ABSTRACT

This article examines the portrayal of German Democratic Republic (GDR) socialism in the TV series Deutschland, the first foreign-language show to premiere on a U.S. network. Paving the way for the globalization of Germany’s TV industry, the series exemplifies the rise of the nostalgic spy thriller. It employs the aesthetic and ideological codes of a genre rooted in the 1960s to evoke the time period and ideological certainties of the Cold War from a contemporary perspective. Deutschland focuses on the Stasi’s division of counterintelligence to portray the GDR as a totalitarian regime, run by corrupt elites, which subjugated its population and supported terrorism and illegal arms trading. The series employs the conventions of “historical event TV” and re-created historical settings to claim veracity and authenticity for plotlines that invoke sensationalized coverage of Cold War conflicts and distorted allegations against the GDR. Deutschland dismisses GDR efforts to create and globalize an alternative system, based on principles of anti-imperialist solidarity with the global South, and caricatures postsocialist nostalgia as an elite sentiment for the re-creation of totalitarianism. The series contributes to neo-Cold War imageries that evoke a past of Western superiority over European state socialism, which has little to offer to a future post-neoliberal world.

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