“Turkish” is the New German: The Politics of Identity and Representation in the Comedies of Bora Dagtekin
Fitzpatrick, Zachary R.
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Through the broad lenses of film theory, German film and cultural history, and gender and race studies, this thesis offers a close analysis of identity and representation in the films Türkisch für Anfänger (2012) and Fack ju Göhte (2013). As a key figure in contemporary German mainstream cinema, Turkish German comedy director, producer, and screenwriter Bora Dagtekin has distinguished himself with his signature satirical style, which challenges, among others, hierarchies of art/popular, the macho male/weak female, and German/Turk. Defying expectations of obvious “culture clash” and subsequent integration, the primary conflicts in Dagtekin’s films are more multi-faceted, delving into other areas of identity. Furthermore, these conflicts are enhanced with the exaggerated aesthetics of camp and devices such as protective irony, both of which are valuable tools for minority artists working in a dominant culture. At the heart of his films is superstar Elyas M’Barek. Although the narrative downplays the characters’ Turkish ethnicity, the formal qualities of the films exoticize and objectify M’Barek. Despite the German historical precedence of such a problematic mode of representation for ethnic males, Dagtekin ultimately crafts a relatively positive portrayal of masculinity that breaks away from the weakened male so prevalent among post-World War II ethnically German actors. Dagtekin’s films, with M’Barek in the lead, thus, provide a critical intersection of nation, gender, and the popular.