Ohhh, fasten your seatbelts, cause I’m about to go there…
Quickly: What pops into your head when you hear the word ‘German‘? …tick, tock, tick, tock…
Chances are, you’re thinking sausage and sauerkraut, Oktoberfest, Berlin Wall, David Hasselhoff (iknowright?), blond and blue-eyed, big-breasted girls in Dirndl dresses, lederhosen, castles, kinky dominatrix or beer, right?
Ok, then maybe: World War II, Nazis, concentration camps, sadist, sex pervert, cold, efficient, sadistic doctor or big-boned ugly women?
Either way, whatever you think of first, I don’t blame you because those are some of the stereotypes we’ve been fed through the media all our lives. They can be funny or very hurtful; and everybody is subject to some kind of stereotyping, no matter where they’re from. This is a touchy subject, I know, but I’ve learned to accept it for what it is: Stereotyping exists. And you better learn to deal with it, especially in the Hollywood machinery.
I used to get annoyed or even upset when I saw breakdowns for roles depicting Germans on TV or in film: Male Germans for the evil Nazi roles and females for the blond, big-breasted St. Pauli kinda girl. Arrgh! I’m neither blue-eyed, blond or big-boned and I don’t have big boobs either! Is that all people can come up with? Doesn’t anybody ever think outside the box? At some point I didn’t even bother submitting to such roles anymore because I felt like I’d be perpetuating these stereotypes and I wanted no part in that. And let’s face it, when breakdowns ask for a ‘caucasian’ actor, it often means a white actor who was born and raised in the U.S. – somebody with NO foreign accent. So, even though I’m caucasian, I’m not REALLY the caucasian type, know what I mean? I’m talking strictly casting stuff here. If you happen to be a casting director and read this, I’d love to hear your honest opinion about it! Maybe I’m way wrong, but I am speaking from my own experiences over the years.
Then, one day, I got over being frustrated about it. I don’t remember what it was that gave me that ‘lightbulb’ moment, what particular incident that did it or anything like that, but I have actor friends who are Asian, Hispanic, Eastern European, African American, old, fat… you name it; and they ALL have to endure some stupid stereotype. Are Irish people drunk brutes? Of course not! Are French people snobs? Nonsense! Suddenly my self-pity evaporated. It was that simple, really. It was time to re-think my stinkin’ thinking and move on!
Now, I embrace it. Want a German accent? How strong do you want it? Over the top cliché or just enough to make you wonder where my character is from? What German dialect would you like? No accent at all? Then get me one of those fancy personal dialect coaches on the set! Want a goofy beer-swilling chick or evil Nazi-sidekick nurse? Bring it! It’s a CHARACTER and I’m an actor! I know who I am and what kind of person I am. And if there are some people out there who actually buy into the stereotypes, then well, they have bigger issues…
So I’m good with it now. I’m finally having fun with it! Jawohl! ;)