The date: January 6, 2008.
While the news media (this journalist included) were fixated on what the Iowa caucus meant and the New Hampshire Primary would hold for the nation, another long, hard-waged war was coming to an end. The day before the Consumer Electronics Show, Warner Bros. hopped off the high-definition fence and announced that it was throwing its discs in with Blu-ray and would no longer offer HD-DVD.
Oh, the horror. Wal-Mart, Woolworth's, and Netflix all followed suit and announced they would no longer offer HD-DVD products. The format war was over.
Some people were slower to accept defeat than others. Paramount and Universal, both eventually committed HD-DVD supporters, succumbed to the pressure to switch to Blu-ray. But Adolf Hitler, leader of the Third Reich, apparently was a die-hard HD-DVD devotee.
Here's what happened when his generals informed him of the futility of further battle for HD-DVD supremacy:
That's only one version of Hitler's HD-DVD tantrum. Here's a second.
Obviously, those aren't the original subtitles. The clip is the pivotal scene from the two-and-a-half hour, physically-exhausting German film Downfall from 2004, which follows Hitler and his supporters in their final days hunkering down in the bunker as Allied Forces storm Berlin. Maybe it's testament to my disorientation in this fog of politics that I completely missed this YouTube meme. I only heard about it through James Adomian (the comedian who plays George Bush on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and in the new Harold & Kumar movie) after he crafted a version based on Hillary's defeat in the South Carolina primary.
As Adomian explained, this meme has goes back awhile, with Hitler moaning about everything from losing his car to getting banned from his Xbox live account when the Dallas Cowboys got beat by the Giants, and, perhaps most bizarrely, when the '90s metal band Dream Theater had its concert venue switched in Perth, Australia.
"There's been different versions of it. It's always when some disaster happens to somebody, people will come along and make a spoof of that," Adomian says.
But the reason the clip works as a meme isn't because of the wit of the subtitle-satirist, but the scalpel-accurate cinematography and editing: the quick pans, focus changes and reaction shots. Hitler's pauses for breath slam into the gut harder than his invective.
It's getting to the point that next time they release Downfall, it'll need to be the "Viral Meme Edition," with all these little mash-ups. Of course, if they release it on Blu-ray but not HD-DVD, they'll face the fury of the fuhrer.