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"The Wave", the wrong wave

Netflix has a new German series. With the title Wir sind die Welle (We are the Wave) the idea is to work on current political issues from the perspective of young people.

For this purpose, they have decided for a remake of the movie The Wave from the year 2008 , based on the book of the same name by Morton Rhue and dealing with the emergence of collectivist and totalitarian movements. The 1981 book was inspired by an experiment at an American high school, where the history teacher Ron Jones was confronted by his students with the question of how the concentration camps were possible and why the German population allowed such a thing.

To demonstrate to students how collectivist systems work, Jones conducted an experiment in which he founded a kind of fascist youth organization and deliberately manipulated his students. After a week, from the initially nearly 90 participating students  up to 200 joined the movement. Jones abruptly broke off the experiment by pointing out the parallels to Nazi youth organizations.

It is hard to deny that the format, much like Orwell’s 1984, is to be understood above all as a warning and an awareness of how quickly ideologies combined with group dynamics can lead to the emergence of dictatorships.

In the reissue of Netflix, this real moral is literally turned on the left. The movement in question does not come about as part of lessons or the encouragement from teachers, but comes from the students themselves.

A cartoon, a propaganda picture
The theme setting reveals quite quickly from which political direction the wind blows: It is about pollution, right-wing populism, rising rents and an anti-capitalist youth movement that takes on the topics. The original concept of "wave" books and films is more or less thrown over the pile. In Wir sind die Welle we have a stylized a world of evil, from racist classmates to exploitative corporate owners, rent sharks and ignorant architects, to the "NfD", the blue party with the red arrow that wants to reintroduce fascism. All this is resisted by a group of friends made up of the intelligent loner and former autonomous Tristan, the upper-class student Lea, the plump environmental activist Hagen, the German-Lebanese Rahim and the unpopular Zazie.

All in all, the series is extremely staged in the narrative, everything is tailored to a very left social picture. A cartoon, a propaganda image of a society that does not exist.

Through the xenophobic boys in high school on the dialogues with teachers, "NfD" politicians or the factory owner have mainly generated a climate that creates a classic good-versus-evil scheme.

From the original idea of ​​the "wave", which addresses the manipulation of young people, a left-green filter bubble is appears portraying a fictional society that does not really live up to reality. It is often shown that the Arab boy Rahim is bullied by German students, which is supposed to create the effect of creating a racist threat that arouses sympathy in the audience for anti-right rhetoric. If you look at the reality in West German cities, this is - carefully formulated - taken from the air. We have a youth culture in Germany that is largely shaped by the Arab and Turkish youth, whether rap, hookah bar or language. Anyone who has ever been to a West German grammar school or comprehensive school can not claim that Arabs are systematically bullied by Germans.

Hate the audience
In fact, in the real world, it is often the other way round, even if that does not fit into the worldview of that "wave" interpretation. The reality? As I said: turned on left. This style is symptomatic of the entire series, the original concept is ad absurdum, and instead of clearly addressing the catastrophic effects of collectivist ideas and group dynamics, the vague question is asked, "How far you go for your ideals?" This consciously leaves an "artistic scope of interpretation" without providing a clear answer. This goes so far as to poison the fascist-styled "NfD"-local politician, a clear reference to the AfD, and a dangerous, albeit deliberate, intimidation to the audience takes place, which knows no bounds.

Above: the young students from Wir sind die Welle, at the moment of poisoning a politician from the ficticious NfD, a clear reference to AfD. An incitement to violence and murder, ignored by the German mainstream media.

Without a clear statement of an out-of-control movement in the course of the program, the good-against-evil pattern is portrayed throughout the series, the political intentions of the youth should be portrayed as positive and correct, and only radicalism becomes a question put in the room.

Wir sind die Welle can be considered as a more than questionable reissue of the old stuff, in which the same process of radicalization is portrayed, but in a very suggestive and near-positive frame of interpretation that corrupts the original teachings of the book. Wir sind die Welle is Netflix’s attempt to appeal to a left, urban and, above all, young audience, without profoundly attacking the ideals of those people. The original work was intended to highlight dangers - this series seems to understand "wave" moves as more of an opportunity.

NOTE: original text by Max Zimmer, a student from Münster who writes for the student and youth blog Apollo-News and as a guest author for Die Achse des Guten.
The embedded video and corresponding caption does not belong to the original article in German.
Photo: Netflix.

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