Science Fiction Film & Television

Starship Troopers, the War on Terror and the spectacle of censorship

Science Fiction Film & Television (2009), 2, (1), 25–44.

Abstract

This article situates the production, censorship and circulation of information in Starship Troopers within the War on Terror, examining the manipulation of political allegiances by mass communications media, paying particular attention to the role of spectacle. The film's political critique coexists with the pleasures of spectacle it offers as an example of blockbuster Hollywood sf cinema. The article explores this problematic, seeing Starship Troopers' intimate proximity to spectacle and censorship as the exercise of political power similar to the US's detainment of 'illegal enemy combatants' in certain geographical zones, and the censorship surrounding Guantánamo Bay. It argues that the invisibility of the detainees is made visible to deter would-be opponents of the War on Terror, and to divert attention away from more brutal zones of interrogation, a process understood as 'the spectacle of censorship'. Starship Troopers obscures political critique even as it reveals it; the games of ellipsis and revelation played by the plot and characters mirror the film's depiction of the political language of censorship and spectacle. Such parallels can be read as a self-reflection on American popular culture's ability to mobilise audiences' (political) allegiances, although it also evidences the film's genesis in the apparatus of spectacular image production under discussion.

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Williams, Paul