By Danielle Ryan
Negative depictions of Russia in American and British news and entertainment media are hardly new — but at least as far as I can tell, there’s certainly been an uptick over the past 12-18 months, and it coincides nicely with a major US government-led anti-Russia messaging campaign which has also spilled over into much of Western print and broadcast media.
Gratuitous mentions of Russia and Vladimir Putin where they are not necessary are becoming tiresome. For me, the last straw was sitting down to watch Bridget Jones’s Baby last month and being subjected to an entirely unnecessary and irrelevant subplot about the anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot and their struggle for free speech. It was the last straw because it was just one more in a long line of useless allusions to big bad Russia that seemed to come from nowhere.
In the Netflix political drama House of Cards, Pussy Riot — the real ones this time — got their own cameo alongside evil Putin (not the real one). But even when there isn’t a major storyline attached to Russia, somehow the country frequently gets thrown in anyway. Russia is still the go-to country when there needs to be a joke about scary or immoral foreigners. There are endless examples.
In NBC’s Scandal, one character suggests Putin might randomly invade Belarus. In CBS’s Madam Secretary, one character spews the line: “I can’t go back to Russia, it’s a pigsty.” In the recently released movie Bad Moms, one of the bad moms, protesting something or other which I can’t recall, shouts “What is this, Russia?” The short-running show Allegiance was entirely about a Russian sleeper cell in the US which was suddenly reactivated and whose members — now fully adapted to blissful life in America — no longer wanted anything to do with Russia. How original.
NBC’s Blacklist has given us multiple Russian baddies and the sitcom 2 Broke Girls has made its fair share of Putin jokes. The third installment of The Purge introduced us to a gang of menacing Russian “murder tourists” who take advantage of the annual 12-hour period during which any crime, including murder, becomes legal. I could go on, but you get the idea: Russians are bad.