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YMMV / Stranger in a Strange Land

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  • Anvilicious: In case you didn't get it, Robert Heinlein dislikes mainstream religion (particularly televangelists), likes polyamory and also likes "pleasantly plump" women. He also advocates personal development (in a semi-spiritual sense). (For the record, he said he didn't want to present the story and its values as something he endorsed, but wanted to jar people's preconceived notions and get them to question and think.)
  • Designated Hero: For an All-Loving Hero, Michael makes a LOT of people disappear... Jubal even calls him on it toward the end of the book, and he explains that since no one ever really dies, he's doing the equivalent of removing a football player from the game for unnecessary roughness.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Michael's death is entirely irrelevant because he's become an Old One (or possibly an angel, or both) and will exist eternally, and since his cult has eaten him, he's now a part of them all, and they will continue to spread and, in five thousand years from now, save Earth from being destroyed by Martians! Because, at that point, all humans will be members of Michael's cult and have all developed to beautiful, incredibly powerful psychic superhumans. And all those who didn't agree with their message (or were just plain too "inherently wrong" to be considered worthy of "sharing the water with" — gays, for instance) have either died out or were made to disappear. Which is perfectly fine, because human morals and justice don't apply to any of them. Yay?
  • Funny Moments: Not in this book, but there's one in a later Heinlein work, The Number of the Beast, in reference to it, where one of the characters derides two others for admitting to enjoying Stranger in a Strange Land. They then consider visiting Heinlein to ask him what possessed him to write it.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Heinlein predicted screensavers:
    "They went to the living room; Jill sat at his feet and they applied themselves to martinis. Opposite his chair was a stereovision tank disguised as an aquarium; he switched it on, guppies and tetras gave way to the face of the well-known winchellnote  Augustus Greaves."
  • Memetic Mutation: The word "grok" (Martian for "drink", but used in the sense of "completely grasp an idea") became a popular slang term after the book came out.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Valentine Michael Smith has vast psychic abilities owing to his Martian upbringing. Among these is the ability to make any object, regardless of size or make-up, just "go away." This includes humans, and Smith spends most of the book with an odd mix of Blue-and-Orange Morality and Black-and-White Morality, meaning if he perceives a "wrongness" in you, you're just gone. Mike's bodycount, not that there are any bodies to count, gets up into the high hundreds.
      • And absolutely no one in his little cult can see anything wrong with that. Because those people didn't agree with Michael or did something that displeased him, they were in the wrong and thus, making them disappear is fully justified. Their Übermensch mentality regarding Michael (and, by extension, themselves) has them disregard the inherent moral wrongness of murder entirely.
    • As Jubal points out in the book, the moral code that religions always ascribe to their gods is not the same as that they insist on for mortals, and this combines in disquieting ways with Mike's philosophy that all people are God.
    • There is a second and more deliberate Nightmare Fuel in the notion that the "Old Ones" of Mars are capable of dismantling planets, have done it in the past, and simply haven't made up their minds yet on whether or not to do it to Earth.
    • A subtle, psychological example: You can learn telekinesis and other amazing psychic powers but, to do so, you must practice a discipline that will drastically shift your values and way of thinking. If you choose not to learn it, other people will. In the end, people who are hesitant will have to choose whether to give in or to live as a powerless throwback (or possibly gone) in a world full of superhumans. Mike explains this in the very last pages of the book. Most readers probably didn't even grasp the essential ruthlessness of what he has done to humanity.
  • Once Original, Now Common: This book wasn't written to exploit the counterculture movement of the 1960's, but predicted it. Since then, free love has become significantly less shocking and controversial (although something of a Dead Horse Trope). However, Heinlein's publisher pulled it off his "too controversial to print" list and released it to exploit the counter culture movement of the 1960s.
  • Squick: After Mike dies, his followers boil his bones into broth and drank him. It’s clearly a reference to transubstantiation but even so it’s disturbing.
  • Values Dissonance: All over the place.
    • Jill's ideas on women, homosexuality, and sexism are frighteningly reactionary for such an otherwise progressive novel. Her Character Development consists largely of the more liberal Jubal (and especially Mike) getting her to recognize this and become less prudish (she becomes a model in a carnival "posing show" to abandon her inhibitions), and she essentially serves only as a Satellite Character to inform Mike about human society. Duke undergoes a similar, if abbreviated arc, and the main conflict of the story is Mike's "church" running headlong into the reactionary values of society.
    • All of the male characters, even Jubal, talk patronizingly to Jill and the other female characters, and love to lecture them about why they're wrong. Note that Miriam is a scientist and Anne is a Fair Witness (a completely unbiased legal expert).
    • Spanking is mentioned or brought up with what Adam Cadre called a "what the fuck is your problem" frequency, which certainly doesn't help even without considering the misogynistic overtones described above.
    • One of the book's main points is that women can and should enjoy sex (controversial back then, due to held-over Victorian beliefs). That's fine, but what is not fine is the language used by men to describe these pleasure-loving women. Michael sings a not-very-funny ballad about Jill as a "willing tart" and her friend Dawn as someone who "never shops for pants"; a Jewish man rather improbably greets his wife with the words "you limber Levantine whore". It's worth noting that this doesn't even make any sense, as they are all in a group marriage, so she's not a whore.
    • For all the advocating of free love and openness, gay people are still considered to be inherently wrong and subhuman.
    • All religions are considered wrong or false, except for Mike's which is pretty blatantly just a sex cult. Also said cult also sees no problem with casual murder of anyone who would go against them.
    • In a very jarringly racist scene noted by Overly Sarcastic Productions, Jubal tries to excuse the Martian practice of cannibalism to his rightfully Squicked out assistant by stating that the assistant's Native American ancestors were cannibals and so he shouldn't be "criticizing other cannibals."
    • The book's idea of consent is... rather warped. Both Ben and Jubal get sexually assaulted... and this is not portrayed in a negative light.
      Red: Heinlein, did you just write your self-insert character being assaulted by your sex cult and frame it like it was a good thing?!