Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fascism Is Rad! Or, Why No One Gets Verhoeven

Way back when he didn't suck, James Cameron made a sci-fi movie so original, so unprecedented, it's defined the genre since and netted Sigourney Weaver her very first Oscar nomination (she lost to some lady who played a sexually unfulfilled yuppie or something). I'm talking of course about Aliens, the first film to show us those ultimate badasses The Marines! in space. The best soldiers with the biggest guns in the galaxy, sent to do battle with murderous alien bugs!

And they lost.

Let me say that again -- the big, bad Colonial Marines, the prototypical Space Marines now so common to the genre lost. And not just in some deliberate satire of the genre, no, Aliens made the genre and at the very beginning The Marines! so popular in modern science fiction got their armored asses kicked.

Claw beats laser!

This was intentional. Cameron remains vocal about his intent to make a Vietnam War movie in space. The Marines! are a stand-in for America, charging into a hostile alien environment they don't understand and getting annihilated by a tenacious and comparatively low tech (in this case no tech) native population.

People didn't quite get the point...

But wait! over a decade later, her comes Paul Verhoeven with a blatantly satirical take on Heinlein's classic of cryptofascist fantasy! Look, he stuck Doogie Howser in a frickin' SS Uniform! Only idiots wouldn't get the joke!

There's no greater dicktator in the land!

Well, that certainly overestimates the awareness of the typical sci-fi nerd because the film stirred up an internet shit-storm of complaints about "inaccuracies." Because in the realm of pure fiction, with square-jawed supersoldiers fighting giant alien bugs, accuracy is a big deal. The most common complaint was, "Where's the power armor?" See, the MI in the book had these robotic suits to make them all uber kewl and despite claims of the novel being a nuanced treatise on citizenship, those apesuits are the only thing the fans ever cared about. Seeing the Troopers charge around like the cannon fodder a real fascist government would use just confused the hell out of people -- "Why are the Mobile Infantry acting so stupid?"

"Because they ARE stupid!" Was Verhoeven's very clear response but nobody would listen.

People didn't get the satire of Robocop either. They saw a ridiculous caricature of American corporatism and the violence of a police state culminating in Murder Machine Jesus as just another kick-ass action flick. This is because most people are what sociologists would call "fucking morons."

I WISH I was making this shit up!

There is a simple point to this -- I am out to deflate the smug superiority complex of common nerds. People who pride themselves on their intelligence but still embrace ham-fisted propaganda. People who have been picked last and picked on to such a degree that it has warped their sensibilities, giving them a burning need for the power fantasies satired by the above mentioned films. They don't see the satire because they don't want to, because to recognize it as such would be a crushing blow to their meticulously crafted wish-fulfillment. And worst of all, they are a disturbingly vocal demographic on the interenet and are currently the largest consumers of this crap. Their consumption sets the tone of the genre, much as Twilight has so utterly pussified vampires and werewolves, making things harder for legitimate horror novelists like yours truly.

So, whenever you see military sci-fi scribbling for sale or at the library, remember that picture of Herr Doogie and go read a real book. For democracy.

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