Turkish for Beginners: Teaching Cosmopolitanism to Germans
The title of the award-winning German television series Turkisch fur Anfanger (Turkish for Beginners) might remind older viewers of the 1982 program Englisch fur Anfanger (English for Beginners). Aided by two British actors, that show's host presented a series of skits designed to teach English to a German audience. Turkish for Beginners (TfB) is not as overtly pedagogical, and its ambitions do not include teaching the Turkish language. Instead, the show's fifty-two episodes, broadcast over the course of three seasons (2006-8) on ARD, German television's premier network, use the tested formula of the family drama to depict life in multicultural Germany. TfB combines a blended family, the Ozturk- Schneiders, with another sitcom staple, romance. Indeed, the show's protagonists, a widowed Turkish German policeman with two teenage children and a German psychologist with a similarly aged daughter and son, provide enough characters for three interethnic romantic relationships. While there are certainly lessons that Turks living in Germany can learn from the program, not the least of which is seeing themselves depicted positively, I contend that TfB functions mainly to teach cosmopolitanism to Germans. After all, who are the beginners in the title if not the Germans and German-speaking members of other minority communities who can experience vicariously what it means to be Turkish in contemporary Germany?
TfB might also remind viewers of textbooks and online offerings that teach German to immigrants, even though elementary language instruction in Germany involves more than linguistic competence. The ability to speak German has become a prerequisite for work and residency permits, the reunification of migrant families, and the acquisition of German citizenship. Federally mandated language courses are called
Integrationskurse (integration courses), and the term "integration" dominates the discourse surrounding migrants and migration, even though "assimilation" is a more accurate description of what is demanded. Particularly since Thilo Sarrazin's 2010 book Deutschland schafft sich ab: Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzten (Germany is Doing Away with Itself: How We Risk Our Country), public discussions of integration have centered upon the unfortunate binary of "us" versus "them": They have not learned our language; have not succeeded in our school system; have not taken on our norms, values, customs, and habits; and, most visibly, have neither emancipated their women nor left the neighborhoods where they congregate. Conversely, as this argument so clearly implies, Germans are fine just the way they are, except, as Sarrazin's numbing statistics demonstrate, German women are not having enough children. For all practical purposes, the concept of integration has been turned into a one-way street that begins with learning German and ends with migrants melting into the dominant culture (Leitkultur). Nowadays it no longer seems necessary to ask, as a group of guerrilla journalists once did, what are Germans doing to integrate themselves into the vibrant and varied culture that Germany has become (Kanak TV 2002).
In a 2011 book entitled Deutschsein: Eine Aufklarungsschrift (Being German: An Enlightenment Treatise) Zafer Senocak makes the case for a different mode of dealing with migrants, namely, cosmopolitanism. His understanding of the concept is rooted in an ethos of tolerance, which requires knowledge and presumes acceptance within certain boundaries implied by the book's question: "How much diversity can we sustain or endure (ertragen)?" (36). The answer seems to be more than we now think, and it is worth noting that Senocak, who was born in Ankara, migrated to Germany with his parents as an eight-year-old in 1970 and acquired German citizenship in 1994, includes himself in this "we." Senocak begins with the Enlightenment, a period when people like Moses Mendelssohn aspired to be simultaneously something else, in his case Jewish, and German, just as in an ideal, cosmopolitan Germany, in which Turks could be German while retaining an otherness that their fellow citizens accept and value. However, according to Senocak, Germans have been so buffeted by wars, division, and the longing for a homogeneity that never existed that their identities are fragile (brUchig) (2011: 27). They cannot imagine others assimilating into a culture where they scarcely feel at home themselves (2011: 89). His conclusion is that Germans will only feel comfortable in their own skins when they can welcome others not just into German society but into their homes (bei sich unterbringen) (2011: 55).
If we accept Senocak's argument, it is precisely by locating Turks and Germans in the same household that TfB intervenes in the discussion of what it means to be German in the twenty-first century, which is necessarily a cosmopolitan identity. Among other things, the show's mainly adolescent target audience learns that the culture in which they live does not divide neatly along ethnic, linguistic, or religious lines. Even if the show is not high art, and shows slotted in the late afternoon and aimed at an adolescent audience seldom are, TfB warrants our attention, because it interrogates barriers built on ignorance and explores imaginary solutions to real social problems. In addition to depicting what it might be like to live in an ethnically blended family or to have a romantic relationship with someone who is fremd (foreign or unfamiliar), TfB lets its viewers see that many of the traits and habits that garner so much negative attention in the media are actually exaggerated, trivial, or surmountable. For example, the Turkish members of the Ozturk-Schneider family all speak flawless German; they are also German citizens and, despite a few hiccups, productive members of German society. In fact, my subtitle, "teaching cosmopolitanism to Germans," suggests that both ethnic and "other" Germans can gain something from the show's cosmopolitan sensibilities. In that sense it is worth mentioning that the terms "German" and "Turkish" as I use them here are constructed categories, a necessary shorthand, but also words whose content remains contested, and is, in fact, called into question by TfB.
There are, of course, other frameworks that might prove useful for thinking about the issues that TfB raises. The model of intercultural communication helped to legitimate the study of literature and film produced by minority authors in Germany (Ackermann and Weinrich 1986; Chiellino 2007), and the instruction paradigm that frames my analysis is certainly communicative. Unfortunately, the intercultural argument locates foreign or minority authors and filmmakers on a metaphorical bridge between two intact, separate, and distinct cultures, each contributing to the other. Intercultural suggests transience embodied in the concept of Gastarbeiter (guestworkers) who regularly return home, eventually to settle there permanently. Calling guestworkers migrants shifts the terms of the debate and acknowledges that Germans have relied on laborers from elsewhere for centuries, even if they have only recently begun admitting to themselves that these workers are immigrants who live in Germany and intend to remain there. So too are migrant authors and filmmakers not between anywhere, but rather both in Germany, often for generations, and legitimate participants in the discussion of what it means to be German in the twenty-first century (Adelson 2005; Senocak 2011; Sezgin 2011).
Shifting to a model of cosmopolitanism suggests the existence in Germany of sensibilities that are neither strictly German nor any other national designator connected to German by a hyphen. Cosmopolitanism implies an extension of the concept of Germanness "in light of migration, mobility, nomadism, and hybridity" (Cheesman 2007: 52). If one considers the upper reaches of the German workforce, where technicians and managers may commute between their offices in Dusseldorf and the company headquarters in New York and then spend vacations at their second home in Spain, it is difficult to deny that transnational identities already characterize some sectors of German society, especially when the characters in this example could as easily be expatriates as Germans, citizens of the world rather than of a particular nation state (Terkessidis 2010: 18-27). Unfortunately, scholarly inquiries into cosmopolitan texts still tend to focus on works by migrant authors and directors who are, with some notable exceptions, concerned with the lives of their fellow migrants. As a result, the cosmopolitans who emerge from these studies are mainly migrants, and their cosmopolitanism is associated with high culture (Adelson 2005; Mani 2007; and, less so, Fachinger 2001). One could, however, as the sociologist Ruth Mandel proposes, examine "demotic cosmopolitanism," a category that includes the practices of anonymous "translocals" and, I would argue, texts such as TfB (2008: 50). Furthermore, while expanding the location of cosmopolitanism beyond the characters in aesthetically elite texts, one could again ask how Germans can become more cosmopolitan.
Despite a number of problems, which will come into focus toward the end of this essay, TfB performs the cultural labor of exposing its German viewers to the practice of cosmopolitanism. In the same way as the bourgeois tragedy of the eighteenth century brought the issue of middle-class emancipation to the public sphere, television has the power to encourage discussion of some of the most difficult problems facing Germany and Europe today for a larger audience than was possible in an earlier age. Of course, television's texts and audiences are thoroughly middlebrow, but that probably makes them more rather than less powerful (Hess 2010; Radway 1997). Such texts certainly warrant scholarly concern (see Brad Prager's essay in this volume), and, despite their presumed lack of artistic merit, it would be a mistake to question their theoretical sophistication. Not only does TfB move beyond the one-way street paradigm implicit in the discourse of integration, but even the most Turkish of its characters are also so rooted in German culture so that notions of intercultural communication fail to explain the show's dynamic. Like the novel, where the narrative strategies of the family drama were developed, television encourages identification with its characters; anyone who sticks with the Ozturk-Schneider family for fifty-two episodes over the course of three years probably cares about what happens to one or more of its members and is therefore all the more likely to take seriously the show's negotiation of cosmopolitanism through private romance.
Romance remains a key device in building audience involvement (Radway 1984), and relationships across lines of region, class, religion, and nationality have long been used to test the plausibility of new sorts of families and new kinds of identities (see Daniela Berghahn's essay in this volume). For example, nineteenth-century historical fiction often explored new versions of what it meant to be German by fictionally marrying Prussians and Austrians, Catholics and Protestants, or noblemen and commoners (Peterson 2005: 199-265). Similarly if Turks can date or even marry Germans in TfB, the cosmopolitanism that undergirds such unions may well become possible in the wider culture; these ideas are also much more likely to gain traction, consciously and unconsciously, when they are linked to sympathetic characters instead of being the grist of idealistic appeals.
As TfB begins, viewers encounter a Turkish German couple, Metin Ozturk and Doris Schneider, who are about to tell their children of plans to blend their families. Since the show's primary audience is adolescents, TfB pays comparatively little attention to the parents' relationship, but it is worth noting the degree to which Metin confounds stereotypes about Turks in Germany. Judging by his command of German, one has to assume that he was born or educated in Germany. Although he also speaks Turkish, Metin's position in the upper-middle ranks of the Berlin police force indicates that he has obtained German citizenship, and he presumably did so before the 2000 law made that change in status easier. Moreover, despite his frequently being the butt of comic situations, a topic with its own set of tropes that would be worth examining (see Boran 2005), Kommissar Ozturk embodies the possibility of Turkish success in Germany, and he, rather than the family's flighty German mother, forms the bedrock of their blended family. In the economy of the show's narrative, Metin's eventual marriage to Doris sets a high standard for the two adolescent relationships that anchor TfB's central plot developments. After introducing the two romances in outline form, a more detailed examination will show how and why the series both succeeds and fails in its attempt at renegotiating the integration debate by teaching cosmopolitanism to Germans.
Figure 7.1 The Ozturk-Schneider blended family of Turkish for Beginners, DVD capture
First, the policeman's pious Muslim daughter Yagmur struggles with her attachment to Costa, her brother Cem's Greek best friend. Here the series examines the problems faced by a likeable young woman who proudly wears a headscarf, but who, contrary to the stereotype of arranged marriages in the Turkish community, also chooses her own mate, opting for someone from a different culture and religion. Already in this one narrative arc TfB lets viewers see a sympathetic character caught between the demands of her faith—to cover her hair, remain chaste, and marry another Muslim— and the dreams and desires of a German adolescent with hormones and access to a computer. If nothing else, Yagmur realizes that dating while still wearing a headscarf will be difficult, and because viewers get to know her quite well over the course of three seasons, they too come to care about her problems. Without offering solutions, or at least by putting them off for dozens of episodes, the series humanizes and complicates issues that are both intensely personal and highly charged politically. Simply by presenting information about others in their midst, TfB promotes the understanding and acceptance of otherness, that is, tolerance, and, to the degree that German viewers come to regard Yagmur as being like them as well as different, the show promotes cosmopolitanism.
Second, the series' other narrative arc traces a romance between two of the couple's children: Cem, the macho, not very successful Turkish male— he fails to graduate from high school and cannot find a real job—is both drawn to and repelled by his German stepsister Lena. She is liberal and liberated, and not yet worried that having a profession will impinge on her relationships with men. These two characters correspond to widely held stereotypes, but by providing names and faces to problems that Germans and migrants might otherwise view from afar, Cem and Lena involve viewers emotionally in real issues. Cem eventually settles into a respectable job, while Lena does well at high school and ultimately falls into a dream career; but she cannot resolve the competing demands of domesticity and independence posed by the relationship with her stepbrother. As TfB approaches the end of its final season, both the genre conventions of romance and the narrative logic of the show's cosmopolitan message require a happy ending, but in order to start their own blended family Cem and Lena not only have to overcome the personal problems that every fictional couple in romantic drama faces; they also have to reconcile differences that are implicitly coded as German or Turkish.
Comedies thrive on misunderstandings, but it is worth paying particular attention to the mistaken assumptions that propel TfB's plot because they frequently arise from the same ignorance and prejudice that cause strife between Germans and migrants in the larger context of German society. For example, as the series begins, Lena calls Metin an Albanian terrorist, lumping an accomplished, Turkish German civil servant into the undifferentiated category of dangerous, dark-skinned Others. Her mistake occurs just before she meets Cem and Yagmur, and viewers learn that they are no better informed than their soon-to-be stepsister. Cem claims that Chinese restaurants serve dog meat, while Yagmur assumes that the waitress has never heard of Islam. Not an auspicious start, but by episode two the new blended family moves in together, and the stage is set for the confrontations, complications, and compromises that make up the program's plot.
The newly blended family moves to Neukolln, an ethnically mixed Berlin neighborhood that has a reputation for gang violence, thematized in films such as Knallhart (Tough Enough, 2006), and dysfunctional schools. TfB contests these cliches with some fact (Neukolln has recently become fashionable), some fiction (the actual TfB house, whose exterior can be seen in almost every episode, is located in Friedenau, a solidly middle-class section of the city, not in Neukolln), and a bit of wishful thinking: The school that the children attend is clean, modern, and well run. Starting in the second season, Doris's sister teaches there, apparently without difficulty. In accordance with educational policy in Berlin, the school is a Gesamtschule (integrated comprehensive school); it not only serves students of all abilities, but, like so much of what happens in TfB, the school also questions received wisdom, models cosmopolitanism, and implicitly joins the debate over the place of migrants in German society. Of course, even at good schools not every student succeeds, and Yagmur's character seems designed to put the integration paradigm to the test.
Viewers first see Yagmur as she enters the Chinese restaurant, looking somber, walking a pace or two behind her father and clad entirely in black, including her tightly wrapped headscarf. The image forces viewers to think about the symbolism of Yagmur's clothing, especially the presumption that no rational woman would choose such restrictive garb. As Rita Chin argues, the headscarf debate in Germany began in the 1970s, as liberal feminists tried to foster the emancipation of Turkish women, in part by encouraging them to reject the headscarf as a symbol of patriarchal oppression. By the 1980s conservatives co-opted the discussion by claiming that the headscarf and the victimization of women it implied "served as evidence for an unbridgeable chasm separating guest workers and Germans" (Chin 2007: 143). It is therefore an important revelation when viewers hear Yagmur explaining to Doris that neither her father nor her older brother forced her to cover her hair. Instead, her mother asked if she wanted to wear a headscarf when she was twelve years old (Episode 27). Yagmur insists, while wearing a looser, pink headscarf and smiling, that she made the decision herself, on religious grounds. She continues to cover her head even though she believes that headscarves make her look "hasslich" (ugly). Yagmur's explanation, during which she takes over the adult role while Doris is fretting about menopause, is not just that values trump appearance, but also that the valorization of certain forms of beauty, including clothing, damages women across the age spectrum. In addition to arguing that she and Doris are both beautiful despite social conventions,
Yagmur hints that a headscarf could actually be a sign of freedom in Germany, a choice that until recently was much easier to make outside the confines of a rigorously secular Turkey (see Toprak 2010: 19-36).
If TfB did nothing more than complicate viewers' perceptions of what it means to wear a headscarf, it would have performed a considerable service, but the program probes deeper by exploring at considerable length the consequences of Yagmur's preadolescent choice as a fifteen-year-old who falls in love for the first time. Since her beliefs forbid unsupervised contact with young men, Yagmur begins a chat-room relationship with someone who identifies himself as "verknallt in Neukolln" (smitten in Neukolln). In the days before Facebook and Skype, chatting was only words, so when the boy she mistakenly takes for her online boyfriend fails to appear for their first date, Yagmur wonders if the problem is her appearance. Lena tries to comfort her, but stumbles into an uncomfortable question about males who might be put off by what the traditional look implies. Yagmur explodes with a mixture of resentment and self-doubt, asking if Lena is saying that "kein gesunder Junge" (no healthy or normal boy) would want to meet a girl with a headscarf and "Werte" (values, Episode 26). Lena can only respond that Germany is not yet that progressive. The prospective boyfriend might have been afraid, and she suggests that Yagmur tie her headscarves a bit looser.
Since she is at home, Yagmur is wearing a hoodie rather than a headscarf, and viewers get a glimpse of the hair that remains covered in public. Of course, they have already seen it in other scenes that take place in the privacy of the bedroom that the two young women share, because the show has invited them into the family. By putting familiar, believable faces on behaviors that have been politicized across Europe, TfB gives viewers an emotional stake in concerns that would otherwise be abstract; it also lets them see the private ramifications of issues in the public sphere. In short, viewers begin to learn the lessons of cosmopolitanism.
Yagmur's role is far from over at this point, in part because the narrative conventions of romance demand a happy ending, even when achieving a satisfactory closure bumps into the difficult reality of multicultural Germany. The third season's narrative jumps ahead two years and opens with Yagmur still struggling to stay true to her religion while maintaining a relationship with Costa, the real "smitten in Neukolln." Although she is aware that her reluctance to allow any form of sexual advance may drive him away, Yagmur believes that her value system is essential to Muslim women, especially in Germany. But Yagmur is also a product of her German adolescence; she understands and even shares Costa's frustrations. Things come to a head when he threatens to end the relationship unless Yagmur stops wearing a headscarf. Metin supports the demand, going so far as to warn his daughter that, if she decides to study something technical, in this post-9/11 world, people might think she is part of a sleeper cell, intent on building bombs. In other words, Metin demonstrates his adherence to
German values rather than those of the stereotypical Turkish patriarch. He never expresses religious sentiments, nor does he worry that the family's honor is at stake in Yagmur's actions. Metin stands in sharp contrast to the father of one of Yagmur's previously pious friends whose daughter returns from Turkey and ostentatiously sheds her headscarf when the father is not looking, declaring that she is in a foreign country, where it is her duty to show Germans that she is normal (Episode 42). In this context normal is a synonym for German, and Yagmur uses the argument to transgress what had been an inviolate boundary. She arranges to meet Costa that evening in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the prototypical symbol of contemporary Germany. In the previous sequence Lena decided to sleep with Cem for the first time, and the musical backdrop, Christine Aguilera's "Hurt," a song that expresses regret over missed opportunities, continues as Yagmur, with the Brandenburg Gate gleaming behind and between her and Costa, and warmly backlighting the couple, removes her headscarf and lets Costa touch her hair.
The narrative might have ended at this point with the triumph of Western values, but the series refuses to take quite such a conventional path. When viewers return for the next episode, they find Yagmur, with her hair uncovered but piled up nearly as high as Marge Simpson's, again plagued by doubt. Her dilemma is how to live in Germany while remaining true to her religion. There seems to be no answer to the question until Costa emerges as a cosmopolitan role model. He notices Yagmur's struggle and declares, in front of her extended family, that he fell in love with her the way she was rather than the way he wanted her to be. Costa goes so far as to fetch the headscarf that Yagmur so recently took off, and to put it on
Figure 7.2 Yagmur (Pegah Ferydoni) and Costa (Arnel Taci) in Turkish for Beginners, DVD capture her head before he falls on one knee and proposes. This change of heart signals not only Costa's acceptance of values that are coded as Turkish but also, and more important, his willingness to live with difference. With that shift, the curtain can finally come down on a happy ending for one of the two young couples.
Meanwhile, the narrative arc involving Cem and Lena has been exploring the same cultural issues, but with far less convincing results. Although the genre conventions of the screwball comedy and Lena's physical attraction to Cem probably lead viewers to suspect from the outset that the couple's bantering camouflages mutual attraction, the differences that separate Cem from Lena make it difficult to imagine a plausible resolution to their relationship. Had Cem and Lena both been either German or Turkish, or, like Costa and Yagmur, both from migrant backgrounds, standard- issue human foibles or gender stereotypes might have explained their problems, but the impetus behind TfB means that these two characters have to overcome the cultural norms and values that define them. The series therefore restages and intensifies the parents' ethnically charged struggles as it simultaneously increases their impact by locating those tensions in the same generation as TfB's primary audience. Whatever one thinks of the results, the compromises forced upon the characters prove instructive for what they say about the lives of both Germans and migrants in contemporary Germany. It is, in other words, one thing to demand German language proficiency and quite another for Germans to be able to invite others into their homes.
Not only is there far more at stake in a Turkish German relationship, but Lena also functions formally as TfB's central consciousness. The diegetic camera that opens most episodes shows her speaking to an absent friend or her biological father, as she comments on other characters' foibles or reflects on her own trajectory. Lena serves by turn as the show's authoritative voice or the primary recipient of its pedagogy. The other camera angles are omniscient, because no one else in the series, particularly not Cem, seems as strong or successful as Lena. Once her brother has been bundled off to boarding school, Lena also remains as the sole German adolescent coming to terms with life in a blended family. If she cannot integrate herself into multicultural Germany, if she cannot become cosmopolitan, then there is little hope for viewers who do not have the experience of living with Yagmur, Cem, and Metin on a daily basis. Both the task of teaching cosmopolitanism and the narrative logic of romance demand that something propel Lena and Cem into each other's arms; the challenge is to resolve the Cem-Lena narrative without resorting to implausible plot tricks while also treating their relationship, like the society it addresses, as a two-way street for both Germans and Turks. To judge by the results, the task even seems to have baffled the show's writers and producers.
In contrast to television production in the United States, the creators of TfB apparently did not have to present a draft narrative for the entire series before the show was commissioned. Reruns play a small role in the finances of German television, and the show ran on a public network where it must have been particularly isolated from such considerations. The first season comprised only twelve episodes, but there was considerable support for a television program with TfB's ambitions, especially when it won the German equivalent of an Emmy, the Adolf-Grimme Award, for that first year (Grimme-Preis 2007). The second season was increased to twenty-four episodes, followed by only sixteen in the third, when the air had apparently gone out of the creative balloon. The third season was also delayed twice, and, in another indication of difficulties, its narrative started up again two years after the events that closed season two. One place to read both the problems and the potential that the series presented to viewers and critics alike is in the jury's justification for the Adolf-Grimme Award. The commendation begins by praising the network's decision to renew the series even though, in light of its relatively small viewership, that support was anything but self-evident. As the jury explains, TfB is "derart keck, witzig und politisch unkorrekt" (so bold, witty, and politically incorrect) that reaching a large audience was simply impossible. While praising the Turkish German author, Bora Dagetin, for his light touch with potentially difficult material, to say that he managed "die Botschaft trotzdem nicht bis zur Unkenntlichkeit zu verbergen" (to convey a message without making it completely unintelligible, Grimme-Preis 2007) sounds like the very least that viewers can expect. In effect the jury praises TfB's intentions more than its accomplishments, as if the main point were to encourage similar shows in the future. Yet, someone still had to end TfB.
Lena's unexpected pregnancy is the complication that leads to a resolution. She and Cem have been sleeping together since early in the third season, but the plot development only works when this feisty young German on the verge of an implausibly successful career in journalism—she moves from intern to editor in a single step—is transformed into a Yagmur- like figure, but without the religion that motivates her stepsister's choices. The only alternative would have been an equally sudden reinvention of Cem, making him not only more intelligent but also more middle class. However, since bourgeois values have been virtually synonymous with being German since the late-eighteenth century, that change would have been character surgery in the service of Germany's dominant culture rather than cosmopolitanism. So when Lena's best friend says that abortion is her only realistic option, Lena announces, quite out of character—at least out of her previous character—that abortion is murder. Cem, who does not yet know that the baby is his, responds by saying that keeping the child would be suicide, but he makes the observation in the context of dismay and envy at Lena's success, having previously accused her of becoming a career woman (Episode 48). Cem, who did not finish high school, seems particularly afraid that Lena will be dissatisfied with his meager prospects and not stay at home as the ideal Turkish wife should.
Uncharacteristically but, in view of the narrative demands, necessarily Lena decides to perform her editorial work from the family couch, proclaiming, as the cliche would have it, "home is where the heart is" (Episode 51, as are the following quotations in this paragraph). With Cem scurrying to give Lena tea and a foot massage, itself a strange role reversal, Lena vetoes her friend's idea for the next edition's lead story, "Frauen stehen ihren Mann" (women stand their ground). She calls the idea idiotic and asks what sort of woman finds happiness in a profession. She even confesses that, although she has nothing against emancipation, at the moment "I just don't feel like it." It is as though Lena rejects the entire Enlightenment project that undergirds modern Germany, including, if Senocak is correct, a much more nuanced cosmopolitanism. Sitting on the sofa in her slippers, Lena has become unrecognizable, and it seems far from accidental that her new outlook corresponds to norms and values that are coded as Turkish rather than German. All that is missing is a headscarf.
To his credit, Cem looks dubious at the prospect of getting what he wanted. Since he and Lena are only twenty years old, an age at which marriage would be an unlikely choice for today's Germans, viewers might wonder if Lena pays too high a price for what is supposed to be a happy ending. She could wake up at some point and realize that she has saddled herself with an underachieving husband, thrown away a unique career opportunity, and landed in the nineteenth century. Although it is difficult to imagine an alternative happy ending, the end of the Cem- Lena narrative scarcely satisfies. It does, however, simultaneously suggest that integration and especially cosmopolitanism demand a much more thorough rethinking of German culture and society than is to be found in contemporary political discourse.
In the larger scheme of things, TfB presents a very mixed message. On the one hand, by portraying the difficulties faced by a pious Turkish girl sympathetically, while simultaneously giving her the chance to move much further into German society than she had initially contemplated, the series performs a genuine service to its adolescent viewers. Both Costa and Yagmur make it seem possible that members of Germany's migrant communities can develop cosmopolitan identities and that there is more to them than German viewers might have assumed before watching the series. Indeed, after watching their story, and the one involving Metin and Doris, viewers probably have become more cosmopolitan, that is, much better, to paraphrase Senocak, at imagining a multicultural Germany. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that Lena's choices resonated with the German adolescents who were TfB's target audience. The question is whether the Cem-Lena narrative represents a failure of imagination or if it reflects a social reality in which it is difficult to envision the contours of a cosmopolitanism that Germans and migrants can share. Of course, the characters could have been made less stereotypical and their relationship more plausible, but if Cem and Lena had not conformed to the expectations of ordinary viewers, if they had both been working class or academic overachievers, then TfB would not have explored the social and cultural tensions that were the reason for the program's existence. However much we would like to believe in the possibility of a happy ending, particularly when the genre demands one, some social problems are genuinely intractable: in the Cem-Lena story TfB simply reached beyond society's grasp. But what I regard as an instructive failure in one of the show's three main narrative arcs should not detract from its success in teaching cosmopolitanism in the other two.