Wednesday 21 May 2014

Generation War - Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter

I found the recent TV series Generation War both moving, and surprising. From a British perspective, it was compelling to follow a wartime story that invited me to care about a group of young Germans, rather than simply seeing them as "the enemy".

Predictably, there's been a lot of protest about it. The events of World War II are still too close, and too terrible, for anyone to be entirely neutral, and the BBC was forced to air a debate between several dissatisfied parties and the show's producer. There were several key issues:
  • The series was too sympathetic to Germans
  • The unsympathetic portrayal of East European partisans
  • The unlikely friendship between non-Jews and a Jew
Over and over again, the commentators argued that this or that wasn’t typical, and therefore it gave the wrong impression; that it was wrong to show partisans mistreating Jews, because not all partisans mistreated Jews; that it was inaccurate to show Germans disagreeing with the war, because not all Germans disagreed with the war. All too often, we heard people objecting to something because it didn't align with their particular point of view. They implied that the series was somehow "wrong" because it didn't include the things that they wanted it to include.

In a media-savvy age, where everything needs to be a metaphor, it seems there is no room for a story about five wartime friends, unless that story is a perfect microcosm of everyone’s wartime experiences.

That, of course, would have been impossible to achieve. Even the dissenting experts broadly agreed that Generation War was a brilliant and moving drama series. But clearly it wouldn't have been if it had tried to be all things to all people.

Perhaps, when we look at something like this, we need to be a little more generous, and a little less prejudiced. After all, if we can't be patient with someone else expressing a subjective account, there's no reason to expect a patient response to personal views of our own.