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Starship Troopers: Interpretation and Analysis

Chucky

Chupa-thingy
Validated User
Body Snatchers came from him? Huh.

But I'd say for Starship Troopers itself, I think both the book and the movie have a place, but, to burrow from another thread, the best version of it is probably Exo-Squad(I think that's the name), which is an animated series that tried to reconcile the book and the movie, from what I understand.

Otherwise, I think the book demonstrates, potentially, the value of creating a society that isn't meant to be a utopia, or a dystopia, but just different, and I think Heinlein makes that case worse by trying to defend the society depicted, although that may have helped book sales. Stuff like the Moon is a Harsh Mistress arguably does this better, I don't know, but, its the way I'm trying(I often fail), to analyze the society in the book.

For comparison, Stranger in a Strange Land seems very... tied to its time? A lot of what is commenting on seems, well, not gone, but just, stuff we've seen commented over and over and over again to the point where it may be difficult for the original book to really stand out.
Exo-Squad is highly unlikely to be an atempt to reconcile the book and the movie, unless it's creators have prophetic powers I'm unaware of.
 

Fabius Maximus

Registered User
Validated User
One of my favorite books. Now, I'll get this out there. I don't talk about hte movie because I consider the movie slanderous. There's an interview with the director and it comes out that he never read the book, and they started the movie out as one of those shitty movies that eventually finds its way to the sci-fi channel.

The filmmaker knew he needed to read Heinlein’s book before he began filming, but he only read a few chapters before giving up and asking Neumeier to tell him the rest. “It is really quite a bad book,” Verhoeven told Empire magazine.
Pretty much, if you're going to critique a book, you sort of, you know, should read the fucking book.

So it's not surprising that it makes the book look bad, because we're not critiquing the book, we're critiquing the bad fanfiction version of the book.

Now, on to the book.

I mean, if we set up this kind of system in our world, would anybody NOT expect it to be very different in practice between Bob White and Tom Black (or Jesús Hernández, or Jane Fairer, etc etc etc)?
As regards the limited franchise, I think we need to remember something very, very important.
THe US at this time had a very limited franchise--practically, in huge parts of the nation, minorities couldn't vote, period.
There was one body that could be considered integrated during this period, although it still wasn't, by any7 means free of racism:
The Military, which had been desegregated in 1948.

So, whether or not we would think it would work (I don't), you can make an argument, that Heinlein could look at the United States as it then existed and argue that a limited franchise did exist, only it was based on the arbitrary category of race, unlike his thought experiment.

Although that does seem to rarely implimented - the 'counting caterpillars by touch' example is presented as a hypothetical, an "LOL, what if a disabled person tried to apply, can you imagine?!" example. Which makes it sound to me like it rarely actually comes up, and the system doesn't actually have any well-established procedure for dealing with people with physical handicaps beyond "Try and convince them to drop out".
Note that during the period of the book, the idea of working with the handicapped rather than just writing them off was in its infancy. But, oth, this is pretty common in fiction of the era, where people zip around the galaxy in magic starships and then get sick from things that we in 2019 could cure. For some reason writers of this period were far more conservative in terms of medical technology than they were physical.

Very very much so. Yeah. It's creating a system with obvious weaknesses that those in power could exploit, without explaining the safeguards that would prevent them from doing that, and simply stating that both as individuals and as a system, it'll all just work out.
Yeah, Heinlein doesn't think anything governmental works forever. If you said "The ST government system will degrade into favoritism and fascism over time" he'd likely go "Probably. But what doesn't? Why?"

The only difference is that he thinks if you start with a good groundwork in the first place, it might do as well or better than voting schemes that don't ask anything of the voters--and even there its "might" not "will."

Heinlein had a number of blindspots and particular views that aren't entirely supportable, but the one to keep in mind here is that any time he's suggesting a governmental system, its never a good idea to forget that he thinks they're all subject to rot. So he's mostly talking about rate of rot rather than anything else.
I don't think Heinlein was saying "should." Rather, it was more "isn't it interesting to think about what would happen if?"

The fact that the book is still discussed with such passion sixty years later shows that yes, it IS a subject that people like to talk about.
Yeah. I mean, honestly, this was a thought experiment, and one thing that still enrages me at how many people scream fascist on it is that it's clearly not something that runs through his writing. I mean, we do have writers who have disturbing themes that pop up whenever they write--but Heinlein wasn't one of them, at least in terms of his political system in Starship Troopers.

None of Heinlein’s other books feature such a system, so clearly he wasn’t married to the concept.

But the book and the Mobile Infantry definitely attract more discussion today than say, the Space Patrol (from Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet), a military organization devoted solely to keeping the peace. Nobody talks about Patrol officer John Ezra Dahlquist, the protagonist of “The Long Watch”, who sacrificed his life to stop a military coup by his fellow officers.
Which is unfortunate. Because an excellent counterpoint to Starship Troopers is Space Cadet, where we get a vision of an MI style service (the marines) from an outside viewpoint where they are clearly not seen as the goal for everyone to aim for. The military is used for those affairs where you need controlled violence, but the vastly greater power of the atomic-bomb rockets is vested in the Space Service, a service that is in many respects avowedly non-militaristic, encourages its people to think and has several characters leave for moral reasons--and brings up the question of who watches the watchmen.

Even better and the reason I hate that misbegotten movie with the fire of a thousand suns, is in thier big final "battle" where the natives have kidnapped a local explorer. You find out that A. the explorer kidnapped their queen. B. the Space Cadets are required to support the local authority (which the queen is), C. The locals are a hell of a lot more advanced than people gave them credit for. and D. the situation is resolved with talking, nary a gun in evidence.
 

R-90-2

Can it be SNEK TIEM?
Validated User
But I'd say for Starship Troopers itself, I think both the book and the movie have a place, but, to burrow from another thread, the best version of it is probably Exo-Squad(I think that's the name), which is an animated series that tried to reconcile the book and the movie, from what I understand.
Exo-Squad is an entirely different property which has nothing to do with Starship Troopers. The series you're thinking of is Roughnecks.
 

Stupid Made Up Name

David
RPGnet Member
Validated User
It's a story about conformity and about meeting the expectations of society.
This, but it's a polemical story. Society in general and older experienced people are the voice of authority telling us that conformity is always correct and makes everything better and the text always supports them unambiguously. Anybody questioning is corrected and turned to the righteous path. One could replace "Moral Philosophy" with "Muscular Christian Fundamental Righteousness" and it would be exactly the same novel.

Heinlein had a very deft hand in covering over things with the illusion of depth. Authority: "So you see, Johnny, you would never spank a baby with an axe, ha-ha-ha, you just hit it with a stick until it starts doing what you tell it - Johnny, you should already have learned this and more in your school-based indroctination in History and Muscular Christian Fundamental Righteousness Moral Philosophy".

As fas as the film comments on the book (and not on general Hollywood tropes) it is by being the same polemic but turned up to beyond eleven (in abbreviated form).

Regarding how the service requirement would inevitably be used as a tool of racism, there's a bit of a big brain/galaxy brain thing going on.

Small Brain - Service equals citizenship as a world government sounds great.

Big Brain - And would inevitably be used as a tool to disenfranchise minorities.
There's a lot more than disenfranchising minorities and racism to restricting power to an elite group. The police are all Citizens, all law-making is done by (and for the interests of) Citizens, all judges are Citizens and all legal oversight of any kind is transacted by Citizens. Now suppose you have a legal dispute with a Citizen. Just how corrupt is this system going to be? Try replacing Citizen with "Freemason" or "Illuminati" or "Party Member" or some other noun of your choice.

Of course, you had the chance to choose to be an Illuminati yourself, all it would have cost you is two years of hazing and compulsory indoctrination.

Historically, I think the society this is most reminiscent of is the expanding Caliphate of Mohammed. Once conquered you are generally left alone, but taxed. Or you could convert to become a soldier of Islam and rule the sheep. No pressure!
 

Stupid Made Up Name

David
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Pretty much, if you're going to critique a book, you sort of, you know, should read the fucking book.
There's a quote from... I want to say Oscar Wilde? (Shaw?) One of those witty literate guys when he was called out for returning a manuscipt to an aspiring author only partially read:

"I didn't have to eat the whole apple to know that it was rotten".

Verheovan is a director. He had a smart guy, a writer, read it for him and do the screenplay. It isn't uncommon in adapting stories to have people read something and then rely on their memory and retelling to determine which elements are the most prominent and relevant, and what can be cut out, changed, combined or improved. This is entertainment, not theology.
 

The Watcher

Cosmic Observer
Validated User
There's a quote from... I want to say Oscar Wilde? (Shaw?) One of those witty literate guys when he was called out for returning a manuscipt to an aspiring author only partially read:

"I didn't have to eat the whole apple to know that it was rotten".

Verheovan is a director. He had a smart guy, a writer, read it for him and do the screenplay. It isn't uncommon in adapting stories to have people read something and then rely on their memory and retelling to determine which elements are the most prominent and relevant, and what can be cut out, changed, combined or improved. This is entertainment, not theology.
When you adapt a work and don't bother to actually know the source material firsthand then you don't have a right to complain about any criticism thrown your way about how you butchered the job.

If you don't like the apple then don't use it to make apple pie.
 

Pyromancer

Registered User
Validated User
This, but it's a polemical story. Society in general and older experienced people are the voice of authority telling us that conformity is always correct and makes everything better and the text always supports them unambiguously. Anybody questioning is corrected and turned to the righteous path.
I don't know Heinleins intentions, but I didn't walk away from "Starship Troopers" thinking: "Yeah, this is how we should organize our society". And my guess is that if Heinlein had thought it would be a good idea, he would have made his protagonist a little bit less passive and a little bit more sympathetic.
 

KaijuGooGoo

Not Woke until I’ve had my Coffee
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Verheovan is a director. He had a smart guy, a writer, read it for him and do the screenplay. It isn't uncommon in adapting stories to have people read something and then rely on their memory and retelling to determine which elements are the most prominent and relevant, and what can be cut out, changed, combined or improved. This is entertainment, not theology.
Although I have a suspicion that "it's meant to be an in-universe war propaganda film" is something that he didn't set out to do, but backed into later.
 

Cessna

После нас - тишина
Staff member
Administrator
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One could replace "Moral Philosophy" with "Muscular Christian Fundamental Righteousness" and it would be exactly the same novel.
Try replacing Citizen with "Freemason" or "Illuminati" or "Party Member" or some other noun of your choice.
I'm not convinced by arguments that are based on "you can replace what the author said with something else to prove my point."
 
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