The Downfall Meme

7 12 2010

As a historian, I am interested in the proliferation of  Downfall parodies on YouTube. Downfall is a 2004 German film about Hitler’s last days in the bunker in Berlin. There is a gripping scene in which Hitler goes on a rant and berates his subordinates.

Since 2004, over a 100 parodies of this scene have appeared on YouTube. The parodies typically involve the imposition of subtitles related to a modern social or political event. For instance, in 2008, when there was a constitutional crisis in Canada, a YouTube clip purporting to show Prime Minister Stephen Harper meeting with his cabinet quickly appeared online.  The original German soundtrack was left untouched, but the words were intended to represent Mr. Harper’s thoughts at this time.  The same trick has been done with managers and coaches of professional sport teams that have lost big games. The gag is particularly funny when the person being mocked has a reputation for having an authoritarian personality.

Perhaps the most controversial Downfall parody to appear online has Hebrew subtitles. It relates to the parking situation in Tel Aviv.

It is now exam season in Canadian universities. A former student just sent me a clip of a new Downfall parody that purports to show the reaction of a student to their exam being cancelled due to snow. This clip is getting a lot of hits on YouTube right now because many universities in Ontario are now closed due to a massive snow storm that began on 5 December.

I have mixed feelings about the Downfall parody craze. While I enjoy a good joke as much as the next guy, it seems to me that all of these parodies may be trivializing a very evil regime.

Here are some links to newspaper stories about the Downfall parody craze. Here, here, and here.


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3 responses

7 12 2010
Andrew

…the second time as farce…

7 12 2010
andrewdsmith

What about the 102nd time?

7 12 2010
jliedl

I have a special spot in my heart for the one that tackles the Star Trek reboot, even though I loved the new movie. But there’s also some interesting writing touching on the Downfall meme from people who study fanworks such as Kristina Busse: http://symposium.transformativeworks.org/2010/11/affective-aesthetics/

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