Pearl Harbor (2001), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Defiance (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Fury (2014), and The Imitation Game (2014) are some of the highest grossing films of the new millennium. What do they all have in common?
Well, even if you've never taken a history class, I'm sure you have been equally inundated with subtle (and not so subtle) references to WWII through movies. The film industry is, after all, one of America's greatest exporters.
Despite my previous list featuring three exceptions, a vast majority of WWII films focus on the European front. Hollywood makes bank off of Nazis. ALL. THE. TIME.
And the presence of Nazis or Nazi symbolism is inescapable even in non-war movies.
Seriously, get out of the road! Wait, is that the leprechaun grandda from Luck of the Irish?
Goose-stepping hyenas? Thank you for populating my nightmares with your creations, Disney.
If you didn't notice it before, Voldemort + magical blood purity = Hitler + Aryan purity
Have you SEEN these uniforms?
Wow. Comparing Loki to Hitler. I couldn't have seen THAT one coming.
And unlike Ted insinuated at the 2013 Oscars, it's not just because Jewish-American filmmakers tend to do well in the industry.
It is because we collectively decided that "Nazi" is synonymous with evil incarnate.
Yes, there have been countless genocides before and after, but how many movies have you seen that deal with any atrocity other than the Holocaust? Hotel Rwanda and... uh... well... not much else.
After the Armed Forces began to liberate the camps, it became clear that the Allied Forces were fighting a moral battle as well as a military one. Even though America would have gladly avoided fully entering the war had it not been for the events at Pearl Harbor, WWII marks a pivotal moment in its history. It was the last time we could really claim the moral high ground in a conflict.
Think about it. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq all were political maneuverings with increasing amounts of media coverage (thank you technology). Every misfire and unarmed civilian was broadcast all over the world with increasing clarity. And all for what? Military efforts outweighed humanitarian efforts every time. The intention, neutralizing the enemy, was the same, but the results never quite matched up.
To quote the 2014 movie Fury:
WWII will probably be the last time that the American people as a whole commit to and eventually feel proud of "The War Effort". Can you imagine a full draft going over well today? How about nationwide food rationing?
That would be a big ol' no.
Hollywood is obsessed with Nazis because it creates a clear good versus evil dynamic which requires little to no explanation. Except for Inglourious Basterds, we all know how the story is going to end and we have no problem patting ourselves on the back once it does.
In a weird way, the portrayal of Nazis in films is just as American as apple pie.