Paul Verhoeven came to Hollywood after making The Fourth Man, and Hollywood promptly devoured him (look at Showgirls and Starship Troopers), but his first Hollywood film is so subversive that I consider it the ultimate SubGenius movie of the 1980s. Not only is Robocop a terrific action movie, it's also a wicked satire on the way a typical worker is caged in and controlled by the Conspiracy! Consider…
In most movies, We are meant to identify with the hero - that way we can root for him and cheer when he beats the bad guys. The hero actually represents US, the SubGenius, so that in effect we can say that it's really you and me up there on the screen. This is why we cheer when Murphy takes care of Dick Jones. ( "Dick - you're FIRED!" ) Now, the REAL villain here – the Conspiracy – is OCP, Omni Consumer Products. They are the mega-corporation trying to control everything - even Robocop.
In fact, Robocop can represent your average, everyday office worker, just the SubGenii who slave for the Conspiracy at their day-to-day jobs. The way he is more machine than man is a metaphor for the way corporations want US to act like machines at our jobs. We have to do what They tell us, without complaining. We have to act just like machines. When Robocop does exactly what OCP tells him to – arrest criminals – he gets lots of praise and media exposure. But does he get any other benefits? No. He is simply doing his job. In fact, the way he sits on that command chair of his, surrounded by a fence, is a way of saying that the corporate worker is trapped in a "cage."
But then, what happens? Robocop has a dream, and this causes him to emerge from his machine-like state. In real life, the Conspiracy doesn't want US to dream. We're not supposed to think of improving our lives, of striving for something more than the machine-like day-to-day tasks assigned to us. Murphy's dream tells us that it is possible for us to strive for something more, for a better life. And as soon as Robocop begins acting on his own, doing things that OCP does not want him to do, the Conspiracy takes steps to shut him down. After all, heaven forbid that a worker actually gets independent thoughts of his own! No, the Conspiracy prefers its workers without any original thoughts. Workers are supposed to work, not to think. Even Dick Jones states this, when he tells Robocop that he's not a man - "you're our PRODUCT!"
But in the end, Robocop triumphs. This tells us it's okay for us to dream, to think our own thoughts - no matter how much the Conspiracy tries to control us, we must think for ourselves. The Conspiracy cares nothing for the lives of its workers. It transferred Murphy to his new district simply so that he could get killed – never mind his wife and his kid, they just want a body to shape and mold into a machine to perform tasks for them. By acting without caring for human life, Bob Morton (the yuppie who founded the Robocop project) rises through the corporate ranks and becomes a force to be reckoned with – until his ego gets the best of him and he pushes Dick Jones too far.
Note also the way video is used in this movie as the tool of the Conspiracy to keep the public properly subdued. "Mediabreak," the three-minute news program, feeds the people scraps of information that say almost nothing at all, with cheerful announcers who turn homogenize the news and turn it into garbage. "Nukem," the nuclear war game, trivializes politics and world affairs and makes it into a game - I.E. it is not to be taken seriously. And the "6000-SUX" car is the Conspiracy's idea of a luxury car: it gets "really shitty gas mileage" and cares nothing about the environment. These commercials, of course, are designed by the Conspiracy to keep people from THINKING. And then there's that stupid comedy - "I'd buy that for a dollar!" - that keeps the people nice and happy when the world is crumbling around them. The general-store couple being robbed watch the show, and the bad guys watch it. They're so entranced by video that one bad guy smashes a store window just so that he can turn up the TV playing in there.
Video is even used to keep Robocop himself under control. The Conspiracy turns his own mind into a video screen, flashing the appropriate rules and regulations for him to follow like a good worker. A sign of his rebellion is when he removes his glass visor and looks at the world through his own eyes - NOT through a video screen. So when he returns to his own house and finds its contents empty - as empty as his own life, and he has the Conspiracy to thank for it - he rebels against the Conspiracy by punching out a video screen. And finally, during the final confrontation, he uses the Conspiracy's own weapon against it by broadcasting Dick Jones' damning words over a video screen!
And so, finally, it is the SubGenius – Robocop – who wins. This is why I consider Robocop to be a satire in the true SubGenius fashion – underneath the action and laughs, it's really telling us to think for ourselves.