Hitler's out of Dope: A cross-cultural examination of humorous memes

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Abstract

This contribution will compare an excerpt from the film Downfall (Der Untergang) – depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler's rule over Germany – to parodic subtitles added to the scene in three languages: English, Hebrew and Spanish. Different versions of this scene were uploaded to YouTube by users featuring subtitles in different languages, supposedly a translation of the German original, creating an Internet meme. The subtitles added tend to describe trivial issues relevant to users' daily lives; the present paper will investigate one theme, which is Hitler's imaginary search for recreational drugs. The comparison will focus on the pragmatic mechanisms which constructed the parody and humor in the videos. The discussion will rely mainly on Hutcheon's (1985) view of parody as a form of repetition, which marks difference instead of similarity, maintaining a critical distance; and on the concept of incongruity and register humor (Attardo, 1994). Reactions to humor will be judged based on the comments published by web users after watching the videos. It is argued that the subtitles' treatment of such a mundane topic, especially compared to the original subject, forces changes, such as the register; and those constitute the element of difference in parody and are also what causes the incongruity associated with humor. All in all, it seems this form of gallows humor was mostly well received, and in tune with users' sociocultural presuppositions and metapragmatic stereotypes on humor (Tsakona, 2013).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-39
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Volume149
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Hitler rants
  • Humor
  • Internet memes
  • Parody
  • User comments

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