I learned something important this week. For a few years now I’ve enjoyed the spoof videos based on a climactic scene from the movie “Downfall”. In the original scene, the character (called Hitler) comes to the realisation that he’s lost the war and breaks down, screaming abuse at his generals. It’s become popular to put fake subtitles under the scene suggesting that Hitler is angry about all manner of things.
Here’s one a friend of mine did recently where Hitler finds out about Apple Maps in iOS6:
The production company behind the film has tried to have the parody videos taken down from YouTube before on copyright grounds and I’ve never agree with that for a number of reasons. First, parody is fair use or fair dealing under almost any copyright regime in the world so the parody videos are legal. Second, I firmly believe the parodies have exposed the film to a much wider audience and so have actually been of significant commercial benefit to the film makers.
But I’ve discovered a reason these parodies maybe should be taken down and it has nothing to do with copyright. I thought “Downfall” was just another historical drama but it turns out Hitler was actually a real person. I know you might be shocked to read that but I checked on Wikipedia so I know it’s true.
This isn’t a case of me not wanting people to be disrespectful to a real person (anyone who’s seen my videos will know how important that is to me). I discovered that Hitler actually did some really bad things. Things that still upset a lot of people. So if you make jokes about Hitler it’s exactly as if you don’t take anything he did seriously. And you’re offending the memory of every single person who died because of Hitler’s actions.
The golden rule of comedy is “never make a joke that could possibly offend anyone. EVER.” That’s why there aren’t many good comedians in the world. Too many of them don’t take the time to make their jokes nice. Until we live in a world where nobody ever offends anyone, we are doomed to wars and suffering.
And those comedians who make jokes that offend people? They’re worse than Hitler.