Sunday, December 28, 2008

Appropriate Hitler Humour?

When is it appropriate to make fun of Adolf Hitler, and when does that humour cross an ethical boundary into bad taste or, worse, trivializing the evil he stands for? Tonight I was discussiong books on the fall of Berlin in 1945 with a friend. He wants to read Cornelius Ryan's classic The Last Battle, and I was recommending Antony Beevor's Berlin 1945 book. Then I remembered the wonderful portrayal of Hitler by Bruno Ganze in the 2004 film, Downfall.

A gazillion peole have seen the famous bunker rant scene from Downfall on YouTube without ever seeing or even knowing about the film. Phillip Mosscovitch noted this phenomenon in a recent piece (Dec 22) in The Globe and Mail. Parodists have used the rant scene, with alternate subtitles, to show Hitler getting banned from online video games, expressing his disgust with Windows Vista or the atest Star Wars movie. Perhaps the most recent depicts Hitler as Stephen Harper reacting to efforts in the House of Commons to defeat his minority government. Mosscovitch raises the question, ``Where is the line between harmless humour and tasteless parody?`

A number of G&M readers weighed in, one criticizing the paper for being out of its depth and slow to note this internet meme. However, one good comment from a Sidney M in Toronto is worth repeating:

Mel Brooks has said that by making Hitler the subject of comedy, in such works as The Producers and his remake of To Be Or Not to Be, he intended to make his ideas seem so ridiculous that they would never again be taken seriously. On a similar note, the Jewish activist and spiritual leader Arthur Waskow once suggested that back in 1978 when a neo-Nazi group sought to hold a rally in Skokie, Illinois, the Jewish advocacy groups who tried to ban it might have done better to stage a parody counter-rally, with giant balloons depicting Hitler sprawled dead in his bunker. (Waskow wrote this in the context of a discussion of Purim, the holy day in which Jews commemorate the defeat of the would-be genocidal Haman by, among other things, staging skits making him look as ridiculous as possible.)

I don`t have anything more intelligent than this to add, but a friend of mine sent me this graphic, which is funny (at Hitler`s expense) and is worth sharing.


Snickering Corpses said...

I would say the biggest dividing line is whether the parody makes fun of Hitler, or makes fun of the atrocities.

Add into the list of Hitler parodies the episodes of Hogan's Heroes where various members of the Heroes portrayed audio or visual versions of Hitler. Carter being especially remarkable as Hitler.

styler said...

Blues Brothers treats Skokie Nazi-wannabes, and in insinuation Nazis of the past, with snide humor. The "I've always loved you" line makes one think of some of the reasons behind the eventual demise of the Brownshirts, and the fall and endless crater easily express many metaphorical thoughts and wishes about the "1000-year" reign.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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