Thinking about Bud Spencer and Terence Hill yesterday made me think about other films and TV series that defined the childhood of my generation. I am sure everyone in my age group can remember the time when TV series did not primarily come from the US or Japan, but from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (back then the CSSR), the USSR, etc. Who does not remember the Eastern Block version of the Aschenbroedel story (in the US Diseneyfied into Cinderella): Drei Nuesse fuer Aschenbroedel (literal translation “three nuts for,”well, “Cinderella”–which does not contain the word “ashes,” hence the lower class signification, but we’ll look beyond that for now). Remember the 70s and early 80s when class distinction was still a huge issue represented in popular culture, the awareness of which centrally factored into almost all childrens series (see Silas, or one of my personal favorites of all time: Janoschik der Raeuberhauptmann— a Yogoslavian series about a, well, Robin Hood figure in the Yugoslavian mountains, in this scenario, however, a member of a group of shepards turned militant, I believe)?
There are many, many more things I could list here, all of which I remember fondly because they actually had great storylines and values, invested some thought in the series, short films etc. and were not as mindless as, say, Power Rangers and all the crap that is on TV these days. I wish I could find this old stuff somehwere and raise my children on that, if pop-culture turns out to be completely impossible to avoid in the education process. What I really would like to point out was, next to Janoschik, my other favorite show I am sure many must remember. It was called Die Rote Zora (trans.: Red Zora), was a German-Swiss-Yugoslavian co-production and revolved around a gang of orphans in Yugoslavia led by a red-haired girl. The TV series is based upon the classic German children’s novel of the same title.
The story revolves around the mentioned group of children who are sometimes forced to break the law in order to survive, illustrating the anti-social nature of many laws that regulate access to basic goods and the protection of private property. While this may seem chaotic, there is one central law the group structures itself around, the one law all children always follow: solidarity. You can easily see the political and ideological structures this series is based upon, which not only made it so great to me and many, many other people of my generation, generating early on a sensitivity for issues of social justice and the critical analysis of social laws we should not consider to be natural, but potentially subject to critical scrutiny. The influence of this show also inspired a left-radical, militant feminist group to adop this name: they are called “Rote Zora.”
I am sorry I do not have more time to talk about all of this, but I promise I will in the future. There are so many great series, short films etc. that shaped the childhood of my generation that have been lost, or that have been replaced by the mindless crap that today just keeps children occupied. The series I fondly remember made us think critically about society, hence making me consider them invaluable to my political and social education. There is much potential in popular culture, which is doubtlessly why these shows were removed from German TV after the end of the USSR and the GDR. Very, very sad. Makes my very nostalgic and also makes me wonder if it is not possible to find these shows on tape, or DVD. Maybe someone has a suggestion for me.