No, Starship Troopers Is Not Brilliant Satire

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so you want the film to hold your hand?
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Oh my god. They're trying to claim another young victim with the foreign films.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Just because a story tells the audience who did what, does not mean the film is holding your hand. Holding your hand is different than that. The are plenty of movies, where if a character is killed, the storytellers will say who killed the character, so the audience knows. That's not handholding alone.



its kept ambiguous to highlight the shadiness of war and further define it as a propaganda like piece. If it holds your hands it loses its meaning.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
But the shadiness is not really hinted at that well. Like if someone in the movie were to say something like :the bugs couldn't have hurdled that meteor towards us, because of so so, and then other characters say, well we have our orders, then it would have given some hints, but why is it so good not to hint at all?

Why is a little hinting bad?

But now I'm curious to see this movie again. I will give it another shot. I've liked other movies that have acknowledged propaganda. Wag The Dog came out the same year, but I felt it did not a much better job at the propaganda satire compared to Starship Troopers from what I remember.

I also liked Green Zone, which deals with military propaganda as well. But I felt in those movies there were at least some characters in it that had different views of the theme, and not everyone was the same.



Re: Strangelove. Wasn't the facepalm in response to the idea that it wasn't "intelligent and thoughtful"? Saying you didn't find it funny is another thing entirely.

Similarly, finding Starship Troopers fun or funny isn't really mutually exclusive with what I'm saying. It may be enjoyable for any number of reasons, but I don't see any reason to call it intelligent or thoughtful. Thoughtful satire wouldn't dress anyone up as Nazis, methinks.
I'm not sure I would call it "thoughtful" satire but that doesn't mean its not effective and honestly the fact so many people missed the satire even as seemingly obvious as it was kind of justifies taking that route for such a film to me.

The film is I would say quote unique in both being so mainstream focused and also functioning as a straight action drama. Actually asking us to root for these characters dispite the facist/Nazi environment they are within is I would argue in some ways more interesting that just outright deriding them and speaks to the appeals of such an environment.



I'm not sure I would call it "thoughtful" satire but that doesn't mean its not effective and honestly the fact so many people missed the satire even as seemingly obvious as it was kind of justifies taking that route for such a film to me.
I think there's some tension between saying it's effective, while simultaneously saying lots of people didn't get it. Seems like a weird definition of success, too, which I addressed a little in the essay:
"And that, I think, is where the defense of the film breaks down: it mostly consists of simply pointing out that it has satirical ambitions, and then assumes that the number of people who don't realize this must be evidence of its brilliance. But the quality of satire is not measured by the number of people who don't get it. There are two reasons satire can fail to land: because it's way too smart, or because it's too simplistic. It can go under people's heads."
Maybe the problem is that, if the satire is so meta that people not getting it is itself the satire, that's pretty boring for someone who does realize it's satire, because for them, the satirical part ceases to exist within the film, and exists only in people's reactions.



Another terrible film. I dont know why hollywood keeps putting out stuff like this... oh god... its terrible..



Re: Strangelove. Wasn't the facepalm in response to the idea that it wasn't "intelligent and thoughtful"? Saying you didn't find it funny is another thing entirely.

Similarly, finding Starship Troopers fun or funny isn't really mutually exclusive with what I'm saying. It may be enjoyable for any number of reasons, but I don't see any reason to call it intelligent or thoughtful. Thoughtful satire wouldn't dress anyone up as Nazis, methinks.
I'm not sure I would call it "thoughtful" satire but that doesn't mean its not effective and honestly the fact so many people missed the satire even as seemingly obvious as it was kind of justifies taking that route for such a film to me.

The film is I would say quote unique in both being so mainstream focused and also functioning as a straight action drama. Actually asking us to root for these characters dispite the facist/Nazi environment they are within is I would argue in some ways more interesting that just outright deriding them and speaks to the appeals of such an environment.
The satire is easily shown in the movie. Though, rather taking it seriously or not I found it an enjoyable ride my first watch. If If I see it pop up occasionally I'll watch it now and again. Just a fun movie.it really pokes fun at itself.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Well I just watched it again to refresh myself on it and my opinion is that I still didn't like it. I feel that the cliches actually get in the way of the movie, and even if they are meant to be intentional cliches, doesn't mean they should have done them. Basically most of the cliches, are guys fighting over girls, and girls fighting over guys, like we have seen movies so much before. The movie also has the cliche of a woman who's male lover, has gone to war, and she thinks he's dead, but it turns out he's not dead. This has been done so much in war and action movies, that I can't believe they actually used it again.

As far as being a military propaganda satire, I feel if that's the direction they wanted to go, why not increase the military propaganda even more? For example, the movie is about how the government wants to manipulate people into going to war right, but why have it so that the they need to have their cities attacked to go to war? If the movie is about a military propaganda government, why not just have a government that wants to colonize another planet, just for the heck of it. That's what the nazis did, and they didn't need other nations to attack them to go to war.

Or how about this. If the movie wants to have a fascist propaganda point to make, why have it the main character's parents be killed in an attack by 'the enemy' at all? If the movie wants to portray military fascist propaganda, why not just have the main character want to kill all the bugs cause he is a military fascist and believes in it... end of story?

So why not just take the propaganda to a higher level?

Or why not have it so that the bugs decide to surrender but the soldiers are ordered to kill them anyway, even after they surrendered cause those are the military orders. I mean as far as military propaganda goes, it doesn't show any mistreatment of the bugs, as prisoners of war, or anything like that. It throws out all of the military propaganda edge, in favor being an action movie too much of the time, and it concentrates too much on the battles, rather than the propaganda and satire.

I also feel that by making every character a puppet, is also makes the characters less interesting, cause they are all the same, and if they are all the same, they always agreeing with each other and there is no conflict in the situation.

Like in Saving Private Ryan for example, the soldiers were at odds with each other over whether or not they should save private Ryan, as maybe the government has put them on a useless mission where more lives will be lost... where as other characters think it's for the greater good, and they have conflict over this. Even Ryan has conflict as to why he is being rescued and if was the right thing or not.

Having characters have different feelings creates conflict and is good. But the characters in this movie all behave the same, and all believe in the same thing, which doesn't make for any good conflict. The only conflict they do have is over girls and boys, but the propaganda is conflict-less.

And we never learn much about the bug antagonists or what their deal is. At the end of the movie, when the one big bug is captured, they bring in a psychic character to read it's mind, and find out what is going on inside their heads. They other soldiers ask the psychic what's it thinking, and the psychic replies "It's Afraid", and then everyone cheers.

It's Afraid, and that's it?? That's how you are going to end the movie? And yes, I understand how everyone cheering at the bug being afraid is part of the satire, but again, everyone all behaves the same, and there is not conflict as a result.

And I think a much better way to end the movie would be if the main characters were tried for war crimes by the bugs, and sentenced to death. I know it would be the bad guys losing so to speak, but I think with the war crimes trial, it could work within the theme the movie is trying to explore.

So those are my problems with the movie. But again, I feel that they just needed to push the fascist propaganda further, and invade the planet just for the heck of it, without needing the bugs to attack first, and I think I they need to push the fascism propaganda a lot further, for the movie to be more effective.



I don't know how I'm just stumbling across this thread and Yoda's essay, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I agree that it may not be masterful satire, it's waaay on the nose with the propoganda, but I do believe it's satire none the less. Given my heavy diet of Starcraft and Starship Troopers during high school its worked on me because the only good bug is a dead bug.





Welcome to the human race...
Just re-watched it the other day so I felt like digging up this essay/thread and re-reading it - gotta admit I've done a bit of a turn-around on the stuff I wrote five years ago (almost to the point of wanting to quote-reply and argue with my past self). Also funny to realise that there was a user who said Verhoeven had never made a good satire while holding up Idiocracy as an example of a good satire, which...lol.

Anyway, I guess I should mention that I didn't watch it until after its satirical bona fides were established as something to expect going in so I never really got to treat it as "lol cool space marines" fare, but of course that has also made me question how effective it is and...honestly, it might be getting better the more I watch it/think about it. Like I said, I want to argue with what I wrote earlier in the thread. If anything, my issue with it now is that it's almost too good at cramming in vapid teen soap opera amidst all the war propaganda (though it is an inspired move to have Michael Ironside lecturing his class about "the failure of democracy" while our hero Johnny Rico is too busy flirting with Denise Richards and does not take a stance out of any existing beliefs or even consideration of new information). I said before how Rico has no arc compared to, say, Alex Murphy, but now I realise it is just a matter of him being led by the simplest desires (mainly trying to follow his high school girlfriend into the service despite the fact that his poor grades effectively split them up) and then he just gets broken down time and time again by all manner of experiences both in training, off-duty, and in the field until by the end all he has left is the war. One of the funnier aspects is how well he does not because he's skilled (he almost washes out of basic training after causing another recruit's death) but because all his superiors keep getting brutally killed really quickly once they're in the field so he manages to go from private to lieutenant in the space of about a week and is repeating the same catchphrases as his lieutenant. Maybe "brilliant" is pushing it, but right now I'd say I'd describe its satire as solid and trying to add in instances where they discover a deeper truth about the war may be belabouring the point - besides, there's also the matter of how maybe this society's been like this for so long that there's no consciously villainous cabal controlling this and fascism is just second nature to this particular generation of citizens by this point hundreds of years in the future (and also pinning the whole thing on evil individuals rather than the entire society would arguably weaken the point that it's more than just a few bad apples that are responsible for a fundamentally broken system).
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I'm one day out from my second shot so I don't have the stamina to reply too in-depth just now, but this kinda reminds me of the thing Slappy and I talk about on the podcast a lot, about how if someone wants to they can find layers in lots of things that may or may not be there. I'm pretty tempted to say that Verhoeven just sort of dabbles in deeper themes without understanding them, but has enough proximity to this stuff that people can sorta find there way to seeing it if they want.

Additionally I'd put the thumb on the scale against any film whose supposed satire/message happened to jibe with my own beliefs, since it's always going to be more tempting to find (and enjoy) those themes.



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When the film came out, the CGI was more than competent. They did a great job with the bugs. As an action movie, it works fine. If all you want is surface, then you have an 80s-style actioner. If you want to turn your brain off, it works fine. A quarter of a century ago, it was visually impressive.

As for the satire, it's obviously there. Command is dressed like Nazis. They're ridiculously jingoisitic. It comes out that they invaded bug territory (and I will stab the first person who gets sensitive and demands that I say "insect" - the only good bug is a dead bug! Remember BA!). "The mobile infantry made me the man I am today." The film is stitched together with propaganda ads (Would you like to know more?). Is the satire a mere fig-leaf (pretending at depth to justify cheese)? Is it a deep critique (are we the baddies)? Is it merely a humorous look at war-time propaganda (the tragedy of war vs. the comedy of war). Who cares? The text is still satirical. The signs aren't just winking at you but smacking you in the face with a space marine helmet. How you interpret and evaluate the satire is you business, but the film is satirical.

The biggest disappointment of the film is that although satirizes the fascism in Heinlein's novel, it does not depict humans in powered armor. Instead, they look very much like the young people who would be sent into the desert a few years later after 9-11. The film, however, is less concerned with being futuristic, and more concerned, I think, with pointing a finger at us (remember when everyone wanted revenge for the Trade Centers?).



... I'd put the thumb on the scale against any film whose supposed satire/message happened to jibe with my own beliefs...
Do you mean jibe as in the nautical term to sail the opposite tack? If so, then are you saying your beliefs are opposite of the film and what would your opposite belief be?



"Jibe" meaning "to agree" or "to be in accordance with" in this context. But I was speaking as Iro there, suggesting that he probably agrees quite strongly with the warnings about warmongering and fascism and all that, and that that merits extra skepticism, since we're all going to want to see (and like) themes in films that fit our preexisting beliefs.

As for how my own beliefs line up with that satire, it's pretty mixed. I think some of the warnings are fair and salient (if comically clumsy most of the time), since I'm not a full-blown neoconservative or anything, but I probably am less sympathetic to its posture than Iro, to be sure. Most of my distaste has to do with its simplicity, though.



I've glanced through the majority of this thread, and I don't know if it's been mentioned, but as to the comment that Verhoeven has only made big, dumb exploitation films, it should be pointed out his filmmaking only became like this once he came to America. Dutch films such as The Fourth Man, Soldier of Orange and Spetters are stylistically all over the place, and have no shortage of nuance mixed in with the more baroque and absurdist elements.



I think to look at Starship Trooper as simply being a satire of the war machine is to overlook that what Verhoeven is doing most of all is satarizing American filmmaking. I think I would agree when you boil it down, the satirical elements of ST or even Showgirls may not be particularly insightful. It's really boilerplate stuff in a lot of ways But Verhoeven's skill is more in exaggerating the grotesquierie of American cinema. Its warped morailty. The absurd depictions of heroism. The black hat/white hat dichotomies that make clear delineations between good guys and bad guys. And he does this more through his visual skill than through his scripts which, yeah, usually are pretty standard and obvious in their intentions.



Regardless of how brilliant the actual satire is though, which is probably up for debate (I would at least rank it as decent), it doesn't change how Verhoeven is an absolutely brilliant filmmaker, and one of the true cinematic renegades who broke through the ranks to somehow make big budget features. He should be a hero to every eccentric artist out there that you can make a success out of being a complete freak.



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One of the problems with focusing so much on intent is that it can be used to explain away anything. By praising the film's clumsiness as part of its brilliance, there's literally no way to distinguish actual flaws from deliberate ones. This makes the praise unfalsifiable, and it explains the polarization of opinions: if you buy into its brilliance up front, you can jujitsu every flaw into a strength.
Intention can mean many things. Intention can be the creative self-perception of what the author thought it meant or did (independent of what they wanted it to be). Intention can be local ("What did she mean by this line on page 87?") or global ("What are themes of this work?"). Intention can be a norm (The Author is the Boss, so read it the way the Boss intended) or description (questioning what the author was trying to get at). As a norm we have questions of description, interpretation, and evaluation. With regard to description, intention can be categorical (e.g., was this film intended to be a "Western"?). With regard to interpretation we might be "Actual Intentionalists" or "Modest Actual Intentionalists" with regard to the question of whether we should view the author's intention as regulative. Hypothetical intentionalism is also available if you're shy about talking about the actual author's intentions. Finally, with regard to evaluation there are two possible questions. One is whether (regardless of aiming low or high) the author achieved what she aimed at achieving. The other is whether the author's intention that a work have an evaluative property ("It's a great epic!") determines whether the work has that property (this was one of Wimsatt and Bearsley's targets in The Intentional Fallacy in 1946).

Your criticism is that of a stance (Intention determines evaluation) that few (practically no) serious critics endorse. I think your criticism is just, to the extent that people attempt to determine the value quality of a work of art by their inference to the author's design or plan. On the other hand, intentionality is a big tent.



I stopped watching Verhoeven when he started making American Summer Blockbusters.
His switch to being a big Hollywood director came when I had totally given up American movies.
That lasted until I started visiting the local multiplex in the 2010's. But from 1980 to 2010 I was indie arthouse foreign films all the way.



Your criticism is that of a stance (Intention determines evaluation) that few (practically no) by which serious critics abide.
That's not quite what I'm saying (or trying to say) in the bit you quoted. The point of that paragraph is to show that "its clumsiness is part of why it's good!" is sort of an escape-hatch from criticism, and unfalsifiable. It's kind of like using certain terms ironically: at a certain point, there's no longer a difference between someone saying something ironically and just saying it. And at a certain point (we disagree about where that point is), "I'm making a bad movie to make fun of bad movies" is just making a bad movie.

That said, the "serious critics" part is instructive, because I'll gladly admit that I was thinking mostly of his fans (and not professional critics, as much, though there are surely some) when I wrote this.



Registered User
That's not quite what I'm saying (or trying to say) in the bit you quoted. The point of that paragraph is to show that "its clumsiness is part of why it's good!" is sort of an escape-hatch from criticism, and unfalsifiable. It's kind of like using certain terms ironically: at a certain point, there's no longer a difference between someone saying something ironically and just saying it. And at a certain point (we disagree about where that point is), "I'm making a bad movie to make fun of bad movies" is just making a bad movie.

That said, the "serious critics" part is instructive, because I'll gladly admit that I was thinking mostly of his fans (and not professional critics, as much, though there are surely some) when I wrote this.
You're right. It is a bad standard. And the faithful of "Genius X" will frequently invoke this standard in gymnastic apologetics.

My hobby horse here is really the category of intention itself. Far too many people think that that debate about intention begins and ends with "The Death of the Author" when it neither begins nor ends with Barthes. That is, some will be inclined to read your post and nod in agreement because "intention bad." I want to challenge people who would read your argument as having a broad warrant (i.e., intention is bad) rather than a narrow warrant (i.e., evaluating a work of art as good because the author meant to do it is bad).

And now the palpable irony is that if you defend yourself, you must cloak yourself in the language of intention. I am afraid you're just going to have to agree with me that you're right.