Adolf Hitler is widely regarded as the most evil man of the 20th Century. From his violent and manipulative rise to authoritarian power in post World War I Germany, to the instigation of World War II, to his "Final Solution" and ultimate suicide as his plans fell apart around him, Hitler is the very model of the evil dictator who can rally the multitudes to follow his madness.
I'm not sure whether to call it surprising or not that Hitler has therefore become so widely referenced, mocked, parodied, and discussed in pop culture. Whatever else he was, he was certainly larger than life and makes an excellent metaphor for evil and template for totalitarianism. He was almost a living caricature himself, with his instantly identifiable mustache and drooping hairstyle, furious, ranting manner of speech, and habitual wild gesticulations.
As a character, he's been portrayed in parody by such comedy geniuses as Charlie Chaplin, Mel Blanc, John Cleese, Mel Brooks, Moe Howard, and Benny Hill. He's been played straight by film legends Anthony Hopkins, Alec Guinness, and Ian McKellen. IMDb lists no fewer than 400 appearances by the man himself in film, mostly from archive footage, and even more appearances as a character portrayed by other actors. Thanks to this massive exposure, Adolf Hitler has a Bacon number of 3.
He's even got his own widely-known geek culture reference in the famous Godwin's Law, to wit, the longer a discussion lasts, the more likely it is that someone involved will be compared to Hitler. "Worse than Hitler" is famously the harshest insult that most people can think of, and it's been thrown about so often that it's lost most of its meaning.
So just how pervasive is Hitler's exposure in modern pop culture, over 60 years after World War II? About a month ago I noticed that I was running across a reference to Hitler almost every single day. This was bordering on obscene. So I decided to start tracking and collecting hard data. The results were astonishing: between July 19 and August 19th, 2008, only two days were free of Hitler's stain.
I present to you:
A Month of Hitler
The Godwinning of Modern Culture
- July 19: SomethingAwful forum thread — "Post Your Favorite Hitler", in which people post their favorite pictures of Hitler, either parodied or straight. Of course included was the infamous "Hitler eating a watermelon" animation.
- July 20: I finish reading My Tank is Fight!, the book by Zack Parsons on insane military equipment that never quite made it past the design stage during World War II. Hitler is of course featured prominently, as many of these designs were German in origin.
- July 21: Wikipedia article on Mad Science references Project Paperclip as the source of the modern notion of the mad scientist.
- July 22: Russian contemporary horror novel Night Watch mentions Nazi Germany was a failed attempt by the forces of good to establish order and peace.
- July 23: Received Cartoon Crazys Go To War from NetFlix, featuring World War II era cartoons, some of which caricatured Hitler.
- July 24: Received Forbidden Zone from NetFlix, classroom scenes conspicuously portray a Hitler look-alike enrolled.
- July 25: SomethingAwful forums thread — Let's Post Confusing Shit! Forum member Atheist Sunglasses posts a picture of Hitler as a member of the emo subculture.
- July 26: SomethingAwful forum member Postbot3000's avatar features Barak Obama's head on Hitler's body.
- July 27: The popular Simpsons episode archive Springfield Nuclear Power Plant capsule 2F14 lists five references to Hitler in that episode.
- July 28: SomethingAwful forums thread — Let's All Draw Animes! Third submission in the thread is a kawaii version of Hitler.
- July 29: SomethingAwful forums thread — Cartoons Gone Bad. First post is a hamster dressed like Hitler.
- July 30: SomethingAwful forums thread — If You Laugh You Lose contains five Hitler-related posts. Additionally forum member popeonarope has a Hitler avatar.
- July 31: SomethingAwful forum user Rixen's avatar is a Hitler version of Ronald McDonald.
- August 1: SomethingAwful forum member boogs has a Hitler avatar.
- August 2: Cracked.com article: 7 Insane Conspiracy Theories that Actually Happened lists the plot to assassinate Hitler with a briefcase bomb.
- August 3: SomethingAwful forum member Hombreguesa has a Hitler avatar.
- August 4: Yahoo News article: Buried Nazi bunkers uncovered in Denmark.
- August 5: Fark comment thread on the 10 Stupidest Things in Dungeons & Dragons — Forum member Trivia Jockey posts a picture of Hitler rolling dice.
- August 6: SomethingAwful forum member Three Olives has a Hitler avatar.
- August 7: NO HITLER TODAY
- August 8: "Holiday" by Green Day plays on the radio, I haven't heard it in years. Contains the line "Sieg heil to the president gassman", an obvious reference to Hitler.
- August 9: Timeline of various Internet memes includes Godwin's Law.
- August 10: NO HITLER TODAY
- August 11: Fark comment thread on an article about novelty contact lenses contains a link to an animation of Hitler and Goebbels set to the Ievan Polkka music (performed by Loituma), made famous by the leekspin animation.
- August 12: SomethingAwful forum thread — Good Idea / Bad Idea contains three Hitler references.
- August 13: News story about a t-shirt shop in France selling shirts based on historical signage received attention due to a shirt featuring anti-Semitic sign from Nazi Germany. T-shirt shop claims ignorance of the meaning due to foreign language.
- August 14: New e2 writeup: Everything Hitler did was legal posted by Noung.
- August 15: SomethingAwful forums thread about a strange looking teapot prompts another user to post a picture of a teapot in the shape of Hitler's head.
- August 16: YouTube video "#1 MSU Fan in the World" provides fake subtitles to a tense German-language movie scene featuring Hitler and his top generals, turning it into commentary on American college football. kalen informs me the footage was taken from Der Untergang, starring Bruno Ganz as Hitler.
- August 17: SomethingAwful forum thread — Photoshop Cigarette Warnings. Hitler emoticon stamped over a "Jewport" brand cigarette package.
- August 18: Fark comment thread on an advanced video editing technique that would allow unprecedented video fakery prompts a user to post a picture of Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels.
- August 19: SomethingAwful Comedy Goldmine "Adventures in Racism" asks forum members for stories about racist family members, one user provides a story of his Alzheimer's-ridden grandfather saying that Hitler had the right idea. Additionally forum thread "Explodingdog Redux" contains a picture of Hitler bleeding from his crotch.
- Pop culture is obsessed with Hitler.
- I spend too much time on SomethingAwful, the source of about half my Hitler sightings.
- I'm adding to the problem, this is my second Hitler node.