It might seem like a blatant excuse to get the cast naked, but Starship Troopers' shower scene is subversive for a couple of reasons. Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven's first American movie was RoboCop, which became an instant sci-fi classic. It offered all the action and special effects audiences in 1987 could ask for, but the film's creative satire, themes of humanity versus technology and Verhoeven making the title character an "American Jesus" are some of the reasons it's so fondly remembered.
Verhoeven's 1990s work wasn't shy when it came to explicit violence or sex, but films like Total Recall also explored rich themes too. Starship Troopers is considered the filmmaker's last great American movie, and on the surface, it's about a bunch of good-looking soldiers flying to a distant planet to fight a race of super-aggressive bugs. It's packed with bloody action and CGI that has held up surprisingly well, but it was a box-office disappointment. It later gained a cult following which led to four STV sequels, two of which were anime movies, with the most recent being 2017's Starship Troopers: Traitor Of Mars.
Starship Troopers was met with mixed reviews upon release, with some critics slamming it for being a glorification of fascism and war. Of course, this was the exact opposite of Verhoeven's intent, with the film drawing on imagery from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph Of The Will and military propaganda to build the bizarre, "utopian" society Starship Troopers takes place in. The casting of beautiful young actors is no accident either, with leading man Casper Van Dien having previously appeared on shows like Beverly Hills, 90210, as did co-star Denise Richards and Dina Meyer.
For all its colorful action, Starship Troopers is basically an anti-war film, where countless young soldiers are sent off to a war they don't understand or question. This is shown in the famous shower scene, where most of the recruits shower together and get to know one another. Given that it's a Verhoeven movie, some critics assumed it was just a scene to show some nudity, but there's more to it. Firstly, it's a co-ed shower where every race and creed are hanging out as equals, and the other is the dark hints about the world it takes place in.
The squadmates reveal their personal reasons for signing on, including earning a scholarship or getting off a farm planet. But then another reveals she wants to get into politics - which requires service - and squadmate Katrina reveals she wants to have children, and its easier to get a license after service. These details are easy to miss but hint at the military dictatorship controlling life in Starship Troopers. Verhoeven also wanted to make the point that despite the fact men and women are showering together, there's nothing particularly sexual about the scene; all the characters are too focused on their careers or serving to have much of a libido.
Like a lot of Verhoeven's work, the movie can take a few watches before its subtleties kick in. The Starship Troopers shower scene lets viewers get to know some of the supporting players - before most of them meet grisly fates - while burying hints about the society it takes place in.