range from reasonably subtle parody of propaganda to over-the-top, where's-leslie-nielsen-when-you-need-him buffoonery.
3) Nearly all of what happens in between those brief interstitial clips is played totally, utterly straight; for the most part I saw neither nod nor wink. Rasczac's class lecture was a perfectly straightforward wad of Heinlein exposition; contra Koeselitz above I didn't feel like Rico's parents were lampooned at all, they were just a barely-characterized plot hurdle for Rico to clear; the space battle sequences wouldn't have looked at all out of place in your average Star Trek episode, and the action on the ground was Every War Movie Ever But With Added Zerg.

There are plenty of ridiculous moments to be sure -- the way-too-much bug goo splattering people every time they shoot a gun, "It's afraaaaid!", etc, but there are plenty of equally ridiculous moments in straight action films: is "It's afraid!" more ridiculous than "Wolverines!!!"? Is Rico backflipping over the giant bug to insert a grenade any more stupid than, or for that matter distinguishable from, Legolas doing exactly the same thing to an oliphaunt? (The somewhat dated effects and costuming also feed into this, a bit; it's not always easy to tell the deliberately cheesy from the this-is-all-we-had-budget-for.)

It may be that it's just really hard to be subtle in a genre that's already basically ridiculous to begin with. When stuff like hacking into the alien mothership with a mac laptop is the bar for "normal", you pretty much have to break out the clown noses if you're going to make it clear you're not just playing along with everyone else.

I was keeping a lot of the interpretations above in mind and watching for them -- I really wanted Diablevert's theory about the war being impossible and unwinnable with all the soldiers as dupes to be true, because I think that'd be a pretty good movie, but I gotta say I just don't think any of that was in the movie I watched last night. The bugs are depicted as terribly dangerous and implacable foes, sure: just like the terribly dangerous and implacable foes in literally every other alien invasion action movie; it all read as plain vanilla action movie stakes-raising, not as a symbolically meaningful existential threat. A lot of the other stuff here... I dunno guys, I kinda feel like at least some of you are basically writing fanfic in your heads about what the movie could've been, rather than describing what's actually there.

Just my interpretation, bearing in mind that I'm wrong about everything today.
posted by ook at 5:24 PM on November 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The bugs are depicted as terribly dangerous and implacable foes,

But you never see them fighting humanity except in defense of their own worlds. The only attack attributable to them is the asteroid, and there is no evidence that they sent it. In fact the official story is an impossibility -- an asteroid can't cross the galaxy at the kind of velocity depicted in less than billions of years.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:15 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only attack attributable to them is the asteroid, and there is no evidence that they sent it.

Except for the scene where the human spaceship on its way to the bug planet barely manages to duck out of the way of the oncoming asteroid, and it destroys their communications tower making them unable to warn Earth of the asteroid flying towards them from the bug planet.

The Tonkin theory is a great idea, it'd make the movie better than it is, but if it had been anywhere near Verhoeven's mind that scene would not have been in the movie.

In fact the official story is an impossibility -- an asteroid can't cross the galaxy at the kind of velocity depicted in less than billions of years.

Well hey, if we're going there: a spaceship can't cross the galaxy in less than billions of years either. Manually steering your spaceship out of the way of an asteroid while traveling above light speed is also an impossibility. Telepathy is an impossibility. This is a movie in which humans throw tactical nukes on the ground like unwanted candy and bugs shoot surface-to-space missiles literally out of their butts. Science™ is, I think, not especially applicable.
posted by ook at 4:36 AM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nearly all of what happens in between those brief interstitial clips is played totally, utterly straight; for the most part I saw neither nod nor wink.

Surely, the best way to be ironic?

This thread got me thinking about how he handles the ending of Total Recall. He gives not a nod, not a wink, not a hint, not a frame to the consideration that Arnie might be sitting in that same chair at ReeCawl. He lets you experience the whopping ambiguity entirely on your own. There's a confidence in Dick's story and a trust in himself and you that is just about off the map as far as Hollywood goes.
posted by Trochanter at 7:05 AM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Surely, the best way to be ironic?

I think what I'm getting at is that I might be more willing to accept this idea of Verhoeven as a master of such incredibly deft and subtle satire (or parody, or irony, or whatever it's supposed to be now) as to be basically indistinguishable from what it's satirizing -- if the propaganda sequences were less hamfisted and over the top. Or vice-versa. Either way. As it is it all just comes across as muddled and self-contradictory. Even the people who love the film seem to be coming up with completely different interpretations of what it was supposed to mean, you know?

This thread got me thinking about how he handles the ending of Total Recall.
OH HELL NOES YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SUCKER ME INTO REWATCHING YET ANOTHER HALF-REMEMBERED MEDIOCRE 90s SCIFI FLICK NO SIR ONE WAS PLENTY
posted by ook at 7:52 AM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Except for the scene where the human spaceship on its way to the bug planet barely manages to duck out of the way of the oncoming asteroid, and it destroys their communications tower making them unable to warn Earth of the asteroid flying towards them from the bug planet.

How does that disporove the Tonkin theory?
posted by spaltavian at 8:38 AM on November 11, 2013


Except for the scene where the human spaceship on its way to the bug planet barely manages to duck out of the way of the oncoming asteroid, and it destroys their communications tower making them unable to warn Earth of the asteroid flying towards them from the bug planet.

It's Carmen and Xander's ship, dialogue indicates she's' still in pilot training (given that she and Rico joined at the same time and he's still in boot this only makes sense) so they wouldn't be on their way to the bug planet. They encounter the asteroid in the outer solar system (script says "OUTER SYSTEM"), when on a course other than the one initially filed because Carmen changed it. In other words, nobody expected a ship to be where theirs is.

Well hey, if we're going there: a spaceship can't cross the galaxy in less than billions of years either.

They specifically say they have a faster than light drive. They don't say that asteroids have it as well. As for telepathy, they establish that early in the film as well.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:51 AM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nearly all of what happens in between those brief interstitial clips is played totally, utterly straight; for the most part I saw neither nod nor wink.
'The first shot [in Troopers] is taken from Triumph of the Will,'' Verhoeven explains cheerily, referring to German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl's infamous 1935 Nazi propaganda classic. ''When the soldiers look at the camera and say, 'I'm doing my part!' that's from Riefenstahl. We copied it. It's wink-wink Riefenstahl.''
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:10 AM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


they wouldn't be on their way to the bug planet.

Ah, all right, I missed that. Fair enough.

Seeing that incoming asteroid doesn't disprove the Tonkin theory, I guess, but it certainly complicates it: either we're supposed to believe that that asteroid crashes into Buenos Aires totally by chance and the world government took advantage of the opportunity to blame the bugs, or that the government blew up BA on their own and the asteroid sighting is just a random red herring, or that the government launched the asteroid at BA from some random direction that Carmen's course change happened to intersect with, in which case all the emphasis about their loss of communications ability seems strange and unnecessary (as does the instant assumption by everyone on the ship that the asteroid they've sighted must have been launched by the bugs).

If Verhoeven wanted to plant the idea that the BA attack was self-inflicted, asking the viewer to go down this long chain of inferences seems kind of the long way around when the same idea could've been suggested much more tidily and compactly by simply omitting that scene.

They specifically say they have a faster than light drive. They don't say that asteroids have it as well. As for telepathy, they establish that early in the film as well.

When do they establish why these peaceful victims of human aggression have the ability to shoot surface-to-space missiles out of their butts?

I kid, I kid. But seriously I don't think this is the kind of movie where hairsplitting about the science gets you anywhere.

'The first shot [in Troopers] is
part of one of the propaganda sequences, which were, as I said, plenty noddy and winky.
posted by ook at 9:41 AM on November 11, 2013


I do think the A/V Club analysis is mostly on the money, specifically they invoke Verhoeven's DVD commentary which is pretty conclusive. Also if you know anything about Verhoeven's personal history and work his attitude towards fascism is pretty plain.

But on reviewing that last bit again, I think almost everyone has missed something that I mentioned above. Carl/NPH seems to be working toward an agenda of even better control. The film shows heavy propaganda, but Carl wants something better. He and those he represents want what the bugs have: direct control, rather than persuasive control. The bug capture and the propaganda films are directly related to each other. That it's a film about facism isn't even in question -- Verhoeven has never been shy about saying so. But I'd give a lot to ask him personally if I'm right about why they really want the brain bugs, because it fits perfectly with what is said in the film.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


All credit BTW to Elementary Penguin for getting the initial foothold on the idea. Carl doesn't just want to understand the brain bugs, he wants to be one. We see that early in the film when he controls the ferret. We also see the first indications of what a cold bastard he really is, but there are others. We also know that the government is actively recruiting psychics, and they don't say why; but when the power is used in the film it is used for influence and control.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:25 AM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also if you know anything about Verhoeven's personal history and work his attitude towards fascism is pretty plain.

Yeah, like I've said a few times now, I'm not in any way arguing that Verhoeven set out to make a pro-fascist film or something, just that his execution is a heck of a lot muddier than some people were making it out to be.
posted by ook at 11:59 AM on November 11, 2013


almost every point anyone is making was covered in the commentary track

Yes, the cast commentary to this movie is probably better than the actual audio. Basically, it sounds like a bunch of them sitting around getting loaded, watching the movie, talking about making it. NPH is hilarious, and he totally gets the Nazi satire.
posted by meehawl at 1:03 PM on November 11, 2013


ook: "OH HELL NOES YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SUCKER ME INTO REWATCHING YET ANOTHER HALF-REMEMBERED MEDIOCRE 90s SCIFI FLICK NO SIR ONE WAS PLENTY"

Pistols at dawn, sir!
posted by brundlefly at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


And he can barely control the ferret! He puts the idea in the ferret's mind that there is a grub in his mother's shirt to get the ferret to bother her, which is basically what he does to Johnny. In the head canon I've been developing this weekend, the human forces have been encroaching on bug space for resources, but realize in the process that they are fighting a true hive mind. Since they are clearly already using the psychic abilities they have, as well as psychology, to control their population, the possibility of learning how the hive mind works must have been too good to pass up. They didn't even necessarily fake the asteroid attack. They just kept taunting the bugs until they threw a punch, to justify full-scale war. An FDR-knew-Pearl-Harbor-was-coming sort of thing.

I think we should call this the Spiggott-Penguin Interpretation of Starship Troopers.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:00 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The bits with him mind-melding with the latex monster are, um, regrettable

Those bits inspired this image. I say any regrets are absolved.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:26 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think we should call this the Spiggott-Penguin Interpretation of Starship Troopers.

Which, by the way, is making this movie way creepier for me than I ever thought possible. Kudos!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:29 PM on November 12, 2013


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