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Cleese's infamous tirade is missing from the German 'Fawlty Towers'Image: AP

Brits out of (Goose) Step with Modern German Image

DW staff (nda)
October 20, 2004

Thousands of shocked Britons return from Germany amazed at not seeing a single example of "goose-stepping". Media portrayals of Germans have misled generations of British, something Joschka Fischer is concerned about.


Such is the power of television that audiences all over the world have adopted many phrases from their favorite shows and use them freely in their everyday language. The British are no exception. There seems to be a quote or reference for every occasion.

For example, when in the company of Germans, many a pop-cultured Brit will turn to a compatriot and whisper, "Don't mention the war." Instantly, if said compatriot is on the same wavelength, an image of hotel manager Basil Fawlty goose-stepping across the dining room of his establishment as German guests gape in horror will come to mind -- followed shortly after by knowing sniggers.

A deeply outdated view of Germany

Shows such as 'Fawlty Towers', 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' and 'Blackadder' have had such an influence on the British view of Germany that German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was inclined to mention his concerns while on a visit to London on Wednesday. Fischer said that British people have a deeply outdated view of Germany, still viewing it as the land of the "Prussian goosestep", an image cemented in the national consciousness by John Cleese's manic hotelier.

He added that when young Germans saw their nation portrayed in the British media, it was a place they did not recognize. "My children are 20 and 25, and when they watch Germany in some of the British media, they think this is a picture they have never seen in their whole lifetimes," he said in an interview with BBC Radio. "Germany has changed in a democratic, positive way. Today this is a democracy. Two or three generations have grown up as real democrats," Fischer noted.

"If you want to learn how the traditional Prussian goosestep works, you have to watch British TV, because in Germany in the younger generation -- even my generation -- nobody knows how to perform it."

German broadcaster RTL is considering remaking a number of 'Fawlty Towers' episodes for German TV but will omit Basil's infamous xenophobic tirade.

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