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A eulogy for the vanishing “Hitler finds out” meme.

A eulogy for the vanishing “Hitler finds out” meme. (photo)

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Ten years ago, when the internet was young(er) and people still used terms like “the information superhighway,” it would’ve been difficult to foresee a future in which a three-minute Hitler tirade would become one of the web’s hardiest punchlines.

It’s been a while since Hitler on screen was an untouchably serious subject — on Nickelodeon’s “Hey Arnold!,” he was beaten up by Arnold’s grandpa, while in “Little Nicky” he had a pineapple shoved up his ass.

But that kind of taking-evil-down-a-notch humor isn’t the same thing as the well-known Hitler meme currently being pulled from YouTube by Constantin Films, the production company that made 2004’s “Downfall.” If you’re unfamiliar, it involves the resubtitling of a climactic bunker scene in the film to make it appear that Hitler is throwing a tantrum because Sarah Palin’s resigned, or because there’s no camera on the iPod Touch, or because he wasn’t able to get tickets to “Billy Elliot” on Broadway. The blog Department of Alchemy has a long consideration of the thing.

When watching “Downfall,” the splenetic final rant that spawned this meme didn’t even register with me — the movie’s essentially a repetitive 150-minute loop into the downward spiral of the Fuhrer’s last days that gets tedious fast. Whoever started this (possibly YouTube user DReaperF4) saw something there that was easy to miss, cut it out, and exposed the fundamental absurdity.

04202010_nicky.jpgAccording to director Oliver Hirschbiegel, who was interviewed by New York, “The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons, making them real and their actions into reality. I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like.” But these YouTubers aren’t mocking Hitler so much as the idea of a movie that tries to explain evil through ranting and raving. Undercutting that pretension with some strong words about the Xbox is really the only sensible response.

Defenders of the meme who are trying to claim fair use insist that its popularity might encourage people to watch Hirschbiegel’s film. But how could anything else top what they’ve already seen? If “Downfall” is remembered in years hence, it won’t be for Hirschbiegel’s understandable but unachievable goals. It’ll be for creating an unusually persistent internet virus that outlived its subject matter, and for pushing Hitler humor to a new level of acceptability — into straight-up “Adult Swim” fodder.

[Photos: “Downfall,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2004; “Little Nicky,” New Line Cinema, 2000]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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