Laughing at Hitler

It was the first of September, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland; in the eyes of the British and French governments, that event marked the beginning of the Second World War.  By that point, a great many people in Europe and Asia had already for years been fighting wars that would be subsumed in that conflict; a great many more were still years away from being drawn into it.  Nonetheless, that date has come to be widely accepted as marking the first day of the war.

Since it was the late Adolf Hitler who, as they put it in The Rutles, “invented World War Two,” he often comes to my mind on this date.  There’s been a marked trend in pop culture these past few years to laugh at Hitler.  So, about three or four years ago, there was a craze for posting videos on YouTube that added silly subtitles to the scene in the movie Downfall where the Hitler character learns that his plans for the final defense of Berlin have collapsed and shouts hysterically at his staff.  The only specimens I thought were worth watching were this one and this one; this one and this one give the same treatment to other scenes from the movie.

At about the time the Downfall parody craze was at its height, a webcomic called Hipster Hitler made its debut.  I saw a reference to it the other day; evidently it is still going.  I’d thought the first strip exhausted its potential, and as I looked through the archive I found that I was correct.  The image of Hitler in an ironic T-shirt and fedora seems to be making a point of some kind; I’ve spent a fair bit of time wondering what that point might be.  Hitler is a symbol of the evil that extreme authoritarianism makes possible; hipsters present themselves as extreme anti-authoritarians; so showing Hitler as a hipster means… something?  Maybe?  Be that as it may, I doubt anyone actually laughs at the strip.

More recently, there was a short-lived strip on tumblr called Ignore Hitler.  That one was closer to being funny than is Hipster Hitler, although it wasn’t as thought-provoking, or as interesting to look at.

Some jokes involving Hitler do make a clear point.  For example, this video  is a spoof of conspiracy theories concerning the birth of US President Barack Obama, which does some funny stuff with Hitler’s picture.  Some of the theories about President Obama’s birth that people actually believe are just as silly as the one in the video, so the spoof works quite well.

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