Clinton in the Bunker

23:02 Thu 08 May 2008
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I’m deeply conflicted about this little piece of video reworking. Partly because it’s unbelievably inappropriate on a bunch of levels—comparing the Democratic nomination struggle to World War II and comparing Hillary Clinton to Hitler, for example. Partly because it relies upon the audience not understanding German, which disturbs me for other reasons (and since I understand German to an extent, it’s also jarring). But the fact remains that, despite its being just wrong, it’s still funny—at least it is today. It’s extremely context-dependent, and months from now I suspect this piece will be regarded as something of an embarrassment. (The other context that makes it more acceptable somehow is that apparently the piece in question has been re-subtitled many times already for other things, and already constitutes a meme that is here being reapplied.)

I’m not convinced that I’m right about its being funny, either… I’m posting it more because I find the conflict it produces interesting than because I think it’s great comedy. The question of what our sacred cows are and how we treat them is an important one.

A question raised here, of course, is whether or not the makers of Der Untergang bear a lot of the culpability here. In this age, making anything into a media artifact throws it out as fair game to parody. Further, once the “serious” version exists, it can be critiqued and interpreted—parody is another form of critique and interpretation. This doesn’t mean that any interpretation, critique, or reworking is exempt from criticism itself, and clearly it’s possible for the original piece not to be grotesquely offensive while the derivative work is.

(I also find this reworking more suspect because it was made by Americans about American politics, and so the general American traits of ignorance about history, a sense of exceptionalism, and appropriation of world events as being about them all hang over it.)

Is the tension between “you’re trivializing one of the most horrific periods in human history” and “it’s just a movie, not history itself”? Or is the more interesting question the one about whether or not humor trivializes, about whether or not it’s fine for everyone (not just the survivors, particularly) to laugh at horrific events, or, finally, whether or not any objective answer to these questions is possible?

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