Sunday, July 08, 2007

Problems with self-confidence

You thought that would be another post about me, didn't you? Dead wrong!

Sometimes I think we Germans have a serious issue about self-confidence. We seem to think we can't do anything on a high level: writing books, producing movies or exporting products. The strange thing is: we actually can. But what we are most unsure about (and criticise most) is our ability to produce good movies or TV shows.

What made me think about this was finally watching another movie produced in Germany (well, by Germans ... like most movies these days it wasn't just done in a studio). I had avoided the movie before for two reasons: first of all it deals with characters I've known from childhood (it's based on a radio play series[although it's not broadcasted by a radio station, you can buy the stories on cassette - and by now probably on CD, too, but that was after my time]) and secondly I only heard bad critics about it.

Admittedly the movie is not like the radio play - but that's to be expected. There's a lot more comedy in it than I remember from those stories (but then, it's been ages since I last listened to them). And the actors play their roles well (even though one of them most of the time doesn't appear on scene in person, as he's playing a ghost that's been done with CG).

After watching the movie, I wondered why the critics had hated it that much ... until I reminded myself of the fact that it was a German movie and they were German critics.

We Germans have a strange idea of culture. We don't respect pop culture, for one thing. We call it 'trivial culture' instead and look down on it. That's probably why we don't produce movies that live up to international standards - well, mostly. We want to produce important cultural movies - and those usually are boring for the greater audience. We can produce good comedy (as some of those movies were even successful abroad), we're good when it comes to TV series about crime-solving (even though I'd personally say the British are better than us...) and we could make good action movies and suchlike, too - if we finally managed to get rid of our definition of "culture" and could embrace the large field of pop culture as our own. Unfortunately that's not going to happen.

Strangely enough we do have a lot of TV shows, books, movies and suchlike that fall under the heading of "pop culture". But we don't appreciate them - at least not openly.

We're one of the few countries that still produces pulp magazines in large quantities (everything from love stories to horror and science fiction). So we really do have writers who are able to write those stories - quite often rather quickly - and seem to have free capacities for other books, too. (Jason Dark [real name Helmut Rellergerd] is writing the most renown and longest-living horror pulp magazine "John Sinclair" all alone, but apart from one novel a week, he's also producing cheap paperback stories at a rate of one a month and has created another series of paperback novels that come out less frequently and deal with the same basic topic, but another character. People my age might remember the "Ghostbusters" starring in two Hollywood comedies. He also thought up that basic story. As I said, he's working a lot, as is his colleague Wolfgang Hohlbein.)

So why does a country in which a lot of people obviously read such magazines on a regular basis (they wouldn't be produced if there wasn't an audience for them) look down on them? Because they're not high culture, of course, which in Germany is considered the only real culture. And that's the reason why we are unable to put up a decent international movie production. We're getting into our own way ... and all the good actors, producers and other movie workers leave us for Hollywood. Admittedly, "Babelsberg" (the largest studio in Germany) is not "20th Century Fox", but that's not necessary. We could still play with the big kids, if we put our minds to it.

I hope that one day we realize how much we miss by dismissing everything that's not high culture as unworthy. It'll be a shame to waste our potential.

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