A Brief History of Downfall Parodies

My dad just discovered Downfall parodies.  I think they are an excellent meme, and furthermore my internet is currently working and it would be a pity to waste it, so in the spirit of public education, I’m presenting their history.

The movie Downfall features a clip of Hitler ranting about losing the war. It is, truly, meme bait too good to resist: I mean, it’s Hitler.  Yelling.  And it’s in German, so all you have to do is add your own subtitles and voila!  Hitler ranting about whatever obscure topic you please.  The original, I am told, was Hitler getting banned from Xbox Live.

The most famous, and probably the best written and executed, Downfall parody was Grammar Nazis, wherein Hitler rants about linguistic pedantry.  “Grammar Nazi” was already popular nerd slang for someone who is constantly correcting your grammar; College Humor (the makers of The Matrix XP and Minesweeper: The Movie, among others) did another great Grammar Nazi video.

Stalin briefly wanted in on the parodies, but Hitler was quick to defend his position.

The, um, downfall of the parodies came when Constantin Films, Downfall‘s copyright holder, pressured YouTube to remove the clips in April 2010 and YouTube agreed to comply.  Of course policing YouTube is a losing battle; soon parodies were popping up where Hitler rants about his videos being removed (such as this one, cannily uploaded to Funny Or Die instead of YouTube).  Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel actually approves of the parodies, saying “You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director,” but he doesn’t hold the copyright.

As the number of links in this post may have indicated, the takedown didn’t last.  Since April, most of the famous parodies have found their way back onto YouTube, including the one my dad found: Hitler’s reaction to vuvuzelas at the World Cup, uploaded in June at the height of the vuvuzela memes, just a few days before the other memetic vuvuzela video, The Fellowship of the Vuvuzela (which features the remixed soundtrack from They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard).  Yelling Hitler has become a part of the fabric of the Internet now, and no amount of policing will ever extract it completely.

If you’re wondering how on Earth I’ve found the time to watch all these, bear in mind that they’re four minutes long, so you could watch 25 of them back-to-back in the length of a short movie, although I’d question your sanity if you did.  You may also be asking: Who makes all these?  Who on Earth has that much time?  The answer is simple: the Hitler vuvuzela video has two million views.  Among them are dozens or hundreds of people who watched it and then thought of something else they could do with it.  Many hands makes the internet a wild, woolly, and wonderful place.


Picture from Wikimedia Commons, amusingly enough.


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