Best fascist propaganda film ever

Red Letter Media does a good recap of Starship Troopers on the 20th anniversary of its release. Many audiences at the time panned it as a predictable rehash of old sci-fi military stories, but in time more people noticed the film was a subversive satire of fascist propaganda, one that never stoops to wink at the audience, but maintains its facade through the last frame.

I was particularly taken by the notion that director Paul Verhoeven purposely cast actors with a wooden, cheesy delivery to emphasize the heavy-handed presentation of the film's ostensible themes: that might ultimately makes right, and all citizens have the duty to endorse state-sponsored violence. Even Neil Patrick Harris, who has gone on to bigger and better things, was best known at the time as the boy doctor, Doogie Howser. He was the perfect pop-culture boy-nerd for the film. By the end, of course, his transformation into what looks like an SS officer is all the more appropriate. Only the shallow and compromised characters survive.  

The right sort of people

This video has heart; I even teared up at one point, as was no doubt intended. But I also had qualms.

I want to appreciate the message, that sometimes the things that connect us are invisible yet more powerful than the obvious points of division. And I know a 3-minute TV spot can't address every "yes, but..." counter argument.

But all this good natured bonding might look a little anemic if you told the participants "Everyone who believes that brown-skinned people are genetically inferior to white-skinned people, please step forward." That self-identification overrides the temporary affiliations formed by identifying all the step-parents and people who had sex last week. "Yeah, we're both step-parents," one participant might say to another, "but as a white step-parent I will inherently do a better job than you, and my offspring deserves its privilege due to its inherent superiority. I hope your step-kid enjoys its libertarian-justified poverty." Some group affiliations trump others. 

On the other hand, every shift at the firehouse I sit across the lunch table with some people who did not vote the way I did and have radically different understandings of the goals of our society. When I dwell on our differences, I become very depressed. But then I consider that I can still joke and laugh with them on many topics, that some of our political discussions end in qualified agreement. When the tones go off and we are dispatched on a call together, we perform as a team. 

You can sort people into functional groups despite their differences if they see a common goal. But when one group's goal is the suppression and disenfranchisement of another, all the superficial stand-ins for empathy won't amount to much.