Generation Mini-Series: Contemporary German Historical Event-Television and the Implications of its Interactive Elements
- Author(s): Hall, Sara F.
- et al.
The controversial 2012 ZDF mini-series Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter/Generation War epitomizes German “historical event television,” a broadcasting trend aligned with the recent tendency to normalize the nation’s relationship with its past. Reaching beyond the borders of the narrative drama, the series’ producers created and promoted collateral content encouraging viewers to interact with the fictional characters and other audience members in such new media platforms as Facebook, a public archive on YouTube, and an app downloaded from iTunes. Digital interfaces allow viewers to learn about and relate to history in multi-faceted and self-directed ways, but they also reinforce the dominance of an immersive aesthetic of emotional affect, strong character identification and retrospective narrative cohesion. The imbrication of publicity for the mini-series with the Gedächtnis der Nation crowd-sourced YouTube video archive signals the emergence of a uniquely German convergence culture centered on the mediation of memory. Memory culture has long been embedded in Germany’s media institutions, and the newest of media are now integrated into Germany’s national memory project. Multiple layers of co-sponsorship of the project by representatives from the realms of new media, television, publishing, government, education, the automotive industry, and non-profit foundations, as well as private donors, blur the lines between collective memory and private memories and public knowledge and private intellectual and creative property. This essay explores the question of whether this new landscape of digital memory culture forecloses critical engagement with the German past and limits the diversity of avenues and aesthetics whereby narratives about the past are transmitted to audiences, present and future.