Starship Troopers – a fascist book and an anti-fascist movie

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Robert A. Heinlein’s 1955 novelStarship Troopers? and its message could be described as fascist, provocative, irresponsible and unpalatable. Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film Starship Troopers can, however, lay claim to being the ideological polar opposite of the novel. Verhoeven achieves this anti-fascist message within a fascist framework mainly through the usually subtle use of symbolism and satire
Heinlein’s 22nd century earth is at war with an arachnid “bug” race from another galaxy. “They are tough and we are tough and only one of us will win and the other gets wiped out,” explains our hero Johnny Rico of the rugged Mobil Infantry, illuminating well the state of mind of the war between Japan and the United States during World War II, as well as the barely restrained ferocity of the Cold War afterwards. Rico’s old high school teacher Rasczak plays the stand-in for Heinlein’s philosophy of animproved? future society which emerges after following the “decadence and collapse of the democracies of the 20th century” after which the surviving veterans take over. Heinlein pays unconvincing lip service to the idea of a free society where civic service is voluntary and civil liberties are respected, but the soul of his argument lies in the military and the service of the State. The formation of young men and women does not take place primarily in schools, families, churches, sporting teams, universities, or human affection. In Heinlein’s idealised future, this takes place in boot camp, reminiscent of totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and Maoist China.
Fully half the novel takes place during Rico’s basic training into the Mobil Infantry where he and his fellow recruits are humiliated, broken-down, and re-made into selfless members of an elite military unit. Potential soldiers learn that life is about duty, serving the collective, sacrifice, and punishment; perhaps echoing his own days as a midshipman at the U.S Naval Academy and …