Saturday, April 14, 2018

How Starship Troopers jumpstarted my interest in popculture

This post comes out of a new series of writing I do on ASOIAF meta and other topics of popular culture over at the Patreon of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. If you like to read stuff like this, chime in just 1$ and you get access to everything I write. If you throw in 2$, you even get access to mini-podcasts I'm doing with Sean T. Collins answering questions by listeners of the podcast. Give the Patreon a look! 
When Starship Troopers came out back in 1997, I was too young to watch it, but I heard about it and was interested in it, so it always lurked in my subconsciousness. I got hands on it in late 2000, in form of an original version. I was in ninth grade at the time, and my English wasn't all that great, so a lot of the movie flew over my head. Some nice action, but that was it, basically. I was intrigued, though, by the whole setting and everything, and so I rewatched it (without improving understanding much) and, half a year later, finally got to watch it in my natural German. 
This was a pivotal moment in two ways. On the one hand, I finally understood the damn movie, more on which later. On the other hand, it was a tremendous disappointment. Having seen (even if barely understood) the original, the German voiceover was a huge letdown. Uninspired line delivery, flat tones, missing jargon and, as I learned only later, baffling translation choices conspired to make it into a turd. I also disliked that the actors were so young and perfect looking. A grim setting like this seemed to call for grittier actors, like in my go-to war movie, "All Quiet on the Western Front". 
It wasn't until I voiced those complaints to my local fantasy shop owner (the only other geek I knew back in those dark days without broadband, and the same guy who would recommend ASOIAF to me) that he gave me a key insight. He told me something to the effect that "it needs to be this way, this is a propaganda movie". In that moment, everything clicked.
Starship Troopers therefore became the first piece of pop culture I ever gave a critical reception to, and I consequently rewatched it several times (never again in German). I started to look at popcultural stuff with more of an eye to the actual message, setting and direction instead of focussing solely on the plot. And I started to watch as much as I could in English. In the following 15 years, I got from mediocre school English to the level I have today, not because of any lesson but because I consumed a shitton of English media. 
All of that wouldn't have happened without Starship Troopers. So, a tribute to Verhoeven and his gang of actors.


  1. You should read the Heinlein book it is based on. I've only seen the movie once, about 20 years ago, so all I remember are big bugs and open showers. The book is great and is also propaganda of a different kind. And there is a pretty rich selection of cultural criticism surrounding the book you would likely also enjoy.

    Viel spass!

    1. I actually did read it. I talked about the book in the podcast. :)

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