Today, I want to rant about something. Usually I am not a huge complainer, but yesterday I watched Pitch Perfect 2. And I am annoyed.
For those of you who do not know this about me: I am German. I have to admit that I am not the most German girl in the world, because I grew up in France and have only lived in Germany for the 4 first years of my life. I don’t have German friends and the only German people I know are the members of my family and my parent’s friends.
I went to a French school, had French classmates and French history lessons. During those innumerable lessons about WWII (seriously, did nothing else happen in the past 2000 years?) I could always feel all eyes on me, making me feel uncomfortable about my country of origin and my culture. I grew up ashamed to admit that I am German. I would love to know if I would have felt that way if I had grown up in Germany surrounded by German children having to live with the same heritage.
When I was 18, I started studying languages and I met people who liked German culture, who did not think that my language sounds ugly, who loved the food, the drinks, the people… I didn’t feel ashamed anymore.
I feel quite comfortable with my German identity today, but one thing grinds my gears… Hollywood movies depicting Germans. Mostly how they put a huge distance between the average English speaking viewer and the « German » character on screen.
Everyone has watched tons and tons of movies about WW2 and I won’t even get into those and the way they depict every German as « the bad guy ». To be honest, I stopped watching those because I am not a fan of war movies in general and even less so if I have to watch Nazis again.
What I have noticed is that when you hear a German accent in movies it is almost always associated with a despicable character.
Take for example Chindler’s List. An intelligent and beautiful movie. Every character in this movie is German. The « good guys » AND the « bad guys ». Who’s got the strongest German accent though? Those crazy Nazis!
Same thing with The Reader where everybody is talking with this weird German accent (the actual German actors are the ones with the most subtle accents in this movie).
Why do these characters need to have an accent at all if it has been established that the movie takes place in Germany and that everyone is German? I don’t get it! Are they scared that some viewers might get mixed up and forget that they are looking at non-americans? Is the accent a wall shielding the viewer from seeing that Germans are just regular people with whom you can identify? Would people freak out if they saw a Nazi depicted with an American accent?
My rant is not about Nazis but I think that the « German accent = Nazi = bad person » equation is at the heart of most German characters you can find in mainstream media.
Watching Pitch Perfect 2 was the last straw for me. It had some really stupid accents (I mean, 80% of German musicians are singing in English and have almost NO ACCENT! « Zis iss how we do it », my ass!) and the name « Das Sound Machine » isn’t even grammatically correct.
I get that they had to give them some form of accent to make them identifiable as Germans since this movie is not set in Germany. I know it’s a stupid comedy and that I should not take it seriously, but sometimes I just get tired of this sort of laziness.
When I watch movies set in France I have yet to notice this phenomenon: Marie Antoinette, Les Misérables, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Moulin Rouge, Dangerous Liaisons… No weird French accents to be found.
I feel like these fake German accents are used to dehumanize the characters and I hate it.