Punching Nazis Is a Cinematic Tradition

Like many folks, I woke up Friday morning feeling afraid and uncomfortable, uncertain as to what was going to happen to the United States. I knew of the many marches planned for that night and the next day, but by the time noon rolled around and the president-elect replace Barack Obama, I was fairly well sick with worry.

So, as is my wont, I went to the bar near my house to watch Jeopardy and zone out. Jeopardy was pre-empted by the parade, so I got to watch a limp work its way down Pennsylvania Avenue while I drank cheap beer and tried to tamp down everything.

By the time I got home and sat around watching Venture Bros DVDs, I was a morose, sad-sack guy. Then — then I saw a video that gave me hope. Self-described “alt-right” demagogue — in reality a white nationalist, racist, bigoted piece of human garbage — Richard Spencer was in the middle of an interview, and just as he began to explain the Pepe the Frog pin on his lapel, he got fucking cold-cocked.

“It’s Pepe. He’s kind of become a symbol-”

BAM.

Listen: I’m for free speech. I think that discussion and a free exchange of ideas is important. I’m a writer, and ostensibly, some kid of journalist. I’d be lying if I didn’t think that Spencer getting punched in the face wasn’t the best thing I’ve seen in weeks.

Since the election, it’s been this increasing escalation of human rights abuses and reading the regular updates via the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch page have been near-crippling. So, seeing someone punch a fucking Nazi revitalized me. I ran downstairs, grabbed Inglorious Basterds off the shelf, threw it in the DVD player, and gloried for a little bit.

It gave me pause, though, because it got me thinking: when the hell did fucking up Nazis stop being American? I understand that every time patriotism works its way into the punk scene, it gets really jingoistic really quickly, but I thought that “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” was something upon which we could all agree.

How in the holy hell do you claim patriotism and walk that red-laced line? Cinematically, Nazis are the bad guys — always. Indiana Jones beat the shit out of them in half his movies, Aldo Raine and the Basterds took their scalps, and Captain America took them on for the entirety of his first movie, and that’s just in the last few decades. See also: Død snøFrankenstein’s Army, and any number of supernatural or horror movies, wherein getting to see Nazis turned into pulp is a positive.

Sure: Belloq is charming, as is Landa. The Red Skull’s impressive. But they’re the villains, kids. Even looking to last year, Patrick Stewart is commandingly clever as Darcy Banker in Green Room, but his character’s an awful human being. They. Are. The. Bad. Guys. We’re supposed to cheer when they get punched, shot, carved up, or melted, not be taking notes as to how they’re an oppressed group of misunderstood individuals. Charlie Chaplin managed to get the point across in The Great Dictator, and he was a narcissistic pederast.

However, it seems like the new white power fringe is hell-bent on trying to claim hidden meanings in everything, to the point that John Carpenter has to go on the record explaining that They Live is about “yuppies and unrestrained capitalism,” not “Jewish control of the world.” Seriously?

Dammit, people, can we go back to Szell in Marathon Man or Mengele in The Boys From Brazil, where we watch Nazis get violently taken the hell down, please? I’m not saying rah-rah chants of “USA! USA!” — but maybe cheering as some eugenic-backing, white-power-chanting, racist fuckwits get bloodied is what’s needed these days.

Spencer responded to the attack on Twitter by saying, “I was just physically assaulted twice by antifas. No serious damage. I can take a punch.”

Sounds like a challenge to me …

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek

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