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Abstract

Public discourse around the Nazi regime is typically surrounded by its doctrine of hatred and violence; traditional gender roles and these traits have rendered fascism a decidedly masculine pursuit—which Nazi doctrine wholeheartedly supported. Many men are to blame for the atrocities of the Holocaust and are rightfully criticized and despised for their actions; however, though a major contributor to the fascist ideology through her propaganda, filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl has remained extremely controversial. While scholars and critics have criticized Leni Riefenstahl’s films as emblemizing a fascist aesthetic, many have nonetheless praised her as an innovative artist, arguing for a separation from the person and the art. Riefenstahl’s films—primarily funded by the Nazi regime, despite her adamant dismissal of these claims—focus largely on what she calls the “beauty” of the human figure: that is, the “Aryan” bodies, whose “beauty” lied in their whiteness and able-bodied figures. Such an image represents the Nazi policy on all levels. This is especially evident in Olympia, Riefenstahl’s three-and-a-half-hour art documentary cataloguing the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The documentary employs images of bodies intended to convey ideology through supposed physical perfection, as well as narratives of nationalism and collective victory; both aspects render Olympia a film that substantially contributed (and, to this day, still contribute) to the dangerous culture of fascism and nationalism.

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