Here is the website link to our project. We altogether completed a podcast discussing our views of what we had coming into the project and then our current views on what the project means to us. These are the articles that I contributed to the project:
Published in 1959 and set in the far off future when intergalactic space flight and warfare are commonplace, Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is presented as the highly selective reminiscences of Juan Rico who, right out of high school and over his father’s protests, gives up a sure fast track to the top in business to join the elite Mobile Infantry. He survives boot camp, rises rapidly through the enlisted ranks through heavy attrition, is culled off for Officer Training School, and survives his first experience as a platoon commander.
Rico tells of barely surviving the difficulties and frustrations of boot camp, almost unbelievably surviving the first taste of combat in which over half his comrades perish, and joining one of the Mobile Army’s most elite units as a corporal, having been promoted rather quickly. Humankind, which has colonized the Solar System and expanded to galaxies beyond, has fought with rival colonizing races ant-like “Bugs.” Two-year enlistments become open-ended. Human civilization in Rico’s day represents a cleansing and evolution of naïve, overly humanistic 20th-century Western societies. Without explanation, Rico heads off to OCS, where the curriculum provides opportunities to contemplate, in greater detail, the development of the political and military institutions of Rico’s day. Rico is sent as a temporary third lieutenant on a prentice cruise that will determine whether he receives a permanent commission, is returned to the rank of buck sergeant, or is cashiered out of the Mobile Infantry completely.
First aboard a transport ship en route to a crucial battle with the Bugs and then in nominal command of a platoon on the ground, Rico obsesses about his own greenness, the way his Captain tries to help him figure out how to grow into a true leader. Eventually, though, the Captain quietly colludes with the experienced Platoon Sergeant he assigns to Rico, to leave him with little more than a figurehead role. Rico does his best in a harried situation as Bugs suddenly pour out of their underground nest and half of Rico’s men disappear underground without authorization.
Leading a rescue mission, Rico is wounded in an ignoble accident and evacuated to a hospital transport, where he has time to contemplate his shortcomings as a commander. He appears genuinely surprised when he does not wash out of OCS, but graduates and is commissioned. Rico happily returns to his old unit. The novel ends with a short flash-forward to the future showing Rico as a mature officer passing on to an anxious, green apprentice some of the wisdom he has absorbed from his many valued mentors.
So much goes on in this novel; it can be overwhelming how much goes on for Rico. Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers for his views on the U.S. nuclear testing program. He had been attacked several times from both sides of the parties on his views and wanted to use this novel to share his political and military views. Readers can clearly see this through the novel as you read along with this knowledge.
Large portions of the book take place inside classrooms, while Rico and other characters engage in debates with their History and Moral Philosophy teachers. They are often thought to be speaking in Heinlein’s voice, which in this case makes complete sense since he wanted his political views to be shown throughout the novel. The overall theme of the book is that social responsibility requires being prepared to make the individual sacrifice. The novel is also regarded as a way for Heinlein’s anti-communist views to be known, best summed by Rico’s belief that “correct morals arise from knowing what man is- not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be.”
Discussing the military aspect of how Heinlein discusses his views, we learn that when Heinlein was writing the novel the Korean War had ended only five years later. The book refers to the war such as that “no Department of Defense ever won a war.” He also refers to the American prisoners of war taken in while also mentioning the accusations of Communist brainwashing. There is also the mentioning during when Rico’s History and Moral Philosophy class at Officer Candidate School have a discussion of the moral to never leave a single man behind, even if it risks another war. This is in reference to the suspicions that the Chinese and North Koreans were still holding a number of Americans even after the war.
Some of these views were very popular during this time period after the Korean War. There were also many who didn’t share the same view. Heinlein through Starship Troopers makes critical views on the military and political issues. This novel goes into depth of not just the cultural fears of the world but also the suspicions that the citizens have always had when it comes to war.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Day the Earth Stood Still, a sci-fi film directed in 1951, adapted from Harry Bates Farewell to The Master, was a major motion picture for the time period it was brought into. The story line goes on as Klaatu, our main character, and his robot Gort, come to earth, landing in Washington to give the humans a message, a warning so to speak and throughout the film Klaatu keeps us in the dark from what that message is, but we are lead to believe that they are deathly consequences.
In the first few minutes of meeting our aliens, the U.S. army shoots Klaatu when he is reaching for a gift for the President that looks like a weapon but really is to allow him to travel between worlds. As we continue, we are lead through crazy events where Klaatu goes into hiding as Mr. Carpenter, he meets a few characters along the way-Helen, Bobby, and Dr. Barnhardt-, to prove his power all electricity stops, he gets shot at once more than dies, the famous words “Klaatu Barada Nikto” were said by our leading lady Helen and we’re brought to when Gort brings him back to life. This is when we are given the message that Klaatu has for earth after he is brought back to life, but I won’t give that away just yet.
This movie has been compared to the Cold and Korean Wars that was going on around this time. The time period does stand for this comparison in the 1950’s, and the parallels are noticeable in the film, showing many vibes of anti-military, and the bad decisions that they military is clearly making throughout the film when it comes to Klaatu and Gort.
Many have made note of the comparisons in the movie of Klaatu to Christ. There are many signs to point this out. These aliens come down from the sky (heavens) to give them a message for the earth, and when he is shot he is brought to the military hospital. He escapes the hospital after they say they are holding him captive and lives a secret life in the city and goes by the name of Carpenter (represents Christ?). Klaatu is then introduced to Helen, a widow, who has a son named Bobby. They become good friends and Bobby introduces Klaatu to Helen’s boss Professor Barnhardt, who helps him to figure out how to get the leaders of the world’s attention who won’t come as he has requested to deliver the message to earth. Professor Barnhardt says that they need to be convinced, with a big show.
Klaatu shows his power, the power of his people, by stopping the electricity around the world for fifteen minutes, not including airplanes, hospitals, and any important kind of facilities that could cause fatal death if they were to be shut down. This catches the people’s attention and Professor Barnhardt brings together the scientists, or the disciples, to listen to Klaatu’s message.
As Klaatu and Helen are getting ready to meet these scientists, the U.S. army finally finds him after Helen’s boyfriend tips them off. Before the army attacks and kills Klaatu, he gives Helen a message for Gort if anything shall happen to him, Klaatu Berada Nikto. This message as we learn is meant to stop Gort from destroying mankind if Klaatu is killed. Before Gort can kill Helen, she gives the message to Gort and he carries her into the aircraft and goes to find Klaatu in the prison cell the U.S. army has kept him in, his tombstone perhaps, and dissolves the wall, taking him to the aircraft and proceeds to save Klaatu’s life. There is such an important line in the movie that goes on between Helen and Klaatu that defines the allegory that Gort is the Holy Spirit, or has similar powers to the affect:
“Helen: I - I thought you were... Klaatu: I was. Helen: You mean... he has the power of life and death? Klaatu: No. That power is reserved to the Almighty Spirit. This technique, in some cases, can restore life for a limited period. Helen: But... how long? Klaatu: You mean how long will I live? That no one can tell”.
This scene is such an important part of the movie after Klaatu is brought back to life, it brings us to the obvious conclusion that we have no idea when or for how we will die, and we don’t know how long we have. This brings us to the message that Klaatu leaves for the earth, if the human race plans to take their destructive behavior anywhere outside of earth, the planet will be destroyed. The other planets will not tolerate the childish actions of earth to be brought out into the universe. This shows even further the great power that Klaatu and his people have over earth. Not only his people have this power but Gort’s kind has even greater power over them, having the power to destroying anything or anyone that steps out of line of the peace.
One of the writer’s of the script Edmund North went on to say in an interview how he hid the Christian aspect of the story from the director and producer: “It was my private little joke. I never discussed this angle with Blaustein (producer) or Wise because I didn’t want it expressed. I hoped the Christ comparison would be subliminal.” (Mark Pilkington quotes from Seeing is Believing by Peter Biskind). Which in turn it turns out was no so subtle or unnoticed by all as we continue to discuss the topic over 60 years later.
This story. As you can tell, is so fascinating; with a number of different levels, it can take from war to the Holy Spirit. The writers and directors new what they were doing when it came to putting this on the big screen, and with choosing the right actors and actresses to bring to the movie as well. The cultural fear of being invaded by a greater power is evident in the film as we go through the events that have happened in the Cold War, in comparison to what is occurring in the movie.
The Liberation of Earth
In 1953 a short story was published, among a collection of stories, written by William Tenn called Immodest Proposals and one of the short stories from this book is called The Liberation of Earth. The was written during a very conflicting period in time of history, Tenn has discussed this short story to be based off the Korean War and is noted as a satire with much-placed irony throughout the story as well. To summarize the story, Dendi and Troxxt, two alien races, fighting a war and end up fringing it to Earth for a battlefield, creating their military bases there. Both will occupy earth to “liberate” it and the humans from the opposite alien race, and wreck local life including the very earth a bit until the other party drives them away, starting its own liberation.
This sequence repeats itself several times until there is few humans left and earth is an unfit place even to fight a war – when both alien races move in search of another place to fight. The human race is left a mess; the humans weren’t willing to take charge because that would mean dealing with the alien races fighting on the battleground. This satire is very brilliant and comically placed throughout the book and as the history is told, you are kept interested through it all. A part of the text when he discusses the history, he makes it comical and creates the illusion that the humans are like mice in a way compared to the aliens, “Visualize our ancestors scurrying about their primitive intricacies” (Pg. 174). The initial curiosity and fear that the humans are placed in when the aliens arrive are daunting when thinking of our initial fears of being taken over.
William Tenn discusses in an interview that he had based the short story off of the events that were going on with the Korean War during that time to reflect on how it affected the innocent victims of the war. He keys into the story one of the main things going on in the war, one of the main problems that the American people had with the war, was we had to destroy the homes of the innocent to save the innocent. Which necessarily isn’t true. The innocent were affected by the bigger powers trying to take control as the humans are by Denid and Troxxt, trying to liberate them of the other enemy. This of course was a problem made note of long, long before the Korean War as we can look on past actions of other countries and the past wars as well. Tenn wanted to take a look, not from the powers position but wanted to take the perspective of those being “liberated” during the Korean War and give them a voice.