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What I Learned from Tatort Part I

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It's time for the first in an occasional series I'll call 'What I learned from Tatort'. Tatort ('crime scene'), a weekly 90-minute crime drama aired by German public television, is one of the longest-running series in history and is perhaps the fundamental building-block of German popular culture. It is also an window into what The Germans are thinking about various social issues. Or, more accurately, what a certain group of upper-middle-class, university-educated public-television cultural bureaucrats want Germans to think about social issues.

There are certain fundamental didactic premises underlying all Tatort episodes. For instance: Anyone who drives an expensive car is morally dubious, unless that person is a member of the German civil service (otherwise known as Mankind's Noblest CallingTM), in which the expensive car is a harmless diversion from the excruciating ordeal of working for the German state. All civil servants, for that matter, are hopelessly überfordert (overburdened), which explains any mistakes they may make from time to time.

However, in addition to the general didactic premises, the moral 'background radiation' of Tatort's universe, there are more specific lessons in each episode. A few weeks ago, for instance, we learned that art is sacred, that the artist must be permitted to bend or break the rules, and that his vision must never be interfered with. And just before that, in an episode clearly modeled on a Scientology-like organization, we learned that Scientology-like organizations are sinister, profit-driven cults that prey on the weak of mind.

Last Sunday's Tatort revolved around the murder of a little girl at an amusement park. Several suspects appeared, including a Croatian lawyer, a possibly-reformed pedophile, and the girl's own mother. Among the lessons:

  1. People from the Balkans are a rather hot-tempered lot, with a tendency to get jealous, which makes them screamy and stabby. Nevertheless, just because fiery Balkan blood rages in their veins doesn't mean they're always good for the murder.
  2. Just because someone behaves unusually after one of their relatives dies doesn't mean she's guilty of murder.
  3. Child molesters who've served their time in prison and are cooperating with their therapists deserve a second chance, (but only/especially/even) if they are white and German.

I think that about covers it. Worthy sentiments, all! Let me know in comments if I missed anything.

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