Hillary’s Downfall

I’m still trying to figure out my response to “Hillary’s Downfall,” a viral political video that takes scenes from Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s movie about Adolf Hitler, and matches the scene with subtitles expressing Hillary Clinton’s outrage at being pushed out of the nomination by Barack Obama. I initially found the video at techPresident, and my initial reaction was similar to Alan Rosenblatt’s, in that I found the video pretty offensive. I’ve never really liked the Hillary-Hitler comparisons in large part because they play into conservative talking points about Clinton’s policies, but generally speaking, I find the use of Nazi imagery to score political points somewhat troubling (as I discussed in my review of Expelled a few weeks ago).

Still, it’s difficult not to find aspects of the video very funny, particularly the satire of Clinton’s unwillingness to drop out of the race despite there being no evident path for her to win the nomination. And apparently, Hillary’s Downfall is actually part of a wider subgenre of YouTube videos that use scenes from Downfall edited with new subtitles to mock Microsoft and Nintendo, among others. On the whole, though, I’m not sure the funnier moments of the video rescue it for me. I’m still left with the visual equation between Clinton and Hitler and I can’t quite shake the initial reaction of finding that comparison offensive.

If I’m being too sensitive on this point, please feel free to use the comments to convince me to change my mind.

Update: Karina went and did a little more research on the Downfall meme and raises an interesting point. Downfall made about $5.5 million in U.S. box office, but many of the repurposed Downfall clips have been viewed well over a million times, suggesting that scenes from the film have likely been seen more often, in the U.S. at least, in these remixes than in the film’s “original state” (to use Karina’s phrase). It is important to note that many of the YouTube views likely came from non-U.S. users, although the subtitles do require at least some knowledge of English, and “Hillary’s Downfall” requires at least a passing knowledge of U.S. politics. I think Karina is right to speculate that the Downfall meme may do little to promote the original film, although I did consider adding it to my Netflix queue after seeing some of the clips. I’m still troubled by the comparison between Hillary and Hitler, but the issues of media and political literacy implied in the reception of this video is actually a little more interesting than I originally suggested.

Update 2: Happened to notice that the original version of “Hillary’s Downfall” was pulled on the basis of copyright violation.  Here is another version of the same video.

6 Comments »

  1. McChris Said,

    May 11, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

    Chuck, I wonder if you’re familiar with Godwin’s Law, which states “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” I suspect it applies to nearly all political discussions on- or off-line. It’s probably not the case here, but I suspect some people will invoke National Socialism to bring a discussion to a premature conclusion, and I’ve got my own corollary for motorist interactions….

  2. Chuck Said,

    May 11, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

    I’d herd reference to Godwin’s Law but I’m not quite sure I’d matched it up to that particular principle. That being said, my own experience indicates that Godwin’s Law is basically true. I’m definitely an Obama supporter, but yeah, for the most part this video seems designed to shut down discussion rather than open it up.

  3. Tama Leaver dot Net » Blog Archive » That Hilter Meme Said,

    May 23, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

    […] Chuck Tryon has some interesting thoughts about a version of this meme which parodies Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become the […]

  4. The Chutry Experiment » Return of the Downfall Meme Said,

    October 28, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

    […] in May, I wrote a brief entry on the “Downfall Meme,” in response to Hillary’s Downfall, a YouTube video that […]

  5. The Chutry Experiment » The Downfall Meme Never Dies... Said,

    July 6, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

    […] reacting to the news that Sarah Palin has resigned from her position as Governor of Alaska.  I originally wrote about the “Downfall Meme,” a creative use of web video in which users substitute […]

  6. The Chutry Experiment » Mocking Cameron, or How I Learned to Love the Downfall Meme Said,

    August 30, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

    […] I first encountered the meme with the famous “Hillary’s Downfall” video, I felt somewhat conflicted, admiring the creativity while ambivalent about any text that equated an American politician with […]

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