When viewed now from the perspective of a cynical college student in 2013, the film One, Two, Three is a parody of American Cold War mentality. The humor makes it hard for me to discern what is parody and what is intended to be an export of American ideology. The parodies of divisions between ideologies are most interestingly contrasted in the depictions of gender and the family. The depictions of family values on each side illuminate the differences between the communist and American systems.
In this film, the three main women are each portrayed as problem-causing, tools and means to particular ends. However, each of them is portrayed slightly differently in relation to the ideology they correspond to. The German secretary is portrayed as the classic blonde alluring figure, who is used by the American capitalist to manipulate the corruptible Russians. She has no real allegiances, and is easily tossed from one post-war conqueror to another. Scarlet, the ‘fast’ southern lady is a problem-causing bimbo who has no understanding of politics. She is the spoiled daughter of an American capitalist, who is brainwashed by both American ideology and, briefly, Otto’s communism. Her obliviousness is deeply troubling, but her extravagant lifestyle is one that many original viewers of the film might have envied, suggesting that the greatness of the American system could allow for the possibility of a person like her who has everything and doesn’t even need to think. Mrs. MacNamara, the real American woman is the only one with any agency. She exercises her agency and her free and rational decision-making through returning to American, indicating her complete conviction of the superiority of American to everywhere else.
Scarlet’s pregnancy reveals the divides in family values between the communist and American system. Otto talks about the state health care and day care with excitement, but Scarlet is put off by the idea that the rearing of her child would be done by the state. The lavish lifestyle full of luxuries that the baby would ostensibly have as an American capitalist child is depicted as the opposite to the stripped bare communist life. The American family in this depiction values marriage between social equals, thus the need for Otto to be portrayed as a member of the European elite. The dichotomy between capitalism and communism is thus portrayed in extremes of poverty and opulence.
In the MacNamara family, the draw of the classical suburban lifestyle wins out in the end, as Mr. MacNamara returns to Atlanta as his wife wished. She wants the stability, safety, predictability and comforts of the American life, namely the commodities peanut butter sandwiches and braces.
Contradictions within American ideology are also seen. As a son-in-law for the wealthy American capitalist, Otto must play a dual role, as both aristocrat and entrepreneur. His success with his father in law comes from his perceived attributes as both born into privileged and working hard to achieve success. The falseness and duality of the American dream is seen in this expectation. If Otto works hard he can advance, but he must, in reality, start from a position of relative privilege in order to achieve success.
The film depicts American ideology as consumable and desirable. Just as the East German police officer is successfully bribed by the universally appealing product Coca Cola, Otto too is eventually drawn into accepting the superiority of America.