Studio Plots Downfall of Hitler Meme on YouTube
By PopEater Staff Posted Apr 20th 2010 11:45AM
The film features Hitler (portrayed by Bruno Ganz), ensconced in his bunker, learning he cannot win the war. The viral video versions tweak the subtitles to have Hitler reacting explosively to current events, both mundane and massive, including Michael Jackson's death, Kanye West's VMAs incident and the Hollywood adaptation of 'Twilight.' All have been major YouTube hits. Just a sampling of the parodies still active on the site [Warning: Profanity]:
Hitler Hates the Hitler Parodies
Hitler Reacts to Kanye West at the VMAs
"Earlier today, someone attempted to upload a new version surrounding the massive iPhone 4G news. Unfortunately, as you can see on YouTube, that video has already been removed," TechCrunch reported yesterday. The New York Times covered the phenomenon in 2008, estimating more than 100 instances of the Hitler meme.
"We as a corporation have a bit of an ambivalent view of it," Martin Moszkowicz, an executive at Constantin Film, told the BBC. "On the one hand, we are proud the picture has such a huge fan base and that people are using it for parody. On the other hand, we are trying to protect the artists."
It's that "protecting the artists" vagary that has Constantin Films attempting to remove all the clips. "It is a task that can never be completed. They are popping up whenever we are taking one down," Moszkowicz said. A common scene on YouTube these days:
'Downfall' director Oliver Hirschbiegel expressed an opposing view in an interview with New York magazine's Vulture: "Someone sends me the links every time there's a new one. I think I've seen about 145 of them! Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I'm laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn't get a better compliment as a director. I think it's only fair if now it's taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like."
"Killing 'Hitler Reacts' has to be the worst decision in movie-making history since someone gave Rob Schneider a job," says Nick Douglas, senior editor at our viral-minded partner Urlesque. "Before, there was this film called 'Downfall' that a few American film and history buffs knew. After the 'Downfall' parodies, there was a whole new audience. I'm tempted to say it's because Old Media doesn't get it -- but I think it's more nuanced. By now, most studios and labels sort of 'get' what's going on -- they just want more control."
Douglas also wonders if the videos' creators may be able to defend their mash-ups as protected works of parody. The Supreme Court defines parody as "the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works," Douglas points out. "Seems like the 'Downfall' parodies fit that description. They make comparisons between an important historical event as interpreted by the film and much sillier modern events. But who's going to fight a court battle over a YouTube clip?"
Constantin Films did not respond to PopEater's request for comment.
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