When it comes to the Internet, memes come and go. Finding anything that remains popular for more than a week is rare when you consider the web’s capricious nature.
Hitler Rants on You Tube are a one of these rarities and now they’re being removed due to threat of legal action from Constantin Films.
Using the same scene from the Constantin’s movie Downfall, hundreds of users have used Bruno Ganz’ frustrated and defeated depiction of Hitler to vent on a variety of subjects, from Kanye West, Sarah Palin, the New York Mets and most recently Apple’s iPad. These videos have been seen by millions around the world, including Downfall’s director, Oliver Hirschbiegel:
“The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons, making them real and their actions into reality. I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history and used for whatever purposes people like. If only I got royalties for it, then I’d be even happier.”
Ah yes, money. It spoils everything it seems, because Martin Moszkowicz, head of Film and TV at Constantin Films is forcing You Tube to remove the videos.
“We have not been able to see any increase in DVD sales,” he said. “There is no correlation between Internet parodies and sales of a movie, at least not that I am aware of.”
But what about fair use? Many people contend these videos fall under those auspices, protecting them as parodies:
“When does parody stop? It is a very complicated issue. So we are taking a simple approach: Take them all down. We’ve been doing it for years now. The important thing is to protect our copyright. We are very proud of the film.”
And well they should be, considering this one scene has resonated with the public to the point where they are willing to sink a lot of time and effort to create these videos. It speaks to the power of the acting and cinematography that people are able to look at it and create something that fits within a very rigid framework and yet is new and fresh every single time. I’ve seen tons of these videos and I can’t think of one that was poorly done. They never fail to make me laugh.
Another nail in the Hitler parodies downfall (sorry, couldn’t resist) were complaints from various Jewish groups who claim the videos are offensive. Well, firstly no one has talked about about the Holocaust in these clips and I haven’t heard them complain about Hitler being portrayed sympathetically in the film. Still, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-defamation league is delighted by the videos demise:
“We find them offensive,” said Foxman of the videos. “We feel that they trivialize not only the Holocaust but World War II. Hitler is not a cartoon character.”
No, Hitler is not a cartoon, nor is he some powerful unassailable demon or sacred cow. That is granting him way more power than he deserves. He was a man, he’s a historical figure and he can be mocked just as well as the rest of us. These videos take Hitler down a peg, presenting him as nothing more than human, an evil, twisted, hateful human, but human none the less. The Downfall parodies by no means diminish the suffering in the concentration camps, in fact it makes it all the more poignant because it was perpetuated by humans upon humans.
I, for one, am sad to see them go.