Does the individual really matter in the post-modern world, brimming with countless signs and signifiers? My main objective in this writing is to demonstrate how this happens in Verhoeven's films, exploring his central themes and subtext and doing what science fiction does: hold a mirror up to the contemporary world and critique it, asking whether our species' current trajectory is beneficial or hazardous.; Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is a polarizing figure. Although many of his American made films have received considerable praise and financial success, he has been lambasted on countless occasions for his gratuitous use of sex, violence, and contentious symbolism--1995s Showgirls was overwhelmingly dubbed the worst film of all time and 1997s Starship Troopers earned him a reputation as a fascist. Regardless of the controversy surrounding him, his science fiction films are a move beyond the conventions of the big blockbuster science fiction films of the 1980s (E.T. and the Star Wars trilogy are prime examples), revealing a deeper exploration of both sociopolitical issues and the human condition. Much like the novels of Philip K. Dick (and Verhoeven's 1990 film Total Recall--an adaptation of a Dick short story), Verhoeven's science fiction work explores worlds where paranoia is a constant and determining whether an individual maintains any liberty is regularly questionable. In this thesis I am basically exploring issues regarding power. Although I barely bring up the term power in it, I feel it is central. Power is an ambiguous term; are we discussing physical power, state power, objective power, subjective power, or any of the other possible manifestations of the word? The original Anglo-French version of power means "to be able," asking whether it is possible for one to do something. In relation to Verhoeven's science fiction work each demonstrates the limitations placed upon an individual's autonomy, asking are the protagonists capable of independent agency or rather just environmental constructs reflecting the myriad influences surrounding them.


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Thesis Completion





Janz, Bruce B.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities

Degree Program



Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis