He made readers inhabit the eyes of a Johnny, who had no clear racial identity until the end — in the epilogue chapter, Johnny shares his native Tagalog tongue.
One of the most hated science-fiction films on its release is now recognized as a sharp, scathing classic. And perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Though its roots are in a 1959 novel that was unabashedly pro-fascist and celebratory of American right-wing ideals, the cult-y 1997 film is entirely self-contained and purposely evocative of Nazi imagery. Sogar the whitewashing of its central protagonist is a statement.
Starship Troopers is the movie you need to watch before it ends on September 6 on Netflix.
Starship Troopers is a coming of age war movie based on Robert A. Heinlein’s novel from 1959. It is set in the 23rd century. Johnny Rico, a boy from Buenos Aires playing the very white Casper Van Dien rises from a grunt infantry to a serious lieutenant in an ongoing war against alien bugs known as arachnids.
The genius of starship-troopers is how appealing it is as a movie. It makes visible parallels between a future Western civilization and fascist rule, and it is fun. The action is explosive, the actors are hot, the soldier costumes are in-breed for cosplay and travel in space is full of big shots that feel like a comic book. Although dated, the CGI does the job and the bugs are still gooey and gross 23 years later. “I heard this film called ‘All Quiet on the Final Frontier’ ”, spokesman Verhoeven said in the DVD commentary of the film, which is actually not far from truth.
Johnny Rico’s whitewashing is of note. Heinlein, who wrote Starship Troopers before Star Trek and legislative gains for the civil rights movement in the mid 1960s, deliberately obscured his protagonists Filipino race. In writing for a majority white audience of the 1950s, he made readers inhabit the eyes of a Johnny who had no clear racial identity until the end — in the epilogue chapter, Johnny reveals his native Tagalog tongue. For a mid-century sci-fi writer it is a stroke of pure genius to make white readers empathize with ethnic minorities.