No, Starship Troopers Is Not Brilliant Satire

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Ha. Nicely done.

The funny thing about this is that in 90% of discussions about author intent, I'm the dude saying it matters more than the other people in the discussion. But that's usually more in the context of "what was the message of the film?" or "what did X mean/signify?" Where I care less about intent is when it's used to excuse critiques about execution. They might as well say "it doesn't matter if it was bad because they intended to make a good film."

Anyway, I think we agree here. I'm not fully on board with the primacy of intent or with dismissing it entirely, but I care about it a lot more when evaluating message or meaning than quality, which is a weird distinction but hopefully you know what I mean.



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.

As a person who has definitely used this as a part of his criticisms, I can also agree that it can be infuriating to debate against. By its very nature, such a comment can Teflon virtually any piece of work, and it is definitely used this way sometimes.



That's why it should be on those who invoke it, to do their best to explain exactly how this 'badness' operates to the benefit of the movie. In the case of Starship Troopers, exactly how some of that stilted dialogue either heightens absurdity, or how it calls back to other styles of filmmaking (for example grade Z sci fi from the 50's).


But, if proving conclusively this 'badness' was deliberate is now the metric we need to use to dare use the 'badness defence', this can also have a stifling effect on debating the worth of lots of pretty seminal films. How do we prove the worth of movies that have notable strains of surrealism, absurdity, camp or homage running through them? The intent of these can sometimes be really difficult determine, especially if our knowledge of how they have been used in the past is incomplete (as it is with all of us, we all have giant gaps in our knowlege). And to not have the tools to at least suspect the intent in these cases, can definitely make a film seem either poorly executed or shoddily thought out, even if it is sometimes quite the opposite. The scripts of John Waters are deeply considered, regardless of how terrible they look at the end of the day is one example.



So as annoying as it can be to have a good faith debate about a film like ST if people just throw this defense out there, and refuse to at least attempt to explain themselves beyond just claiming that as fact, I think we do need to consider giving it somewhat a benefit of a doubt when someone claims 'but it's supposed to be that way'. Otherwise, we might be blocking ourselves to a different way of looking at the film.



Also, as a side note, it's not even always necessary for badness to even be intentional for it to be a proper defense of the movie. But that is an extra obscuring layer to an argument we don't need to get into here, because then I might be unable to avoid talking about Dangerous Men (aping the narrative deconstruction of Bunuel's Phantom of Liberty, almost certainly by complete mistake), and that would definitely ruin the integrity of the thread. I'll keep such deliberate thread immolations for my own private nook here, because I really can be quite the nuisance without a proper cage to keep me in.



#watchdangerousmen #freeontubi



Welcome to the human race...
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.
By all means, feel free to not post any in-depth replies to me.

But seriously, I think it's fair as long as people can back up their deeper interpretations using critical analysis and working off the text - the real question I have is whether that's inherently more difficult than arguing why a given film isn't that deep (and I imagine it would be, what with the burden of proof and all). This does once again come back to how we define terms, especially the difference between dabbling in themes and understanding them - the closest we'd get is just holding up canon classics like Dr. Strangelove and letting them speak for themselves, but even they have their detractors (as this thread will attest).

In any case, I'll definitely agree that a film building off opinions and ideologies that you as an individual find nominally agreeable does not automatically make its satirical elements deep or even functional on a basic level - I could certainly rattle off a few so-called satires that could've inspired me to write an essay like this and none of them would even feature the lizard-brain thrills of seeing space marines fight alien bugs.
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



...a film building off opinions and ideologies that you as an individual find nominally agreeable does not automatically make its satirical elements deep or even functional on a basic level ...
*Not a reply to Iro or anyone specifically...but a general question to anyone who wants to answer.

In a nutshell, what opinions and ideologies does Starship Troopers endorse?



minds his own damn business
Brilliant? No.
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It's not brilliant, but it is strange. It fits in with bursts of vehement, goose-stepping nationalism and rampant propaganda that happen during real world times of threat, but the satire is not what I would consider brilliant and fortunately, they didn't single out any humans as The Enemy. It's more like the low hanging fruit of satire with its well groomed, cute fashion model soldiers, the nude shower scene, soldiers checking their makeup before battle, and the completely inhuman betrayal of The Enemy as a lot of big, scary bugs. I was surprised that the earthlings didn't invent a giant shoe to stomp on them. It's been on my shelf for quite a while, but only watched once or twice, mainly for the novelty of topless soldiers.



In a nutshell, what opinions and ideologies does Starship Troopers endorse?
Stockpiling Raid and disabling the enemy's hand

Looks like it's time for me to rewatch this masterpiece. Need more Klendathu Drop in my life.

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"This is that human freedom, which all boast that they possess, and which consists solely in the fact, that men are conscious of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes whereby that desire has been determined." -Baruch Spinoza



*Not a reply to Iro or anyone specifically...but a general question to anyone who wants to answer.

In a nutshell, what opinions and ideologies does Starship Troopers endorse?

"Kill 'em! Kill 'em all!!!"



Registered User
It's not brilliant, but it is strange.
That's why I like it. You are not getting a preachy sermon (e.g., Funny Games), but as your brain begins to settle in for a mindless tropey romp, you get just enough of a little shock ("Wait, they invaded their territory? They started the war?") to remind you that this is a guilty pleasure. You can interpret it as (un)seriously as you like because it is not in your face.



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.
Yeah, that goes terrify. What would you call a good Verhoeven satire, provided you feel such a thing exists?



My two (slightly cheaper Canadian dollar) cents:


I feel like the movie would work better with better lead performances. Van Dien, Richards and Meyer are so bad that it's obvious the movie wants us to mock them. Having reasonably charismatic actors in these parts might actually trick us into empathizing with them, giving its satirical points more teeth. The casting stacks the deck in too obvious a way, so that the effect is more "hey, look at these fascists lol" instead of "****, maybe we're the real fascists".



My two (slightly cheaper Canadian dollar) cents:


I feel like the movie would work better with better lead performances. Van Dien, Richards and Meyer are so bad that it's obvious the movie wants us to mock them. Having reasonably charismatic actors in these parts might actually trick us into empathizing with them, giving its satirical points more teeth. The casting stacks the deck in too obvious a way, so that the effect is more "hey, look at these fascists lol" instead of "****, maybe we're the real fascists".

I remember feeling somewhat let down by the movie when I saw it for the first time about three years ago, and what you're talking about probably has a lot to do with it. I had expected to have a stronger emotional reaction, considering what I knew it was trying to do beforehand. That the ultimate realization of who we are siding with, would hit harder. But it really didn't. And because I couldn't buy into the reality of the characters, and saw them mostly as props for the director's overt point, this probably kept me from liking it a little bit more than I wanted to (I ultimately thought it was pretty good)


But, at the same time, I think the tacky approach to its satire was kind of Verhoeven's thing at the time. Showgirls is simlilar in the way, in that if it had gone for less obviously stupid performances, its dissection of the malignancy of stardom may have had longer teeth. But at the same time I can't necessarily blame him going for the surface pleasures of this deep, almost ecstatic camp. This has its virtues as well.



Ultimately, I think this actor 'problem' is both a failure and a virtue of the movie. But if I was decide which way I would have preferred it to tilt, yeah, I think I'd go with more grounded performances.


Not with Showgirls though. Showgirls is perfection



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
I watched it again to try to re-evaluate. It still comes off like a redoing of Top Gun a lot to me. A lot of the satire seems to be in the first 30 minutes, and then some is here and there, but I feel the movie puts in the background a lot more so, in favor of a more Top Gun sort of rehash with the main characters. If it had went full on with it's satire, I think I would like it better.

I also do not like the giant bugs, as those the humans persecute. The bugs just have no personality or character development at all, which doesn't really help as identify with them as the persecuted, and when making a nazi war style satire, giant bugs just seems like a really odd choice for the persecuted.

The human characters are suppose to be the bad guys in a sense, but there are no characters to connect with I would say, because no one was that connect-able for me.

The movie also has this strange made for TV look to it, and just looks odd for it's time. I feel that Verhoeven did a much better job with futuristic satire when it came to Robocop in comparison.



Registered User
The bugs just have no personality or character development at all, which doesn't really help as identify with them as the persecuted, and when making a nazi war style satire, giant bugs just seems like a really odd choice for the persecuted.
Your lack of empathy merely shows that you ARE the fascist, buggist. This is why the satire is lost on you! Take your buggist speciesm elsewhere, Earther.

Seriously though, they don't do much to show why we should care about the bugs when we actually meet them.



Bugs are perfect because we have no empathy for them. We swat, poison and stomp on them all the time, so, big scary bugs seem perfect as an enemy that does not arouse any empathy. If it were an evil, human regime, we'd need some actual plot development to explain why they are evil. Nazis are a usual sort of easy enemy since we all know who they are, but since they'd be out of their time and place, the next best thing is big bugs, who show no emotion and don't arouse the need to worry about political correctness. That's why I thought they should spend 10 minutes of plot time on that big shoe, which would have reminded my of late nights in the roachy kitchen I had in one of my downtown apartments. Some of those guys were almost the equal of the bugs in the movie.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
But I don't think showing the oppressed as having no personality was the way to go. For example, if they made Schindler's List so that the entire movie was told from the Nazi point of view, and the Jewish characters were portrayed as personalities, with no character development, would that have been better, because then we see them as having no personalities, from the nazi point of view?

I don't feel like my lack of empathy for the bugs is the problem. I think it's the movie that is suppose to create empathy for the audience. It's not the audience's job to try to muster empathy from scratch, is it?



But I don't think showing the oppressed as having no personality was the way to go. For example, if they made Schindler's List so that the entire movie was told from the Nazi point of view, and the Jewish characters were portrayed as personalities, with no character development, would that have been better, because then we see them as having no personalities, from the nazi point of view?
If such a film was made it would be ground breaking and take a lot of guts too, as it would be instantly misunderstood and demonized. It would also be an important film because while we've seen in movies about the Holocaust and the evils of Nazis, we've never seen how they could seduce and control a nation through propaganda...and do it so well.

There is one film however that shows us from the inside, what it would be like to live as an average person under a powerful fascist society where all media was controlled and manipulated by that fascist government. A government who uses ultra patriotism, citizenship rewards and sound bite-infomercials that tell the people what to think. That film is Starship Troopers. It was never trying to satirize or spoof the Nazis.

Starship Troopers is all about the power of propaganda, it's the only film I'm aware of that uses propaganda on so many levels including the very narrative of the film itself. Everything you hear in the film is a lie told from the fascist government's point of view. That's why when it first came out most everyone misunderstood it. Film critics called Verhoeven a Nazi supporter, when he was actually making a film about the dangers of propaganda & fascism by tricking the viewer into believing the films story line. Other's called it mindless entertainment, not realizing that the audience is an experiment in just how readily people can cheer for the fascist (and almost everyone cheered for the fascist). It's only very recently that people have started to realize that the humans were the bad guys and that's from people pointing that out on discussion boards.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Oh okay. I understand that the movie is about propaganda and fascism, it's just the execution of it that I do not understand, that feels week to me. It was pointed out to be that the bugs are suppose to be portrayed as unsympathetic, towards the audience and that was the point. It's also pointed out that the humans are the villains and we that's the point. But the problem for me, is there is no one to care about in the story then. So if there is no one to care about or get behind, then how am I suppose to care about the story then, is what I failed to get into with the movie.