An All-American Dad:
A Review of The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle
Amazon Studios, created by Frank Spotnitz
The second season of the record-breaking show, The Man in the High Castle (hereafter TMHC), debuted last December on Amazon’s streaming service. The story is loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, which establishes the setting: an alternative history scenario where the Third Reich and Imperial Japan won the Second World War and now (the show is set in 1962) occupy the United States, with Japan controlling everything west of the Rockies and Germany the Eastern seaboard. The show, whether intentionally or not, is tremendously subversive, as it is the first entertainment offering in which Nazis are depicted as complex, inspiring magnets for audience identification, while the figures of the resistance are little more than bloodthirsty plot foils.
People love it. TMHC is the most-watched Amazon original series to date, and while its audience is smaller than Netflix’s, it is already a major content-streaming platform and growing. More importantly, Amazon streaming video is watched by the people we want to reach – people who can afford a $99 Amazon Prime subscription – in other words, middle-class white people. In fact, THMC would not have existed without such support from whites. It is an Amazon original production, meaning the show was developed by Amazon Studios in response to audience demand. To cut costs and ensure success, Amazon greenlights the production of pilot episodes from several series each year, but only those pilot episodes that receive the most views (or acclaim) receive funding for a subsequent full series. TMHC was launched due to the overwhelming success of its pilot episode. Put simply, Nazis are in demand. And indeed, they always have been.
There are more movies about the Second World War and the Third Reich than there are about America’s own Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or any other war America has waged. Even leaving aside war films, the Third Reich is the source material for a vast array of films, series, and books, as we have seen with films about Captain America, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and countless others where a truly foreboding enemy is called for.
People clearly have an obsession with the Third Reich, which is best understood as a morbid fascination born out of a Jewish-dominated film and media industry that loves to fetishize the defeat of their enemy by retelling it over and over again. The fact that atrocities were committed on both sides during the Second World War is irrelevant. Instead, the Nazis have become sensationalized enemies that Hollywood uses to play out their most twisted, sadistic fantasies (Inglorious Basterds and Schindler’s List come to mind).
The purpose of this is to make all whites cry out, “The horror! The horror!” towards their European identity and forever prostrate themselves before the Jews in atonement. “Because Hitler,” whites can never be allowed to advocate for their own interests. Unsurprisingly, this incessant propaganda has also produced a morbid fascination for it among whites. Herein lies the demand for TMHC. The story also involves Imperial Japan, but nobody watches the show because of the Japanese. Audiences gather to partake in the forbidden fruit of the Nazi mystique.
The show itself is entertaining, but nowhere near the caliber of masterpieces like Breaking Bad. People looking for a series with a superb script and masterfully-developed story arcs should look elsewhere. Like most television shows constrained by the medium, TMHC tends to drag in parts, with captivating moments interspersed between long segments of excisable material. Despite its shortcomings, it is far better than most television shows, as it is relatively free of the poz that defines current entertainment.
The story centers on banned film reels, known as “the tapes,” which depict history as we know it in our timeline, where the Axis was defeated. Both the Nazis and the Japanese are obsessed with confiscating the subversive tapes and locating the person who is producing them, who is called “the man in the high castle.” The underground resistance relies on these tapes, which they use for propaganda purposes against the foreign occupiers, or so it seems. The tapes appear to be more than just propaganda, however, but rather the key to something else entirely. This is, after all, based on a Philip K. Dick novel.
Ostensibly, the protagonists of the show are Juliana Crane, an unmarried thirty-year-old woman living in Japanese-occupied San Francisco; her boyfriend Frank Frink; and Joe Blake (mild spoiler), an American turned Nazi spy who is tasked with infiltrating the resistance, seizing the tapes, and ultimately locating our eponymous figure. By happenstance, Juliana Crane comes into possession of one of these tapes as a result of the sudden reappearance of her sister, who had joined the resistance, and this is the flashpoint that sets the main story in motion.
The real protagonist of the show, however, is the American Nazi Obergruppenführer John Smith, head of the American Reich’s SS department that is charged with investigating the resistance and finding the man in the high castle. He is Joe Blake’s Kommandant, and orders Joe to find Juliana Crane and seize the tape in her possession. Obergruppenführer Smith’s leading role in the show was probably not by design. In the first season, he is a secondary figure in the main plot, which takes place between Juliana and Joe, but by the second season, Obergruppenführer Smith is the unquestionable star of the show. And rightly so, since he is the most compelling character and the one that makes TMHC worth watching.
I told friends and family members interested in the show that my favorite character was a Nazi. They were naturally shocked at my choice, dismayed that I would like a Nazi. “How can you root for a Nazi, that’s horrible” was a common refrain. After watching the show, most had either come to the same conclusion or at least expressed understanding. When ordinary folks can root for a Nazi, or at least find him “likable,” this represents a major shift in the Right-wing consciousness of the cultural milieu. And it is surely not accidental that Obergruppenführer Smith is the anti-hero of the current year.
Anti-heroes are a product of the politically correct Left. Characters who exhibit overtly fascist behavior are morally repugnant to them. Any character with Right-wing attributes is typically portrayed by Hollywood as morally flawed. This is why Don Draper of Mad Men is a successful authoritarian male we can admire, but is also an alcoholic philanderer. Don Draper must engage in shameful behavior in order to demonstrate that the ideal he represents leads to bad outcomes. Yet, notwithstanding his moral flaws, Don Draper is viewed by the audience as a hero because men want to be the alpha male on Madison Avenue, and women want even more to be with that man (this is essentially the driving force behind every episode in the series).
Another example is Breaking Bad. At the start of the show, Walter White is an archetypal boomer cuck who has accepted his subservient station in life like a “good” white man, in spite of his innate genius. He is a woefully unappreciated high school teacher mocked by his students, and is married to an anal-retentive wife. To make ends meet, he’s reduced to working a humiliating second job at a car wash, where he’s belittled by the immigrant owner. After he is diagnosed with cancer, Walter White snaps, and decides to finally “become a man.” By sheer brilliance and indomitable will, Walter becomes the legendary crime boss Heisenberg (his adopted alias), overseeing North America’s largest crystal meth empire. Here again, a man who decides to become “the one who knocks” and embrace his primal masculinity must be framed as a psychopathic murderer. In the end, though, people revere the great Heisenberg and pity the lowly Walter White.
The anti-hero paradigm is true for Obergruppenführer Smith, but unlike Don Draper and Walter White who actually do horrible things, Obergruppenführer Smith’s only discernible flaw is that he belongs to a group that does bad things. In other words, his only discernible flaw is that he’s a Nazi. Otherwise, Obergruppenführer Smith is an exemplary model of an American 1950s family man at home and a shrewd leader at work. He succeeds at his office by outsmarting his opponents, possessing a keen sense of human nature. At home, he is respected and loved by his wife and family, and imparts traditional values to his son. Unlike Walter White or Don Draper, Obergruppenführer Smith is an actual hero.
Smith’s appeal is not by chance, but by design. His name is John Smith, the quintessential American name of Jamestown fame. The creators intended to take the Norman Rockwell ideal of a father and turn him into a Nazi, as indicated by their promotional trailer. Their purpose, no doubt, was to pathologize the All-American family man by showing how completely “fascistic” America was in its past, and that it could seamlessly fit in with the Third Reich.
The reverse, of course, is that viewers begin to reconsider their perceptions of National Socialism, which in this show happens to look identical to their beloved 1950s America. Lost in the Left’s fixation on the Declaration of Independence’s pablum about “all men are created equal” and the Jewish poem retconning the Statue of Liberty, is that America’s foundations are deeply fascistic. The White House, Capitol, and most of Washington, DC exhibit the neoclassical architecture of the fascist Greco-Romans. America’s republic, which originally restricted rights and privileges to landowning males, was a descendant of the Roman Republic, where only landowning men could serve in the military and by extension were the only ones who had certain rights and privileges. Indeed, at the very heart of America’s government, the House of Representatives, stand two fasces side-by-side with the American flag.
Once again, the Left is reminding Americans of their fascistic roots, blithely unaware of its subversive appeal, as particularly seen in the case of Obergruppenführer Smith. Not only does John Smith normalize the idea of a “Nazi,” but he is its champion. He’s the idealized version of male patriarchy that was long ago removed from our popular entertainment. A glance at the current year’s Modern Family typifies the change: the fathers in that show are, from oldest to youngest: a divorced and remarried race-mixing boomer with a non-white child, a bumbling doofus who plays the show’s fool, and two homosexual partners with an adopted Asian child. Between Obergruppenführer Smith and this cast of degenerates, the only father Middle Americans can relate to is a Nazi.
The same sentiment applies to the Third Reich. Rather than the bleak dystopia presented in popular indoctrination, the Third Reich was the opposite: a marvelous utopia. In THMC, under Nazi rule, America has at long last become a shining city upon a hill. Its cities and suburbs are remarkably bucolic, the architecture is grand and awe-inspiring, the streets are clean and safe, and the populace is healthy and generally well-off. Its technological innovation is unmatched. The Third Reich has accomplished incredible feats by 1962, such as transcontinental air travel aboard rocket-propelled planes that takes half the time it takes even today on supersonic jets (and in the book, the Third Reich has also colonized the Moon, Venus, and Mars, although this is never referenced in the show). The Reich is also portrayed as vastly superior to the dirty, disorderly, and technologically bereft Imperial Japan when it is compared to the advances of Magna Germania.
Lest Americans become filled with envy at this glorious society, the show relies on the moral cloud of horror surrounding the Nazis to demonstrate its drawbacks. However, because the show takes long after the war has ended, the audience has to be reminded that these are evil Nazis. In an early scene, for example, Joe mistakes falling ash from a crematorium for snow as he nears the neutral zone between Japanese and German territory. The American Reich also enforces extreme “health” laws that require the genetically infirm or sick, as well as the elderly, to be euthanized.
Such scenes are reflecting of the same liberal dogmas that have always governed Hollywood’s conception of the Nazis as murderous barbarians. The idea that the Reich planned to take over world and commit genocide against everyone who was non-Germanic or infirm is ludicrous, and yet still widely believed. The infamous Lebensraum policy was modeled after British and French colonialism, as well as America’s own territorial expansion under its doctrine of Manifest Destiny, but only the Third Reich is portrayed as having been uniquely evil, beyond the pale of historical contextualization. Even though British, French, and American imperialism were all built on varying degrees of murder, and some would argue even genocide, against indigenous peoples, only those concepts which are associated with Nazism, such as race realism, are viewed as being one step from genocide. The real history of the Soviet Union, a regime which murdered millions more in death camps than the Nazis ever did, and which subjugated half of Europe for nearly fifty years, hardly warrants a rebuke from the ruling zeitgeist (the recent liberal praise for acts of political violence against anyone they deem a “Nazi” exemplifies such moral double standards).
Even mainstream historical accounts attest that the Nazis had no policy of murdering the infirm. Forced euthanasia briefly occurred in a small, short-lived program for the hopelessly insane and terminally ill, which were viewed by the Nazi leadership as acts of mercy to relieve lives of torment. The program was disbanded after public objection. The idea that people under the Reich would allow their loved ones to be killed merely for being disabled strains plausibility, but when it comes to the Nazis, rationality and common sense no longer exists when they are under examination.
This is why there is little to be gained from THMC in terms of mitigating the effects of propaganda on the true history of German National Socialism. The Left has poured enormous capital into vilifying National Socialism, placing it in a category beyond objective consideration. There is simply too black of a moral cloud over National Socialism for most Americans to be able to rationally reconsider its historical facts. In light of these circumstances, it is better merely to say that most of the “evil Nazi barbarism” is just Hollywood sensationalism, and then change the subject. Hollywood has a reputation for playing loose with the facts, and deep down, people sense that what they’ve been told about the Nazis is highly sensational. Those that are curious or dedicated enough will be prompted to discover the actual history on their own.
What TMHC offers, then, is not a means for historical revisionism, but rather an avenue for audience identification with National Socialism, even in all its false brutality and cruelty. This is why the show, despite its inaccuracies, is a positive for our movement, as it humanizes National Socialism by simply portraying Nazis as, well, human beings. The show also positions itself in a moral gray area at times, drawing moral equivalencies between the Axis and the Allies. Just as Germany was split in half at the end of the war, the same has occurred to the United States in TMHC. In the show, the Third Reich is the first to develop the atomic bomb and use it on the US to win the war. This is then compared to footage from the tapes showing the US nuking Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also, Imperial Japan and the Third Reich are engaged in a cold war, and the Japanese are feared to have developed their own nuclear weapons as well, which is compared with tapes showing the Cuban Missile Crisis and other events from the Soviet-American Cold War of our timeline.
The ultimate point made in the show’s subtext is that the victors of the Second World War in our world also have blood on their hands, and that they were no different in their brutality. This juxtaposition forces the audience to reflect on whether America can truly claim moral superiority over the Third Reich given that the Nazis in the show are shown conducting themselves in the same way as the Allies did, and by correlation, whether the Nazis are singularly evil.
Another positive aspect of the show is its portrayal of the resistance. It is hardly an idealized liberal coalition fighting oppression. The resistance is shown as being cruel, murderous, and vindictive, in contrast to the virtuous Nazi and Japanese leaders. As The Verge points out in its review: “[b]ut where we’re constantly shown the familial relationships and noble motivations behind Nazi and Japanese officials, all we see of the resistance is its ugliness: its members’ willingness to betray sources, kill innocents, and invite retaliation upon ordinary citizens.” In short, the audience sympathizes with the Nazis over the resistance. A direct comparison can be made to the ugliness of the current year “resistance” that assaults, riots, and attacks those that support Trump.
More than anything, the show challenges popular assumptions about the Third Reich unlike any other mainstream offering. Fascist ideas are routinely put forward in the show as persuasive arguments in support of the Reich, even at times delivering a withering rebuke to American ideals. Take, for example, an exchange between Obergruppenführer Smith and his son at the breakfast table (it can be viewed here).
In this scene, Obergruppenführer Smith’s son is studying for a school exam, much to his consternation. The implication is that eating breakfast together with the family is held in high esteem. By contrast, Americans today can barely get their families together for dinner outside of a holiday, let alone an ordinary breakfast. When the son explains to his father the reasons why he is studying at the breakfast table – his desire to outperform a school rival on an exam – Obergruppenführer Smith responds that his son has already bested his rival because his intentions are noble. He goes on to explain that his son’s rival is an individualist who thinks only about his own self-interested success rather than what is best for society. In the long run, the individualist is doomed to failure, because his society is doomed to fail. As Obergruppenführer Smith opines, “The decadence ruined [America] before the war.”
Other such positive scenes appear intermittently throughout the show, portraying National Socialism as morally superior to the American ideal. It is in these moments that the show is at its best. TMHC is also worth watching for its incredible renderings of a Third Reich that might have been, being both evocative and good LARPing fun to experience. Viewing National Socialist architecture, costumes, and set-pieces is gratifying, and the show excels at world-building.
On the whole, I recommend watching this show because it provides fodder for conversations about National Socialism, fascism, and Right-wing ideas such as White Nationalism. It certainly humanizes and normalizes the idea of National Socialists ruling America, which is a meme worth encouraging. This is not because those of us on the Alt Right are Nationalist Socialists, but rather because we understand that, as ethnonationalists, we share ideological bonds with National Socialism (just as neoliberalism does with Communism), even if the New Right is different from the Old Right in fundamental ways.
The Lügenpresse is beginning to find this development quite disconcerting. While the first season was controversial, the further normalization of National Socialism in its second has troubled critics. Vox has declared it “the worst tv show of the year” and “deeply irresponsible television.” What they initially believed was a program aimed at retelling the “perniciousness of fascism” has instead ended up “validating dark ideals.” White Americans are already called Nazis, despite the fact that many of their fathers and grandfathers died fighting them. Perhaps now is the perfect time for the Left to remind them of the fascist undercurrents of American society.
On a cautionary note, I fully expect Obergruppenführer Smith to eventually reject the Reich because, in the end, the demands of American television require that such heroes have to ultimately be liberals. Yet, the ship has sailed. The only white dad on television who is not slovenly dressed, overweight, womanish, drunk, drug addicted, inept, or suffering from some other disorder is a Nazi.
If nothing else, the show enables White Nationalists to broach certain Right-wing ideas with normies that they might otherwise be unreceptive to even considering. It may also be the perfect opportunity to inform them that we can Make America Great Again if we simply return to having a nice, white country, which can be done peacefully and with minimal violence. White Nationalism can achieve the healthy, safe, and advanced society seen in the American Reich of TMHC without its brutality via non-violent repatriation or separation. The point is that if Nazism can look normal and even idyllic in TMHC, then there is no stopping our ideas. The Left is doing our work for us. Drained of creativity and having used up all their other “shock” stories, exploiting the Nazi mystique is now in vogue in TMHC.
Thomas Rohkrämer’s Martin Heidegger: A Political Biography
Agrarian Populism & Cargo Cult Fascism
With Brasillach in Spain & Germany: Remembering Robert Brasillach (March 31, 1909 – February 6, 1945)
Michael Kellogg’s The Russian Roots of Nazism
August Kubizek’s The Young Hitler I Knew
Now Available! Graduate School with Heidegger
Denazifying Savitri Devi
Remembering Savitri Devi (September 30, 1905–October 22, 1982)