Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black History Month Heroes - Sky Marshal Tehat Meru of "Starship Troopers"

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of Black people in the United States. Here at SBPDL, we are going one step further. Like our fans at Wired magazine, we believe that cinema provides the undisputed and preeminent examples of fantastic – albeit fictional – images and characters for Black people to aspire to emulate.

Juxtaposed with reality, the magic of film and the portrayal of Black people through the wonderful myth creators of Hollywood is diametrically opposed real life. Outside of sports, positive images of Black people are hard to come by and thus, must be manufactured.

Thus, the need for fictional Black History Month and today, we highlight a bellicose individual who helped bring sanity to a world besieged with the threat of extinction. Humanity has united and conquered interstellar space travel, begun the colonization of planets in far way galaxy’s and encountered a diabolical arachnid threat that desires hegemonic dominion over the puny people of earth.

Robert Heinlein’s masterpiece of prose, Starship Troopers, burst onto the big screen in 1998 with Paul Verhoeven’s delightfully campy yet insanely joyous homage to Fascism of the same title:

Starship Troopers is a 1997 American satirical military science fiction film, written by Edward Neumeier (screenplay), directed by Paul Verhoeven, with some names and details taken from Starship Troopers, a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It was the first of three films released in the Starship Troopers franchise. The film had a budget estimated around 100 million US dollars and grossed over 120 million dollars worldwide.

The story follows a young soldier named Johnny Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military unit. Rico's military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officer and finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an arachnoid species known as "the Bugs".

Starship Troopers was nominated for an Academy Award (visual effects) in 1998. The film has attracted controversy and criticism for its social and political themes, which some critics claim promote militarism[2]; and for its distortion and misrepresentation of the novel whose name it bears. The film received mostly positive reviews from major movie critics.

The film is unquestionably a positive depiction of a highly militaristic society with the unified goal of human expansion and the unmitigated desire to bury the weak and step over the dead in the desire of seeing that objective to fruition.

Johnny Rico, played by Casper Van Dien, is the protagonist of the film and we follow his journey from pampered, effete snob to his eventually enlistment in the Mobile Infantry and promotion on the smoldering battlefield to a full-blown lieutenant. However, the underlying theme of the movie is that force is good and that an effort to live in a world in close co-habitation with your enemy is a recipe for weakness.

The pivotal scene of the film is in a classroom, long before Rico has joined the army. There, a conversation takes place between his non-crusading white pedagogue Jean Rasczak (who saves Rico later in the initially disastrous invasion of one of the arachnid’s planets), who relates the philosophy that guides the future world government:

Jean Rasczak: All right, let's sum up. This year in history, we talked about the failure of democracy. How the social scientists of the 21st Century brought our world to the brink of chaos. We talked about the veterans, how they took control and imposed the stability that has lasted for generations since. We talked about the rights and privileges between those who served in the armed forces and those who haven't, therefore called citizens and civilians.
[to a student]
Jean Rasczak: You. Why are only citizens allowed to vote?
Student: It's a reward. Something the federation gives you for doing federal service.
Jean Rasczak: No. Something given has no basis in value. When you vote, you are exercising political authority, you're using force. And force my friends is violence. The supreme authority from which all other authorities are derived.

Dizzy: My mother always told me that violence doesn't solve anything.
Jean Rasczak: Really? I wonder what the city founders of Hiroshima would have to say about that.
[to Carmen]
Jean Rasczak: You.
Carmen: They wouldn't say anything. Hiroshima was destroyed.
Jean Rasczak: Correct. Violence has resolved more conflicts than anything else. The contrary opinion that violence doesn't solve anything is merely wishful thinking at its worst.

Democracy will eventually be deemed an utter failure, as evidenced by the monolithic voting bloc provided by Black people, in the heroic election of Mein Obama. As the Obama ships sinks faster than the Titanic, Black people still support him with a 92 percent approval rating (according to

As the film progresses, a conspicuous lack of Black people is evident. During Rico’s training for the infantry, Black faces are few and far between. Even after Buenos Aires is destroyed by the arachnids, the rarity of Black faces is noticeable and cause for great consternation. All of the pilots of the spaceships are white, too.

In this futuristic world, where did they all go?

However, after the horrific initial invasion of the bug planet Klendathu , the Sky Marshal – a very militant looking white guy - in charge of those questionable military preparations and defending the planet steps down:

The Federation's forces mount a large-scale invasion of Klendathu, which becomes an unmitigated disaster due to underestimation of the Bugs' combat abilities. Bug "plasma" discharges from the surface which were thought to be harmless turn out to be a surface-to-space barrage that destroys much of the Fleet. Cut off from air support, the Mobile Infantry is swarmed by thousands of Bug warriors on the surface. Over 100,000 troops are killed before a retreat can be made (when Carmen looks up Johnny, it shows over 308,000 died). Johnny's squad is almost wiped out, and Carmen believes he is dead due to an error on the casualty list. Federation scientists are baffled by the Bugs' use of military tactics and postulate that there must be a caste of "Brain Bugs" that serve as generals for the Arachnids.

And low and behold, the fate of mankind is placed in the hands of his successor, Sky Marshal Tehat Meru, a Black woman:

[reporting on the failed invasion of Klendathu]
Newsreel announcer: Crisis for humankind. Fleet officials admit they underestimated the Arachnids' defensive capability.
[switch over to the Federal council]
Newsreel announcer: Accepting responsibility for Klendathu, Sky Marshal Dienes resigns. His successor, Sky Marshal Tehat Maru, outlines her new strategy.
Sky Marshal Tehat Meru: To fight the bug, we must understand the bug. We can ill afford another Klendathu.
Newsreel announcer: Would you like to know more?

Yes, a rotund Black woman is placed in charge of humanity and she is tasked with leading mankind in its darkest hour, with the ominous threat of a sudden, untimely destruction palpable and the complete genocide of homo sapiens a seemingly inevitability.

Steve Sailer makes the astute point that it is only the military that is capable of creating an environment where racial tensions are replaced with a monoculture, where victory is the only goal. Divisions are replaced with unity through the desire of achieving a stated objective. Only the military can provide that atmosphere.

Sky Marshal Tehat Meru has gone through the rigors of training that all potential members of the military must pass. She is obviously an exceptional soldier, promoted to the top position based on her ability, as the government in Starship Troopers is one of the purest forms of a meritocracy:

The next FedNet broadcast shows us more reasons why Verhoeven proposes we should like this militaristic society. After the Mobile Infantry's failed first attack on the bugs, the director shows us there's still freedom of speech within this society by having the Federal Network opening up with ominous music as it announces the staggering number of casualties ("100,000 dead in one hour").

And then we're told that Sky Marshal Dienes has "accepted responsibility" for the disaster and is replaced by Sky Marshal Meru. Here we see Heinlein's "unlimited democracy" as a black woman replaces a white man. What's not to like?

She is a Black woman we can all be proud of, actually. She earned her position through merit, and her role in the film underscores the state of the United States military in 2010. Racked with goals of reaching quotas in the officer corps, the military brass seek a politically correct fighting force that reflects changing demographics of the United States, standards be damned! Already, the Naval Academy is attempting to bring diversity through a destruction of meritocracy and merely awards positions at the once venerable institution based not on character, but on color.

The US military looks nothing like the fighting force united in one goal in Starship Troopers, as the stated goal of the 2010 military should be strength through disunity:

For instance the Air Force, long the most resistant of the services to affirmative action, recently changed its promotion policy to increase its number of black pilots. Now, 90 percent of black applicants are accepted, compared with only 20 percent of white applicants. Do you believe this is the result of pure "equal opportunity," with nary a drop of "racial preference"?

Both the Navy and the Marines have set themselves five-year deadlines to make their officer corps 12-percent African-American, 12-percent Latino, and 5-percent Asian-American. In a Nation article supporting these quotas, an ex-Marine recruiter boasts of his tactic for meeting these goals: "I routinely turned down long lines of qualified white males to save room for blacks. I denied whites interviews. I put their names on waiting lists. Every few months I threw stacks of their résumés into the trash."

But what about the Army--the service most celebrated for its history of colorblindness? The Army implemented its affirmative-action policy in the mid-'70s, responding to rising resentment of white superiors among the black rank and file, which had resulted in race riots on bases. To diversify its officer corps, the Army began targeting scholarship money disproportionately to ROTC programs at historically black colleges and began heavily recruiting blacks for West Point. At least 7 percent of each West Point class must be black. That's an order.

Colin Powell is a byproduct of not merit – like Sky Marshal Tehat Meru – but the recipient of affirmative action based maneuvering to find Black people marginally capable of leadership. While real American heroes remain nearly uniform in their whiteness, the goal of lowering standards to create a racial-responsible military threatens our way of life. Pilots, who live in a merit based world, are strangely a nearly all-white vocation as well.

Sky Marshal Tehat Meru would not put up with a society that invites disharmony and disaster. She is a sister of renowned virtue and honor, whose stated goal is to defeat the bug.

Stuff Black People Don’t Like welcomes her to the list of Fictional Black History Month Heroes. She personifies the stated goal of Martin Luther King, as a society based on merit of each individual is a worthy goal, as opposed to a society where the color of your skin gets you access into a quota-based system of disunity.

Starship Troopers provides yet another shining example of a true, fictional Black person. In reality, Black people aren’t against affirmative action, as polling data shows most people are against these policies, but Black people are only narrowly against them.

We may never have a true Sky Marshal Meru, but thankfully Starship Troopers provides us with one.


Steve said...

Like most films the book was far better. If I remember correctly women didnt have a place in the Federation and certainly wouldnt hold the office of Sky Marshall. This was just another PC change to the book.

Ill say this though as a veteran I like the idea of us taking control and running the world. Especially when most students cant find England on a globe or list the three branches of government.

DaveC said...

Actually, in the Book women did serve as starship officers and Captains, but Steve is correct a woman couldn't be a Sky Marshal because the prerequisite is command of both a ship and a MI Regiment.

It scares me that the USAF is lowering standards for pilot training. Flying an airplane is one of those things where lack of merit tends to bite more than just the pilot in the ass.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the The Dog Whisperer". I could not believe, The black woman was having problems with her French Bull dog. Caesar actually called on the power of black women like Rosa Parks to take control of her dog. Schmultz like that in a better world would be so embarassing. I don't think I am going to watch that show for a long time. I wonder when and if Caesar will be channeling Caesar Chavez next.

Silent Running said...

I remember what most chilled me about Starship Troopers was the fact that Heinlein, in 1959, predicted the coddling of juvenile criminals and the corresponding rise in violent crime. Johnny Rico's country was founded when groups of veterans inflicted vigilante justice on the roving gangs of thugs.

Anonymous said...

Please stop saying "Outside of sports, positive images of Black people are hard to come by".
There is the field of music, which has probably had a much bigger influence on integration.

Also, while sports is a physical acitivity, and therefore its stars can be reduced to merely physical/"animalistic" beings,
music is a mental activity.

great blog.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree last anon...

Music has not had the same influence on integration as sports.

It wasn't music that brought about the integration of the south, it was sports and the fear of being excluded from the national championship debate (see Alabama 1966 undefeated and all-white team).

Most people laugh at the exploits of rappers, pop stars and other musicians.

Anonymous said...

"last anon" here...

fair enough,
but before 1966 there was dixieland, swing, jazz, bebop, blues, rock´n roll...

of course it depends on what we define as "integration" (formal vs informal), but louis armstrong, duke ellington, charlie parker, john lee hooker, miles davis, etc etc, did a LOT in terms of acceptance of blacks into larger society.