Cologne “tatort: no pity, no mercy”: a mothballed box of stereotypes

This time, commissioners Ballauf and Schenk investigate at a high school. It’s about homophobic classmates, dating apps and, unfortunately, old cliches.

A fight at school, but what is it about? Photo: ARD

"This world is not made for us. We are made for it," muses Inspector Max Ballauf (Klaus J. Behrendt) at the end of the Cologne Tatort. By then the murder case has already been solved, and his colleagues have just sung for his partner Freddy Schenk (Dietmar Bar), who is celebrating his birthday. And the two doubt the sincerity of this collegial gesture.

By this "world," Ballauf means their own workplace, where they talk shit about colleagues and yet later congratulate them with put-on cordiality. Ballauf and Schenk do not want to conform. They are honest skins. Even if the social norm favors the evil others in a police force marked by competition.

The motif of the social norm and conformity also runs as a thread through the episode in other ways: The high school graduate Jan is found lifeless and naked on the banks of the Rhine in front of an abandoned villa – because as a gay young man he could not live out his sexual orientation openly and is said to have met other young men in the villa.

The homophobic sports ace

The search for the murderer or murderess leads the investigators to Jan’s high school. Here, the pressure to conform then shows itself with all its youthful, unenlightened harshness: Paul, a friend and potential love interest of Jan’s, is devastated by the loss. Always on the verge of tears, he is reviled by former friends as a "faggot" and physically attacked. The most homophobic character is the sports ace and intellectual zero Robin, who brags to girlfriends about being called up to the U19 national soccer team.

Cologne "Crime Scene: No Pity, No Mercy", Sun., 8:15 p.m., ARD

Did he kill Jan? Or was it a fellow student with whom Jan met in the villa – and who didn’t want Jan to out him? Or was it the paramedic Farid, who gives first aid courses at school? He has a girlfriend, but uses a dating app for gays. Something can’t be right!

The fact that "Tatort" occasionally exercises social criticism is nothing new. But the Sunday evening national sport of the average German wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t also regularly reach into the mothballs of stereotypes. Because, of course, Farid, the gay paramedic, has a strict, Muslim father who may have homophobia written into his DNA qua heritage – and who would rather die than put up with his son’s gayness.

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