There seems to be a rather annoying trend… I won’t say recently because it’s been going on for years, which is why it’s getting annoying. This trend is something we see in all mediums and it follows the same basic formula:

Bad Guy + Nazi Imagery = Effective Villain.

That’s right… is your bad guy lacking in back story? Are they just not cutting it evil-wise? Well then, bring in some Nazi imagery! Once you do that, if your audience isn’t ‘crap their pants scared’ or made with rage, then you need a new audience.

I started noticing it a while ago, but we really get good examples of it in Harry Potter:

… Does this look familiar?


Similar color schemes, similar message, etc. etc. etc.

Another good example is Star Wars The Force Awakens:

Okay… as Epic as that Speech is… yeesh…

Needless to say… these examples and too many like them are beyond blatant.

Look I’m not here to say that the Nazis aren’t bad, nor am I going to say that they shouldn’t be smeared in commentary. My grandfather came home with horror stories about what he saw when his battalion liberated some of the camps. I have first-hand witness accounts from a family member… so no one is going to dispute Nazi villainy on my watch.

That said, this formula does tend to get blatantly overused. I see it all too often in cases where the bad guy isn’t ‘bad’ enough… but then I see it in stories like Star Wars where it’s just completely unnecessary. We know the first order, we know their backstory and we know why they’re evil. The Nazi symbolism and imagery is completely unnecessary. If your reasoning for doing it isn’t because your villains aren’t well-written enough, why are you doing it?

Because the Nazis were evil and this is social commentary against them.

Well… you know what? We’ve got literally thousands of books, movies, documentaries, etc. telling us that. We know they’re evil and anyone who doesn’t think so, isn’t going to be swayed by your movies.

My only point here is that it’s been overdone. I mean if you’re going to do social commentary in your medium about the evils mankind has committed, why not one that’s a little more glossed over:

The atrocities of the Soviet Union pre, during, and post-WW2 which were arguably on a scale much larger than anything Hitler had been able to accomplish.

The Chinese atrocities following WW2?

The Vietnam atrocities on both sides.

The ongoing ethnic and militaristic cleansing in Africa?

Or how about something more modern, say… What’s going on in the Middle East right now?

But people may not recognize those as easily…

Maybe that’s the problem? People keep saying that they want to show that the Nazis were evil so that things like what they did will never happen again.

Sadly, they are happening again. Maybe not on such a huge scale, but they are happening again right now, as I write this and as you read it. So maybe its time to use that imagery and bring attention to it.

So I just want to say one more time, I’m not opposed to Nazi imagery when creating villains, I just think it’s kind of overused.

What do you think? Should we continue to use it as heavily as possible to keep such wide-scale genocides from happening again or should we switch focus to more recent tragedies?
Let me know in the comments.


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8 Comments on “The Nazis are Bad!

  1. I think it really depends on the story you are trying to tell. Whether it was intentional or not, the comparison of the First Order building themselves out of the ashes of the Empire against Nazi Germany building itself out of the loss of World War 1, has some legitimate parallels. The First Order was familiar enough as stuff left over from the Empire to where we recognized them as something we’ve seen before but also new at the same time. I don’t think the look of Nazi Germany was hitting the audience over the head, but you could for sure see its influence. Can it be a fall back for some films, I’m sure. You made a good point that there are plenty of other points in history that you could model your villains after that would give you something else to show besides this, but those stories aren’t nearly as well known in popular culture. I think this is where Star Wars was going. In trying to continue a movie franchise to a global audience, it was a easier idea to use influence against something that everyone knew and could associate the typical “bad guy” status to.

    If your villain lends itself to another historical figure or group to model your villains after, then I say go for it. But I won’t avoid using the Nazis just because they seem to be the popular choice. I enjoyed your write up on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s laziness is what it is. Also, as P.J. O’Rourke once remarked, “The Nazis had much better art direction than the Soviets.” Visually compelling evil makes it easy to incorporate into your villains.


  3. You’re probably right, putting in Nazi-effects on the bad guys is often just another commercial trick to make sure the masses leave satisfied.

    Nazi/fascist-criticism is good and important as I consider the extreme right the biggest threat to both freedom and equality, but it gets watered out and maybe even contra productive when it becomes just another way to sell a product, as Disney’s Star Wars is a good example of.

    The Disney corporation don’t give a **** about Nazis or any other political extremity as long as it doesn’t threat their income. They most likely prefer an extreme right dictature over a democratic left wing government any time.


    • I’m not so sure of that… Especially given that Disney, like all entertainment companies have been bashing us over the to the extreme head recently with their diversity message.
      I mean Disney owns Marvel… Look at what they’ve been doing lately.


  4. I always find this really interesting to look at because I’m a history nerd and it’s my job to find these connections. The Nazis were a horror that is almost unimaginable, even to the people who were alive when they were powerful. So I get why they are used as villains so often. But you’re right. It’s kind of lazy, how often that imagery is used.


  5. This can be a tough thing to judge because it’s not necessarily even about the parallels to the Nazis. Does the first order speech look similar? Sure, but it’s probably very similar to a great number of other evil speeches. Does the mudblood poster share some rough imagery with the Nazi poster? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean it was done specifically to make people think about the similarity. The Nazis were evil, no argument there, but they were also successful. They were a very efficient propaganda machine and came very close to completing their evil agenda. If you’re writing a story with that level of evil empire building going on, there are virtually guaranteed to be similarities, especially if it’s to be believable. I know if I was writing a tale about a mass murderer with delusions of grandeur and a bad hairdo, my first place to start research would be that most famous of mass murderers.

    Liked by 1 person

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