Countdown: Movie Clichés about Germans – Part 2
Hollywood’s Movie Clichés about Germany: Germans are scientists
In my movie cliché countdown I focus on widespread stereotypes about Germans. In part 1 I concentrated on the aspect that Germans are often villains in American movies :-). This is a well known fact. For example The Local has made a list with their 10 greatest German movie villains. Today it is time for the next movie cliché about Germans:
Germans are natural born scientists!
This is a funny movie cliché as it is often combined with the first stereotype I mentioned. And what do you get, if you combine “evil” and “scientist”? Tada: “Mad scientist” :-). Germans seem to be destined to play this role. For example there is Dr. Julius (“Dr. No”), Dr. Strangelove (“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”) and C.A. Rotwang (“Metropolis”). You say Metropolis is a German movie? Yes, it is. See: Even we Germans portray ourselves as mad scientists. By the way if you are interested in mad scientists Listverse has additional content for you :-). One of the more recent movies with a German villainous scientist is the horrible “Human Centipede” for example.
Yet Germans are not always evil scientists. An interesting exception is one of my favourite TV series of all time: The Prisoner. In one episode No. 6 meets a German scientist who actually tries to help him. He looks a lot like Sigmund Freud by the way. Freud is probably to blame for the movie cliché that Germans are often shown as psychiatrists with a heavy German accent. Although Freud technically was from Austria Americans like to mix this up a little, he, he.
Germany is also famous for it’s engineers. As a result in many movies they work with a lot of tech, too. The inspiration for this is mostly Weinher von Braun. von Braun was a brilliant German engineer who later worked for the US NASA. Still he was a controversial personality since he had worked for the Nazis earlier. So he is a prime archetype for German movie cliché scientists. Another scary inspiration is Dr. Josef Mengele, an inhuman German doctor who committed disgusting experiments on humans for the Nazis. Of course Hollywood thankfully used the dark legends around him as an inspiration for many movie characters.
But let us not be too dark and scary here. There are also some funny German scientists. Sometimes they are even shown in a positive light. First Dr. Emmett Brown from the “Back to the Future” trilogy comes to mind. Played by Christopher Lloyd it is revealed that Doc Brown is of German decent and his family name was originally “Braun”. He is a classic mad scientist and inventor but portrayed in a very funny and likeable way. Although he is technically from Austria, Dr. Otto Scratchsniff in the TV series “Animaniacs” is also an example for a German speaking scientist who is likable. He may be an antagonist in the early episodes of “Animaniacs” but later even becomes a protective friend.
All in all Germans are very often portrayed as psychiatrists, engineers and scientists in general in American movies. But the question is:
Are Germans really such science nerds?
To be fair I think German engineers are very good in international comparison. Our universities seem to be very robust in this regard. In psychology / psychiatry on the other hand Germany and Europe have long lost their leading edge. So this movie cliché is mostly based on obsolete concepts. All in all Germany sadly has long passed it is status as a country ” von Dichtern und Denkern”. The average German does not know any more about science than any other guy :-).