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Autocracy Lesson in “The Wave” Film Essay

The Wave is a group of students who are guided by the school teacher Rainer Wenger. To a great extent, it emerged as a result of the experiment which was aimed at showing that even modern people could be manipulated by authoritarian rulers. The relations among people within this group are based on autocratic principles according to which an individual should display loyalty to the leader and other members. It is possible to say that the Wave affects mostly those students who feel insecure and unconfident. For example, one can mention Tim who is an unsecure person with very low self-esteem. To a great extent, the Wave gives him some sense of belonging. As a person who organized this experiment, Rainer Wenger remains relatively unaffected by the Wave, at least at the beginning. However, later he notices that sometimes he acts as a totalitarian leader who can use force or coercion in order to achieve his goals. He becomes accustomed to the idea that other people follow his commands.

The main issue is that outside parties such as teachers or parents do not express much concern with the existence of the Wave because they do not expect that this project will entail any risks. The only exception is Wenger’s wife who sees that her husband turns into a commanding and aggressive person. It should be noted that students can identify both positive and negative aspects of being a member of the Wave. For instance, Tim felt that due to the Wave he was no longer an outcast in the group. Moreover, Bomber turns from a bully into a sociable person. These people do not object to the existence of the Wave. However, Karo, who is a diligent student, believes that students should not join this autocratic group. It is possible to distinguish several requirements that the members of the Wave had to meet. There were some formal standards such as the necessity to wear jeans and white shirts. Nevertheless, one should pay more attention to the expected standards of behavior. Each participants of the experiment are expected to be loyal to other members of the group. They also have to sacrifice their own interests for the wellbeing of others. More importantly, they are not allowed to contradict the commands of the leader.

There are several events that prompt Rainer Wenger to end the experiment. First of all, he begins to see that the students within the group are hostile to people who are not the members of the Wave. Moreover, those people, who do not agree with the autocratic rules of the group, can be ostracized by the students. This issue is particularly relevant when one speaks about Karo who objects to the existence of the Wave. Apart from that, Rainer Wenger begins to see some changes in his own behavior, especially after the quarrel with his wife. In particular, it becomes obvious to him that autocratic leadership appeals to him.

One should also speak about the feelings of Rainer Wenger when he realizes that the experiment has gone too far. Apparently, it is very difficult for him to tell the students the Wave has to be disbanded. He understands that many students enjoy being part of the group, and they do not see why this project should not be continued. So, Wenger realizes that these people can be significantly disappointed with him as a leader and as a teacher. This is one of the main issues that should not be overlooked.

Nevertheless, Rainer Wenger underestimates the possible effects of the Wave on some of the students. In this case, one should focus on Tim for whom the Wave becomes practically the sole purpose of life. He cannot accept the idea that this group will not exist. Eventually Tim shoots another student and ultimately commits suicide. This is how Wenger’s experiment turns into a tragedy. One can offer different interpretations that can explain Tim’s behavior. First of all, he is accepted by other people only when he is the member of the Wave. He is afraid of becoming an outsider once again. Furthermore, when Tim is within the group, he no longer suffers from the lack of self-esteem. This is why he is so attached to this movement. It seems that these factors are critical for understanding his actions.

It seems that Rainer Wenger should be held responsible for this tragedy. He should have known that his experiment could have threatened the emotional wellbeing of many students. He could have disbanded the Band at the time when he detected the changes in the behavior of learners. Overall, this moral responsibility is extremely important for people who are engaged in social or psychological research while this teacher completely overlooked the ethical dimensions of his project.

Certainly, one can say that Rainer Wenger did not want to harm students. He just intended to demonstrate that every community or group of people could become totalitarian or autocratic. To a great extent, The Wave was supposed to serve as a warning to students. The main problem is that Wenger disregarded the possible dangers of the project. It is possible to say that his experiment achieved its goals, but its effects were unpredictable.

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"Autocracy Lesson in "The Wave" Film." IvyPanda, 14 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/autocracy-lesson-in-the-wave-film/.

1. IvyPanda. "Autocracy Lesson in "The Wave" Film." February 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/autocracy-lesson-in-the-wave-film/.


IvyPanda. "Autocracy Lesson in "The Wave" Film." February 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/autocracy-lesson-in-the-wave-film/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Autocracy Lesson in "The Wave" Film." February 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/autocracy-lesson-in-the-wave-film/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Autocracy Lesson in "The Wave" Film'. 14 February.

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