"German science is THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!"
Germans come in a wide variety of stereotypes. Brutal barbarians from the north
, cold blooded Knights Templar
, corrupt aristocrats
, Those Wacky Nazis
, and many more. But at the end of the day, there are only three German stereotypes: Scientists/Doctors
. And no matter of which variety a German character is, he will almost always be elite and Perfectionist at what he’s doing.
Note that Germans never lose their nerves and know no remorse. They do their job, they do it exceptionally and they are perfectionistic workaholics
; driven by achievement and performance, they seek perfection, and they don't stop until they have it. And when they have it, a little imperfection in their work and they drive themselves to fix that tiniest imperfection to be perfect
. Emotions are not necessary
. It's almost like a national badasstitute
of some kind.
You won't find any German mooks
outside of World War II
. If there are any Germans in the Big Bad
's employment, only the position of The Dragon
or head scientist will be good enough for them. And if a work of fiction has a famous and important foreign scientist, expect him to be German as well, though this has become less frequent in newer works.
Interestingly, before the Prussian ascension, Germans were portrayed very differently in fiction: they were not really that efficient. For example, the Holy Roman Empire
was the sick man of Medieval Europe, while the popular conception in France prior to the Franco-Prussian War
was that Germans were too stuffed with sausages and sloshed with beer to be effective soldiers. France found out they were wrong, the hard way.
The trope maker was probably the Kingdom of Prussia
. After the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire
under the Napoleonic Wars, it was Prussia, under Otto Von Bismarck
, a Real Life Magnificent Bastard
who coined the cynical term Realpolitik
, that reunified the Germanic sphere under the Prussian banner, and with it, the Prussian virtues
of self-discipline. Since the dominance of Prussia over the other German states, that depiction as inefficient has shifted over to Austrians and (to a lesser extent) the Dutch, partly because of the influence of Vrijstaat Amsterdam
. However, Germany, appreciating both the culture of Bavarian and Prussia, is not a robotic sour "kraut" but closer to a Work Hard, Play Hard
Designed and manufactured by German engineers and companies, German technologies, especially machines and vehicles, are included in this trope: if the manufacturer's name ends with "AG"note
, you can be damn sure it's going to be at least portrayed as really, really awesome
Compare with Dichter Und Denker
and Asian and Nerdy
(especially the Japanese, a longtime ally, friend and fan of Germany). Contrast with Germanic Depressives
and Fascist, but Inefficient
Note that this trope (despite the name) is only about actual
Germans in Germany, not the descendants of German emigrants like German Americans nor the speakers of Germanic Languages such as the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians.
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- Commercials for German-made cars, especially BMW and Volkswagen, love to show us white lab-coated German engineers stoically watching their cars driven over gleaming steel ball-bearings in a controlled lab environment. And flinging inferior cars with a trebuchet.
- Just look at Audi’s marketing slogan "Vorsprung durch Technik", which translates to "lead through technology", or French car company Citroen claiming their new car was "unmistakably German" to convince potential buyers that it was well engineered and efficient, or the Volkswagen marketing slogan "Das Auto", which translates as "The Car", as in "we are the only ones that make cars, everybody else are just a bunch of hacks." For more German singularity, BMW has "The Ultimate Driving Machine," Porsche has "Porsche. There is no substitute," Mercedes-Benz has "The Best Or Nothing," and Opel's slogan is "Wir leben Autos [We live cars]."
- Toyota put out a commercial where a bunch of German scientists (presumably working for a German car company) kidnapped a poor Toyota put it through its paces and wondered how something so good could be done outside of Germany.
- Volvo ran an advert boasting that when German car manufacturers want to test their cars, they do it on Swedish roads. And then makes the rather tenuous leap that a car actually made in Sweden must therefore be better.
- Vince Offer's famous Shamwow commercial: "It's made by the Germans, you know the Germans always make good stuff."
Anime & Manga
- Though their nationalities are never actually mentioned, General Uranus and his Number Two Colonel Hades in Appleseed perfectly personify this trope.
- A major Bad Ass herself, Deunan Knute is part German, of course.
- Germany in Axis Powers Hetalia.
- Prussia counts as well, when he bothers.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has Asuka who is German and excels at pretty much everything that doesn't involve emotional intelligence.
- Belka, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Imperial Germany IN SPACE! from the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, went on record waging war against the rest of the universe and actually dominating the fight for a thousand years in the backstory (even after their homeplanet was lost), and most of their long since abandoned weaponry is still operational. In a possible subversion, though, the fluff suggests that they didn't invent their advanced tech themselves but inherited it from the even more advanced Neglectful Precursors.
- Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach is the very picture of this-and easily enraged when his hapless subordinates don't quite measure up.
- In a Captain America arc, Hauptmann Deutschland manages to capture the Red Skull and his Skeleton Crew to place them on trial for War Crimes in Germany. As the Skull is led into the courtroom bound to a chair, the Hauptmann casually mentions that said chair also doubles as an electric chair and will be activated as soon as the court finds him guilty, addin "We Germans take pride in our efficiency". (Ironically — or irritatingly, depending on one's point of view — the entire operation is suspect from start to finish by German standards. Not only does Germany not make a habit of kidnapping suspected criminals off foreign soil for purposes of forcing them to stand trial in Germany, it has abolished the death penalty in 1949 in its constitution (article 102 of the Grundgesetz) — the last regime that did managed to thoroughly discredit the concept.)
- James Bond villains seem to have a special fondness for German henchmen and bodyguards, especially Blofeld.
- Hans Gruber and most of his men in Die Hard are German, helping to both make them appear to be foreign terrorists as well as explaining what a tight operation they're running. Die Hard with a Vengeance returns to the trope with Simon Gruber and his crew of badass, German thugs.
- The Swiss bobsled team in Cool Runnings - their discipline is what Derice wants to emulate. It fails spectacularly for the Jamaicans.
- The German drinking team in Beerfest is shown to be maximizing their efficiency by drinking while working out to some Neue Deutsche Härte music. The American team is much more laid-back.
- In No Man's Land, which deals with the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia, a UN officer tells another "We're being sent a German bomb disposal expert. Ours are busy. He should arrive at 1530. It is 1530." [German guy arrives] "Pünktlichkeit."
- Referenced in Ice Station Zebra (both film and book): "So they took the film made by your German scientists and put it in the camera made by our German scientists and launched it in the rocket made by their German scientists..."
- Lampshaded (and noticeably averted) in One Day in September, the 1999 documentary film on the Munich Olympics Massacre of 1972. British journalist and novelist Gerald Seymour comments that such was the German reputation for ruthless efficiency resulting from World War II, no-one doubted they had an elite storm squad ready for such situations. They didn't, and a bungled rescue operation cost the lives of the hostages. The incident did however lead to the creation of GSG-9 (see Real Life).
- This is referenced in the 1632 Series, where the seventeenth-century Germans are surprised to find that the twenty-first-century Americans think Germans are stereotypically efficient and cold-blooded - it being quite the opposite of the seventeenth-century "folksy, fun-loving, perpetually quarreling" German stereotype.
- Subverted in the WWII novels by Sven Hassel, where the the battle scenes portray the Germans as very efficient troops, but presents various officers as incompetent and the stubbornness to fight on as inefficient. Though there are several officers that are presented as competent and efficient, ranging from Lieutenant to even several Generals, they normally are the Butt Monkeys.
- Heinz Guderian in his Memoirs of a Soldier often criticized high-ranking officers who, despite their loss in WWI, were unable to see that motorized warfare was much more efficient in many circumstances and were focused on then obsolete tactics and equipment. Of course, he might have exaggerated that to emphasize his own importance but his sentiments are supported by other documents. It is also worth noting that this conservatism stemmed partially from the perfectionism and fear that reaching previous levels of efficiency with new weapons and tactics may require a very long time.
- "Scratch a German and you find precision, thought Bond."—Moonraker
- Interestingly, inverted in the works of Tacitus about the old Germanics: According to him, they were rather lazy.
- In one chapter of his travelogue Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams describes meeting two German students in Zaire who are "young, fair-haired, vigourous, incredibly well equipped, and much better than us at virtually everything". He spends a night worrying about the fact this is an egregious stereotype, and it would be much easier to write about them if they were from Latvia, and then decides to just say they were Latvian for the rest of the chapter.
- The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman by Andrzej Szczypiorski says that it's a typical German thing to try to excel in everything, whether in composing, thinking, working, owning, or exterminating.
Live Action TV
- Conan O'Brien would show a clip of a fictional German show "Stachenblocken"
- Inverted in Hogan's Heroes, where every single German is completely incompetent.
- Every single recurring German. Many of the one-off villains were actually threatening, but were usually handled by the end of the episode.
- When James May of Top Gear took the Bugatti Veyron up to its top speed on a German test track, he mocked both this and his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies:
James: But even when you've sorted the venue, you can't just jump in the car and go. This is Germany: there are procedures to go through. I like procedures.
- Inverted by Better Off Ted. The German clients are intimidated by Veridian Dynamics because they seem to be "ruthlessly efficient and bent on world domination".
- Or played straight to emphasize the extent of the VD ruthlessness.
- Madrigal Elektromotiv GmbH from Breaking Bad gives off this impression. Their direct impact on the plot happens almost entirely through their american subsidiary, so the decision to make them Germans was most likely made just to emphasize that they are a highly efficient and organized industrial empire, way out of league of the small time gangs and even the Mexican cartel that Walter had been dealing with before.
- Blackadder II - Blackadder and Melchett are being held prisoner by "Ludvig the Indestructible". Melchett doesn't have much hope of escape, but Blackadder thinks differently. Once Ludvig himself leaves for England, that just leaves the guards, who do the exact same thing every day (and even narrate it while they do so). When are at they at their weakest? When they make insulting pelvic thrusts. Trust Blackadder to punch the hard one.
Blackadder: Germans are sticklers for efficiency and I've been watching their routine. I've selected the moment when they're at their most vulnerable...
- Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet featured this skit, satirising the high cost of living in Israel and the fact that Israeli products often cost less abroad than they do in Israel, and specifically the outrage at some Israeli chocolate bars being much cheaper at Israeli stores in the US than in Israel, and the rise of Israeli emigration due to this, often to Berlin (yes, Berlin. The skit was styled as an ad for a supermarket, owned by an Israeli and offering Israeli products, often with Germanised names, such as ‘Neka Sieben’ for Neka 7 and Zyklon B bug spray. To drive the point home, the owner asked his German delivery boy when a woman asking to have her groceries delivered should be home, and he answered, ‘Between 11:47 and 11:49.’
- If you've ever wondered what Germanic efficiency sounds like, just listen to Kraftwerk.
- Or Rammstein for that matter, are there any other heavy metal bands as efficient? Any more imposing scene shows? German efficiency!
- Or the final schene of Das Boot - the march played at the schene the U-96 arriving to harbour is ''Erzherzog-Albrecht-Marsch", an actual march played when a German submarine arrived to port.
- Krautrock. Alles gesagt!
- Anything done with synthesizers and which is not synthpop, such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Einstürzende Neubauten etc.
- Or their more straightforward rock bands, like Wir sind Helden and Sportfreunde Stiller.
- German audio engineering equipment manufacturers are highly regarded. Among them are Native Instruments (makers of the Traktor DJ platform), Behringer, and Sennheiser.
- In Feng Shui, characters who use guns made by Heckler and Koch (such as the P7 and any member of the MP5 family) or drive German-made vehicles such as the BMW 328i Convertible will often wax poetic about "fine German craftsmanship."
- Played straight and subverted at the same time in BattleTech. House Steiner has strong Germanic influences, but for the longest time their military officers are construed largely as General Failures, and by extension their line troops are not viewed in any better light. However, they are highly respected as merchants and are both well known and often targeted by rival realms for their technological knowledge and large scale construction ability.
- Mutant Chronicles: The Bauhaus corporation has a strong germanic overtone, (in fact, it is heavily implied to be the contemporary retail chain Bauhaus) and is obsessed with producing the best of everything. This is to the extent that they prefer to not field a major portion of their army to equipping soldiers with worse than top-of-the-line weapons.
- The Empire in Warhammer. Naturally.
- In Rifts, Mega Corp. Triax Industries is the most advancednote military manufacturer on Rifts Earth. Appropriately enough, they're located in, and largely responsible for the creation of, the New German Republic.
- In Shadowrun, Essen-based German industrial conglomerate Saeder-Krupp (made up from the BMW fusing with the Krupp conglomerate and the fictional Saeder munitions) was the largest, most powerful and influential of the "Big Ten" Megacorps even before they got an immortal dragon for a CEO in 2038. By the start of the game timeline in the 2050s, they're even more so.
- In Starlancer, the German-made Wolverine heavy fighter is the last starfighter that you can unlock, and probably the best ship in the entire game.
- In the sequel, Freelancer, Rheinland's military fighters are the most powerful of the four empires. They still fall very short of the Edge World ships though.
- In Chrono Cross, the character Luccia is a brilliant, efficient, and morally ambiguous scientist with a very distinct German accent.
- Averted in Champions Online. The Mad Scientist side character Dr. Von Schulz is a pathetic coward (or maybe just a realist) who considers the whole plan failed as soon as The Hero enters his lab... for which he's quickly killed off by the Nemesis.
- Played straight, however, by Doctor Ohm, a minor German Villain who stoically continues his work (hacking a computer in search of Death Ray blueprints) while The Hero is beating up his Mooks and Mechanical Monster only a few feet away from him.
- Belka, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Germany featured in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, easily has (had) the most advanced technology in Strangereal, and their entire airforce is comprised of aces.
- Gunther Hermann from Deus Ex. Well, sort of.
- The Von Karmas from the Ace Attorney series are cold, efficient, and perfectionists to a fault. Interestingly enough, in Japan, the Von Karmas were American.
- Parodied with Von Kaiser from Punch-Out!!. He claims to be the very model of German efficiency, and when he winds up to attack you hear sound effects like a toy soldier rattling or the cocking of a rifle. If he manages to knock you down, he begins mechanically jogging in place, and when he wins a match he paces around Little Mac's unconscious body disapprovingly like a drill sergeant. Despite this, it's soon revealed that this affected perfectionism is a front to cover the fact that he's a twitchy, nervous wreck. In Contender mode, a single counterpunch turns him into a basket case, hiding his face and whimpering "mommy", and hitting him with a Star Punch in this state will automatically knock him down or even KO him outright.
- A recurring gag in the Kim Possible episode "Ron the Man" is the contrast between the ineptitude of Dr. Drakken's henchmen and the Prussian efficiency of Professor Dementor's. Of course, neither of them wins out in the end, anyway.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode, Homer is kidnapped in a conspiracy and replaced by a man who looked similar, but spoke in broken English with an obvious German accent. He manages to distract Marge from questioning him by offering to take her out to dinner and then having "efficient German sex." (We never find out if they went through with it, though.)
- In an earlier episode, the power plant was bought out by a German company who lived this trope through and through; Lisa even told Homer that the reason Germany is an economic power is because of this trope. Interestingly, the Germans who actually came to run the plant were portrayed as being very friendly and approachable. Despite fears of mass layoffs, they ended up only laying off Homer (which, let's face it, is understandable) and most of the employees far preferred them to Mr. Burns.
- Almost every modern action film and video game will have lots of German-made cars and guns which are usually portrayed as being the best available. Works set in World War II will also have German tanks.
- Practically everything made by Heckler & Koch.
- The MP5 submachine gun.
- The MP7 PDW.
- The PSG-1 sniper rifle.
- The HK416 assault rifle, which is basically an improved variant of the American M4 series and the main weapon of the Delta Force.
- The G36 assault rifle.
- The HK 417 battle rifle.
- The P30 pistol, which is the main weapon of Michael Westen from Burn Notice from season 4 onwards.
- The USP, available in three calibres. The .45ACP version is what most Americans think of first and the 9mm is pretty widely used outside of the states.
- The Mauser C96 "Broomhandle".
- The Luger P08
- James Bond has made Walther Arms and its associated weapon very famous, most notably the Walther PP/PPK series of compact pistols and the Walther P99 series of full-sized pistols, as well as the Walther WA2000 sniper rifle.
- World War II made the Walther P-38 famous/infamous for its cool looks and for being the Nazi's pistol of choice.
- There's a reason things are called "the Mercedes of X". BMWs and Porsches also have a very high reputation.