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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Read this: What Starship Troopers' bloodthirsty grunts can tell us about America in 2020

Illustration for article titled Read this: What Starship Troopers' bloodthirsty grunts can tell us about America in 2020
Screenshot: Starship Troopers

Paul Verhoeven’s oeuvre continues to pay dividends as the filmmaker enters his 60th year in the business, with even his notorious duds refusing to fade from the public consciousness. Showgirls, for example, just got itself a stellar documentary, and then there’s Starship Troopers, which has seen its blood-and-boob-buried critiques of fascism and the fetishization of power embraced more and more with time. We slotted it at number five on our list of 1997's best movies a few years back, writing. “Starship Troopers is as close as we have to a parody of modern-day jingoism, and yet it still has the gall to be tremendously fun.”


Writing for The New Yorker, former Deadspin contributor David Roth has further unfurled the sci-fi flick’s modern-day resonance in a new piece that posits it as the most prescient of Verhoeven’s multiple portraits of relentlessly dim” futures. Key to his argument is the reality that the film’s soldiers seem always to be losing, a consequence of their dopey obsession with conflict and the appearance of power.

One of Verhoeven’s main goals is to depict a society whose fixation on force has left it preening, idiotic, and paradoxically weak,” he writes. “This state manifests as endless columns of cultishly revered and supremely well-equipped violence workers who know how to do only one thing, and a culture that exists exclusively to celebrate their efforts.”

Roth continues, directly tying the film’s themes to America’s current moment:

For most of Starship Troopers, humanity, in every possible facet, gets its ass kicked. A culture that reveres and communicates exclusively through violence—a culture very much like one that responds to peaceful protests with indiscriminate police brutality, or whose pandemic strategy is to “dominate” an unreasoning virus—keeps running up against its own self-imposed limitations. Once again, the present has caught up to Verhoeven’s acid vision of the future. It’s not a realization that anyone in the film can articulate, or seemingly even process, but the failure is plain: society has left itself a single solution to every problem, and it doesn’t work.

It lands even harder when you consider how obsessed our president is with looking “tough,” continually ignoring the realities of a pandemic while firing off tweet after tweet about how he was actually inspecting the bunker, not hiding in it. Meanwhile, he continues to splay himself at the feet of dictators.

Read the piece in full here.


Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.