Friday, April 11, 2008

Movies: Stalags

This mediocre documentary seeks to shed light on the Israeli pulp fiction genre that emerged in the early 1960s, burned brightly for a few years, and quickly faded into collectors' oblivion. . . until now! These books were/are (supposedly) extremely controversial due to their plots, in which sex and dom/sub violence met against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. In these "perverted" (translation: silly) stories, American fighter pilots are beaten and raped by buxom female SS soldiers for the masturbatory delight of teen male readers who were turned on not only by the sex and violence, but by the illicit nature of reading about concentration camps (it was the era of the Eichmann trials, and until that point, there was an air of repressive mystery around the Holocaust for those born after it.)

The documentary becomes tedious (even mildly annoying) when interviewees (particularly Holocaust survivors) criticize these books as evil filth, as though there is something evil (rather than human) in being aroused by the abuse so often concomitant with power relationships (Foucault would have a field day). Sexuality is a strange thing, and, in fact, the more these books are repressed and made out to be "bad," the hotter they become.

More strangely, the women interviewed for this film insist that no female Jews served German soldiers as prostitutes in exchange for better treatment in camps (and/or their lives). They don't deny that there were accusations of such, but they do deny that those accusations had any grounding in reality. To propose that this never happened is naive, and to condemn a woman for making that choice is equally naive (I'm fairly certain that self-preservation is a stronger instinct than sexual and/or moral disgust). The film then takes a strange accusatory turn, explaining that some of the more prominent Stalag novels are being included (as historical documents, not literary ones) in Israeli public school curricula. This seems more than strange, if not just wildly inappropriate. While the books shouldn't be repressed, they also shouldn't be assigned (this from the girl who was made to read Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member as a high school sophomore).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, I had forgotten all about Monster. Silly jesuits.