The word “normalize” has gotten a lot of mileage in the past couple months, thanks to the rise of a racist, sexist, xenophobic reality star to the presidency of the country. The media’s “gotta hear both sides” mentality toward his alt-right supporters has been called an agent of normalization for once-radical politics, as has the hair-tousling antics of Jimmy Fallon and the “It’ll be good for business!” shrug of many in the business world and the Republican party.
But the notion that the mass media helps reassure us that things aren’t as bad as they seem—that they’re funny and fine and normal—is not new. Paul Verhoeven’s trio of science fiction classics (RoboCop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers) explored this, each using the mass media to make unpalatable ideas more palatable. A short video essay from Fandor captures this well.
The piece is a good reminder of Verhoeven’s powers as a satirist, and also works as a very brief explainer if you ever have to sell someone on the notion that the director’s movies are more than just robots and bugs and violence. It is also a solid excuse to rewatch RoboCop—this time, you’re doing it for America.