Stupidity? I do Nazi a problem.
by: Jaimie Alano
The name Adam Hitler corresponds to various emotions particularly distress, desolation and resentment, but it never came to my senses that he will be used for comedic purposes. In the year 2004, a movie entitled Der Untergang or Downfall was released in cinemas. It is a German-Italian-Austrian historical war drama film depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler’s rule over Nazi Germany in 1945. Adam Hitler was played by Bruno Ganz, and due to the film’s international success and Ganz’s haunting portrayal of the Nazi dictator, the result was the creation of various parodies with topical events and gossips. A specific scene in the film where the generals of Hitler told him that he cannot win the war, therefore, he went upset and rebuke his generals. It was the most famous scene that was used for several series of parody-subtitled videos. There were also memes that spread using that famous angry facial expression of the actor, Ganz.
The majority of the parodies and memes of Downfall are inane. Let me explain by giving you a quote from Olga Goriunova’s New Media Idiocy article, stupidity is a ‘structure thought’ that conducts an inquiry into its own ‘truths’, one which is not erroneous, but ‘base’. The parodies that circulated over the new media have multiple perspective and languages, some of the topics are more universally understood like, Hitler’s Starbucks Rant with 138,000 views, Hitler finds out Pokemon aren’t real with 2.7 million views, and Hitler’s reaction after hearing Rebecca Black’s Friday with 4.8 million views. New media idiocy can help us understand the success of cultural movements through social networks in terms of participatory performance. Some of it are more localized and issue specific depending on the cultural background of the uploader. For instance, our very own Hitler’s Baguio Road Rage. The first Downfall parody to be uploaded was around 2006 even a decade after it is still used by the active participants of the internet, an example will be the Hitler reacts to Donald Trump Getting the Republican Nomination for President uploaded by FactPointVideo with 1.4 million views, it was uploaded back on May 15, 2016. From the given examples, we can see a diversity of topics used by the participant to burlesque varieties of manufactured goods and even broadcast their local problems in their specific countries. As what Zizek (1995) wrote, any act that pushes itself through a threshold of possibility is idiotic. The parody was not only used to entertain but also to know certain issues surrounding a dilemma. The new kind of idiot or idiocy is the capacity to recreate an output from media to cater to their own entertainment and use.
Background of Downfall video parody
Let us take a look back at the very beginning of the Downfall parody. The earliest known subtitle spook of Downfall was uploaded by a YouTube user on August 10, 2006, entitled “Sim Heil: Der untersim”, it was subbed in Spanish where it talks about the lack of new features in the demo trial of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X, and due to the success and popular request of the first video uploaded by DReaperF4, an English subbed was uploaded on August 30. Unfortunately, the video was brought down due to the copyright issues, it will be interesting to see the comments and interactions of the netizens in the said videos. There were several issues surrounding this parody. One will be the banning of the parody due to copyright, another one was the controversy of Grant Williams and Tom Harris, and last but not the least was the irrelevant and inappropriate use of the video itself. The following are some of the components why the Downfall parody became a hit to the internet user and participants.
One of the controversies was during the year 2010, a bank executive named Grant Williams, was fired after sharing the Downfall parody in his company’s newsletter e-mail. Eventually, in 2013, a report from Bloomberg, and The Huffington Post saying that a Hong Kong judge ordered the previous company of Grant to pay him $1.86 million dollars for the damages covering the lost salary and bonuses from 2011 to 2013. It was said that it was an inappropriate and hypersensitive move for the company to fire him on that basis alone. The other one is about Tom Harris, a Scottish Labour party member, who resigned after a negative public response of people to him in his uploaded a file in his YouTube channel about Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party leader, that he criticized Salmond’s stance on the referendum on Scottish Independence up for vote in parliament and his direct comparison to Hitler. We can see the tremendous effect of the video to the personal lives of the uploader. It can be the negative effect of the participatory act in some sensitive issues and its unknown repercussion. A quote from Goriunova’s article says that it does not develop us into freer and happier individuals, nor does it bring us towards a better society or political system together. Creating a parody or idiotic outputs does not create or resolve a better world but it can be the opening of another understanding from a different perspective. Opening our eyes to see and reveal something profound about the nature of certain forms of creative digital production, culture and subjectivity today can result to better understand idiotic output that is highly editable by the grassroots.
Tom Harris (Source:Alchetron.com)
During its hype, a lot of Downfall parody were taken down due to its copyright claim which was wrongfully implemented. According to the Institute for Internet Studies, the grounds for Fair Use is a protection for individuals using copyright materials without receiving any permission, it can only be used in limited ways such as commentary or criticism, elements, and memes which the Downfall parodies were categorized. This is one element that boosted the popularity the Downfall parody. It was a streisand effect, where people get interested due to its restriction and prohibition of the videos. Instead of removing the information and making it censored, it becomes widely available than before, it is a backlash for the censorship attempt. Another controversy was the reaction of the German people to the parodies and how insensitive and its inappropriate use of it for amusing and entertainment output when it was part of a horrific past of the world. The German reputation being insulted with it. Parodies are embedded with humor and as what Bergson understood humor, the humor of idiocy cannot be completely divorced from estrangement and reversal as its paradigmatic functions. Humor is very subjective depending on your cultural upbringing and context, what may be funny for others might not be as funny for some or worse, others might find it offensive.
In all the parodies that were made using the Downfall scene, it was an inane move to be insensitive in terms of its context. It’s inappropriation to the dreadful past and how the internet user and participants have taken it so lightly. On the contrary, the creativity and ideas that were shown in the making of the parody were able to lure a lot of people to watch the said parodies and how they manage to recreate the meaning from its original context. And through the participatory community, users can interact with one another and requests for another parody.
To further discuss the Downfall parodies and the 3 elements given by Goriunova on how videos can become viral, I will focus on the Hitler’s reaction after hearing Rebecca Black’s song entitled “Friday”. It was uploaded on March 2011 by hitme124 with 4,899,656 views as of March 2017. It has a runtime of 4 minutes and 13 seconds. This is the most viewed Downfall parody I’ve seen on YouTube. The parody was about Rebecca Black’s “Friday” being a trivial and foolish in her ways in describing Fridays. It started with Justin Bieber’s alarming spread of his music in certain parts of Berlin, it was okay for Hitler because Bieber was just spreading a crappy music but when he heard Rebecca’s Friday, he went furious of what the music industry will become. He also said that his favorite part of the week was Friday and ,sorry for the word but, she fucked it up with her music. Interestingly, the interactions in the comment section were pretty interesting on how they link the day of the week to his death.
Participatory media and new media idiocy are made possible through technology and its accessibility. Also when digital media was on the rise so is its aspect of participating in its different forms, and due to the new generation, or the so-called digital native, the spread of new media idiocy rose. It was all made possible conjointly with these aspects. According to Goriunova’s article, there were 3 elements to discuss parodies and its virality. The first element is its simplicity, as what Goriunova’s discussed, ‘simplicity’ is the certain naivety that allows a non-professional to speak. As you can see in the parodies given above, it is minimalistic in approach because it only changed or used a different language and subtitle that caters to their own ideas. They did not change or alter the original video itself but added a different subtitles and inserted audio and video from different clips that can make the video more entertaining and appealing. In terms of Downfall “Friday”, hitme124 inserted a part of the song, Friday in the video and repeated it several times and was followed by Hitler’s reaction when he first heard the song. It is to stretch the video to allow the audience to see some visual during the part where the song was being played. We can say that it’s simplicity gave rise to a lot of parodies of the Downfall. The only thing you need is the video itself which is available online, simple video editor where you can edit it and render it to have the final video output and lastly and most importantly the creator’s witty ideas. After browsing and researching about video parodies, I came across a website called CaptionGenerator (http://www.captiongenerator.com/make-a-hitler-reacts-video ), where you can simply select the video and you can directly input the subtitle in a specific timeframe. It was made easier. As a result, the spread of different parodies was made possible even for those who has no skills in video editing.
The second element is humor which has three folds; laughter, vital joy and parodic. It is evident that the Downfall parody falls under laughter, it gives humor through the action of Ganz and the subtitle below. In terms of vital joy and parodic, it might not be conclusive for this specific parody because of the fact that the original video did not undertake any editing from the participants. What makes the parody fun is the subtitle itself and how it was executed in the video. The last element is DIY character, again going back in the first element which is simplicity, as I discussed the DIY character of this parody is the subtitle itself and how participant acquires the video and the ability to input a subtitle that suits their creativity. Due to the demand for video parodies, a website was made to cater people who have no video editing skills or technological capacity to finish the task. It was now made readily available and much easier for the participants to create their parodies.
Overall, new media idiocy is now part of our daily routine as part of the global village or the internet. It is a developing dimension of the new media. One of the daily routines that are now embedded in the system of the digital natives and even the millennials are checking their social media accounts and participating in conversation, sharing articles and post that can be humorous or factual. Some of them are the memes and parodies created by the user of the said medium. Idiocy becomes a mode of living. New media idiocy manufactures mode of living, manners of individualization as a performance and a craft, and it is through joining in, taking part in its production, through re-enactment of the performances of idiocy that individualization occurs. Some of the YouTube sensation or the most watched channels pertains to this act of idiocy because people are now digitally abled to recreate outputs from media to cater to their own needs. As what Goriunova clarified in her article that stupidity is a condition under which human beings are born, everyone is stupid at times, and stupidity is a force through which wisdom can be acquired or things can be done. It is not plain stupidity, but it can be a new field to be discovered. As what some of the parodies of Downfall, it broadcasts some local issues of certain countries like what the Baguio road rage did. It does not only give you information about how the system works but it also entertains you in a way that you realize how people look at those certain dilemmas and some of the connection from other users can be intertwined to find a commonality which can be the start of better dissemination of information. But then again, as a viewer, we need to double-check the pieces of information that are being thrown at us. As for an example, the comments of Hitler’s parody about Rebecca’s Friday, a user said Saturday was the day of Hitler’s death but upon checking, it was really Monday. We need to double check the pieces of information that are being disseminated to us. As such, new media idiocy does not present a new subject, it enquires into the changes to the process of subject formation and maintenance. The Downfall parody lasted for more than a decade, it can be due to the flexibility of the parody and its never-failing amusement the viewers gain from the actor, Ganz. There will be always an issue that can coincide with enraged and amusement, that is what the parody of Downfall offers. A serious matter where you can lighten it up by using other subtitles to communicate certain issues that can be entertaining at the same time. I’ll be ending this blog with a quote from Goriunova.
“New media idiocy enquires into the reformulation of subjectivity, into the new conditions of individuation. New media idiocy is false but authentic, and materialist in its relation to technical media. The ease with which it can switch from breakthroughs to meaninglessness is characteristic of network human–technical architecture at large and the software mediation of culture in particular. Creativity in the individual and collective process of becoming idiot produces phenomena that may be neither aesthetically brilliant nor politically very sound, but constructs forms of performance and craftsmanship that allow the inhabitation of the present, creating modes of living that explore the true through the false. Idiocy problematizes the mechanization and exposure of subjectification; it is light and funny, but also very dark in what it asks and reveals through its behaviour: the trouble of the current human condition.”p.223