In April 1967, Ron Jones, a history teacher at Cubberley HighSchool in Palo Alto, UsefulNotes/{{California}}, found himself struggling to explain to his class how the German people could have fallen behind [[ThoseWackyNazis the Nazis]] so easily. So he decided to show them personally, creating a student movement called [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave the Third Wave]] (after the common belief that the third in a series of waves is the last and largest). The movement emphasized conformity and the greater good, treating democracy and individualism as [[DemocracyIsBad the downfall]] [[TheEvilsOfFreeWill of civilization]]. Jones started with things like drilling his class in proper seating and posture, before moving on to discipline, salutes (which conspicuously resembled [[PuttingOnTheReich the Nazi salute]]), and the transformation of himself into an authoritative figure. In just two days, Jones had turned his class into a model of efficiency, discipline and community, with a marked improvement in academic achievement and motivation, and the Third Wave began to spread beyond his history class. By the end of day three, over two hundred students had been recruited, membership cards were being given out, banners were flying, and Third Wave members were telling Jones when others were violating the rules -- all completely unexpected developments.

Jones, realizing that he was losing control of the Third Wave, decided to end it. On day four, he announced that the Third Wave was actually part of a nationwide youth movement, and that tomorrow at noon, an assembly would be held in which the movement's national leader and presidential candidate would be revealed on television. At the assembly, the students were met only with an empty channel. Jones revealed a few minutes later that the entire Third Wave was an experiment in how fascism can so easily claim the hearts and minds of the masses (even those who had sworn "it can't happen here"), and played a film about UsefulNotes/NaziGermany.

The Third Wave experiment has since been fictionalized three times. The first was ''The Wave'', a MadeForTVMovie that aired on Creator/{{ABC}} in 1981, and later became part of their ''ABC Series/AfterschoolSpecial'' series. The same year, a YoungAdult {{novelization}} of the movie was written by Todd Strasser under the PenName Morton Rhue. Finally, in 2008, the German movie ''Film/DieWelle'' took the already-uncomfortable premise and brought it into the very country that birthed Nazism, to show that even a place that had experienced the horror of fascism could [[HistoryRepeats see it happen again]].
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!! Tropes in the TV movie or the book ''The Wave'':

* AllOfTheOtherReindeer
* BasedOnATrueStory: As detailed above.
* DayOfTheJackboot: A high school version.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: A gang of ideologically-motivated but otherwise ordinary youths take over a school and start threatening those who aren't part of their movement? Nah, that can't happen here.
* FascistButInefficient: Even after adopting the ethos of the Wave, the football team continues to lose games.
* ForeignRemake: ''Film/DieWelle'', by the Germans.
* HistoryRepeats
* JerkJock: {{Deconstructed|Trope}}. The football players are all so obsessed with making themselves look good (often at their teammates' expense) that they barely function together, and have gone through several losing seasons. Even when they adopt the unity and purpose of the Wave, [[FascistButInefficient they continue to struggle]], as they had never really trained as a team before then.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: David has one of these after he hits Laurie for opposing the Wave.
** Mr. Ross also has this when he realizes that the experiment is beginning to spiral out of control and that people are starting to get hurt as a result of his actions.
* ANaziByAnyOtherName: The Wave, of course.
* OnlySaneMan: The school newspaper writers.
** This ''was not'' the case in the real life version; Laurie and David's resistance to the movement was made up for the fictional versions.
* PunnyHeadlines: In the film, Laurie's article denouncing the Wave has the headline, "The Wave Drowns Gordon High."
* PoliticallyMotivatedTeacher: Obviously, or else this couldn't have even happened in the first place.
* PuttingOnTheReich: The Wave salute is fairly obviously (and [[EnforcedTrope deliberately]]) modeled after the Nazi one, and armbands are used as a sign of membership.
** [[CaptainObvious The Third Wave A.K.A. The Third Reich]]
* SchoolNewspaperNewshound: Laurie.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Mr. Ross delivers one to all the members of the Wave once he reveals that the Wave was nothing more than an experiment. It transitions into a [[HeelRealization Heel Realization]] speech for everyone. Needless to say, [[RageQuit the students didn't take it too well]]...
* WhamLine: The scene where Mr. Ross reveals that Creator/AdolfHitler was the "leader" of the Wave -- if not for the readers and viewers (who should know what's coming), then for the students.
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