I just saw Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. It’s an uncannily prescient movie. Released in 1997, it imagines a quasi-fascist future in which the earth is militarized to fight the bugs — a race of giant insectoids. The war really kicks into high gear after the bugs launch an asteroid from space and destroy one of the earth’s major cities, Buenos Aires. (As a television announcement says: “Out of the ashes of Buenos Aires comes first sorrow…then anger. The only good bug is a dead bug!”)
One of the best parts of the film is the very end. The humans had always assumed that the bugs had only rudimentary intelligence. But while this is true for the most part, it turns out that there are a few “brain bugs” — giant gelatinous larvae-looking things, which can suck out human brains the better to understand the enemy, doncha know. Our heroes are drafted for a suicide mission to bring one of the brain bugs back, dead or alive. They succeed, of course — and it only takes them about a year, as opposed to ten for us (though to be fair, they’ve gone farther down the road of authoritarianism, and so are of course more efficient.)
Anyway, all the troops get together and they haul the giant larval brain bug out of its dank cave in the mountains, and then the creepily psychic military intelligence guy (played by Neil Patrick Harris, believe it or not) walks down to confront it, stylishly dressed in Nazi-chic full dresscoat.
“What’s it thinking corporal?” his superior officer asks him.
He walks up to it and puts his hand gently on the side of its head, not too far from its vagina-like mouth. There is a long pause.
“It’s afraid,” he says softly. And then louder. “It’s afraid!”
And all the grunts explode into cheers! Happy ending! Terrified, captured, evil sentient lifeform can now be systematically tortured to death! Huzzah!
(I can’t embed the clip for some reason, but you can watch it here.)
The best part of the conclusion is that capturing the bug does not, of course, end the war. This is a fascist fantasy, after all. As Nietzsche says,
Ye shall love peace as a means to new war, and the short peace more than the long. You I advise not to work, but to fight. You I advise not to peace but to victory…. Ye say it is the good cause which halloweth even war? I say unto you: it is the good war which halloweth every cause. War and courage have done more great things than charity.
The happy ending to a war is more war, more courage. Victory doesn’t mean truce; it means everybody gets promoted and you get to torture the enemy and discover new and better ways to grind him (and her!) into ever finer bits of ichor. The last we see of the brain bug (in a scene that I think is excised form that Youtube bit) some faceless tech is sticking a phallic laser drill into that suggestively formed mouth, and a giant “CENSORED” sign appears on the screen, the better to allow us to imagine the stimulating shenanigans.
And what do those shenanigans stimulate us to do? “We have the ships…we have the weapons! We need soldiers!” the movie blares in its closing moments. And that surely applies even more to us. After all, the Starship Troopers are only fighting one war. We’ve got three going (if Afghanistan/Pakistan is one, and not counting Yemen because it is secret.) There will be much more heroism to come, and many more brains to kill. To paraphrase the last words emblazoned on the screen, we’ll keep fighting…and we’ll win!