Monday, July 28, 2008

Ghost of the Robot's "German Jewish"

Ok, this is a new one for me. Following up on yesterday's Shoah rap, here's a pop song that speculates about a romantic affair between an (American?) German and a Jew from the perspective of the German. The song specifically references the Holocaust, not only in setting up a romantic dilemma that would make the Capulates and the Montagues seem like fishing buddies, but in the use specific Holocaust images in the context of the courtship.

Talk about pushing a lot of sensitive buttons all at once.

I'm pretty bugged by the trivializing portrayal of the Holocaust implied by the song. I'm almost as bugged, though, by the power dynamic in the song. The lyric places the German "around [the Jewesses] finger." It's a cliched line that it inverts the historic power dynamic. That doesn't make me feel much better about it. I would have liked the song a whole lot better if it didn't have that undercurrent of power struggle in it.

Maybe I should lighten up, though. I'm a big fan of Say Anything's "Alive with the Glory of Love." Granted, that's a much better written song, with (I think) something profound to say about the human experience. And it uses the love affair to say something about the Holocaust, not the other way around. The song also immediately reminded me of the storied love affair / power dynamic between the Jewish Lou Reed and the German Nico. You can hear their power dynamic, Reed chasing the famously racist and anti-semitic Nico, in Reed's classic song "Pale Blue Eyes."

Am I more comfortable with Alive and Pale Blue Eyes because they were written by Jews? Because they accept the proper power differential? Because they're both just better songs? I'm not sure. But it will have me thinking about it for a while.

By the way, and as a warning, the music in the video clip below is the "German Jewish" song, but the video is a fan montage from the popular TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The clips center around the power-dynamic rich (vampire, vampire slayer) love affair between German looking "Spike" and "Buffy" (who is played by a Jewish actress.) The trivializing continues. sigh. (though, as a note. I liked the show a lot).

Ghost of the Robot


Here's the full lyrics, courtesy of Sing365

I'm German, you're Jewish
How could we ever make it through this?
I've got this problem, that seems to linger
Everytime I find myself around your finger
This would make more sense, in another time
Not in America where we're westernized
But if we were, what would I do
What would I have said to what we've gone through?

War won't stop me, I'm no Nazi
That's why i'd never tell
If you were fighting, surviving hiding
Behind an old bookshelf

I'm German, you're Jewish
How could we ever make it through this?
I've got this problem, that seems to linger
Everytime I find myself around your finger

you've always been above, in some higher class
i'm just a small rockstar, you're an actress
what could i say, to ever prove to you
that there can be a love between a German and a Jew?

War won't stop me, I'm no Nazi
That's why i'd never tell
If you were fighting, surviving hiding
Behind an old bookshelf...


Hat tip to YouTube user Nawayonki for posting the video

2 comments:

lomax-lamat said...

This song "German Jewish" has been around since maybe, 2002? I first heard it sung by GotR because back then James Marsters was the front man for the band. I don't think that the song is "wrong" or crosses over any sort of line. It is, all things said and done, rather sensetive to the plight that these young lovers would have been gong through.

there a lot more derogatory songs out there, count yourself lucky that you have missed them.

Jack said...

Hi Lomax,

Each to their own ears, I guess. I've heard a lot more derogatory songs (I'm well acquainted with anti-semitic skinhead hardcore for example). I didn't mean to imply that the song was deliberately derogatory. I just find it a strange, and very loaded, choice. It's not clear what the songwriter got by making that choice. Mostly I just think it's a mediocre song.