“Heil Hitler!” This was a familiar greeting in Nazi Germany during World War II in the 1940s. The Nazis were a symbol of hate and oppression. A plague of evil spreading throughout Europe during World War II. The sole purpose of the Nazis was global conquest. Also synonymous with the Nazis was their flag. Red in color with a white circle in the middle, and in the middle of the circle a black swastika. An emblem meant to stand out against all others. Their uniforms were often dark and black with high boots covering their pant legs. An image used to instill strength and power. Long red colored banners would often hang in government buildings and during military parades. As if their influence reached to the heavens. Visual imagery is one way to spot them but their brutal ideology is another. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazis, felt they were the superior race. Blonde hair and blue eyes was seen as perfection. In their minds, nobody else could compete with them physically or intellectually. The Nazi regime sought out and persecuted Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies. “In the case of genocide, it is usually clear to outside observers that it is not justified by provocations even if it is a response to real violence by the other group. However, frequently the victim group has done nothing to justify violence against them, except in the perpetrators’ minds. The Jews engaged in no destructive actions against Germans” (Staub 181). They would stop at nothing to spread their brand throughout the world. Perhaps this is why when evil totalitarian dictatorships are referenced, hints of Nazi ideology are remembered. The Nazis influence of what we see in the world, as evil, whether it’s cinema, music, or nationalist groups can be seen as a proximate cause. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll show you various elements of their persona and how they tie in, why the Nazis are the ultimate source of evil and still remain that face of it.
Take Star Wars for instance. There are two prominent groups in the movies. There’s the Rebels who are the good guys, and the Empire who are the bad guys. When George Lucas set out to create the Empire, he wanted to depict an enemy that was an unstoppable force. Their uniforms have a similar feel to the Nazis. Many of Imperial uniforms are also dark just as the Nazis. No bright colors are visible. Even within their ranks, the racial makeup isn’t diverse. There are no people of color as Imperial officers. In a universe where there are multiple species abundant, humans are at the helm. They have the ultimate weapon in the death star and will wipe out an opposing planet. They ruthlessly tested it on the planet of Alderaan (the home planet of Princess Leia) just to make a statement. Ultimately the Empire is destroyed along with the death star and the one built to replace it. Fast forward 20 years in the Star Wars universe and the Empire is replaced by the First Order. The Empire was a necessary cause for the First Order. Without the Empire in place, the First Order would have no reason to exist. They would have no reason to attempt to redeem themselves and reconquer the galaxy. The First Order shares many of the same visual representations of the Empire and Nazis. During a major speech given by one of their generals before an assault, the First Order leaders are standing above the troops assembled below. Once again these high ranking officers are all in black with trenchcoat-esque capes. Behind these leaders, a large red banner hangs displaying the First Order’s symbol. Within the ranks below, several troops are holding totems with red draped banners hanging with the First Order symbol on it also. Looks of its predecessor the Empire and elements of the Nazis are felt.
From visiting foes in a galaxy far far away we jump across the pond to England. Here in the 2005 movie “V for Vendetta”, the creators imagined a possible world in which England is an oppressive state. Censorship is abound and this is where the character of V steps in to change things. As he takes over a television station he tells the people, “And once where you had the freedom to object,to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance.” This was a methodology used by the Nazis as well. Keep the people in line and if they go against the grain then remove them. In Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Culture he states, “The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment” (Cohen 4). The culture that he speaks of is oppression. Once again flags of the country are red with a black like cross on it. Alternately, black flags with a red cross can be seen as well. This is bold imagery which harkens back to Nazi Germany. A slogan on a state sanctioned posters that read, “Strength through unity, unity through faith” is used to keep the masses in line with their motives. At one point in the movie Evey Hammond (played by Natalie Portman) seeks refuge from the government and hides at a friend’s house. He shows her his secret gallery. One object on display was a picture of a Union Jack flag with a swastika in the middle of it. The words, “The coalition of the willing to power” are on top and below the flag. Perhaps this version of England sold their souls for power. State vans drive through the streets with video cameras and long distance listening equipment visibly attached to the top. This suggests that their government wants the people to know of this.
Skip ahead to the year 2014. Famous rapper Nicki Minaj makes a video to promote her song, “Only.” The song features Drake, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown. It’s a black and white animated video with the only color added to it being red. The style of the cartoon is in vein with something you would see in those old 1940s Superman cartoons. One of the opening shots of the video starts in a throne room. You’re looking down the aisle which is a red carpet. Nicki Minaj is sitting on a red victorian era chair in black with her legs crossed. Standing to her sides with their faces obscured are two hooded men. The hooded men resemble the emperor from the Star Wars movies who was a parallel to Adolf Hitler and his rise to power. In front of her are soldiers all in black. In formation they stand on the sides of red aisle. They resemble the men that you see make up SWAT teams in law enforcement except for one small detail. On their left arms are red arm bands. Within these bands are a white circle with Nicki Minaj’s symbol which we’ll get to in a minute. What other regime wore red arm bands? You guessed it, the Nazis. In this throne room in front of the soldiers are long red banners. A large white circle in the middle with her logo. The logo is a hybrid of a capital N and M with a Y sticking out of the top. It’s all in thick black lettering and resembles a swastika. Another shot in the video is similar to the throne room. It’s outside with a monument with pillars in the background. On top of the monument is a statue of Nicki Minaj with her back towards us and crouching. A red carpet such as the one from the previous shot leads up to the steps of the monument. There are tanks lined up on both sides of the aisle facing each other. On top of the monument are four red banners with her symbol. One shot of her “Only” video shows the corner of a monument with a statue appearing to be sitting on it. On the corner are three surveillance cameras just as England had in the movie “V for Vendetta” to suggest that Nicki Minaj’s world is a totalitarian world.
As we come to a close, let’s look back on the characteristics of the Nazi regime with their aspects, and their common themes. The Nazis were oppressive with their Aryan beliefs. In the Star Wars universe the Empire was spread throughout the galaxy and dangled the death star over star systems to keep them in check. In the movie “V for Vendetta”, England used television to broadcast how the world was falling apart and that by falling in line (ex: curfews), the people would be safe. In Nicki Minaj’s video “Only”, cameras are shown outside a statue. If you watch the video completely, every time a male rapper says the words “be quiet” is when it’s show. Any public monitoring or strict laws against people a viewed as methods of control. The Nazis used lots of imagery to spread propaganda. Just when you thought one or a few banners were enough, they would hang multiple and force feed it. The First Order did this at their rally as well as Nicki Minaj in her music video. Of all the horrific things the Nazis did, the visual that lets you know you’ve drifted into their territory was the swastika. The spider-esque looking shape inside of a circle. The Empire had their variation with a white circular symbol on black. The First Order took elements from the Empire and used a similar shape that was black in color on a red background. Nicki Minaj’s symbol had all the common traits of the Nazi’s with her lettering tweaked out a bit. One thing that wasn’t talked about was the color red. It was used excessively against dark backgrounds to stand out. It is a power color, hence why men wear power ties. It is also the color of blood and seen as a warning sign. It’s the year 2018 now and it has been at least 70 years since the Nazi empire walked the earth in full force. Hate groups will always attempt to take elements from them and even revive them. They never go away. “Monsters are our children. They can be pushed to the farthest margins of geography and discourse, hidden away at the edges of the world and in the forbidden recesses of our mind, but they always return” (Cohen 20). Cinema and various forms of entertainment will still reference them. As recent as August of this year, Germany lifted the ban on the use of Nazi imagery in video games. Often they were used as the enemy in games to defeat. They are the ultimate evil created by man. Visibly recognizable throughout the world to this day.
Cohen, Jeffrey J. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1996.http://www.englishwithtuttle.com/uploads/3/0/2/6/30266519/cohen_monster_culture__seven_theses__3-20.pdf
Minaj, Nicki. “Nicki Minaj – Only Ft. Drake, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown.” YouTube, YouTube, 7 Nov. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU769XX_dIQ.
Staub, Ervin. The Roots of Evil: Social Conditions, Culture, Personality, and Basic Human Needs. Department of Psychology University of Massachusetts, 1999.http://acme.highpoint.edu/~msetzler/FYS/FYSreadings/Staub.RootsOfEvil.PersSocPsyRev.99.13.pdf