Response 1 – Hitler Finds Out About the Downfall Parodies (1.2)

What Parody would Constantin Films Make?

By Justin Hodgson

There are two key moments for me in this piece: 1) the moment that Hitler finds out Steiner has uploaded his own Downfall parody, and 2) the concluding line where Hitler indicates that he, too, shall go make a Downfall parody video.  These two moments—bookending the satirical (and sometimes out of place) jabs at Hitler (the person and the character-figure)—raise interesting questions of involvement, investment, and participation in regards to this meme, and to meme culture in general.

This meme is viral.  It is infectious.  It infects us, and asks—or demands, or desires—that we make our own versions of this meme.  To participate here, in this kind of culture, to belong, to be in the mix, in the group, in the community, asks us to make, to make a parody, to make a commentary through the parody.  And even we respondents are not immune (see the other response to this piece by Joshua Abboud).  And every time I watch this video, and the many others that participate in this meme, I keep thinking: how would I make this video?  What would I say?  How could I use Hitler and Downfall to express something of value, something of significance, something of importance?

And despite this intense wanting, this viral desire, here is where I always hesitate, because anything that does not satirize, infantalize, negate, or turn in-on-itself the ethos associated with the Hitler character, which is directly connected to Hitler the person, runs an interesting ethical line: to use Nazism or Hitler without concern for its smaller and larger implications is to bootstrap ourselves to this most atrocious of moments in human history—even if parodying a film on the matter, which is at least 3 or 4 abstractions from the reality.  But the reality to which this is connected is very much a matter of the utmost concern, and requires that we carefully and cautiously consider what it is we are attempting to do, to comment on, to critique or express, using this tear in our cultural/humanistic fabric.

Where this video succeeds, as well as several others, including the response by Joshua Abboud, is that it straddles this fine line by drawing attention to the parody itself, to the functioning of parody, and how it is the parodies themselves that are at stake here.  True, the same could have been done, more or less, using the Persepolis option that the professor provided, but it would not have been the same, it would not have had the same kind of impact, and it would not make the same kind of commentary despite its best attempts.  The reason is that the content, and what it represents, symbolizes, connects us to matters.  And matters significantly.

What’s more, the video parody begins by positioning Hitler in a battle with YouTube users in an attempt to stop the Downfall parodies.  This, of course, parallels the battle between Constantin Films and the various YouTube Downfall uploaders: which videos can be displayed, which have to be pulled, which violate copyright law?  Unintentionally, in their efforts to pull the parodies of the film, Constantin Films has placed themselves in the role of Hitler in Pfister’s parody—and Pfister has drawn attention to this, even if indirectly.  Now, I don’t want to say that Constantin Films is Hitler, nor that that was Pfister’s explicit intention, but the parody here opens this up as at least one way in which we might read this situation.  And more importantly, in this parallel, the concluding line of Hitler claiming to be off to make his own parody makes me wonder what kind of parody Constantin Films might make, or even what kind of parody Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel might make? Would their parodies mock the makers of the parodies?  Or would they mock themselves as Pfister’s Hitler does here?