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July 6, 2020 6:54 PM   Subscribe

How “Starship Troopers” Aligns with Our Moment of American Defeat (single link new yorker) Verhoeven told Empire, in 2014, that he couldn’t finish reading it. With the possible exception of Mary Harron’s “American Psycho,” it’s hard to think of a film adaptation that’s more invested in refuting and satirizing its source. The anti-Fascism of “Starship Troopers” is mordant and merciless, but Verhoeven advances his argument by making its every frame lavishly, overbearingly Fascist. posted by ActingTheGoat (158 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
I saw this movie in theaters and perhaps was walking in expecting a different movie than what it was but I hated it from beginning to end and have never rewatched it. Perhaps seeing it now through a more adult eye would reveal things I didn't pick up on before. I'll give it a try sometime. The article was convincing. The film certainly has had its reputation grow in stature since when I saw it.
posted by hippybear at 7:08 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Yup.
posted by Pembquist at 7:13 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


I can't say I liked it exactly, but I appreciated its use of overdone propaganda and cheesiness? It was better than I thought it was going to be, even if everyone was white and from Buenos Aires (O RLY?).
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:16 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


I was in boarding school, very right-wing as a result of a wrong turn in our affirmative action policy (postcolonial politics turning independent struggle into fascist ethnocentrism), and as such also very religious right. It was our year's turn for the weekend out of school and we managed to get to the nearest town with a cinema. It was one of the only new movies playing that seemed interesting and both the (segregated) girls and boys would agree.

My girl friends and I loved it. The boys were so confused and they hated it. The girls got the satire, the hypocrisy, and I always think about that, and how unsurprising it was now, even though we were surprised then, and we kept insisting it was the funniest action movie. We kept quoting the propaganda bits. The boys couldn't figure out to root for, was one of their many problems.
posted by cendawanita at 7:17 PM on July 6 [66 favorites]


even if everyone was white and from Buenos Aires (ORLY?)

I remember reading how intentional it was, that it needed to be an Aryan ideal, but over the years, learning of Argentina's reputation internally and with the rest of South America, this has been spectacularly, hilariously, on point.
posted by cendawanita at 7:20 PM on July 6 [47 favorites]


As a side note, the Rifftrax riff of this is freaking gold.
posted by deadaluspark at 7:23 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


I love this movie. The satire, the cheese factor, the "90210 in SPACE!" thing they've got going. The only complaint I have is I wanted to see more of Herr Überdocktor Doogie Howser.

I like the book too, but just because it's a ripping good yarn. Take Heinlein seriously at your own peril.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:29 PM on July 6 [27 favorites]


I totally didn't get it and then a friend pointed it out and it clicked. That New Yorker article is pretty much perfect.

Verhoeven once said '"The movie is about 'Let's all go to war and let's all die .'"
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 7:33 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]




even if everyone was white and from Buenos Aires (O RLY?).

The actual racial make-up of Argentina occurred to absolutely no one in deciding to make it the setting of the movie, and how clever they thought they were being by making the cast white.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:45 PM on July 6


With the possible exception of Mary Harron’s “American Psycho,” it’s hard to think of a film adaptation that’s more invested in refuting and satirizing its source

This is a weird take on American Psycho, Brett Easton Ellis’s current views not withstanding.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:47 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


deciding to make it the setting of the movie

Johnny Rico in the book was from Buenos Aires if I remember right. And maybe it's just Heinlein or the era or whatever, but everyone in the book came off as extremely white.

I loved the movie for its intentional cheese, while recognizing why some people would have hated it even if they didn't miss the point. I really don't have any love for the book -- I read it on the recommendation of a coworker who thought the power armor was cool and I figured, I might as well read some of the "classic" SF writers out of some sort of sense of duty or something.
posted by Foosnark at 8:02 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


The actual racial make-up of Argentina occurred to absolutely no one in deciding to make it the setting of the movie, and how clever they thought they were being by making the cast white.

I think there are things packed into this which are deeper than intended, or perhaps exactly as deep as intended. By my understanding, it's not a very racially balanced place due to colonialism.
posted by hippybear at 8:05 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


In the book Johnny Rico is Filipino.
There's a scene where he speaks Tagalog.
I'm pretty sure Heinlein was purposefully trying to mess with people's racial expectations.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:09 PM on July 6 [36 favorites]


This past weekend grumpybearbride and I were feeling down because #pandemic and needed something other than food to fill the existential void. "Grumpybear69," she said, "I want to watch something dumb with lots of explosions." We watched Starship Troopers. This is probably the 10th time I've seen it. I love when Doogie waltzes in all Stasi'd out and how it just happens without fanfare, like the way good comedians drop zingers and don't wait for laughter.

That poor brain bug.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:13 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


In the book Johnny Rico is Filipino.
There's a scene where he speaks Tagalog.
I'm pretty sure Heinlein was purposefully trying to mess with people's racial expectations.


from this thirdworlder's perspective, i would be delighted when a 21st century satire of similar nature would be able to incorporate this. we browns can be fascist too!
posted by cendawanita at 8:18 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


The population of Buenos Aires is 89% white. (Look at some photos of crowds there.)

Meanwhile, I can point to dozens of movies and shows with all-white casts that are supposed to take place in New York (45% white) or San Francisco (48% white).

If the cast of Starship Troopers looks “too white,” then the casting for pictures set in the US should really be blowing your mind.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:21 PM on July 6 [83 favorites]


And screens—lots of screens. The Federal Network has queasy affinities with Fox News, which débuted thirteen months before “Starship Troopers” arrived in theatres.

If you're old enough to remember what CNN coverage of the Gulf War in 1990 looked and sounded like, this clip from the movie is very, very on the nose. And that was before Fox News. CNN isn't the "left-wing media," kids.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:23 PM on July 6 [34 favorites]


CNN isn't the "left-wing media," kids.

Well it wasn’t thirty years ago anyway.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:26 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


The first Gulf War, CNN was entirely a live stream of what the government wanted you to know about the invasion while it was going on. It was more journalistic as time went one, but for those early weeks, it was just "here, watch this!"
posted by hippybear at 8:27 PM on July 6 [35 favorites]


Starship Troopers the book is one of Heinlein's worst; a jingoistic, preachy shitshow from someone who could occasionally be a pretty talented artist, especially when reined in by editors or format constraints.

Starship Troopers the film is one of Verhoeven's best and basically all the above except in reverse.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:27 PM on July 6 [19 favorites]


This is a weird take on American Psycho, Brett Easton Ellis’s current views not withstanding.

I've got to be honest, I first heard that take here on Metafilter not too long ago. You may find this AV Club article interesting; Read This: How Mary Harron made a feminist film out of American Psycho
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:30 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


Going To Maine, don't forget that American Psycho was directed by a woman, Mary Harron, after making I Shot Andy Warhol about Valerie Solanas (author of the SCUMM Manifesto). The sex scenes with Bateman totally disconnected from the acts he's performing, too busy trying to gaze at himself in the mirror, are such an excellent subversion of the male gaze I almost fell out my chair the first time I saw the film and actually paid any attention to it. He kills people, sure, but he's boring and petty and powerless--same kind of satire as ST really, presenting the seemingly all powerful entity or way of being as actually empty and foolish and self-destructive by gazing at it without the trappings of its power.
posted by zinful at 8:33 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


"RoboCop,” from 1987, set in a futuristic Detroit, is a gleeful exaggeration of the anxieties of Reagan-era urban life:..the popular culture is a tick or two more savage and leering... "


On running Detroit in 1987:

"It's been in crisis constantly. And sure it wears me out. But when you get into a fight with a damned bear, you don't get tired until the bear gets tired. If you do, it's your ass. You can't afford to quit, can you?"

-Coleman Young.

posted by clavdivs at 8:34 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Huh, I never caught he was Filipino.

I've complained about Heinlein and race a lot--and he deserves it--but I will grant he wasn't scared of people just because of ancestry or skin color. I think it fit well with the old "melting pot" metaphor of his time. It's obviously problematic in its own way to imagine futures where everyone is indistinguishable from a '50s white American, but given what we're dealing with today at least he wasn't the type to be chanting about being replaced.

Starship Troopers the book is one of Heinlein's worst; a jingoistic, preachy shitshow from someone who could occasionally be a pretty talented artist, especially when reined in by editors or format constraints.


Counterpoint: Farnham's Freehold or The Sixth Column.

* * *

I have to admit Verhoeven's satire goes over my head. I mean, Starship Troopers basically registered as a crappy fascist production with me, and while I got that Verhoeven was holding all this at arm's length I just didn't feel he'd done anything with it. Obviously it works for people, but for me it was not broad enough to be self-refuting, not did the narrative provide additional insight on the subject.

Some of his other high profile genre films--Basic Instinct, Robocop--kind of left me feeling the same way, that he was smarter than the genre but that was still the movie he was making.
posted by mark k at 8:34 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


I legitimately enjoyed the book as a kid, in audio, for what that's worth. I always heard the movie was terrible but don't remember anything much from my single viewing, except for someone ribbing Johnny Rico about being in the army because of a girl.
posted by Alensin at 8:35 PM on July 6


I would add that IIRC much of the Verhoeven film was shot in parts of WY that I recognized at the time, which I can't say for any of the contemporary films set in WY.

Counterpoint: Farnham's Freehold or The Sixth Column.
Oh my yes, that's why I wrote "one of" - Heinlein's short stuff is often quite tightly-constructed but his novels are . . . a minefield at best.

he was smarter than the genre but that was still the movie he was making.
Verhoeven in a nutshell. See also Scott, Ridley. Actually, American Psycho fits that bill for me too.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:47 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


@sethdmichaels:
along with "Fight Club" and "American Psycho," "Starship Troopers" forms a trilogy of works based on stories that the film director understands better than the novel's author
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:50 PM on July 6 [59 favorites]


I loved the book and love the movie. I read the book in my early 20s, and my take was like Verhoeven's: this is a satire of warfare and fascism. It wasn't until many years later that I found out Heinlein wasn't being satirical--he really did have a right-of-Atilla (as some critic described it) view of things. He was kind of a proto-Libertarian.

The movie is a lot of fun, and keeps with Verhoeven's satirical bent he had with Robocop and Total Recall. People complain that the acting (and actors) are bland and disposable, but I think that was intentional, to show the shallowness of society. Or maybe I'm reading too much into that and it was just lazy filmmaking.
posted by zardoz at 8:52 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


This piece gets the film pretty well: everything the humans do is idiotic, but it all makes sense if you assume that its military's role as a social/political institution has lead to it forgetting how to do what it's supposed to, so when an actual war breaks out it has no idea. And ends up sending lightly armed infantry and starships that fly blindly into slow-moving blobs of plasma to get chewed up by the enemy. (There's also the hint that the humans deliberately provoked the war in the first place.) Look at it this way and it's a much better (ironic) treatment of the book than it usually gets credit for.

Meanwhile the book is all about the Cold War; its Mobile Infantry are terror weapons, mostly used against civilians and under-armed militias in a series of low-level conflicts fought because the consequences of using "Nova bombs" to win are unacceptable. I'd be tempted to think there was a bit of irony there if I didn't know that Heinlein was a big fan of the Vietnam war.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 9:02 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


One of the best takes on the movie is that it's Verhoeven's idea of what Star Wars might have been like if the Nazis had won WWII. Verhoeven lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands as a child; by contrast, Heinlein graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis and served on a ship briefly before getting a medical discharge, meaning that he was fully indoctrinated in the military mindset without confronting the horror of war first-hand. Thus, I get the comparison with American Psycho: a director confronting and engaging with the source material from a perspective that's arguably more relevant to the subject matter than that of the original author.

In between the lashings of military propaganda (and more conventional lashings), the Mobile Infantry suffers casualties to rival those of the Colonial Marines in Aliens, even showing a friendly fire incident in training. That much of it is preposterous, even for a space opera--the bugs launching asteroid strikes literally out of their asses that can hit a major city not only light-years away but travel fast enough to hit it within the lifetimes of those involved--is beside the point. It takes very little dot-connecting to realize that the bugs were probably never a real danger given the technology that they have, and that, to justify their martial society, if an adequate enemy didn't present itself, they'd find one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:07 PM on July 6 [27 favorites]


God, I love this movie. I'm not much for ranking movies, but if I can imagine it being in my top 20. I adored it in theaters and was baffled that more people didn't. I'm so glad it's been critically reevaluated.
posted by brundlefly at 9:13 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


I like to call it the best post-9/11 movie to be released before 9/11.
posted by brundlefly at 9:14 PM on July 6 [49 favorites]


Also, ROBOCOP is probably the most prescient movie ever made. IDIOCRACY can bite me.
posted by brundlefly at 9:16 PM on July 6 [40 favorites]


I remember discussing the book with people before it came out—none of us could figure out how they could do the film since the power armor in the book is such a central theme.

Then Space Nazi Doogie Howser showed how little imagination I had. That and standing in a circle and just shooting at things until they explod.

Nowadays you could probably do most of the effects by handing some college kids a couple of MacBooks and some weed gummies.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:24 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


Starship Troopers is not the sublime satire of RoboCop, but it certainly sent a message to my late teens self even if I didn't quite get the explicit Nazi reference at the time. It was quite clearly ridiculous and not a society anyone with sense would like to live in.
posted by wierdo at 9:31 PM on July 6


Also, ROBOCOP is probably the most prescient movie ever made. IDIOCRACY can bite me.

Terry Gilliam, Brazil, hands down.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:33 PM on July 6 [27 favorites]


Also, ROBOCOP is probably the most prescient movie ever made. IDIOCRACY can bite me.

Timecop has Ron Silver as a US senator using illicit technology to travel back in time and steal money to buy enough television ads to keep him in the spotlight and be elected evil president.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:35 PM on July 6 [20 favorites]


Verhoeven is a treasure. Anyone who only knows him from his classic big budget sci-fi's (Robocop, Total Recall), should consider making some time for his intriguing later films (Black Book, Elle).
posted by fairmettle at 10:19 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Some of his other high profile genre films--Basic Instinct, Robocop--kind of left me feeling the same way, that he was smarter than the genre but that was still the movie he was making.

I think the satirical nature of a lot of Verhoeven’s work went clean over Hollywood’s head: the American years of his career saw him direct six movies in thirteen years and all six have had subsequent sequels, remakes, and/or TV spinoffs (none of which Verhoeven had any involvement with) and that’s not even counting the comics books and video games.

Has anyone else ever had a perfect six-for-six record at creating — however inadvertently — franchises like this?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:22 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I hated the movie the first time I saw it. It was the first time I realized that it is tough/impossible to adapt a novel for a movie and actually stuff everything in. The movie ripped out all the speculative science that was posited in the book. And it doesn't have power armour which is just Whaaa? (A now obvious money saving move in the 1990). It also skips over the steps the Federation takes to discourage people from signing up which totally neuters the way Rico essentially joins up on a whim to chase a woman but sticks with it out of pride despite heavy pressure from his family.

On subsequent watchings (for a while there it was constantly on TV) I could appreciate it as a regular movie rather than a poor adaptation. And from that viewpoint it is brilliant.

I loved the book. When pre-teen me first read it I wasn't aware enough to realize RAH hadn't written a cautionary tale. That instead he thought that the whole military fascist shtick was something desirable.

And in someways it was usually diverse. Rico of course is Filipino but the other cadets at Camp Arthur Currie come from all over (a rarity in SF at the time which rarely IME looked outside the borders of the US, at least the American authors) but also things like how almost all the pilots are women.

I'd love to set a netflix 20 hour adaptation of the book that held closer to the source material.
posted by Mitheral at 10:23 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


Verhoeven's Starship Troopers provably surpasses the ecological themes in Blade Runner to be the most socially-relevant sci-fi film of the last 30-odd years: A virus of neo-Nazi, right-wing populism infects world governments, just as the real bugs (coronavirus, new swine flu) get going.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:40 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


@hippybear
I understand why people hate this film, but I love it so much. The stupidity isn't an accident. The whole point of this film is seduce you with a horrific stupid world, and not make the mistake of the original robocop, and let in a glimmer of justice, but to end on evil celebrating in happy triumph.
posted by compound eye at 10:56 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


To the debate of most prescient film ever, the fact that Stalker came out 7 freakin' years before Chernobyl happened still kinda breaks my brain, and I wasn't even alive then.
posted by mannequito at 11:05 PM on July 6 [20 favorites]


Heinlein graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis and served on a ship briefly before getting a medical discharge, meaning that he was fully indoctrinated in the military mindset without confronting the horror of war first-hand.
Halloween Jack

An excellent contrast to Heinlein and Starship Troopers is Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. Haldeman was drafted to fight in Vietnam and was wounded there. War in his book isn't the glorious forge of the soul that makes boys into men and proves your worth to be a citizen, it's a pointless hell where stretches of mind-numbing boredom are punctuated by mind-breaking terror and the poor bastards on the ground are just trying not to die while their oblivious commanders and idiot politicians back home preen and scheme.
posted by star gentle uterus at 11:06 PM on July 6 [38 favorites]


Meanwhile the book is all about the Cold War; its Mobile Infantry are terror weapons, mostly used against civilians and under-armed militias in a series of low-level conflicts fought because the consequences of using "Nova bombs" to win are unacceptable.

People who've seen the film know the scene where troopers land on Big K in huge numbers, firing flares everywhere in a kind of ridiculously jingoistic hooya smirk that only serves to attract bugs and mass deaths.

There's a beautiful scene where the soldiers subsequently look out on a valley containing strange bugs firing hypnotic light into the stars.

For just the briefest amount of time, the soldiers are absorbed in the awe-inspiring beauty of weird, alien creatures that they've traveled light years to see and kill.

Then the moment of grace passes, Rico gets slapped on the head, and he launches a nuclear weapon at the bugs.

I mean, that's epic satire. No one but Verhoeven could get away with that with a straight face.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:11 PM on July 6 [17 favorites]


I waited years to watch the film, because I hated the book. A friend who worked on the effects crew convinced me to watch it after I made some obnoxious comment about her themed swag. I enjoyed it. That some question whether it is satire is frightening. (I'm not convinced the shower scenes really added much. And it sure is white. But, that's Verhoeven's signature.)
posted by eotvos at 11:18 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


It's still weird to me that a lot of people who don't like the film do so because the satire is too heavy-handed, and a lot of them think it's not overt enough, thus working as straight up propaganda. Both seem silly to me, but the latter one is straight up bizarre. Verhoeven is not exactly subtle there.
posted by brundlefly at 11:31 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


He's not subtle — once you're in on the joke. But he does use all of Riefenstahl's tools in the toolbox to skirt the line and make fascism look appealing. Same-sex showers and women sky marshals give the veneer of equality. Everyone worth saving until the end credits roll is "beautiful" and "perfect", in their Aryan way. They're gonna win! Why not believe him?

The problem is that the movie was out in 1999, a couple years before a few needle-shaped planes helped America infect itself with the neo-Nazi disease we are seeing played out in speeches in, say, South Dakota, or in tweets and Facebook every day. This country was too innocent to understand or accept that it could happen here. Still is, in a lot of ways. For many, Verhoeven's film could only do too much or too little.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:12 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


I've got to be honest, I first heard that take here on Metafilter not too long ago. You may find this AV Club article interesting; Read This: How Mary Harron made a feminist film out of American Psycho

This isn’t an American Psycho thread, so I’ll leave off, but the linked article seems to mostly be about how the movie worked and the book was kind of flat. And I agree that the movie is great! But I guess that I also thought that the book was a very good satire that was premised on Bateman being a delusional madman. So it still seems to me that this article is off about Mary Harron undermining the original book rather than just pushing the material to more interesting places. (Contra Starship Troopers, which I should really watch again since the last time I saw it I just thought it wasn’t good, missed the satire entirely, and was primarily disappointed that the marines didn’t have power armor.)
posted by Going To Maine at 12:17 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


It’s brilliant satire. One of my favorite films. The NFL/NASCAR veneer is so perfect. I think I first saw it in theater when I was like 17 and I was like “this works as a Die Hard action movie with a 90210 type teenager relationship drama.” But I knew something was...off. It was just a little too over the top, too cheesy.

“They sucked his brains out!”

One of the greatest lines in the history of popular cinema. More than “It’s Alive!” or “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” or “They’re heeere...” Just so much to unpack there.

A few years later I realized 17 year old me had the same critical thinking skills as a 50 year old stuffed shirt republican and Verhoeven almost passed this off as a straight action film. Total Recall was a bit ham handed as satire and Blade Runner wore its social commentary on its sleeve. Robocop was brilliant but it was hard to mistake who the bad guys were. Starship Troopers celebrated, with incredible fidelity, “Us” and everything that the government and media think are great about “Us” while creating an unspeakably alien and evil “Them.” Instead of diving into who’s better, “Us” or “them”, the film’s primary focus is on what happens to “Us” when we define ourselves in an “Us” vs “Them” scenario. At the same time, totally working as a dumb space war action film. If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t watched it with a more critical eye, you really should watch it now.

It makes its point by engaging the part of your brain that enjoys watching the humans exact revenge on those goddamn bugs and the reassurance that a very powerful fascist military state protecting us gives.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:20 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


The anti-Fascism of “Starship Troopers” is mordant and merciless, but Verhoeven advances his argument by making its every frame lavishly, overbearingly Fascist.

Yeah, see, it's nice and academic to say this, but I wager that 90+% of the viewing public never got that message. Or, they actually did get a message, but were hyped by it and didn't understand it was fascism that they were all on-board with. That's kind of the problem with satire these days. Fewer and fewer people grasp it unless it's literally screaming in their face "I AM SATIRE!!!!"

Also: Given the aggressive beatification of our military over the post-9/11 years, I'd say we're getting pretty close to "Service Assures Citizenship" in reals.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:53 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


When stripped of the real-world consequences, fascism can be very appealing to a lot of people. For example, the Star Wars stormtrooper cosplay culture; they have the shiny polycarbonate uniforms, organise themselves into legions and profess dutiful service to the Empire which (as far as institutions go, and accepting the Empire as a political entity like the USA rather than a cipher for evil) is not any different from the civic duty professed by the police forces in our own world.
posted by acb at 3:15 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


Tunnel in the Sky is another Heinlein story with a non-white protagonist. IIRC (it's been a while since I read it) his family also practices a non- Abrahamic religion I couldn't identify, and his older sister may actually be coded non-binary.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:21 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


That some question whether it is satire is frightening.

Which is why I've decided nobody should make a movie of The Iron Dream. You just know that the Fox News viewers would adopt it as an anthem.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:44 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]



When stripped of the real-world consequences, fascism can be very appealing to a lot of people.
This is what I love about this film, and also what is great about watching 'triumph of the will' now. Nazi Germany had always been a terrifying fairy story for me, the seduction of fascism had been unfathomable, as unreal as Mordor, until I saw the scene in 'triumph of the will' when the young man, probably poor, uneducated, unemployed meets Hitler. Hitler clutches the cloth of the flag the man is holding and stares into his eyes. With that one gesture, that crumb of recognition, the man is seduced and will probably go on to destroy his own life and those of others. I think it's good for us to taste a little of the seduction that drives people to do terrible things.
posted by compound eye at 4:06 AM on July 7 [9 favorites]


I picked up the blu-ray cheap last year and watched it again. I was struck by how Verhoeven constantly draws visual parallels between the humans and the bugs: the wide shots of figures teeming through a landscape, the segmented body armor of the infantry, and the roachlike appearance of the enormous fleet carriers (and one great shot of a fleet carrier that has been cut in half with the bow falling towards the planet while the aft blunders along as if it were still whole).
posted by um at 4:06 AM on July 7 [12 favorites]


I like the film, thought the fascists in space look was good satire when I first watched it, and my understanding of it, and Verhoeven in general, was improved enormously by watching Black Book and realising that he knew exactly what Nazis looked and acted like. Too much gratuitous nudity, which is my standard complaint about Verhoeven. It's very white, and it would be a better film if it wasn't, but Heinlein's attempts at racial diversity always felt like they were absolutely as superficial as possible so inadvertently it maybe makes that point.
posted by plonkee at 4:14 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I love the movie but the problem with it -- with satire in general -- is that satire doesn't work on stupid people. They only see the glossy veneer, the shining endorsement, they don't see the subtly devastating critique. Starship Troopers may have opened the eyes of a few bright kids but it also reinforced a lot of fascist ideas in people who leaned that way already.

So not an absolute good, sadly. Like Fight Club.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:42 AM on July 7 [12 favorites]


I resisted watching this for a few years because I hated the book so much and most of the reviews I'd read didn't seem to get that it was satire. I guess I should have known better considering it was Verhoeven and I was very pleased to be wrong when I did finally watch it.
posted by octothorpe at 4:54 AM on July 7


I watched this at Uni when it first came out andloved it as the satire it so obviously was. I rewatched it probably too many times, to the point I had chunks of dialogue all but memorised.

Imagine my surprise when, a few years later, I discovered that huge swathes of viewers and critics seemed to have missed the point entirely (thinking it was just a dumb war film or somehow a paean to fascism or both).

I thought that, if the criticism had been that the satire (of society, culture, news media, war films, etc) was too obvious and broad, I could see the point (even if I disagreed) - but simply to miss the point entirely? That was a genuine eye-opener for me...

Anyway, if we measure "favourite films" by number of times watched, Starship Troopers must be well within my Top Ten. I haven't seen it in years but know now what I have to do.
posted by deeker at 5:10 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I was only lukewarm to ST when it first came out but it grew in my mind until it was one of my favorite films. The final scene where it just morphs into straight war-propaganda is just a perfect punchline.

I've mentioned this before on the fanfare thread, but the Director's Commentary track on the Starship Troopers is a work of art in itself. I am not sure why people are complaining that the film is very white. I mean, it is, but that is the whole point.

Verhoven is an interesting dude who seems to adhere to the "Here, suck on this, Mofos" school of cinema.

You Americans want to watch scifi cops and robbers films with car chases and gunfights? Here, suck on this, Mofos.

Oh you dream of Schwarzenegger punching things and plots designed to play out like violent fantasies? I got one of those for you, Mofos.

I see you enjoy crypto-fascist scifi where blue-eyed heroes mow down aliens? Choke this one down, Mofos.

Oh, I'm sorry. You are obviously above that crass America rubbish. You'll like a WWII period film about a Jewish woman surviving the Nazi occupation? Say no more, Mofos.
posted by AndrewStephens at 5:37 AM on July 7 [19 favorites]


I think the satire issue isn’t about people being stupid as much as people wanting the satire world to be true. The satire world is simple — there is Good and Evil, everyone knows exactly what to do, justice (in the form of lashings or being fired as Sky Marshal) happens immediately, and there is constant, consistent media support for all of the above.

FOX news does its best to embody that world and it was doing very well long before 9/11. As we’ve observed there are a lot of people desperate for those clean lines and the unambiguous meaning they allow, and I think a lot of them experienced the movie as a brighter future that met their needs.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:45 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


I was in junior high when this movie came out. I never had any interest in seeing it (too violent) and I had never read any Heinlein or knew anything about him beyond that he was a big science fiction author.

But I did hang out with some other kids who were HUGE Heinlein fans, and they absolutely hated the movie with Last Jedi levels of passion. They thought it veered too far from the books (no power armor?) and that Verhoeven had completely misunderstood the story. These are two complaints that I often had about film adaptations of books I liked, and so I was kind of inoculated and I started regarding the movie--which I hadn't seen--with contempt because it had offended the source material--which I hadn't read.

A couple years later I started watching the animated series (still without having seen Verhoeven's movie or read Heinlein's book) only because I saw someone on the internet praising it for following the books more closely than "that awful movie" and I felt some weird fan-ish duty to support adaptations which got it right. Of course the animated series was only closer to the books because like several kids shows adapted from adult movies, it had completely hollowed out all the complicated themes of the movie and reduced it to tough guys in power armor shooting lasers at evil bugs.

It took me some time and a lot of growing up to get over that initial impression of the movie being irredeemably bad, and it kind of scares me how casual I was in accepting and defending the opinions of others in a debate I really didn't care about.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:57 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


These are two complaints that I often had about film adaptations of books I liked, and so I was kind of inoculated and I started regarding the movie--which I hadn't seen--with contempt because it had offended the source material--which I hadn't read.

This approach to film — which I used to be guilty of myself — calls to mind Ebert’s tepid review of Gods and Generals: he writes,
"Gods and Generals" is the kind of movie beloved by people who never go to the movies, because they are primarily interested in something else -- the Civil War, for example -- and think historical accuracy is a virtue instead of an attribute.
As for Starship Troopers, I saw it once in its initial release and not again since then. I got that it was satire, but I thought it pretty cack-handed and a sizeable disappointment. I will have to rewatch it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:25 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


OK, if we're going to get into prescient media, how about the Lone Gunmen episode where planes are flown into the Twin Towers. March 4, 2001.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:35 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


> I got that it was satire, but I thought it pretty cack-handed and a sizeable disappointment. I will have to rewatch it.

I can completely understand if people don't like ST. It is not for everyone and on many levels I can admit it is an objectively bad film. Verhoven doesn't really do subtext as most people understand it, his films have a text and a SUPERTEXT.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:41 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


To the debate of most prescient film ever, the fact that Stalker came out 7 freakin' years before Chernobyl happened still kinda breaks my brain, and I wasn't even alive then.

For further breakage, note that it is loosely based on Roadside Picnic from 1972.
posted by each day we work at 6:44 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I fully understand the hate for the book. It seems like a straightforward Utopian premise to me: what if we had a society where everyone in a position to give orders had to first have experience taking orders in service of a cause larger than themselves? What if those who want civic power are first required to take on extraordinary personal risks on behalf of society?

Perhaps I'm showing some of my own limitations here by not making a slam-dunk connection to fascism. The book has no Supreme Leader, people are actively discouraged from entering military service and are encouraged to quit even while they are serving, and there is every indication of a functioning representative democracy in place (albeit with a limited franchise).

I see the movie as making a good point, perhaps, or being a solid satire on its own merits, but not fairly characterizing the ideas and tone of the book it is nominally based on.
posted by springo at 6:55 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I saw the film once, when it was in first run, and hated it.

I'm one of Heinlein's Children: his juvenile novels were among the first real books that I read, though they were getting dated in the late '60s when I was reading them. I read Starship Troopers the first time when I was about 10 or 11. I think it was the summer before Analog Magazine published the Haldeman novella that would eventually become The Forever War(1). I liked the book, and still think it deserves to be engaged with in a way that the movie, and the majority of posters here, completely refuse. Not because it expresses wisdom in the way Heinlein thought it did (events have shown him wrong in ways that would be hilarious were they not so tragic) but because the book illuminates something about how the United States got into the mess it's now in.

Yes it's a militarist's work (@Halloween Jack hits the nail on the head with the remark about Heinlein's military experience), and its central theme (representative government can be made responsible in a lasting way by only extending the franchise to those willing to make some sacrifice for it) is hopelessly naive. In particular, the all-volunteer military where "everybody works and everybody fights" turns out to have the exact opposite of the effect Heinlein thought it would. It turns out that if your cooks and clerk-typists are all civilian contractors, you have a real problem when combat comes to them, as it did in the Green Zone in Baghdad! Also, the notion that the State will find it hard to engage in wars of choice when it has no pool of conscripts to use for cannon fodder? Wrong! Not to mention the (predictable, and predicted by people who were ignored at the time) effects of a long-serving pure professional force on civil-military relations. Starship Troopers is undoubtedly one of Heinlein's weakest adult-targeted works.

But it's not fascist in intent(2), and anyone who insists on reading it that way is guilty of presentism. I thought the film was a hack job when I saw it, though maybe I should try to watch it again as satire. Certainly many of Heinlein's devotees deserve to be satirized.

(1) It should be noted that Heinlein claimed to have thought that Hero (the novella that eventually became the first part of The Forever War) was a great story, and a worthy revisitation of the themes in Starship Troopers.

(2) I should probably stop trying to defend Heinlein from charges of fascism, racism, and sexism, because AFAICT nobody who thinks that of him is willing to consider that they might be mistaken. But for @mark h, Heinlein knew that Sixth Column was racist AF: the story you read is his attempt to tone down the story that John Campbell wanted to publish. And Farnham's Freehold... I guess that must be something of a Necker Cube. I have never had the slightest doubt that it was an attempt to yank the chains of racists, and am prepared to argue that at length if anyone is interested.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:04 AM on July 7 [14 favorites]


What if those who want civic power are first required to take on extraordinary personal risks on behalf of society?

I'm not sure what your experience with veterans is, but I've not found them to be particularly blessed or cursed in running governments. They're just like everyone else, with heroes and rogues and a whole lot of people in between.

And the idea that getting shot at is some sort of litmus test for caring about your neighbors is just odd.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:04 AM on July 7 [12 favorites]




There are quite a few countries with mandatory military service and they don't seem to be any better or worse run, in general, than those without. Seems like a null hypothesis to me.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:26 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


It's a different premise: in Starship Troopers, you volunteer by choice and you can opt out any time, but if you don't serve, you don't vote. Service is a moral test for civic participation, not a requirement for everyone.

I love Utopian fiction! There, I said it. In our next installment, we discuss the ideas behind The Dispossessed and Walden Two. Good times.
posted by springo at 7:40 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


I'm kind of weary of defending American Psycho, but the book is a masterpiece of satire of a very specific (and important!) period in recent American history, and, as I have said before, we ignore it (then and now) at our peril. The movie "American Psycho" is also a masterpiece of satire, which understands the book and shifts it ever so slightly into a different perspective -- brilliantly. These works sit side by side, complementary, not unlike Nabokov's Lolita and Kubrick's "Lolita" -- each a work of art in its own uncomfortable way. To bring this back to the post, I think the same is true of Heinlein's Starship Troopers and the movie "Starship Troopers," though I am intensely aware that my reading of Heinlein was in my formative years and thus totally unreliable (though I believe no one will berate me for recognizing when it came out that Job: A Comedy of Justice was a steaming pile.)
posted by chavenet at 7:50 AM on July 7


I mean probably some of it is the sort of people I talk to, but as far as I can tell mandatory military service tends to result in more military cynicism than jingoism because nothing disillusions people more about military glory by having to run around in the mud for no reason getting yelled at when you aren't even going to get treated as special for it.

What if those who want civic power are first required to take on extraordinary personal risks on behalf of society?

Well if we go by what jobs actually kill people at high rates: fishing, logging, ag labor, construction, garbage removal, commercial driving, electrical linework, and these days surely nursing and being a grocery store clerk, it starts to sound like you what you get is workers' councils and communism, not fascism.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:56 AM on July 7 [25 favorites]


The Starship Troopers movie was a marginal adaptation of the book, but based on Robocop, Total Recall and Showgirls, I think Paul Verhoeven's version of "The Handmaid's Tale" would have been a wondrous blood-soaked-and-heavily-redacted-Bible USA sight of carnage to behold.
posted by lon_star at 8:00 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


The book has no Supreme Leader, people are actively discouraged from entering military service and are encouraged to quit even while they are serving, and there is every indication of a functioning representative democracy in place (albeit with a limited franchise).

The book is a bit fascist-y precisely because it depicts a society run on principles broadly consistent with fascism - where you're a second-class citizen unless you choose to surrender your will and your body to the state for a term of service, and if you do the state rewards you with various forms of patronage - without developing the bad features of actual fascism; the way the military is supposed to discourage people from joining makes it more fascist-y rather than less, by giving a rationalisation for the legitimacy of the ruling elite. Real-world political systems that disenfranchise large parts of their population tend to end up oppressing the disenfranchised parts, and part of the book's absurdity lies in it pretending that this wouldn't happen. Also, it needed less talking and more mech battles
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:00 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


ST(the Book) is explicitly a reaction to/critique of conscript armies not an endorsement of them. That's one of the things the movie misses. In the book you can tool down and quit at anytime with the exception of active combat (and quitting doesn't necessarily get you out of punishment). A cap trooper can literally be in his capsule waiting deployment and say "I quit" and as long as it doesn't delay injection he's allowed to miss the drop and head home transport permitting. One of the key points of the book is no one wants someone deploying with them if they don't _want_ to be there. The system in the book makes it very easy to quit at any time. They don't care if you show up after enlisting (the system is rigged with a 72hr cooling off period). They don't care if you get a 24hr pass from training and don't come back. Penalties for non-combat desertions are low and perfunctory. No one hunts down non-combat deserters. All the "recruiters" are people who are missing limbs or otherwise are unable to participate in active duty to drive the point home that "service" isn't 90210 goes to war.

It also should be noted that while the book and movie concentrate on military service anyone is accepted if they can legally consent. Triple amputee and visually impaired? You get to count the fuzz on caterpillars by touch. One of the failings of the book is it goes with the idealistic theory that everyone does hazardous duty to the limits of their abilities where realistically the Bushes and Trumps of the world would game the system with money and favours to get air national guard service or something. It also ignores the ability for the military to just get rid of anyone they are prejudiced against with the result that in practice minorities would be discriminated against.
posted by Mitheral at 8:12 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


I have never had the slightest doubt that it was an attempt to yank the chains of racists, and am prepared to argue that at length if anyone is interested.

The problem with Farnham's Freehold isn't that it condones racism, it obviously pillories it. The problem is that it unabashedly promotes eugenics.
posted by Mitheral at 8:16 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


But it's not fascist in intent(2), and anyone who insists on reading it that way is guilty of presentism.

Well, I was calling Heinlein out for his might-makes-right stories long before the movie came out, so I reject your accusation, and plead not guilty.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:20 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Real-world political systems that disenfranchise large parts of their population tend to end up oppressing the disenfranchised parts, and part of the book's absurdity lies in it pretending that this wouldn't happen.

Spot on. See: police rate of killing (black) people, Police rate of sexual misconduct and rape in the United States. If you create a 'protector' class, won t be long before that class exploits its position.
posted by eustatic at 8:23 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


At least ST came before the serious "incest: awesome or super-awesome?" discussions he filled later books, such as FF, with.
Also, Heinlein wasn't exactly racist - he just believed that anyone who didn't think, behave and look like him was a monster.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:31 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I saw Starships Troopers in the theater when it was released. I was Robocop fan and I understood the humor exactly. It was hilarious and scathing.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:40 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


One of the funniest things in my life was getting the live tweet reactions of watching this movie from a militarist acquaintance who was sharp enough to catch on to the satire who had had the movie recommended to him by someone who had not gotten that it was satire.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:53 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


The satire in ST bites, nibbles, chews. It was seductive and uncomfortable.

Another over-the-top but right on movie was "Dr. Strangelove...." Compare it with "Fail Safe," a straight version of the same thought problem. Heinlein's ST, the book, compares similarly with ST, the movie.

Heinlein thought a modern man should be able to make a souffle, shoe a horse, and build an addition to his house with hand tools, then go serve a stint as an administrator in any bureaucratic capacity in the government. But to do the latter, he first had to become a citizen. I don't believe he actually spelled the status and benefits enjoyed by non-citizens, but they didn't include voting. To him, voting was not a right, but a privilege that was earned by becoming a citizen, and there was only one path to citizenship. Fortunately that path was open to anybody with the desire to serve. Not that it was easy, but then that was the point.

Had his military experience been as an infantryman in combat, I believe it wouldn't have changed his viewpoint much, except that he may not have been so eager to send his troopers off on bug hunts. In any case, the book (to me) reflected a free world under siege by Communism. That idea was popular at the time. It's a good thing we don't have that same Orwellian dynamic going for us now, where a "Forever War" with a demonic, immoral adversary is always in our future.
posted by mule98J at 9:10 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


After listening to the re:View criticism, it occurs to me that Verhoven probably overestimated audience investment in his love plots. were they supposed to clue people in? The only emotion that the actors show has to do with the love plots. I don t know how the novel deals with the relationships....

The movie starts with Rico falling for Carmen, and Diz falling for Rico, and Carmen falling for flyboy, and so they all sign up for the military chasing tail, although Carmen has family motivations.

Rico calls Diz out on it. The first sign that something is very wrong is that Diz dies a prolonged death, and Rico is very emotional in his reaction. (Side note, if you have a penetrating wound, the rule of thumb is to leave the object in place, don t rip it out, until you can get treatment.)

The movie wants you to care that this romantic arc is over, But I don t think people do. Diz's lines are the most authentic in the whole movie.

The second scene is when Carmen reacting to county's death, same thing, Carmen shows emotion for one of the few times in the movie.

That Rico and Carmen are a possibility again, because their lovers are dead, is pretty dark. The final scene is ambiguous but flat, Johnny and Carmen together.

It should move you to reject the whole plot in disgust, but it falls flat I think. I think Verhoven misunderstands the American sense for romance, and didn't hit on the romantic angle the right way. I think most people think the romance plots are just vapid and a waste. Not sure that this was intended.
posted by eustatic at 9:42 AM on July 7


But it's not fascist in intent(2), and anyone who insists on reading it that way is guilty of presentism

Besides the point that "intent" is not particularly relevant - themes and subtext exist in works to be noted and commented upon by the audience and critics regardless of whether the creator intentionally or consciously intended to insert them - I don't believe all that many people are claiming that Heinlein intended to make ST fascist; more that his (relatively) privileged experiences (both in life and in the military) plus his libertarian/conservative socio-political beliefs combined to make the society he created in ST a fascistic society, even if Heinlein himself was unable to see that.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:45 AM on July 7 [16 favorites]


It's a good thing we don't have that same Orwellian dynamic going for us now, where a "Forever War" with a demonic, immoral adversary is always in our future.

I assume that part is sarcastic. Because we do have that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:48 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I just discovered that they made a whole series of Starship Troopers productions. Check it out!

First the theatrical movie, then a TV movie, then a direct-to-DVD, then two animated movies. They all sound perfectly sincere -- and perfectly ghastly.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:52 AM on July 7


Great user name, They sucked his brains out!
posted by brundlefly at 9:59 AM on July 7


Verhoeven was not aware of Heinlein’s novel when he started work on the project which would eventually become Starship Troopers. Instead, he was working on a new project which also featured extraterrestrial bugs and ironic criticism of American military culture. It was pointed out to him that the project shared some details with the novel, and, after licensing the rights to the book, Verhoeven tried—unsuccessfully—to read it. He disliked the novel, gave up on reading it, and remained content with mostly mapping the details of the novel onto the surface of the film (names, institutions, places, events, etc.).
Poking Fun at Militarism: How Paul Verhoeven’s Cult Classic Starship Troopers Willfully Discards Robert Heinlein’s Novel
posted by Western Infidels at 10:02 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


1999 sotonohito, not yet fully convinced that he didn't much care for Heinlein's politics and still mostly focusing on the question "is this movie an accurate and good adaptation of the book" hated Starship Troopers with a burning passion. I'd just come off seeing the godawful adaptation they did of Puppet Masters and saw Starship Troopers as basically more of the same. A crappy adaptation made to cash in on the title/author while he was still freshly enough dead that there was value in his name and titles.

The idea that it was intended as a parody or satire of the book, and of Heinlein's... interesting... politics simply didn't occur to me at the time.

I'll have to watch it again and see if 2020 sotonohito appreciates it more.

As for Heinlein, racism, sexism, and politics... Yeesh.

It's complicated by the fact that for a guy born in rural Missouri in 1907 he was often surprisingly progressive, if in weird and frankly not very good ways. But he was only surprisingly progressive from a weird perspective that doesn't work very well, and only when considered as a very old white guy raised in rural Missouri by people for whom the Civil War was still a living memory.

Heinlein on sexism was basically the Strong Female Protagonist approach to things. Make women "equal" by making women kill lots of people and fuck a lot. Because they're Strong Female Protagonists!

Heinlein on racism is the really bad, very conservative, fundamental misunderstanding of the most quoted parts of MLK's I Have a Dream speech. Racism is awful, therefore Heinlein declared that he didn't see race and that as long as people **ACTED** like middle class white men from mid century rural America he didn't care if they also had dark skin. He thought of this as a revolutionary and very enlightened take on things.

Which is why we have Juan Rico written as such a white American kid that most readers miss the fact that Heinlein did put in hints that he was supposed to be non-white and not American.

Heinlein was a product of his time, and he was extremely good at writing books from the POV and in the setting of a white mid century American man. You read his books, regardless of when they were written, and they are all basically love letters to and excellent depictions of mid century America. Despite his travels he never really learned much or cared much about other places, and despite his age he never seemed to notice that the world had changed from the America of his childhood and early adulthood. He wrote in 1980 about the same way and fundamentally about the same world that he did in 1950.

As for his politics, fundamentally intent doesn't matter. If he wrote a basically Fascist utopia, then it doesn't matter if he didn't intend to or not. I'm inclined to argue that the polity of Starship Troopers wasn't actually Fascist, but it was certainly a completely unrealistic utopian vision from a man convinced that the military was a crucible for forging weak civilian boys into strong and responsible men.

I'd say mostly what we saw with the politics of the book was what we saw with post-Virginia Heinlein in general: a rabid libertariainism that utterly refuses to acknowledge the bad outcomes that are the inevitable product of it's uncompromising ideology. His politics would inevitably create a world of serfs and aristocrats and he was simultaneously in denial of that, and OK with that provided the aristocrats were "merit" selected by the glorious free market.

It's also worth noting that for a guy who spent so much of Starship Troopers preaching about it's superior moral and political system, he didn't really explain it at all except that only veterans got to vote. I'm fairly sure that's at least as much due to Heinlein being unable to actually imagine how that world would work as it was due to anything else.

So I'm off to watch Starship Troopers either this evening or sometime this week to see it from a different lens than "this is a terrible adaptation". It'll provide fodder for my ongoing project of occasionally diving into Heinlein to see what of my personal way of thinking came from him and if it needs to be rooted out and changed. Turns out that a lot of stuff in my brain was put there by Heinlein and in retrospect and closer examination most of it was pretty awful.
posted by sotonohito at 10:05 AM on July 7 [22 favorites]


I don t know how the novel deal with the relationship s....

Well, it was written as a "juvenile", intended for younger audiences, so there really isn't much, and what there is is very chaste in an upper-middle-class-American-of-the-1940's kind of way. Definitely no co-ed showers here . . . Rico has a crush of sorts on Carmen (the Denise Richards character in the movie) and it may or may not be reciprocated, but there's a bunch of "women are pretty and nice-smelling but alien & incomprehensible creatures" nonsense plus some foofaraw about women being genetically better (for Reasons) at piloting starships so all the women in combat are in the Navy and they don't really mix with the Army/Mobile Infantry.

Basically there's a couple of borderline-platonic "dates", with a hint that had both Carmen & Rico not decided to go career military they might have developed a relationship after serving (IIRC, Carmen's decision to go career was one of the things that nudged Rico into going career himself.)
posted by soundguy99 at 10:06 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Heinlein is best understood as that very rare phenomenon - a real-life, not kidding, solipsist.
He wasn't really predjudiced against people - he just didn't understand why they existed when they could be more usefully replaced by copies of a certain rich sf writer.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:13 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


The entire film is in the form of a propaganda film, so the romantic subplots are of a piece with that. Soapy stuff to draw the populace in.

In the same vein, what's interesting to me is the relationship between Johnny, Carmen, and Carl. The three represent mobile infantry, fleet, and "games and theory" aka military intelligence. Near the beginning of the film we see the three together for the last time in a while, with Carmen making them swear that they'll "always be friends." There's conflict between them later on ("Mobile infantry does the dying, fleet just does the flying."), but in the end, after capturing the brain bug, they're all back together again, buddy buddy. That feels to me like something straight out of WW2-era wartime propaganda: the three branches of the military who, despite their squabbles, are all on the same team and will come together to beat the common enemy. Together, "They'll fight! And they'll win!"

Damn, I love this movie.
posted by brundlefly at 10:20 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


I think Paul Verhoeven's version of "The Handmaid's Tale" would have been a wondrous blood-soaked-and-heavily-redacted-Bible USA sight of carnage to behold.

I like to believe that the collapse of The Handmaid’s Tale world resulted in the rise of the Starship Troopers world. Basically we’re going to replace religious fascism with military fascism, but we never really worked out how to get away from the fascism.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:27 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


That's kind of the problem with satire these days. Fewer and fewer people grasp it unless it's literally screaming in their face "I AM SATIRE!!!!"

I have a modest proposal on how to handle this issue.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 10:29 AM on July 7 [27 favorites]


Basically we’re going to replace religious fascism with military fascism, but we never really worked out how to get away from the fascism.

We seem wired for it, almost.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:35 AM on July 7


I don t know how the novel deals with the relationships....

In the book, Dizzy is a guy, and Rico's best friend. Turning him into a female love interest in the movie was an amusing switcheroo.

It also didn't affect the plot one bit. Dizzy still has to get wasted for Rico to complete his ascension to squad leader.
posted by neckro23 at 10:48 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I think where the straight forward romance between the characters is important is it underlines that these are people getting on with their lives within the framework in which they live. At no point do any of the characters meaningfully question that humanity is now fascist. They have ups and downs in their love lives, they ignore wiser heads, they build careers, they do as they are told and they take part in an interstellar war. What marks out Starship Troopers as unusual is what's missing; at no point do they realise that humanity needs to be returned to democracy or made more just or that there may be other ways for their society to work. There is no plot, no undermining of the existing order. Its not just that there are fascist tropes in the film, its that the heroes are fascists, and unquestioning fascists. Which makes it a remarkable example of a Hollywood action film.

A further important point is that we are on their side throughout the film.
posted by biffa at 10:51 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


It always seemed to me like Verhoeven really wanted to adapt Spinrad's The Iron Dream and so just did that and called it Starship Troopers. This isn't true, of course, and I doubt Verhoeven has even heard of TID and possibly not of Spinrad. But that's basically what ended up happening.
posted by Justinian at 10:57 AM on July 7


Well, it was written as a "juvenile", intended for younger audiences

sort of. The genesis of ST is complicated and "sort of" is the most correct answer to whether it was written as a juvenile. He didn't want to write juveniles any more and so he wrote ST when he was, indeed, supposed to write a juvenile. It was promptly rejected.

So it's kind of a hybrid where he was writing as least-juvenile of a juvenile as he thought he could get away with, and failed at that.
posted by Justinian at 11:03 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


the relationship between Johnny, Carmen, and Carl.

That whole arc wildly departs from the book. Carl is a scientist (not military intelligence) in the book and is killed about half way through by a bug attack on a research base. Mobile infantry is exclusively male and with the exception of commissioned officers unwelcome in co-ed ship areas (and even then MI officers rarely lingered). They even post a guard at the boundary between MI and Navy ship areas. Guard duty while boring is seen a somewhat worth while because guards would occasionally hear female navy personnel.

Make women "equal" by making women kill lots of people and fuck a lot.

Even there his upbringing defeats him. The top military leader in the book has to go from enlisted to officer in both navy and mobile infantry but, oops, women can't be cap troopers.
posted by Mitheral at 11:04 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


> Heinlein is best understood as that very rare phenomenon - a real-life, not kidding, solipsist.
He wasn't really predjudiced against people - he just didn't understand why they existed when they could be more usefully replaced by copies of a certain rich sf writer.


that's a little bit reductive. you can't just that heinlein thought that everyone should simply be replaced by copies of a certain rich sf writer.

for example, he thought that some people could be even more usefully replaced by gender-swapped 18-year-old clones of a certain rich sf writer, all of whom want nothing more than to fly around on spaceships having neverending orgies with a certain rich sf writer. (see: time enough for love)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:09 AM on July 7 [20 favorites]


The movie starts with Rico falling for Carmen, and Diz falling for Rico, and Carmen falling for flyboy, and so they all sign up for the military chasing tail, although Carmen has family motivations.

But, Carmen says that she wants to go into the fleet before meeting Flyboy. When they meet she's excited because he has signed up for what she already wants to do. And when Dizzy shows up at boot camp Rico accuses her of following him into the mobile infantry and she's incredulous that he would say that. Maybe she's lying but that's not followed up. I don't think you can reasonably say that either of the women signed up because they were chasing tail.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:10 AM on July 7


RNTP: (see: time enough for love)

Or, rather, don't. Ugh. *shudder*
posted by wenestvedt at 11:24 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


aw come on wenestvedt what’s wrong with an immortal marty stu roaming the stars having continuous fuckparties with his perpetually teenaged clonedaughters? doesn’t everyone want to read about that?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:33 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


I was getting this confused with Spaceballs for a moment. This thread made for very odd reading until I realized my error.
posted by slogger at 11:40 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


>>Basically we’re going to replace religious fascism with military fascism,
>>but we never really worked out how to get away from the fascism.
>
>We seem wired for it, almost.


We are certainly wired to write dystopian fiction about it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:44 AM on July 7


and i know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking: are the fuckparties really continuous in time enough for love? to which i respond: well they’re definitely not discreet!
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:46 AM on July 7 [63 favorites]


p.s. the comment above is the best joke i have ever made in my life and i expect a goodly number of favorites for it. plz don’t disappoint me, metafilter.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:50 AM on July 7 [19 favorites]


I saw it in the theater and I loved it. I was perplexed that people through it was pro-fascist and really didn't like the movie.

I think we were just naive about war in general. In 2003, when we went to war again, people looking back actually "got" the film. So our changing landscape that happened well after the film came out actually contributed to its cult like status.

I remember sitting in the theater and watching early in the film the scene when the recruits are given their assignments. Carmen is a pilot, Doogie is games and theory, and Rico is infantry. The old man recruiter pulls back and shows he has no legs and shakes Rico's hand with a metal hand and says, "Mobile infantry made me the man I am today."

https://youtu.be/b07887ZzKiw

That exact moment I got the film and I am so surprised it was lost on others.

The problem is the film didn't spell it out for dumb movie goers.
posted by andryeevna at 12:27 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I'm with Hippybear on this one - saw it in the theatre and with the exception of Doogie's bits, absolutely hated it. I went in hoping for something with the bite of Robocop but nothing in it, except Doogie, came even close. Repeated watchings haven't helped it any - it's just so damn boring. One of Veerhoven's weakest films.
posted by hoodrich at 12:42 PM on July 7


They have ups and downs in their love lives, they ignore wiser heads, they build careers, they do as they are told and they take part in an interstellar war. What marks out Starship Troopers as unusual is what's missing; at no point do they realise that humanity needs to be returned to democracy or made more just or that there may be other ways for their society to work. There is no plot, no undermining of the existing order.

You could make the same point about Star Wars. Star Wars talks about the evils of the Empire, but it's not really shown and the enemy they fight doesn't really seem to be the same one they talk about in such hushed tones. And the hero is a guy whose blood is so magic that he's destined to be the leader and fight in war. Can you get more unjust? And that war is also endless, generational even, based on the many sequels.

Other than the silly commercials, which I think most of his other movies do better, Starship Troopers is a bog standard war movie with some vague nods to facism tacked on. Have you seen the Rambo 2008 movie? That's as satirically over the top as Starship Troopers, but it's played completely straight.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:43 PM on July 7


star wars is fascist. most superhero movies are fascist (star wars is undeniably a superhero movie). starship troopers is a movie about fascism that's devoted to making fascism look as risible as possible, and undesirable as possible. this is a worthwhile project.

and the nods to fascism aren't tacked on. like, the "doogie howser schutzstaffel m.d." scene isn't an afterthought or a mistake. it's the point of the movie.

verhoeven is a goddamned genius and he directed three of the most brilliant movies of the 20th century.

in no particular order: robocop, showgirls, starship troopers
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:49 PM on July 7 [23 favorites]


You could make the same point about Star Wars.

People have. Especially David Brin.
posted by PMdixon at 1:02 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


I think it's a mistake to view the "silly commercials" as the only satirical aspects of the film. They're the most overt clues; the satirical elements that are so overt that they provide an entryway into the subtler satirical aspects of the film as a whole.
posted by brundlefly at 1:05 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


re: jokes about Verhoeven's version of The Handmaid's Tale: the funny thing is that Margaret Atwood's novel was openly based on the plot of an early Heinlein novella, 'If This Goes On-'.

I think Heinlein is often infuriating because he doesn't quite conform into a generic obtuse, if he did then he would've been forgotten by now. Personally I can't stand his work.

(If this is a vote for ST The Movie Love it or Hate It? then sign me up, it's a treat for both the hopelessly ironic and the reptile brain.)
posted by ovvl at 1:09 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


> I think Heinlein is often infuriating because he doesn't quite conform into a generic obtuse

at one point in time enough for love his stand-in character balks at having orgies with teenaged genderswapped clones of himself, because oh my heavens when he decanted those teenaged genderswapped clones of himself he had simply no thought whatsoever of spending the long space voyage rawdogging them. why, that would be incest!

but, reader, all turns out well! the clonedaughters remind him that since they’re pretty much the same person, their space orgies would be masturbation, not incest. and who can blame a dude for masturbating a little while on a long space voyage? no one, that’s who! and so, with the author standin character (who, i remind you, definitely definitely did not uncork his clonedaughters to have sex with them) reassured that he’s not doing anything wrong, the rest of the trip is nonstop 🥳 🤤 🍑 🍑 🍆 🥳 🍣 💦 🚀 🌮👅 🌮 💥 💥 🍆 🥳
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:24 PM on July 7 [13 favorites]


i guess what i’m trying to say is that it’s not so much that he’s infuriating because he doesn’t quite conform to a generic obtuse as it is that his writing is infuriating because he wants to have sex with himself. but only younger genderswapped versions of himself because as a manly man he’s not into any gay stuff also teenaged girls are super into him (and vice versa lol!)

writing prompt: discuss how the theme of “as a manly man he’s not into any gay stuff” appears in starship troopers.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:29 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


their space orgies would be masturbation, not incest.

Don't worry they eventually get their just deserts
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:07 PM on July 7


i may have at some point in the past sworn a solemn vow to redirect all conversations about heinlein toward time enough for love and i am proud to honor that oath. if anyone wants to have big thoughts about the design of militaristic future societies they’re gonna have to talk about teenage space cloneorgies first.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:20 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


also though seriously anyone who takes up the argument that heinlein really didn’t intend starship troopers to be fascist is going to have to first hear about how lazarus long really didn’t intend to have sex with his clonedaughters. i mean i’m being a goofball here but it’s in service of a point i swear.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:22 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


RoboCop, Starship Troopers, Strange Days, and Children of Men all predicted our current reality better than the most Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk could have. Gibson’s latest offerings are next up, with his previous two books being global in nature to how the world is. Children of Men is suppose to be London but it’s just as easily many cities in America. Our cyberpunk dystopia didn’t come in the form of Hong Kong cityscapes, it came in the form of rabid authoritarian proto-fascism, mass evictions, deportations, militarized police, a starving populace dying from a disease that’s easily manageable with a competent government. Rampant fake news, fake human beings, models and actors as social media influencers being hired by SOMEBODY to push a specific image and message in the world of #BlackLivesMatter, while we all die and starve and get thrown to the wolves. It’s all going to hell, my friends.

“Would you like to know more?”
posted by gucci mane at 3:13 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


I like to call it the best post-9/11 movie to be released before 9/11.

The second time I saw it was the first time for my friend, about two months after 9/11. His comment was, "More like Osama BUG Laden, amirite?"
posted by joannemerriam at 3:16 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I think The Forever War (or even Armor, or of course Old Man's War) is a better Starship Troopers novel than the Starship Troopers novel is, but I do love me that Starship Troopers movie.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:16 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Am I honestly alone in being... slightly surprised how long this thread has grown?
posted by deeker at 3:40 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


I mean, it's coolio and all - see above, it's one of my favourite films- I'm just surprised.
posted by deeker at 3:40 PM on July 7


Also I’m sorry to harp on this point but I think maybe for a lot of us—white? male? straight? not sure—Americans, the Trumpian style of descending fascism we’re witnessing right now is brutal and unrepentant. Concepts in Starship Troopers such as the soldiers playing with children and showing them their guns is EXACTLY like videos on social media of police forces hanging out with children. Especially black children, but I saw one today from the Dixon Police Department having a water gun fight with some children where the cops had riot shields and were tactically throwing water balloons at them. This is full-blown propaganda. Starship Troopers showed us THIS EXACT SCENARIO in one of its news broadcasts. When I was a kid the cops came to my elementary school in Florida and showed us their shotguns, around the same time the movie came out, but it wasn’t posted on the news or on something like twitter for thousands of people to see and interact with. RoboCop, released much earlier, has a similar scene where RoboCop goes to meet some kids at I think a basketball court. “Stay out of trouble.”

Strange Days revolves around Y2K but the riots, the police corruption and murder of activists and local political figures is the SAME EXACT THING WE ARE SEEING NOW, and have always seen. I can leave my house every night and go get tear gassed by FEDERAL POLICE in downtown Portland.

All of this shit is just so fucked. Is the rest of the world going through this?!

It’s so intense to me that these movies are SO PRESCIENT to the world that so many people have lived in before, and I’m no stranger to rampant militarized police presence at protests and watching journalists get deliberately targeted, but the virus and the zeitgeist of everything outside of me is just too on the nose for me.
posted by gucci mane at 3:50 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


hypothesis many of the films of the 1990s were prescient about the conditions of the 2020s because some of the creators hadn’t yet forgotten the 1930s and 1940s.

verhoeven is dutch, and was 7 in 1945.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:06 PM on July 7 [23 favorites]


There's another feature of late-stage RAH: tying every novel he ever wrote into one big meta-universe. See also The Number of the Beast and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I don't think Friday, Mother Thing, and Johnny Rico ever met, but I bet he was working up to it.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:11 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Hah, I have my own head canon about our current world and Verhoeven re: Starship Troopers, and it’s OUT THERE.

Starship Troopers has Gary Busey’s son Jake casted in the role of ACE LEVY (great, perfect name), who Rico butts heads with in training but becomes good friends with alongside Dizzy. Jake Busey looks like a spitting image of Duke Nukem, whose major release Duke Nukem 3D came out a year prior to Starship Troopers. In the game, you fight aliens in a post-apocalyptic society, of which one of the most common enemies is ex-LAPD cops transformed into literal “pig cops”, who wear shirts that say LARD on them.
posted by gucci mane at 4:26 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


In the last "previously", I watched "Starship Troopers" because of you guys raving about it*. Are you seriously telling me I have to watch "Showgirls"?

* It was OK.
posted by acrasis at 5:20 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


verhoeven is dutch, and was 7 in 1945.

Hell. He lived near a German military base that launched V2 rockets and his area was bombed by the Allies on a regular basis. As I recall the house right next to his was destroyed. He saw the bloody, destructive results of war close up at a young age. That has to have informed his work.
posted by brundlefly at 5:39 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


"Showgirls" is OK, too. Mostly.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:39 PM on July 7


Our cyberpunk dystopia didn’t come in the form of Hong Kong cityscapes, it came in the form of rabid authoritarian proto-fascism

I don't mean to be flippant about it, but check back on Hong Kong in a few years.
posted by whir at 5:40 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


showgirls is a delightful time but you have to come in ready to get and stay on gina gershon’s wavelength for the duration because she is definitely the only person onscreen who knows what sort of movie it is
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:40 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Showgirls is a hilarious and amazing film, though I've always wondered how much it was planned as satire versus how much Verhoeven cannily backed into the satire angle once it was in the can. One the one hand, Starship Troopers (obviously satire). On the other, Basic Instinct (pure trash, as far as I can tell, though maybe someone can convince me otherwise).

That's also why I wouldn't want to let Verhoeven anywhere near The Handmaid's Tale. It's not a story where broad satire would be remotely palatable, and I wouldn't trust him to get the nuances of Atwood's sense of humor remotely right.
posted by whir at 5:48 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


Oh hey, just for fun I'm watching a video on Gone With The Wind that around thirteen minutes in, turns into Starship Troopers commentary.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:08 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


whir, I strongly suspect that Joe Eszterhas wrote Showgirls with serious intent, but that Verhoeven recognized it for what it was and directed it as a satirical comedy.
posted by brundlefly at 6:21 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


whir: I don't mean to be flippant about it, but check back on Hong Kong in a few years.

Hell, right now even? They spent almost a year protesting and now look where they’re at.

My point about that sentence though was about how so much cyberpunk is about aesthetics of environment, which can be the result of politics and general life, but rarely hit those aspects. Towering sky scrapers, neon lights, “Asian” language characteristics on signs, huge advertisements. Like, Shinjuku Crossing in Tokyo? That’s “cyberpunk” to most Americans. It’s not the social issues. This is why I think Akira is the greatest piece of cyberpunk: it has all the aesthetic characteristics but also is showing student anti-government protests, political corruption, and the resultant issues alongside the breakdown of “society”. They even have the religious/conspiratorial aspects down. It’s a great conglomeration of Japanese cyberpunk and Gibsonian cyberpunk, with Japanese cyberpunk having its Cronenbergian body horror characteristics.
posted by gucci mane at 6:30 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


As mentioned above, Verhoeven's complex WWII resistance film 'Black Book' ('Zwartboek') (2006) is really worth a view, if your moral compass can do a spin. Undercover agents get betrayed and persecuted, criminals pretend to be heroes, it's a fascinating morality play.
posted by ovvl at 6:41 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Two things about Verhoeven:

First: his most recent film, Elle, is brilliant in my opinion. It's also really dark (and funny) and I can see it being offensive or triggering to a lot of people. Understandably. It's basically "trigger warning" the movie. (My review from a few years back.) Go in with fair warning.

Second: a long time ago, he and FX legend Phil Tippet were working on a wordless, gory, stop motion movie about dinosaurs. This... being a gigantic fan of both of these people and dinosaurs, this sounded like my dream project. It never happened. But that project lived on. Disney got it, and turned it into the boring 2000 CG film Dinosaur. We truly live in the darkest timeline.
posted by brundlefly at 7:10 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Okay if it makes you feel better go listen to what song is playing when Rico and Zander get into their fight. I don’t know who decided to put THAT song playing there but W O W is that a weird moment.
posted by gucci mane at 7:35 PM on July 7


During the prom dance or whatever it is after the football game the band is playing a song with the refrain 'all is well' when it clearly isn't, so yeah, Verhoeven doesn't pick music at random.
posted by um at 7:54 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


For more Verhoeven goodness check out Maggie Mae Fish's Robocop! where she elects not to cover the anti-corporate satire of that move in favor of less well-trodden ground. Only 20 minutes, well worth it. #Lewis4Eva.
posted by um at 7:58 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


If it makes any of of you feel better, I love you. I see you. I don’t do shit but I know exactly what we are all talking about.
posted by gucci mane at 2:20 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Very good discussion of this movie recently on the Horror Vanguard podcast.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:31 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Space Nazi Doogie Howser -- now there's MetaFilter user name.
posted by y2karl at 10:29 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


so i briefly considered paying five bucks for an account named "space nazi doogie howser? now there's a metafilter user name!"
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:10 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


I remember watching this film around the time it came out--I was young--and feeling distinctly uncomfortable about instinctively rooting for the "heroes." Part of it was the unsubtle white blandness and wooden acting (aside from the ever-glorious Michael Ironside). And even at that age I got the SS reference of the black leather coat. It was like man, the good guys could have been a lot more appealing.

Later, I got it.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:22 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


So I did watch it again today. It really didn’t seem any more clever or witty than it did 23 years ago. Sorry, all: I was really hoping I’d see it in a different light after reading other’ assessments of it here.

In 1987 I saw Robocop and thought it a great sendup of schlocky American sci-fi action movies. I only knew Verhoeven from Soldier of Orange and I was impressed to see how effortlessly he mocked the absurd excesses of Hollywood. Ten years later I saw Starship Troopers, and having seen Total Recall and Basic Instinct in the interim, I was starting to think, “Maybe this guy isn’t satirizing Hollywood excess, he just unironically loves it...” I mean, this was the era of Independence Day and Godzilla and Face/Off and other high concept dreck that all played just as well or better as mockery of their own genre than they did as straight stories.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:10 PM on July 9


“Maybe this guy isn’t satirizing Hollywood excess, he just unironically loves it...”

Is it not possible that he's doing both? Personally I think that is the case here with Starship Troopers (as well Total Recall & Basic Instinct but less so with Hollow Man). What sets them apart from the contemporaries you mention (Godzilla and Independence Day but I'd argue not Face/Off) is that this and his other Hollywood genre films is that there is a self awareness in them. You can see this in broader acting styles and visual choices in those films. Why its weird is that Verhoven is an outsider using his film grammar to make an exploitation film (like John Woo in Face/Off) and relishing the subversion of using Hollywood's broad exploitation film tropes as satire (Face/Off I think just glories in its operatic excesses). That's why Starship Troopers works for me and the many others I've seen it with (especially non-Americans) as a satire because it is both an exploitation film while it is also a satire of excessive Hollywood product and America's inching towards fascism & its belief that it is somehow immune to it. But satire is like that - it works for some and not for others.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:12 PM on July 10 [8 favorites]


The world is finally coming around to Starship Troopers
The sci-fi satire arrived too early, and we’re hearing what it said 23 years too late


The past: Upon its release in November 1997, Starship Troopers almost immediately flopped. Audiences and critics hated it. Roger Ebert called it “the most violent kiddie movie ever made” in his two-star review. Ebert conceded director Paul Verhoeven seemed to be angling for a satire of fascism but argued the film lacked humanity, considering its action soulless spectacle.

The present: As Atlantic writer Calum Marsh noted in 2013, the tide has been slowly turning on Starship Troopers. Like a lot of prescient satire, the times changed until the movie’s point was made for it, and its targets became obvious — even though its story in retrospect could not have been more plain.

posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:24 PM on July 10


Surprised that Buenos Aires is 98% white? Would you like to know more?
(spoiler: genocide)
posted by Tom-B at 8:02 PM on July 10 [8 favorites]


The “all’s well” song that plays during the prom scene is a weird cover of Bowie’s “I Have Not Been To Oxford Town” from 1. Outside, which was probably his most recent album when this was made. The lyrics are altered to “I have not been to paradise,” the tempo is somewhat slowed, and it’s sung by a trio of women.

I decided to watch this tonight because of this thread, and the song stood out to me.

All that said, the satire is glaringly obvious... so blunt that I find it pretty concerning that any adult has missed it.
posted by verbminx at 4:49 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Ebert conceded director Paul Verhoeven seemed to be angling for a satire of fascism but argued the film lacked humanity

It's not the film that lacks humanity. It's the fascism that lacks humanity. I thought that was part of the point of the movie.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:07 AM on July 12 [8 favorites]


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