Not a Moment Too Soon
In Idiomatic English, this Would Be Referred to as...

The Mystery of the Misunderstood Molester

It's never the child molester.
Yesterday's Tatort (g), "Kidnapped", was a creepy psychosexual affair which dealt with someone who kept little girls locked away in a basement for years, but never touched them sexually (which makes his behavior even creepier). Instead, he created a bizarre subterranean concentration-camp scenario, where the girls were forced to constantly wash and clean their bare-metal chambers in return for water and food. There were a number of nice touches, including the fact that the perpetrator's house had framed 'family' photos on the wall which were, in fact, pictures of himself, and some pretty breathtaking dolly-style shots vertically downward into the earth, to show us how far underground the secret chamber was. I've never been a huge fan of the Saarbrücken investigators as personalities, but they were pretty good in this one. And, of course, one can't overlook the enchanting Lale Yavas as the coroner, Dr. Rhea Singh.

This Tatort also marked the re-appearance of a stock Tatort staple every bit as familiar as a commedia dell'arte character*: the Misunderstood Molester. After one of the abducted girls escapes, triggering a girlhunt for the remaining abductees, suspicion immediately focuses on a middle-aged man, living along, who was fired from his job as a lifeguard for exposing himself to some of his young charges. The police pay him a visit, naturally, and yell at him a bit. Whenever the plot flags, we get more indications of his guilt: he smokes heavily (like the perp), he buttons his polo shirts to the top button like any self-respecting child molester, he lives near the scene of the abduction, his apartment overlooks a playground (and he has a pair of binoculars), his pet ferrets seem suspiciously high-strung, he's stopped taking the anti-testosterone medication prescribed by his therapist, and he even has a dress worn by one of the abducted children in his underground storage space.

But, of course, he's not the perp. It turns out there's an innocent explanation for all these factors. He is, after all, the Misunderstood Molester. Shortly after police focus on him, his therapist visits the cops to lecture them: his client deserves a second chance, therapy can prevent him from acting on his impulses, being scapegoated harms his chances of re-entering society, etc. The well-established pattern is followed:

  1. After crime against child, suspicion focuses on the released molester.
  2. Some clues point in his direction.
  3. The outraged/anguished parents of one of the victims target the molester by picketing him or attacking him.
  4. Someone (a skeptical cop, therapist, family member, girlfriend) begins to cast doubt on the molester's guilt and deliver edifying lectures about how everyone deserves a second chance.
  5. The Misunderstood Molester is finally cleared of all guilt -- often after being arrested, interrogated, and even attacked.

It's interesting how frequently the MM comes up in Tatort scripts. Recently, at a lecture about crime fiction in Germany, I met a man who had written some scripts for German TV, and who complained of the heavy interference by editors, who frequently returned scripts with suggestions intended to make them more politically-correct. Evidently, the German cultural elite believes that ordinary Germans have a dangerously low opinion of convicted child molesters, and that this is an important problem that must be remedied by public education. Why else would there be (seemingly) at least one Misunderstood Molester per every 5 Tatort episodes?

As far as changing Germans' opinions of child molesters, good luck with that! I'm not complaining, though. I find the constant recurrence of the Misunderstood Molester one of Tatort's most comforting qualities. You can spot him (and it's pretty much always him) coming a mile away, and then the suspenseful sub-plot begins: how much evidence of guilt can the script dump on the MM's head before the real killer is found?** Sometimes this sub-plot is lots more exciting than the main plot!

* America's favorite commedia dell'arte characters can be seen here.

** Now, I'm operating on the assumption that it's never the convicted molester. But there may be an exception to the rule! Can anyone point me to a Tatort in which the previously-convicted molester is identified early in the show, investigated, and at the end turns out to be the real killer/kidnapper?


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What do you think about this Tatort parody?

Der typische Tatort in 123 Sekunden

Arthur Dent

That's bullshit. There is no "well-established pattern" that is followed as described in this article. There is ONE episode that uses our tendency to jump to conclusions and judge others as a motif. That's it.

M. Möhling

OT--reminds me of misunderstood "workplace violence", eg at Fort Hood. Each his own.

> Not only has the German general public
> a dangerously low opinion of child
> molesters (and sexual deviants in general)
Jan, sometimes comments are just stranger than fiction. Couldn't make that up. Kudos.


FYI: Television and social messages:



I've never been a huge fan of the Saarbrücken investigators as personalities ...

Another fine episode from the popular series: "Stuff White Germans Say!"


This might be a nice addition to TV Tropes' "abuse tropes" ( ).

See also:


Hey KWiNK,

thats "Verdammt", I think




ihr seid so lächerlich. redet deutsch oder aber wandert bitte aus. aber dieses möchtegern-englisch ist so peinlich und heuchlerisch, dass jeder normale mensch euch auslachen würde.


Couldn´t agree more with Jim. Not only has the German general public a dangerously low opinion of child molesters (and sexual deviants in general), it also has a wholly unrealistic view on the frequency and development of these crimes. Ask any (ok, almost any) German how many cases of rape, etc. there are each year and whether the numbers are rising or falling, and you´ll inevitably get the answers "many" and "rising" both of which have been wrong since the foundation of the BRD.
Therefore my only problem with the frequent occurrence of the MM-trope is the possibility that it might add to the abovementioned unrealistic view.


there was a brilliant episode done by the Munich team -- "Nie wieder frei sein." now THAT one was quite possibly the best Tatort I've ever seen. the (M?)M plays a very important role, but what really made this a great movie (apart from the brilliantly shot and produced piece of art it was) was the resolution and the lack of any moral guidance you as the viewer were left with. no wagging finger, no politically correct final statements, just a load a thoughts buzzing round in your head.


It is a little bit strange, isn't it?
Why concentrate on the MM for the message "Everyone needs a second chance!"?
Are there other recurring crime-patterns with a similar emphasis on the "second chance" topic?


KWink, I think its "Schwarze Tiger, weiße Löwen"


That education is very much necessary I'm afraid. Considering the witch hunt over everybody released from "Sicherungsverwahrung" that message badly badly needs some hammering home. Though I personally think the message should not be "everybody needs a second chance *cuddle**cuddle*" but "life is risky and there is nothing you or anyone can do about it so grow some balls and live with it".



I know an episode from "Polizeiruf 110" where the MM who is the first suspect in the case turns out to be the criminal, who has abducted another child, even though some guilt is placed on his girlfriend who tried to make him calm down by secretly replacing his testosterone-hampering medication with a mild homeopathic concoction. I think the episode was "Geliebter Mörder".

In another "Tatort" the detectives from Cologne find out that a child molesters former victim (the MM being the murder victim here) became a murderer through the strange relationship he had developed to his captor. Sadly, I couldn't find out the name for this one.

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