There was a resurgence of big World War II entertainment in the late '90s, with Saving Private Ryan paving the way for two massive video game franchises, Medal Of Honor and Call Of Duty, which would spend the next several years reaping The Last Great War for all it was worth. Then we went through a bit of a dry spell (Medal Of Honor pretty much vanished, and Call Of Duty turned its sights to modern warfare and eventually space), but World War II movies are coming back. Last year, Hacksaw Ridge was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, despite being directed by a man who could gently be referred to as a "Nazi enthusiast," and this summer will see the release of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, an epic World War II film starring part of One Direction.
As if to punctuate this, Call Of Duty's next installment will return the franchise to the conflict of its birth to shoot even more Nazis.
But maybe it's time to stop using Nazis as bad guys.
Now hear me out. I'm not saying we shouldn't make any more World War II movies. And I'm not saying we can't have movies that portray Nazis in the villainous role they require, earned, and deserve. All I'm saying is that maybe we shouldn't for a while.
Nazis have essentially become the titular alien from the Alien series. We've seen it so many times, its portrayal growing more and more reductive with each installment, that we've reached the point where we're no longer afraid of it. The alien isn't scary anymore. Once you drag the monster out of the shadows of your bedroom, shine a bright light on it, and make it dance, you forget what it feels like to be sitting alone in the dark with it watching you from a distorted mass of shapes that project nothing but malice and dread despite never fully congealing into a recognizable figure.