Countdown: Movie Clichés about Germans
Hollwood’s Movie Clichés about Germany
German journalist Cornelia Lohs has once written a nice article about stereotypes about Germans. This inspired me to start my own countdown. I will continue to blog about clichés and stereotypes about Germans that appear in US movies . I will present each one that comes to my mind and analyse it from the perspective of a German. So who knows: Maybe some stereotypes are even true? We will see as we start with the most common stereotype. This is one of my favourites, he, he:
Germans are evil!
Together with the Russians (see even recent movies like Iron Man 2) the Germans are America’s favourite villains. Be it Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Die Hard or the many, many World War II movies of course: Germans are e-v-i-l . Well, we certainly have a very dark past that should be remembered and never be downplayed. But in German school it is completely overdone. I remember having to hear how bad Germany was in history, German language even “Wirtschaft und Politik” (Economics and politics). So although I have been born way after the second world war and never had anything to do with all the painful things that happened back then I was told how guilty I should feel for the mistakes of former generations. I understand it is important not to repeat those mistakes and to understand why they were made and how completely out of control the consequences of the Third Reich were. Believe me I am a true liberal, but this is a funny difference between the US and Germany. Americans grow up to be proud of their country. Germans grow up to feel ashamed about their homeland.
Well, honestly I am not a big of either past nor present Germany – for multiple reasons. But still it’s funny how this all reflects in popular culture. Germans are still evil – in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of moviemakers .
Famous examples are Hans Gruber (Die Hard), Dr. Christian Szell (The Marathon Man) or Frau Farbissina (Austin Powers). Hey, even in The Simpsons the Germans are somewhat evil when they control Mr. Burn’s nuclear power plant and fire Homer. In the Animaniacs cartoon there is Dr. Otto Scratchansniff who acts as an antagonist as well. He wants to prevent the animaniacs from causing trouble for the studio . And in the HBO series Entourage there is a fictional German director named Verner Vollstedt who clashes with protagonist Vince. These are only a few examples, of course. So no matter what: Movies, TV series, cartoons – Germans are often clichéd villains in America. But are these really movie clichés? Or are we Germans truely an evil nation ?
Well, Germany has many jerks but probably so have other countries as well. I guess the main reason we are still “beloved” villains in movies are really our crimes in World War II. Although I think the citizens of the US have long since forgiven us – it’s the Germans themselves who have a hard time getting over what was done generations ago. When I chat with my American friends or participate in American forums I always feel people from the US are more open and friendly than people over here. This might be the second reason Germans are movie cliché villains. Germans tend to be more hard-headed, distanced and reserved than people in the US. In my opinion this is no movie cliché but the truth. That is perhaps why Germans often tend to be the evil masterminds with insanely complex plans in movies.
To be honest I sometimes think it’s funny that Germans are so often the typical villains in American movies. And I think Americans and other countries take it with a sense of humour as well. Of course movies about World War II are the exception as many of these truely depict the dark past of my homecountry in the dramatic way it should be shown.
So what’s the answer now? Is the movie cliché true? Are Germans evil? Well, there may be some that are evil but probably not more so than in any other country .
Movie Cliché coming up next: Many Germans are psychiatrists with a Dr.’s degree