Babylon Berlin : Weimar gender crises as modern warning
Moore, Alexandra Evalita
May 20, 2020
The Weimar Republic was a particularly vibrant period of social and cultural progressiveness in German history, though it is often overshadowed by the economic collapse of 1929 and the outbreak of World War II and rise of fascism that shortly followed. This period saw a radical change from the traditional roles of women in society and home towards the idea of the "Neue Frau”. New women exercised more personal and sexual freedom as well as began to enter into the workplace. While women were experiencing this movement towards gender emancipation, Weimar men were facing turmoil and a crisis of masculinity due to the traumas of WWI. This crisis, however, was also greatly because of the destabilization of traditional gender and sexual identity which they returned to after the war, leaving them lost in their identity. The Netflix original German television series, Babylon Berlin, is a captivating fictional portrayal of life in Berlin at the cusp of the fall of the Weimar Republic. As the most expensive to produce non-English series ever to be made, Babylon Berlin, captivatingly depicts Weimar life, the pretty and the ugly. Themes of the changing gender role of women and the traumatized masculinity are a large part of the plot, giving modern viewers a more in-depth experience of this often-overlooked part of German history that was so unique for its short-lived progressiveness but also for its buildup to the fall into fascism and barbarity. In this thesis I focus on two of the main characters, Charlotte Ritter and Gereon Rath, to show that the lack of mental health treatment and the societal collective forgetting of the atrocities of war not only lead to wide-scale political instability and male hysteria, but also tragically hindered the female attempt to fully become a New Woman. I argue that Babylon Berlin consciously uses its themes and characters to establish eerie parallels between the 1920s and the 21st century, in which toxic masculinity continues to persist and lead to general societal turmoil and the oppression of minorities.
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