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Starship Troopers: Interpretation and Analysis

petros

Registered User
Validated User
As far as the book goes, however, there's a lengthy passage devoted to explaining exactly why they still use infantry (power-armored infantry, but still) instead of just glassing things or dropping rocks.* It's pretty much the same reason that conflicts today are fought with infantry instead of just carpet bombing everything - sometimes your goal in the conflict isn't wholesale destruction and/or it involves holding an objective instead of just destroying it.
They wanted some POWs to trade. They can't blow up any planets that might have POWs on it.

It's full of very good reasons for the war, and how the quasi-fascist government can manufacture them.
 

Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
The book and the movie are such different beasts that I don't know if it's possible to build analysis between them. The characters involved are basically "in-name-only" versions and about the only impact that the book had on the movie was that Ververohoven hated the book and created the movie to rip it and its ideas apart.
It has been mentioned in the other thread, but I don't think Verhoeven succeeds with that. Take the "The Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today" scene. There's this guy who lost one arm and both legs in the military. That is tragic for the character, but that also happened to soldier who, say, stormed the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from fascism. Of course that changes if it turns out that the guy, say, got crippled to enrich a corporation or for political adventurism. But does he? We never learn. The only war we get to see is the Earth-Bug War. We learn that the war is going on, and we get to see the humans attacking the bug homeworld... after the bugs destroy Buenos Aires and kill thousands, if not millions. Maybe the war that the protagonists are fighting is an Iraq-like forever war, but if it is, we don't learn that. And the the film ends with the protagonists capturing an important bug and starring on a propaganda clip.

Maybe I forgot some details, as I haven't seen the film in 15+ years, but at the end of the day, it looks like a military flick in which grunts defend humanity against bug aliens. I see zero subversion or deconstruction of the book here. Sure there's all the bombastic propaganda stuff, but that feels rather comical and superficial. It would have been better to (subtly) show that the war is indeed engineered, or that the government uses poor people as cannon fodder so that most of them never actually get to vote because they die at the front lines. Or maybe not whitewash the cast.
 

Ulzgoroth

Mad Scientist
Validated User
Of course, there's no need to fake an attack in the Starship Troopers setting, because the entire point of the setting is that no one except veterans can vote. It's already essentially a military dictatorship, so such extreme measures to swerve public opinion are completely unnecessary. If the military wants a campaign, it can get it. At least, it can get it cheaper than the cost of a city.
That is, of course, a statement that rejects what the book says and shows in favor of a completely different setting that you think follows more logically from the premise.

And aside from the, you know, literally nothing about military rule in the text, there's the bit where the veterans who can vote are only those who have mustered out of the military. Nobody currently serving is enfranchised.
 

AbjectQuestioner

Low SAN Score
Validated User
Aside from everything else I do tend to agree about Heinlein people vs Clark and Asimov people. I’m a Heinlein person myself.
Yeah, I don't know why Heinlein never did it for me. It's not his message. I like both Spider Robinson and John Varley, for instance, both of whom have credited Heinlein as inspiration in their fiction; and I like Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg books, which are just as pro-military SF as you can get. But the only Heinlein work that I reread is "—And He Built a Crooked House—" . . . none of his others appeal.

Starship Troopers (the novel) is a well-written book that its critics wished weren't so well-written and enjoyable because the message is just so pro-military.
 

Mark D. Eddy

It's Twagic.
Validated User
I said this in the Critics thread, and I'll say it again here. If you want to know more about how Heinlein viewed the government system and National Service as it related to the franchise, you really need to read the essay (essays?) in Expanded Universe that cover most of the things that are controversial.

It's two years of National Service, and that includes non-military positions like mail, infrastructure building, and other such things (again, something like the CCC of the Great Depression is a good model -- an equivalent to the Peace Corps would probably also qualify). You can't vote until you get out, and you can't run for office either. The legend of Cincinnatus is as influential in this setting as it was for the founders of the United States. Also, that essay is where I got that it was written in about three weeks in reaction to the Nuclear Test Ban negotiations with the Soviet Union.
 

Menocchio

Eccentric Thousandaire
Validated User
What Verhoeven was actually interested in was parodying American cinematic militarism, particularly as shown mid-20th century war films. And these movies have a particular structure- follow someone from civilian life, through enlistment, boot camp, and into various wartime perils against faceless enemies until they emerge a hero. We've seen this subverted before in movies like Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, but Verhoeven wanted to get a little twistier and not just show American troops doing bad and being miserable, but to produce an in-universe propaganda piece from somewhere that's not quite America but provides for sci-fi blood and also tits to help the politics go down a little easier.

And it just so happens that Starship Troopers has that exact military bildungsroman plot structure. And it takes place in a world that's not quite midcentury America, but a little darker and authoritarian and militaristic. It's a perfect fit. Except that it's thick with ideas the movie isn't interested in exploring or refuting on even the most superficial level. Which is frustrating. And it's best remembered for introducing the world to power armor, which the movie can't use, because it doesn't fit thematically if the troops are well-armed and fighting with smart tactics instead of just being fed into a meat grinder. So that has to go too, which sucks. So except for the military and political philosophy that's the bulk of the book or the setting details that's it greatest legacy to sci-fi, it's a perfect fit.
 

ranson

"Two Sheds"
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I think that another point that seems to be frequently ignored is that, in the book, you don't need to be a veteran/member of the party for advancement in society. You can't vote or hold political office, but there are numerous successful businessmen and private workers that thrive. Under many facistic systems, it's important to at least pay lip service to the party/system in order to ensure doors remain open to you. Rico is from a very wealthy business family of people who think serving is a joke. When his father does join up, it's really mostly for revenge.

The Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today" scene. There's this guy who lost one arm and both legs in the military.
Regarding this part, again, the point in the book is to discourage people from joining for spurious reasons. The soldier is later depicted leading a normal life with fully functional prosthetics, and admits to using the shock of his amputee status as an anti-recruitment tool. That's not a glorification of the veteran status in service to expanding state interests. I will admit, as the text does, that the filtering effect does select for people who want to have an impact, which is a recruiting tool we see with political movements across the spectrum.

As I said in the other thread, if the non-military aspects of service had been made explicit, where say, public service doctors or the equivalent of a Peace Corps would suffice I think a lot of this discussion disappears.
 

KaijuGooGoo

Not Woke until I’ve had my Coffee
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Heinlein's views changed through his life, but he generally seemed to have a sort of Libertarian Nationalism that doesn't map well to modern political categories.
 

Ulzgoroth

Mad Scientist
Validated User
What Verhoeven was actually interested in was parodying American cinematic militarism, particularly as shown mid-20th century war films. And these movies have a particular structure- follow someone from civilian life, through enlistment, boot camp, and into various wartime perils against faceless enemies until they emerge a hero. We've seen this subverted before in movies like Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, but Verhoeven wanted to get a little twistier and not just show American troops doing bad and being miserable, but to produce an in-universe propaganda piece from somewhere that's not quite America but provides for sci-fi blood and also tits to help the politics go down a little easier.

And it just so happens that Starship Troopers has that exact military bildungsroman plot structure. And it takes place in a world that's not quite midcentury America, but a little darker and authoritarian and militaristic. It's a perfect fit. Except that it's thick with ideas the movie isn't interested in exploring or refuting on even the most superficial level. Which is frustrating. And it's best remembered for introducing the world to power armor, which the movie can't use, because it doesn't fit thematically if the troops are well-armed and fighting with smart tactics instead of just being fed into a meat grinder. So that has to go too, which sucks. So except for the military and political philosophy that's the bulk of the book or the setting details that's it greatest legacy to sci-fi, it's a perfect fit.
This is a lovely summary.
 
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