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Germanic Depressives

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"The Teutonic reputation for brutality is well founded. Their operas last three or four days, and they have no word for 'fluffy'".
Captain Blackadder, Blackadder Goes Forth
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Or, if you prefer, sour Krauts.

Germans in fiction are often stereotyped in one of two ways: as Nazis, or as being dour, serious and frustrated to the point of ridicule. (Or both.) This is a mild Truth in Television: while Germans do, indeed, have a sense of humour, they also strictly divide work time and leisure time (see Oktoberfest), and since chances are you'll encounter German people in business situations, this means they will be perceived by others as deathly serious during the former. This has also contributed to the additional stereotype of Germans being portrayed as ruthlessly efficient. May be known as German Gründlichkeit in other nations.

Also, Germans, like several other north European countries, tend to be just a tad more reserved than more laid-back, open Americans are accustomed to. Unfortunately, this reserved-ness is often mistaken for coldness. This trope exists even inside Germany, as Northern Germans are often perceived that way by the rest of Germany, so are Eastern Germans when mixed with tragic flavor.

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Not so much Truth in Television: TV Germans also seem to get angry quite easily, often yelling and having fits that make them sound like, well... you know. (Of course, just as Everything Sounds Sexier in French, everything sounds angrier in German.)

Another variant of the "serious German" trope is to have a German character attempt to tell a joke, and fail miserably, thus providing us with the quote page's horrible joke. Really, we apologize. Although German Humor does include a lot of untranslatable puns itself...

It should also be noted, that this trope is generally not too old, and hails back to the era of Frederick the Great (18th century) who received his name for his unexpected and decisive military victories over France and Austria, tripling the size of the Kingdom of Prussia in the process, but until Bismarck (late 19th century) this trope was usually limited to the German military. See the 1632 entry below for a history-accurate point of view an Englishman or American could have possibly had about Germans.

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See also Germanic Efficiency.

And as to the quote at the top of this page: "flauschig", "flaumig", "weich" and "flockig" can all translate to "fluffy" depending on context. For a more one-to-one translation see also the anglicism "fluffig".


Examples

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     Anime & Manga 
  • The generally taciturn Hoover Kippenburg in the Area 88 manga was stricken with guilt over a training accident back in Europe that killed several pilots. When he briefly takes over for Commander Saki during the Wolfpack arc, Shin describes Hoover's style as steady and methodical.
  • Uryuu Ishida from Bleach: While probably not actually being German (he is a Quincy, but they are based on Germans in terms of culture), he is a very serious character who never relaxes. Even around his friends and in peace time he will always stay stern and unsmiling. His friends are sometimes thrown off by this attitude.
  • In Cyborg 009, the German Cyborg Albert Heinrich/004 is given one of the most tragic backstories as an East Germany escapé who loses his fiancée and has his body half-torn in their escape, is reconstructed as a heavily armored Cyborg by Black Ghost, and then is put into a coma for many years. Though he (thankfully) doesn't reach wangst levels, he often remarks on how everything has changed for him and shows deep worry about how much of a human he truly is due to all his implants.
  • In Emma: A Victorian Romance, the Mölders family and many of their staff are from Germany, but with the sole exception of dour, silent footman Hans, they completely avert this trope.
  • From Eroica with Love: Klaus von dem Eberbach exemplifies this trope to the tenth degree. Hates disorder, doesn't know how to relax (literally), uptight, conservative, and always clad in a suit - Klaus can send the stress levels of a room soaring just by walking in. Interestingly though, he's the only German to conform to his national stereotype in a series rife with them: his German underlings include a sweet natured transvestite somewhat prone to hysterics, a beleaguered second in command, a goofy third in command and an earnest rookie.
  • Most of the members of the German-themed Kuromorimine Womens' College of Girls und Panzer are quite serious, and have difficulty lightening up. Maho, commander of the tankery team, calls some of them over for a Christmas party, but they mistake it for a review of their recent mistakes in tankery, and dread it. In the party, Maho often finds herself not knowing what to do, and wondering what her younger sister Miho, a former student that has been 'naturalized' by her colorful new school, would do in the situation.
  • Victor Hillshire from Gunslinger Girl gave off this vibe in the earlier parts of the manga, to the point where Jose pointed it out when the former was asking the latter for advice in fratello relationships. We see later that he just doesn't socialize with children well, Triela in particular because he rescued her from a Snuff Film death back from when he was in Europol in a bungled raid that got his partner killed, kidnapped her from custody from the Dutch police and brought her to Italy for treatment before he found out the true nature of the Social Welfare Agency. It was awkward at first, until her decision to let Mario Bossi go see his daughter rather than stay and be protected by the Agency helps him see her as a partner rather than a child or a cyborg killer, as he had difficulty knowing how to interact with the latter two. Now, ironically, they're the closest fratello group other than Sandro and Petra, who actually took it a step further.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers. Germany, of course. The thing is, this trope originates with Prussia's disciplined military culture that dominates perceptions of Germans, but Prussia himself represents this by being a fiercely Hot-Blooded warrior, so not depressive at all, even though he's the origin of the trope. However, it is said his true nature is even more methodical and serious than Germany's.
    • The comic also acknowledges that south Germans are supposed to be nice and jolly (they gave us Oktoberfest), but Austria is even stricter than Germany, if more refined and aristocratic. However, that Austrians are perceived as more carefree than Germans does manifest in different ways, such as how Austria throws his clothes around and leaves his underwear around his house.
    • This trope is also played straight with the grumpy, unfriendly and somewhat pessimistic Switzerland, but averted with the very sweet and cheerful Liechtenstein.
  • Constanze from Little Witch Academia is either from Germany or Austria, she never speaks, never smiles or emotes beside some grumpy looks and is completely focused on working and nothing else. She is implied to suffer from some Ambiguous Disorder. Though she does smile at the end of an episode.
  • Signum of Lyrical Nanoha, while not an actual German, comes from an alien culture that uses a lot of Gratuitous German. She's the very image of a true soldier, which is why her new partner Agito finds her to be an utter drag. The Fourth-Wall Mail Slot had Fate advising her to "relax" when she asked for tips on how to be "buddy-like" with her partner. A bit of a problem since Signum hates to be relaxed.
    • In the first A's Sound Stage, Hayate, after noticing Signum initially decline her invitation to go to the public baths with her, Shamal and Vita, asks Signum if she still isn't used to the idea of spending time with her mistress. Hayate ultimately gets Signum to come along by essentially saying that it should be okay for her if her mistress says it is.
  • Inverted in Tonari no Kashiwagi-san with Tina, who is the most cheerful and outgoing member of the cast.

     Comedy 
  • German stand-up Henning Wehn has had a fair amount of success in Britain (frequently appearing on Panel Shows) with a shtick that by turns lampshades, defies and plays straight the stereotype.
  • Patton Oswalt does a bit about Germans being completely humourless and serious all the time in his special "Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time". His theory is that Germans purposely try to quash all attempts at humour as soon as possible because they think if anyone is allowed to joke about anything, it's only a matter of time before some snarky tourist starts making All Germans Are Nazis jokes.
    Patton: [seeing a nightclub with red laser pointers shining on the outside walls] Oh, looks like the snipers are out tonight.
    German Cab Driver: No, zose are not sniper rifles, vhat zey have done is zey have pointed many small laser pointers at zee outside of zee nightclub to create a sort of visual effect. [Beat] But even if zey vere sniper rifles, you vill notice zat zey are in no way pointed at any Jews!
  • German satirist Volker Pispers thrives on this. His shows start out like stand-up comedy with him making jokes about teachers, politicians or similar with a childish smile and once the audience laughs, he will instantly frown and berate them for laughing, going at lengths to explain why the situation for the regarding person/issue is dire and how dramatically bad everything is. In fact, the more funny he starts out, the more depressing his rant will become and all jokes that might happen during his rant will be salty Black Comedy.
  • While most German comedy shows actually run on Rule of Funny and Slapstick, almost all of them have a few sketches that work entirely on The Comically Serious or The Eeyore. One example would be the sketch series "Schlechte Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten" note  (a parody on the German soap series "Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten" note ) which was about a shared flat of suicidal people doing mundane tasks, usually with one person already dead at the beginning and at least one more committing suicide during the sketch.

     Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Goths the Goths (here anachronistically and incorrectly used as a blanket name for the Germanic tribes living northeast of Roman Gaulnote ) were cast as militaristic war-mongering villains, playing into the All Germans Are Nazis trope. Creators René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo later regretted the tone of this story, saying it was made only twenty years after the war when anti-German sentiments were still vivid. In later Asterix stories Germans are portrayed in a more sympathetic light, though still as people who are often deadly serious.
  • X-Men: Kurt Wagner a.k.a. Nightcrawler was intended to be an aversion of this, a light-hearted Errol Flynn type. He was introduced as devout as any other lay Catholic simply to demonstrate his demonism was only skin-deep and to heighten the injustice of the religious superstition against him. However, through The Dark Age of Comic Books he became more of a Sad Clown, then as Wangsty as any X-Man. Recently he was killed outright and apparently replaced with a Darker and Edgier Alternate Universe version of himself. He's come back as of Amazing X-Men (vol.2) #5 but as he's apparently had to sacrifice his soul to keep Azazel out of Heaven, there's no reason not to expect a Break the Cutie plot with him in the future.

    Film - Animated 

     Film - Live-Action 
  • The black-clad German nihilists in The Big Lebowski. They believe in nozzing! Even Walter, a Jewish man, prefers Nazis over them.
    The Dude: They were Nihilists, man. They kept saying they believed in nothing.
    Walter: Nihilists... fuck me. I mean, say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, dude, at least it's an ethos.
  • Kenneth Williams as Commandant Burger in Carry On in the Legion, who is very strict, cold, and takes everything seriously. Even when shot, he doesn't react.
  • Werner Herzog and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, widely acclaimed German directors, whose movies often end with Downer Endings, and are mostly(in Fassbinder's case - always) on cynicism side of Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism.
  • Matthias Schweighöfer is known for specifically subverting/averting the trope in his acting choices, preferring to play upbeat and/or quirky characters.
  • Contrast the German art-house film, Wings of Desire, with its American quasi-remake, City of Angels, and note how the commoners behave in both films. The former very much lives up to this trope.

     Literature 
  • Inverted in the 1632 series, where the "downtime" Germans consider the Americans to be the uptight, stuffy, and unnecessarily organized ones. (So does just about everybody else.)
    Rebecca's own brows were furrowed. "Alles in ordnung?" What is he talking about? Germans are the most unruly and undisciplined people in Europe.
    Germans! Who squabbled about everything, including even the language they spoke, and were notorious throughout Europe for the production of religious sects, mass rebellions, mercenary soldiers, everything except order.
  • German siblings Hans and Petra in Caliphate. He is more dour and resentful while she is Prone to Tears, though considering they were taken as slaves from their family and the sort of things they go through, it's more than justified.
  • In one of the Father Brown stories, an Italian actress storms off in a temper and locks herself in her room. The rest of the troupe debate whether to break the door down to prevent her committing suicide. Father Brown (half-jokingly?) says that as she's Italian there's no need, but had she been a German "gone away to think about Weltschmerz" he would be all for knocking the door down.
  • At the start of Live Free or Die when astronomers are trying to figure out what the Grtul gate actually is as it moves into the solar system, one character asks if it's a joke. He's told that they were notified of it by the Max Planck Institute in Germany, which prompts the conclusion that it's not a prank, as Germans "[f]amously don't have a sense of humor".
  • The Martian: Subverted. Vogel does have a sense of humor, and his goofiness comes out when he is talking to his family (among other things, he refers to his children as "the monkeys"). Among the ARES crew he tends towards stoicism, in part because he, like Germans in general, does not consider "joking about it" to be a catch-all way of dealing with problems in the same way Anglos do, and in part because he thinks being The Comically Serious Straight Man to Martinez' Class Clown and Beck's Deadpan Snarker is way funnier than his own routines.

     Live-Action TV 
  • 2 Broke Girls: In Episode 6 of Season 6 Sophie is trying to get her baby Barbra to laugh, without success. When she enters the diner she delivers this line:
    Sophie: Hey everybody! We're here! Yeah, me and the Ice Queen. You know, if she doesn't laugh soon, people will think she's German.
  • While preparing for a negotiation with German TV executives, Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock watches some of their programming, which is bleak, artsy and not shot in color. (These are apparently sitcoms.)
  • An example from Germany itself: Bernd das Brot (Bernd the Bread), a (slightly) anthropomorphic loaf-of-bread puppet; supposedly only working in television due to a lack of other employment opportunities, always at the butt-end of practical jokes and stunts set up by the producers and his well-meaning colleagues (a sheep and a bush), instead of just being left alone to memorise the pattern of his wallpaper and expand his collection of the most boring railway track videos. Interestingly, this world-weary sufferer originated on a children's channel, with the nightly repeat of the sketches greatly expanding his adult fanbase. Following this he even became a topic for high-brow newspaper columns, with commentators linking his popularity to the over-the-top, Played for Laughs portrayal of his depression resonating with the German psyche. One interpretation is that Bernd's popularity stems from his claiming the right to be unhappy in the hyper-happy media-dominated world of today. A bit like a box-shaped Savage.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth - Blackadder describes how well-founded "the Teutonic reputation for brutality" is while he and Baldrick are prisoners of war. However, the promised Fate Worse than Death turns out to be teaching home economics in a girls' school outside Heidelberg. It's intended to be an unbearable humiliation for men of honor, but somehow fails to have the expected result on Blackadder.
  • Peter Schuler plays with this trope in Breaking Bad. He's definitely glum and morose, even when eating tater tots, but other Germans find this behavior off-putting and odd. But you'd be depressed too if you were contemplating suicide after your drug dealing operation got dismantled.
  • The Colbert Report has a recurring character, German UN ambassador Hans Beinholtz, who shows up exclusively to make things more dour and depressing. Some of his highlights:
    • Struggling to understand the concept of "cupcakes."
    • Presenting a sock puppet that he insists is not alive and convincing Stephen that Kermit the Frog is actually a being of pure selfishness.
    "His name is Cuckoo McButtons. But he does not speak, for he is a lifeless piece of cloth."
    • Proclaiming that he has World Cup fever, which he describes as "the terrible disease of nationalism and competition, the twin seeds of war. Go team."
    • Upon hearing that pessimistic people live longer, declaring that he will surely live a long miserable life.
  • The Dana Carvey Show had two characters called "the Germans who say nice things." They stood side by side at attention, shouting things like "EET VOS A PLEASURE BABYSITTING KEVIN" and "MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS IS THE FEEL-GOOD MOVIE OF THE YEEEEEAR!"
  • Averted in the Irish sitcom Killinaskully by Dieter, who almost never loses his sunny disposition despite the often downright outlandish behaviour of the Eccentric Townsfolk.
  • Also averted by Otto and Gretchen Mankusser of Malcolm in the Middle, who are unfailingly cheerful, good-natured, and ditzy.
  • Anna Schmidt of Mind Your Language fits the trope, since all the characters embody caricatures of the stereotypes about their home country.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: This was the secondary idea to the 'World's Funniest Joke' sketch. It was so funny, anyone who heard it died laughing, so of course the British employed it as a weapon of war. (A particularly well-trained SS officer was capable of resisting the joke for a few seconds.) German attempts to develop a counter weapon were...unsuccessful.
    Hitler: Mein Hund hat keine Nase!
    Hitlerjugend: Wie riecht er?
    Hitler: Schrecklich!
  • In the Qi episode "Empire", Alan Davies mentions that he was once on a flight to Berlin, and most of the other passengers were German. According to Alan, the other passengers were laughing uproariously at a program on their in-flight movie screens, and when Alan glanced at some of the screens, it turned out to be Mr. Bean.
    Bill Bailey: There's a certain efficiency to it. He does something, then he falls over. First he was walking in a straight line, then he walked into the door! Genius!
    Alan: "Zis is vat happens ven you break ze rules! Ha ha!"
  • Recurring characters The Nihilists from The Ronnie John's Half Hour fit this trope to a T, always dressed in black, with stoic faces and never smiling. The more Unfunny they were, the funnier the sketch. One sketch had them leading an aerobics class at a gym, and, when asked to start the warm-ups, one of them replied, "My body is always cold." Other sketches have included them hosting a children's television show and a Seinfield parody of sorts.
  • Root into Europe: While travelling in Germany the British man Mr. Root assumes all Germans have no sense of comedy. He is proven wrong immediately while entering a German bar. As he bumps into a glass door all Germans inside immediately laugh at him.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • Mike Myers' Dieter character from the recurring skit "Sprockets" certainly had a grim façade, although he also seemed to take pleasure in his weirdness.
    • Kate McKinnon's portrayal of Angela Merkel falls into this a little, but there's definitely a healthy, albeit very dry sense of humor under the surface. (And a poorly-hidden crush on Barack Obama.)
      Baracht... is it vorking? Am I making you jealous? Leave Michelle.
  • One challenge on Top Gear required the presenters to go to "the world's least amusing city"... which of course turned out to be Berlin.

     Tabletop Games 
  • The inhabitants of 7th Sea's Eisen (which is Germany with a minimal rename) are practically required to be like this. Of course, their entire country was dashed to pieces by a holy war, so they have an excuse.
  • Natives of Krieg in Warhammer 40,000. Although in their case it's justified: they're a Martyrdom Culture consisting almost entirely of clones due to the planet rebelling and being reconquered with 'half a millennia of nuking. Since then, they seek to atone by using WWI trench warfare tactics in full coats and gas masks (their planet is still radioactive). Their conformity, fatalism and zeal for dying fighting cause them to need Commissars not for maintaining order and morale as is usually a Commissar's main duties, but to liaison with regiments from other worlds because they reliably creep everyone else out. To be completely fair, while their helmets are mostly German styled, their uniform also have WWI-French influences, like a crest upon their helmet like the French Adrian helmet and their overcoats are French.

     Video Games 
  • While Ace Attorney's Miles Edgeworth isn't German by birth, he has a German mentor (also an example of this trope) and spent much of his youth in Germany, so he qualifies. Franziska von Karma is also an example. (Mind you, this is only in the localized version; in the original game the Karumas are American.)
  • CarnEvil's main villain is Professor Ludwig von Tökkentäkker, a German Mad Scientist-slash-Repulsive Ringmaster with a Control Freak complex. He gets frustrated that the protagonist won't give himself up and let Tökkentäkker turn him into another mutant carnival freak, and demands that the protagonist obey him. He does do an Evil Laugh and other Evil Is Hammy behaviors, but he's still a gloomy Perpetual Frowner.
  • Gunther Hermann from Deus Ex is a bundle of angst and frustration who takes everything seriously, whether it's the death of a friend or the unavailability of orange soda.
  • Mr. Adler from Double Homework, though gentle, isn’t really shown to have a sense of humor.
  • Sasha Nein from Psychonauts is a brooding, thoughtful fellow who is made all the more funny by the whackiness going on around him. This makes him a fairly good teacher for away-with-the-fairies Raz.
  • Johann Strauss from Quake IV, Rhino Squad's high-strung Insufferable Genius technician, never expresses a single positive emotion. When he isn't frustrated or scared, he's dead serious about his assignments and tasks.
  • Team Fortress 2's The Medic swaps constantly between 'cross and dour' to 'just plain crazy'. He seems fairly cheerful throughout "Meet the Medic", and a few of his voice clips are puns, but even more of them are complaining about his own team. This element of his character has gradually been reversed with each update, to the point that in the Halloween 2012 event, all of his lines are completely enthusiastic, making him a canonically gleeful Mad Doctor.

     Web Comics 
  • Germany in Scandinavia and the World is basically the poster child of this trope, due to him being the personification of the country and also having a lot of guilt issues.

     Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • In the Invader Zim episode "The Sad, Sad Tale of Chickenfoot", Membrane introduces Dib to the world leaders he's having a conference with. Seeing that he's watching a report about Chickenfoot, they all start laughing at him, except for the German guy. (According to the DVD commentary, you can tell he's German because he has a monocle).
  • The Germans get fed up with this stereotype in an episode of South Park, raiding South Park Elementary's "Comedy Awards" forcing Jimmy to deny that the Germans are the least funny people in the world. Then they introduce their creation, FunnyBot.

     Real Life 
  • The fact that the founder of philosophical pessimism was German probably doesn't help this trope much. Neither does Friedrich Nietzsche, for that matter.
  • The Marx Brothers' parents were both Germans note . Groucho originally played a Germanic accented character which he dropped just about WWI, but it was The Dashing Hispanic that secured their type.
  • Disproved in Spike Milligan's war diaries with the anecdote that at a reunion many years later a German friend of one of the people came along and Spike discovered that they had been on opposite sides of the same hill in Italy in one engagement. The German quickly passed Spike a note which read "Sorry to have missed you during the war"...
  • The world's largest Goth convention, Wave Gotik Treffen takes place in Leipzig, Germany.
    • Though if you attend you'll notice it's anything but depressive.
  • Would you believe there's a German comedian, slam poet and Member of the European Parliament with a depressive shtick? Nico Semsrott's "stand-up tragedy" program is called (translated) "Joy is just a lack of information".
  • Gustav Mahler's music is often very dark, moody and brooding. One of his oldest works was "Das Klagende Lied" ("The Song of Lament") and "Kindertotenlieder" ("Songs on the Death of Children") is also not exactly the happiest of subjects. "Das Lied von der Erde" also deals with tragic themes. And, of course, his famous "6th Symphony" is referred to as "Tragische" ("Tragic").

Remember... vee Germans are not all smiles und sunshine.

Alternative Title(s): Germanic Depressive, Sour Kraut

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