The Nazi Cliché

I have noticed in the shows and movies I watch, and the books I read that Nazi imagery for the villains is prevalent. Okay, prevalent might be a little bit of an understatement. The correct word would probably be ubiquitous. I have seen the imagery in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Wayward Pines just to name a few examples. The Third Reich has undoubtedly earned the villainy reputation it has. Nazis did horrible things and now modern fiction often models the villains after them in some fashion, even if it is just loosely. Now whenever someone doesn’t like a politician or political party, too often comparisons arise between them and the Nazis. Nazis are so commonly used, either directly or indirectly, that they have become the clichéd villains. 

History is important, and learning from the atrocities of the past is the most important. I have said before that fantasy isn’t just about escaping reality, it is another window to view it. Reminding current generations of the horrors people have committed in the past is one important function of fiction. The Nazi imagery has been overdone however. Yes, the Nazis did horrible things and history should not forget what they did lest history repeats itself. There were other evil groups, cults, governments, and beliefs that we need to prevent from happening again too. Stalin killed a lot more people than Hitler, yet him and the KGB haven’t even come close to the notoriety of the Nazis. I would argue learning from that part of history is equally as important as the Third Reich.

I would like to encourage other areas of history to influence fiction. Let’s face it, Nazi imagery has been overdone. What about Pol Pot and the genocide he committed, or more recently ISIS? I would like to see more varied allusions to history outside of “How can we make this group more evil looking by subtly comparing it to the Nazis?” We are writers, creative thinkers. Let us tape into the wellspring of history and most just lazily follow the crowd and use the same allusions for evil.

Another Cliché

Since I have utilized this blog to point out cliches I notice and try to avoid, like here, there is another one that I began to notice recently. Actually, I’m surprised I didn’t notice it sooner. This particular cliché seems more prominent in Science Fiction, more specifically Young Adult Science Fiction, but I feel it is worth noting.

What is this cliché? Let me depict it. Something devastating happens to the world, and there are a small group of survivors. They are the only ones left of humanity. A strong, independent, young woman rises up out of the ashes of human civilization. At first, she does not know her strength. She is timid, loving to others, yet unruly and rebellious. This woman has scrounged around in her world, looking to live a simple life, but then her parents die. At that pivotal moment, she finds a strength she never knew and fights back against those who seek to dominate the survivors. This bold young woman, having survived tragedies and injustices, symbolically cuts her long, flowing locks to show that a new, stronger self has emerged.

I have seen this become a reoccurring theme lately. In fact, once I noticed it, it seemed to be so common that it almost seemed silly to me. Why do these female protagonists need to cut their hair to show their change? Why do so many story tellers feel the need to include this to demonstrate character development? It seems the film Star Dust picked up on this cliché long before I did because it flips this archetype on its head and comically extends the male protagonist’s hair during the character’s transformation.

Have you noticed this as much as I have? Do you feel as silly as I do that you didn’t notice it either? Why is this such a common theme?

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