[Film: Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven, 1997]
Poking Fun at Militarism:

How Paul Verhoeven’s Cult Classic Starship Troopers Willfully Discards Robert Heinlein’s Novel

 

Introduction:

Starship Troopers movie poster - Paul Verhoeven - Robert A. Heinlein - movie vs. bookStarship TroopersStarship Troopers - Paul Verhoeven - Robert A. Heinlein - movie vs. book—in all of its campy, corny glory—is a hugely enjoyable film. But most of the film’s fans are likely unaware that the novel on which it was based (Starship Troopers by Robert A. HeinleinStarship Troopers - Paul Verhoeven - Robert A. Heinlein - movie vs. book) has almost the literal opposite themes of the movie. Indeed, unlike the blatant anti-propaganda and anti-conformist messages of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s comedic and hyperbolic offering, Heinlein’s 1959 novel is a fascistic and militaristic critique of diplomacy, diversity, and (by extension) peace.

I would make it no secret that I find Heinlein’s novel odious. Its unjustified nationalism is at best short-sighted; its casting of enemy combatants as literal insects is both condescendingly heavy-handed and laughably repulsive; its insistence that large-scale violent armed conflict is the only and best solution to factional disagreements is a demonstrably false assertion; and its premise that only like-minded militarists and willing pawns should have the right to vote in their society is nothing short of frightening. So this article will take a close look at all of the ways that Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers acts directly against the project of Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I hope you enjoy it.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Starship Troopers, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film (or read the book, though the two have somewhat different plots).

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[Film: Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven, 1997]
Poking Fun at Militarism:

How Paul Verhoeven’s Cult Classic Starship Troopers Willfully Discards Robert Heinlein’s Novel

was last modified: February 10th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, 1963]
Laughing at the Worst:

The Equal-parts-comedic-and-nihilistic Critique of Inhumane Research in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle

 

Introduction:

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is a member of a class of novels which could arguably not have surfaced without the Cold War as their context. It is brimming with paranoia, and it manages to frame the greatest of tragedies as the subtlest and most inevitable of truths. I’m not entirely sure what to call work like this: perhaps something like ‘bureaucratic sci-fi.’ But whatever you call it, what it provides is a stinging criticism of a society that knowingly teeters on the brink of destruction, and which does so with a smile. Where there is something to smile about, reasons Vonnegut, there is something to laugh about. Cat’s CradleCat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut - arms race satire, despite having one of the bleakest and most nihilistic plots of any of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, manages to be one of his most hopeful, charming, and humorous works.

Cat’s Cradle holds nothing sacred, and—like much of Vonnegut’s work—its message may be summed up succinctly by a sigh that comes through a grin. It takes to task humans that are indifferent to human suffering; technological advancements that are made without humanistic aims; and spiritual as well as governmental institutions which fail to provide happiness to their participants. It is pithy, clever, and confusing, and it just might be my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel.

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[Work: Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, 1963]
Laughing at the Worst:

The Equal-parts-comedic-and-nihilistic Critique of Inhumane Research in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle

was last modified: January 22nd, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Brazil, Terry Gilliam, 1985]
1984 with a Sense of Humor:

The Surreal, Wonderful, and Haunting Humor of Terry Gilliam’s Absurdist Masterpiece, Brazil

 

Terry Gilliam Sketch by M.R.P. - Brazil - Tom Stoppard - absurd dystopia satire

Sketch by M.R.P.

The holiday season has come to a close, and everyone is back at the office. What better time to talk about Terry Gilliam’s masterful critique of bureaucracy run amok in his 1985 film BrazilBrazil - Terry Gilliam - Tom Stoppard - absurd dystopia satire? Coincidentally, the satirical events in Brazil take place during the holiday season as well, but the buffoonish consumer society of Brazil‘s universe continue their holiday shopping and eating with bombs going off in the same room.

It is no surprise to me that this movie makes use of tropes from absurdist drama, such as exaggeratedly out-of-order priorities and juxtapositions of high culture and low culture (or refinement and violence), as Terry Gilliam and his erstwhile co-writer Charles McKeown collaborated on Brazil‘s screenplay with renowned absurdist playwright Tom Stoppard (who you may know as the writer of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and co-writer of Shakespeare in LoveBrazil - Terry Gilliam - Tom Stoppard - absurd dystopia satire). Indeed, the entire movie dances with dark comedy as it finds joy in showing us tragic and despicable horrors, and I find joy right along with it.

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[Film: Brazil, Terry Gilliam, 1985]
1984 with a Sense of Humor:

The Surreal, Wonderful, and Haunting Humor of Terry Gilliam’s Absurdist Masterpiece, Brazil

was last modified: May 8th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain, 1894]
Nature, Nurture, Nightmare:

On Mark Twain’s Other Ironic Masterpiece, Pudd’nhead Wilson

 

Introduction:

Portrait of Mark Twain by James Carroll Beckwith - Pudd'nhead Wiilson - irony, satire

Portrait of Mark Twain by James Carroll Beckwith

Well, last week’s Tuesday Tome article set out to make a light recommendation of Breakfast on Pluto, then got side-tracked with a conversation about identity that led into a purely analytical Thursday Theater post on The Crying Game. I guess that when I found myself reading part of a dissertation on Irish art while writing the article, that should have been a good clue that the article was not going to end up light. With that failure to keep things light so fresh in my mind, I’m really (truly) going to make this one short, sweet, and enticing.

The book I want to convince you to read is a lesser-known work by an immensely famous author: Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark TwainPudd'nhead Wilson - Mark Twain. This book has a little bit of everything, from ironic comedy to tragic twists to courtroom drama, and all of it is tied together by a core of biting satire as strong as Twain is known for. Not convinced? Let me tell you a bit more.

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[Work: Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain, 1894]
Nature, Nurture, Nightmare:

On Mark Twain’s Other Ironic Masterpiece, Pudd’nhead Wilson

was last modified: November 30th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961]
Rocks and Hard Places Galore:

The Bureaucratic Appropriation of War in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

 

What do you get when you mix the surreal, atmospheric absurdism of Kafka’s best known works with the darkly comedic anti-war satire of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five? I would say that you get something very close to a book published about 40 years after Kafka’s death, and about 10 years before the publication of Vonnegut’s novel: Catch-22 by Joseph HellerCatch-22 - Joseph Heller - bureaucracy.

I would make it no secret that Catch-22 is one of my personal favorite novels. It is a novel that represents a masterclass in the modernist and postmodernist technique of melding high culture and low culture, as well as tragedy and comedy. This article explores the dominant philosophy and masterful presentation of Heller’s most successful novel.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Catch-22, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already read the book.

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[Work: Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961]
Rocks and Hard Places Galore:

The Bureaucratic Appropriation of War in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

was last modified: November 6th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski