What kind of people watch crime films
Why are there so many crime films on TV? : "In a crime thriller, we have control over our fear"
Herr von Gottberg, which crime thriller did you throw yourself in this TV week?
In view of the holidays, I only saw the Munich “Tatort: Klingelingeling” event on Boxing Day. So I didn't have to give myself the ball, even if the story didn't particularly appeal to me. Also with this “crime scene” it is noticeable: Commissioners are lonely wolves, mostly without a family. They are annoyed that they have to spend Christmas Eve with their eccentric mother, who then cancels. The “Tatort” in particular tries to respond to current personal problem situations, but also to social trends. That was probably why he was holding up so well. On January 1st there was the "Police call 110: Fear justifies the means". This was about a sexually abused and then killed homeless person, and the suspicion was immediately directed against two previously convicted sex offenders. It soon emerged that the neighbors had orchestrated the crime to get rid of them. Here we see the somewhat obvious message: Don't make prejudices, criminals deserve a second chance too.
What is driving the crime trend more: the increasing demand of the audience or the increasing supply of the broadcasters?
That depends a little on the age group. Small criminal acts are already popular with children from the age of eight. We used to read with enthusiasm Enyd Blyton, in whose novels five friends solve small criminal cases and sometimes end up in danger. But also “The Three Question Marks” or “Die Pfefferkörner” in the children's channel solve criminal cases and are gladly seen. Here children learn on the one hand to differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong, on the other hand it is also about small emancipation stories because the young detectives outgrow themselves.
What then defines the adult thriller?
First and foremost, it is about negotiating morals. The plot ends with brutal murder, which upsets the normative balance. This creates attention and interest. The more serious the offense, the stronger our interest is that the act is avenged and that the perpetrator either comes behind bars or is killed. This has restored normality. It is noticeable that above all in the currently very successful Scandinavian crime thrillers, the details of the killing and the suffering of the victim are becoming increasingly important. We know from the news and reporting that there is high levels of brutality and inhuman murders all over the world. That concerns us, and we want to concretize the fantasy images that it creates. We can only endure this because our need for a “good outcome” is usually met. At the same time, we are looking into the abyss of brutal crime in the media and are very happy that we are doing comparatively well.
German television culture is death culture - exaggerated?
This statement is certainly an exaggeration. It is true that ZDF in particular has a certain preference for crime fiction, while “Tatort” is one of the most popular programs on ARD. But on many other channels, fiction has lost quite a bit of ground. This also includes the crime novels. Casting or game shows or people who are seen eating or shopping are more of the trends there. It is true, however, that depictions of killing trigger a gruesomely beautiful fascination in all of us. We hear about an unbelievable number of killings every day in the media, but most of us have never seen a dead person in reality. Death takes place in nursing homes and hospitals. We prefer to deal with him from the safe distance of the screen.
Where does this fascination with crime novels come from? With the makers as well as with the viewers?
The creators try something and they stick with it when the audience tunes in and they stop the program when the audience doesn't like it. The makers like crime novels because they can be used to tell almost all human dramas in an exciting way. And viewers love moral stories, especially when the portrayed conflict cannot be answered morally clearly. In addition, our lives mostly run in a very orderly and not always terribly exciting way. Thrillers offer something of a substitute adventure. The viewer conquers evil practically symbolically by identifying himself with the media inspector for 90 minutes.
The optimized everyday life tries to banish violence and danger. In the evening, in the TV armchair, people pay homage to the violence on TV across the board and millions of times. Schizophrenia or just the right roller coaster for your own equilibrium?
This is not schizophrenic, but absolutely logical: just like in crime, there is a lot of violence in our past and present, and we try everything to reduce it. If you think of the current discussion about strengthening the rights of the police and law enforcement authorities on the one hand and data protection on the other, we find similar discourses in crime thrillers. When it comes to the prosecution of an offender whose danger the viewer has previously experienced in haunting images, even those who campaign for more data protection in real life forgets the rules of the criminal procedure code: In almost every “crime scene”, any apartment is broken into , data is illegally obtained or unlawful genetic material is obtained. The viewer knows this, but he goes along with it. In a crime thriller, we have the opportunity to put ourselves in situations that we do not want to have in reality. It is a kind of trial treatment in which we feel the danger but ultimately have control over our fear.
But is it true that the “crime scene” is more meaningful for society and provides more cohesion than Sunday mass or the Chancellor's New Year address?
The “crime scene” has a long tradition, it is a piece of the “Sunday evening ritual”. Due to its diversity on the one hand and its reliability on the other hand, it appeals to many people. And it regularly generates feelings, such as the aforementioned “Tatort: Klingelingeling”, in which a newborn child plays a major role and is tragically killed. The story is unbearable for parents. With all the admiration for our Chancellor, she is just as unable to achieve such a feeling with the means at her disposal as the pastor at Sunday mass.
The first TV week of 2017 is plastered with crime novels. But then the ARD hesitated and postponed the “Tatort: Sturm” from January 1st to January 29th, 2017. In the final image, commissioners and police officers cannot prevent a suicide attack. Security turns out to be an illusion. Did the ARD act correctly, also with a view to the terrorist attack in Berlin?
In principle, we shouldn't let terrorists dictate our lives. On the other hand, in view of the fear caused by such an assassination attempt by a “crime scene”, one should not pour oil on the fire. If I had been the program director, I would probably have broadcast “Tatort”, but I still respect the broadcaster's decision.
Has the crime genre changed and expanded or has it stopped and thereby shrunk?
The crime culture is constantly changing. It is noticeable that in the classics, for example by Agatha Christie, the shades of good and bad were drawn much more sharply. Today there are also murderers in the “crime scene” whose actions we understand psychologically or even morally understand, because, for example, the victim also behaved very immorally. In any case, the detailing of the killing, but also the handling of the dead, is much more central. Think of the success of pathologists, who every day, naturally and sometimes in extremely funny ways, cut up the dead or weigh their hearts and brains. In many modern thrillers we also learn a lot if you think of the Berlin author Sebastian Fitzek, who in his book “Das Joshua-Profil” (2015) warns of the consequences of a data system that intends to analyze the To predict the criminal energy of people with data recorded in life circumstances, in order to then pull them out of circulation.
This shows that thrillers take on topics in an entertaining and emotional way that we find in the reporting, but immediately forget. We keep feelings much longer than facts.
What is missing from the German crime fiction?
Unfortunately, one notices the German thrillers that apparently less and less money is being spent on the scriptwriters. There is often a lack of a clean psychological drawing of the characters. Sometimes you get the feeling that the writers or directors did not know the end of the story at the beginning of the shooting. In any case, there are opportunities for optimization here.
Share the prophecy for tomorrow's television program. Murders. More murders. And more murders?
If you think back to the films that were made during the Nazi horror period, there was a lot of perfect world and few killings shown back then. Today, thank God, the reality is much more peaceful, at least in Germany, so under these circumstances I can live quite well with the dead on TV. But I think every trend comes to an end. My prognosis: Especially the public broadcasters overdo it a little with the crime novels. In my opinion, the quantitative peak has been exceeded.
The interview was conducted by Joachim Huber.
Joachim von Gottberg is managing director of the voluntary self-control television in Berlin and editor-in-chief of "tv diskurs".
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