Paul Verhoeven on media's normalization of fascism

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Verhoeven himself is sometimes mistakenly accused of glorifying fascism in his films, with people confusing trenchant satire for support. Since his childhood was spent in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, he and his family experienced fascism first-hand. As a result, Verhoeven has very strong opinions about resistance against and collaboration with fascists, expressed in his great film “Soldier of Orange”.

Also, thanks for posting the Bixby Snyder screencap from Robocop – his idiotic catchphrase is a variation on one from CM Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons,” which itself informed Mike Judge’s movie “Idiocracy.” Media normalisation of fascism becomes much easier when the public makes ignorance a virtue.

    • with a little help from Philip K. Dick; the anti-Heinlein. Can we get the shot of those Ukraine swastika helmets back? Or do we have to wait till they show up in Old Detroit?

I remember when Starship Troopers came out and various prominent critics accused it of being fascist. I was dumbfounded. It was like a curtain had been pulled away, revealing that a whole population of professional critics had no idea how to read a film, even on a rudimentary level.


On the other hand, I do recall one director saying that the problem with anti-war movies is that it cannot help but glorify that which it is trying to protest. I feel that many of those who love Robocop and Starship Troopers missed the satire entirely. Trumpster amongst them, alas.


THIS. I was in college when it came out and while I consider myself to be at least “medium” smart I figured if I could figure it out, they had no excuse. I decided that many critics just wanted to grab headlines/sell newspapers.


Heinlein’s fascination with militarism is not satire. He meant every word. Maybe you meant the movie, I didn’t see that, but I read the book a few times as a young teen. I had the Avalon Hill version too. :slight_smile:


I don’t understand how you can read Verhoeven as anything but satire. His movies are such a biting take on fascism, especially Robocop or Total Recall. I recall being somewhat slapped by a highschool peer for liking Starship Troopers too much. Crazy times.


I seem to remember that Philip K Dick was slapped with a huge back tax bill at some point, and Heinlein bailed him out.


I’m not sure how to read Starship Troopers, the book. If Heinlein’s other books are any indication, it’s really hard to believe he had any fascist leanings. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Revolt in 2100. They’re almost the opposite.


If I remember correctly, Heinlein bailed PKD out repeatedly. Again, he was a bit of a weird guy.


His work underwent a considerable shift over the course of his career.

I remember the DVD of The Running Man, of all things, included a completely earnest mini-documentary about the dangers of government overreach. I did not bother trying to watch past the first few minutes.

The Running Man was Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman.


Starship Troopers was certainly pro-militarist, but it wasn’t pro-fascist. The bugs represent the collectivist commies, the humans the rugged individualists. Nazis of course were collectivists as well, though Italian fascists not so much. The government setup in Starship Troopers is obviously far from his later ideal though, he seemed to think at the time that a strong state was required to fight the communists (it was only partially democratic, with only people who had government service under their belt eligible to vote or to service in public office). His later stuff retreated from that and was more obviously libertarian.


I resented Verhoeven saddling Heinlein’s classic work with his own satirical viewpoint and crackpot ideas of making a space western, down to recreating scenes from John Ford. He should have just written his own damn script and let someone else do Troopers who respected Heinlein’s viewpoint, whatever it’s flaws. You don’t rewrite Merchant of Venice to get rid of the anti-semitism, you teach about it.


Could it be because you were familiar with the source material and many critics weren’t?

I dunno… I think sometimes we (as individuals) read different things than an author or director/script writer intend?


The film wasn’t originally meant to be an adaptation of the book, was it? They were writing something called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine and then someone pointed out the similarities so they bought the licence. I don’t think Verhoeven even read the whole book.

I unashamedly love the film and I’m not an enormous fan of the book. I guess I should try The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. There has to be a Heinlein I could like.


I’d advise trying Citizen of the Galaxy before The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

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No, I’d not read it at that point. I just got the overall impression it was being satirical.

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