FFDR2019 - Starship Troopers

Intro by John Roderick

Here at Friendly Fire we get a lot of listener feedback, which we roundly ignore. A large portion of our listener-mail takes the form of suggestions of films we should cover. Obscure little arthouse films like Patton and Full Metal Jacket that our devoted fans are afraid we might miss if not for their tweets and Facebook- or Reddit-posts reminding us. I delight in these! But by far the most requested, nay: demanded, title is a little mid-1990s romp called Starship Troopers. It is not a war movie despite all the impassioned argument, but it is rightly recognized by our fans as a pork chop movie. And there is lots of speculation that maybe I'll hate it or - worse - that I won't get it. But it is really a complex antifascist allegory and I'll just bag on it and take all the fun out of it. A science fiction movie that is ironically anti-authoritarian? The hell you say!

Anyway: Today we inaugurate our new donors-only sub-podcast Pork Chop Panty Drop or whatever. I didn't really consult the other guys on the name. Finally we can enjoy these movies without besmirching the good name of our actual show Friendly Fire, and to kick it off, well here is your tray of pink pudding!

The plot of Starship Troopers is this: A bunch of 29 year-old High School underwear models, waiting for their Melrose Place callbacks, volunteer for the galactic military to look cool and also because: Patriotism! They go to space war cadet boot camp and various subplots kind of mill around looking for a home until Buenos Aires gets smashed by a space rock covered with bugs from Klendathu. Any unexpressed reservations they might have had up until this point about committing bug-genocide fall by the wayside as their hyper-militaristic society sends them into space in giant penises to literally bathe in gore. Then they take some Emanuelle in Boot Camp showers together.

Now, if I had been born in 1984 I'm sure that at this point in the film I'd have been slow clapping and shouting: ”Author! Author!” before rewinding the VCR 15 times to get it to pause on the perfect frame with the most boobs and butts. If you squint your eyes you can almost see Deanna Troi. What's funny is that many of Verhoeven’s own actors couldn't tell whether he was making a pro-fascist or antifascist movie. They were unsettled. I love that despite this confusion none of them quit the film or went to the newspapers, but you know, in 1997 fascist underwear models were in high demand, so they were probably weighing their options.

For my part, if I went into costume on my first day and was told to shave my chest and wear a Wehrmacht uniform I would have a pretty good idea I was making only one of two kinds of film, and if by the second day I still had my uniform mostly on I could have narrowed it down to only one. We look at this film now and it is impossible to imagine that in 1997 a significant number of critics were similarly confused. ”Is Verhoeven relishing all this jackbooting realm?”, they asked. ”Is this rollicking bloodbath actually sympathetic to bug murderers?” - ”In our day the only people allowed to prance around in sexy Nazi uniforms are the royal family, by Jove!”

Well, the movie was kind of panned. Apparently there wasn't quite the market for Orwellian sex war soap operas like there would be now. Verhoeven was just ahead of his time. If Starship Troopers came out today no one would miss the irony, the film would be reviled for reasons too numerous to mention, but people would get it. Well, we couldn't make Friendly Fire without you and thanks for doing your part during MaxFunDrive 2019! Today on Friendly Fire: Listening guarantees citizenship, as we discussed the 1997 Science Fiction war movie Starship Troopers.

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