Four years ago, I wrote about this hobby’s fascination (to put it mildly) with German WWII subjects. And it elicited a lot of discussion (again, to put it mildly). And this was all before Trump. Before Brexit. Before Charlottesville and “good people on both sides”. Before this troubling surge in white supremacy that seems to be turning increasingly violent.
With the world in a different place than it was four years ago, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit the topic and take stock.
If you don’t want to read through the previous post, or all 150+ comments that followed, here’s a TL;DR:
- In terms of kit availability, German subjects are definitely over-represented relative to other WWII combatants, most notably in armor.
- The reason is likely capitalism. That is, a high demand for German WWII kits. They sell.
- There’s a distinction to be made between those who build the occasional German subject as part of a larger interest in World War II overall, and those who build only (or overwhelmingly) German subjects.
- The latter doesn’t necessarily imply one is part of the master race booster club, but, you know, be prepared for some raised eyebrows.
- The tendency to slap crosses and swastikas on Star Wars and Gundam stuff is weird (and you never see it done with other combatants).
- A lot of comments get very defensive or downright hostile.
Even now, four years on, I’ll get comments about that post calling me oversensitive and then explaining that the reason the commenter is into German shit is simple. And it usually boils down to something like “they look cooler”. Or the camo schemes are more interesting. Which, to me, is about as shallow a reason as you can find. It’s like my six-year-old picking out Hot Wheels cars. But in the main we’re talking about grown-ass men.
The Cop and the KKK Memorabilia
Today I came across a story about a family who was house shopping and looked at one particular house – a cop’s house – where they found Confederate memorabilia and a KKK application framed and hanging on a wall in a bedroom. The family is Afro-Hispanic and it understandably freaked them out (bonus – the cop was cleared of fatally shooting a black man in 2009). The rest of the story isn’t all that germane to this post, but one passage really stood out to me:
“His wife, Reyna Mathis, who is Hispanic, recalled the situation as “uncomfortable.” She said her family collects items from the Detroit Red Wings and the University of Michigan because they are proud of those affiliations, which is why she questions how he could keep racist items up in his home if he didn’t associate with them.”
And that got me thinking. How we choose to decorate our homes is absolutely a reflection of who we are. Reyna’s point about being proud of those affiliations is, well, on point. I have a small collection of sports memorabilia, and it’s from teams and athletes that I like (not the Red Wings). Nolan Ryan. Andy Moog. Brett Hull. Patrick Roy. There’s a vintage Ben-Hur poster in our living room because it’s one of my favorite movies.
If we were selling our house and some potential buyers came by to look at it, they’d find in my models an interest in World War II and late Cold War aviation, with a side helping of weird French armored cars. But what deductions would potential buyers make at a cabinet stuffed with Bf 109s and Fw 190s? Or a shelf full of SS troopers and Star Wars imperial subjects in German markings? I don’t think they’d be out of bounds at all concluding “this guy has a hard-on for nazis”.
Something I would put to everyone who’s gotten all defensive or snowflakey or who’s railed “I don’t care what anyone thinks” about building mostly German WWII shit. How would you explain a display cabinet full of swastika-adorned things to a potential homebuyer? Or a potential love interest? Or the parents of your kids’ friends? Or…you get the idea.
“Oh, I just think the paint schemes were cooler” sounds a bit hollow in this situation.
You’re Probably Not a Nazi
Building mostly or exclusively German WWII shit doesn’t mean you are a neo-nazi or a white supremacist. I’m sure some small percentage are. And I’m guessing that if a neo-nazi or white supremacist builds models, they probably gravitate toward the Third Reich. But I’d bet that for most it’s something way more subconscious. Something that hasn’t been thought deeply about at all, which is why I get all the comments about how cool their camo was. Or maybe there’s some kind of “playing with the taboo” thing at play (which is how a lot of radicalization can get started, but nevermind that).
All I would ask, if you find the wave of butthurt rolling over you, is to stop and think. Really, truly, deeply think, about why you build the subjects you build.
Times They Are a Changing?
One thing I’ve noticed, now that I think about it, is that the Third Reich wave seems to have crested. The past four years have seen several prominent releases – Tamiya’s Bf 109, a whole bunch of tanks from Meng and Takom and RFM and so on – but they don’t seem to be showing up quite as thick in the online community or on the contest tables that I’ve seen. The WWII releases making the biggest splashes, at least in aircraft, seem to be on the allied side. There’s been a wave of British subjects like the Lancaster, Typhoon, Tempest, and most recently Airfix’s Spitfire XIV. And of late it seems like P-51s have been all the rage, from the slew of Airfix releases to the big Revell 1/32 D-5 to Eduard’s just-released new tool.
And World War II in general seems to be slipping off just a bit as a renewed focus on more modern subjects takes hold. I see a lot more Tamiya F-14s and Zoukei F-4s getting built than I do Tamiya 109s. People are losing their shit over Academy’s AH-1Z. There seems to be a lot more excitement over M551 Sheridans than yet another Panther.
I don’t know if this is all cyclical or some kind of generational thing as more Gen Xers and older Millennials find their way into (or back into) the hobby. Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing for the subjects that adorned their Desert Storm trading cards and late 80s/early 90s air show memories. Hell, maybe it’s just that German subjects are just so saturated in the market right now. Or maybe the broader sociopolitical moment is giving more people pause, even if on a subconscious level.
Who can say for sure? I know I can’t. But it’ll be something interesting to keep an eye on for the next four years.