Political Comedy as Fuel for Populist Rhetoric?

Representations of Politicians and Institutions in the German TV Shows “Eichwald MdB” and “Ellerbeck”

in German Politics and Society
Niko Switek Political Science, University of Washington, USA

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In popular culture, politics are frequently framed with negative stereotypes, and there is some overlap between the anti-establishment rhetoric of political humor and populist challengers. This article probes similarities shared by politicians as presented in the television comedies Eichwald MdB (about a backbencher in the Bundestag) and Ellerbeck (about a kindergarten teacher turned mayor) and supporters of the (right-)populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD). The analysis of the storylines uncovers representations of self-serving and incompetent politicians that align with the fundamental critique expressed by the AfD. However, the negative depictions in the shows are interwoven with positive elements that speak to a responsiveness of democratic institutions. The two case studies help us better understand the specific form of German political satire produced by a public broadcaster and how satirical entertainment oscillates between negativity and meaningful critique of political power.

Contributor Notes

Niko Switek was a Lecturer and Researcher from 2005 to 2018 in the Department of Political Science/nrw School of Governance at the University of Duisburg-Essen, where he received his PhD with a thesis on the coalition politics of Germany's Green party. He was a daad Visiting Assistant Professor at the Jackson School of International Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington from 2018 to 2021. His publications include Politik in Fernsehserien (2018), an edited volume on fictional politics in television series.

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