bagheeraface

Why We Laugh at Hitler

In Culture on September 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

For those of you out-of-the-loop (it’s okay, it’s a small loop right now), there is a new webcomic on the the march. And when I say “on the march” I mean that literally. The webcomic in question is one “Hipster Hitler.”

Yes, you read that correctly. A webcomic. About Hitler. As a Hipster. If you don’t believe me, then check it out: http://hipsterhitler.com/

The problem I have with the webcomic is that I *don’t* have a problem with it and that, in turn, makes me feel guilty.

Why?

Because it’s Hitler. And I’m laughing at him. I’m laughing at a man who tried to wipe an entire people of the face of the earth.

But, I have to confess, for a history buff (and closet hipster), the webcomic appeals on many levels: it’s historically smart, it’s creative, and it’s also visually appealing. To say nothing of it’s prefect characterization of all that is “hipster.” If you don’t know what I mean, watch this video and then get back to me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5dIzY7yvRA

But, as I said, and as you might say, it’s a webcomic about Hitler.

Well, maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it shows we can laugh at the things that terrify us the most. To dork this post up even more, lets think about this in Harry Potter-terms:

Hitler, or anyone like him (i.e. Vlad the Impaler, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden), is a boggart and in order to destroy said boggart we have to laugh at it. Laughing at something shows that we either believe it to be amusing or absurd. Since we can’t laugh at Hitler as a genuine source of humor (because, you know, genocide is hi-larious) then the only alternative is to think of it as absurd.

I laugh at Hipster Hitler because it’s a joke: literally. Hitler was never a hipster. Hitler never wore a t-shirt that read “Eva 4 Eva”. Hitler never invaded a country on a bicycle (to save gas, of course) with a single grenade and a bag of cashews. All of these, however, occur in the webcomic.

So, perhaps it could be fair to say that laughing at a monster (or something we believe to be a monster) is how we can defeat it. Maybe one long laugh wouldn’t do the trick (this isn’t Monty Python), but hell, it’s a start. Maybe if a few more people had originally laughed at Hitler as absurd, and his belief’s as ridiculous, them maybe the Second World War would never have occurred. Maybe tens of millions of people wouldn’t have died. Maybe.

But hey, hindsight is 20/20…and when it comes to what you laugh at, John Lennon said it best: “Whatever gets you through the night it’s alright, alright.”

This comic was reposted with the permission of the Hipster Hitler crew.

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  1. One could argue that Hitler’s motivation, methods and success are no more absurd than what still occurs today. Racism, slavery, genocide, homicide and infanticide regularly make the evening news as families gather to watch. When someone makes a threat or a derogatory remark, does the victim laugh because it is absurd? No, the victim most commonly reacts with fear or anger. Perhaps the laughter at a Hipster Hitler web comic comes from neither amusement or absurdness, but rather stems from a culture of desensitized persons accustomed to “pushing buttons” and “taking it too far.” Some of the most popular television shows in North America are the ones that are offensive and crass. Newspapers and magazines often falsify information to make a particular situation look much worse or more dramatic than it actually is. That’s what sells, because that’s what our culture wants. Once a new “level of offensive” is reached, people get used to it and must have a higher “level of offensive” to be interested or entertained. Or perhaps the humor exists because is it beyond our comprehension, in the way children laugh at a joke they don’t understand because other people are laughing. Unless a person has personally endured the level of trauma and pain caused by the Holocaust, there is no way to understand how atrocious and vile such a massacre could be.

    I will argue that it is not in our human nature to overcome tragedy through laughter. There is no “beating” Hitler or the Holocaust, especially if it was never a personal battle to win. Laughter may be beneficial in a stressful or depressing situation, and may help to overcome small obstacles. However, laughter at a Hipster Hitler web comic is not derived from stress or depression. It comes from our desire to laugh at offensive or inappropriate material, and it may come from a sense of pleasure or security that our generation was not victim to such a crime.

    During a personal interview I conducted for a journalism class, I was offered an alternate perspective on the Holocaust from a woman that lost family in the genocide. Her father narrowly escaped a concentration camp and moved to the United States with his wife. Although free from Hitler’s bloodthirsty grasp, her father struggled with his decision to “come to America.” He expressed that “what was happening” in America were the same things that started the Holocaust in Germany. He thought he would be free from all oppression in “the land of the free,” but quickly realized that he was still surrounded by racism, terrorism and the alienation of “abnormal” people. On his deathbed, he begged his daughter (my interviewee) to stay vigilant and RUN if the violence against minorities (ethnics, homosexuals, women, any religion, etc.) got worse.

    Well, has it gotten worse since the 40’s and 50’s? Is it plausible that another Holocaust could occur, and that any one of us could be victimized?

    I think that it may be a more reasonable assumption to say that laughing at Hipster Hitler is more likely to be from amusement, as our culture would endorse, rather than a desire to deal with something that is absurd.

    And on that note, I would like to say that the web comic was absolutely hilarious, I enjoyed each comic on the website and even bookmarked it for future entertainment purposes.

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