The new Quentin Tarantino movie “Inglorious Basterds” will start in theaters in August 2009. The film sets in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. A group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
While watching the trailer I started thinking about the impact this Hollywood movie can have on the German public. Given the sharp tone throughout the film, I am sure that some, if not many, Germans will be offended by the way the film depicts the German culture.
Please don’t get me wrong, I do not intend to downplay any aspect of the cruel genocide. However, I feel that the film does not make a clear distinction between the Germans in general and “Nazis.” To my impression both terms are used interchangeably throughout the trailer and I am sure that the German audience will not respond well to this fact.
The film was already a great deal of discussion in 2008 when Quentin Tarantino and his Hollywood actors including Brad Pitt were in Berlin shooting the film and a part of the script leaked. The media were debating whether today’s Germany is already ready for this kind of depiction of the past. I don’t think so. Even the youngest generation, who only learns about the Third Reich in history class, still is confronted with prejudices and stereotypes when traveling to other countries. A film like Tarantino’s reinforces these stereotypes and helps them to survive.
From a public diplomacy perspective, I think that Hollywood movies, no matter how praised the directors are, definitely impact the way foreign audiences think about the US, especially if they are dealing with such a delicate issue. The impacts might not inverse a positive impression into a negative one; however, the images remain in the heads of the public – at least for a short period of time. Of course, Germans will still look up to the US and dream about Route 66, New York and San Francisco, but there will be a damper on the positive image. Cultural sensibility might be the way out of this dilemma. And yet, it is questionable to what extend this is applicable, given that first and foremost Hollywood movies are tailored to the American culture.
I am interested in what you think. Do you think this film can impact the image Germany has of the US?