Hoo boy, do I have a special treat for you today (and tomorrow, as well !)
I have a special two-part guest post written by none other than “Lyttenburgh”.
Who is Lyttenburgh, you might ask? That is a very good question. Lyttenburg has been described by my confidential sources as “an unapologetic Slavic Justice Warrior. Was banned for having unpopular opinions and supporting Russia in the midsts of NSG’s daily anti-Russia shitposting bombardments. Many sources believe that Lyttenburgh is either a Russian FSB agent, or Vladimir Putin himself.”
Since 2011 Lyttenburgh has been
diligently trolling I mean posting comments on forums dealing with Russian history and politics, with all-too predictable results: Getting his ass banned. Until he found a more sympathetic ear at the Kremlin Stooge, and also my très humble Avalanche, both of which sites can be considered Beacons of Free Speech and Democracy, unlike those other asshole blogs.
As part of his spy duties, when not posting on blogs, Lyttenburgh has been watching a lot of that decadent bougeois American television. For the purposes of pure research, of course. He finds that the medium is blindingly anti-Russian. I mean, like the Russians are ALWAYS the bad guys, so what’s up with that? But enough from me, I’ll let Lyttenburgh share his insights with you in his own words, as he analyzes a popular show called “Call Me Madam“. Oh wait, I got that wrong, the name of the show is “Madam, I’m Adam“. No, wait, still wrong, it’s called “Madam Secretary“. This show airs on the American network CBS.
Legal waivers [to be pronounced in a muted yet rushed voice]: “The opinions and insights expressed below have nothing to do with CBS, it goes without saying; nor myself (I have never seen a single episode of this show); the opinions and insights are all Lyttenburgh’s, and he gets the blame for everything!”
THIS ONE RUSSIAN EPISODE:
Pilot – “Madam Secretary”
Hello, hello and welcome to the very first installment of our show! My name is Lyttenburgh, and I’d like to talk about the portrayal of Russia and Russians in the Western TV Series.
Russian themes in their various forms have appeared in the Western entertainment media for a very long time. It is, probably, via these fictionary portrayals that the vast majority of the Westerners have “learned” anything about Russia, while the creators of this kind of media – expressed their “knowledge” and attitude to all things Russian.
While there are a lot of books and films created by the Westerners, which specifically deal with Russia or Russians, there exists another media, where Russian themes are no less prevalent. I’m talking about the TV series. The particular genre of series doesn’t really matter – even if the show doesn’t make this its central theme, there is a good chance that, sooner or later, there will be one particular episode dealing specifically with Russian themes. It might be a “monster of the week” approach, when this particular theme is dealt with as an exotic one-shot episode, that barely has any connection to the main plot of that TV Series, or it might become a recurring theme cropping from time to time during the entire show’s run.
My review deals specifically with “This one Russian episode” phenomena. In our time and age the TV series are more numerous and they have, arguably, a bigger number of viewers than books or movies. Besides, despite the fact, that Russian themes are often portrayed in TV shows of different genres, the portrayal itself often has many common traits.
Sadly, nearly all these portrayals are often so clichés-ridden or just plain bad that even one such “Russian” episode can spoil the whole experience of the entire TV show for anyone who actually knows a thing or two about Russia. Or, you know, to the real Russians. The thing is – Russians are people too, and in our globalized age of the fast Internet they have access to the same entertainment and informational media as any Westerner. Despite this self-evident fact, creators of various shows and films rarely care what actual Russians will say (or how loud they will be doing it) after watching their latest “masterpiece”.
First, Let’s Review Some Basic Facts About Russia
Over the years the Western portrayal of Russia managed to “acquire” a number of stereotypes that are known colloquially in Russian as “the cranberry” (клюква). They vary from the stupid and slightly amusing to downright offensive ones. Here I present you a short list of the main attributes of the Russian stereotyping that can be encountered in all forms of fiction:
- Vodka. In Russia everyone drinks it like water, from the newborns to the elderly.
- Russian cuisine. All Russians eat borsch daily, sometimes, with pierogi and (preferably black) caviar.
- Bears. Thousands of them! In Soviet Russia ™ bears wander freely on the city streets in ushanka’s, drink vodka, ride unicycles and kick the crap out of everyone with their trusty balalaykas. In media there must be some bear reference when dealing with Russia no matter how far-fetched and unrealistic it must be. [Leningrad Polytechnic: “Go Polar Bears!” – seriously?]
- Balalayka – every Russian owns one and can play it. It’s like “Natural skill” for all Russians.
- Matryoshka – the only toy the Russian children play with.
- AK-47. The weapon of the “Team Evil” ™, dastardly stolen by the Soviet evil genius from bright and talented German engineers.
- Cyrillic alphabet – is just the Latin one, only more primitive with backward looking letter. All complaints about grammatical inaccuracies are promptly ignored.
- Pseudo Russian naming conventions. Epic faily. Omnipresent. Incurable.
- Russian Mafiyah. The ultimate brutal bad guys completely devoid of any redeeming human qualities.
- KGB. A sinister Order of Evil that have spread its tentacles all through the Free World ™. Its agents are fanatically devoted to the Motherland and Party, are spiteful, crafty and nearly indestructible. Nearly all Russians are connected with KGB in one form or another.
- Winter. Russia is always cowered in snow, no matter what time of the year or place. Russians can bring snow and chill with them even abroad – a well known fact widely believed by the Western Enlightened Public at least since the Great War.
- Ushanka (and other “typical Russian clothes”). Russian are either too poor (or too stupid) to wear anything else.
- Churches with onion domes and wooden huts (izbas). The must have in any portrayal of Russia. Without them audience may not even believe that it’s Russia (even with bears in ushankas drinking vodka in winter).
- Ivan the Terrible, Rasputin and Stalin – the most often mentioned Russian historical personalities.
- Cossacks – Elite of Russian Army (even in the Soviet period), the bearded papaha wearing bloody bastards good only for pogroms.
- The Red Army – consist slightly less then entirely of winter-uniform wearing (no matter what climate or the time of the year) poor sods of all ages (as if people here serve in Army their entire life). All Russian hardware must look decrepit and malfunctions all the time. Russians ultimately don’t know how to fight and are using exclusively “zerg-rush” tactics.
- Red color, “Hammer and Sickle” – must be everywhere. Even in portrayal of the modern Russia – otherwise, how would enlightened Westerner realize it is Russia?
- Everyday life – all Russian men work either for KGB, or Mafiyah or some combination of the two. Russian women are either seductive femme-fatales with the top-model looks, or just ugly as Hell. Naturally, all work for KGB, but dream of defection.
- Beard. All Russian men must be bearded. Period. Nothing, even facts and logic, can go in the way of it.
- “Comrade” and “Nazdaroffye” – Russians really say this all the time – if Hollywood is sure of it, then why doubt?
- Russians are the bad guys. Period.
Now, after establishing some (not all… definitely – not all!) of the most glaring stereotypes about Russia that regularly appear in the Western media, let’s review one particular TV series and see how it presents Russia and its people.
Madam Secretary is a new American TV show that premiered last year and already continued into its second season. Unsurprisingly, the main character in “Madam Secretary” is a STRONK (as Poland) INDEPENDENT (as the Ukraine) WOMAN (who is also married and with 3 kids – “we need votes from the proponents of the family values, Hilary“). Her team is a collection of token characters: a Jewish chief of staff, black press-coordinator (both STRONK INDEPENDENT WOMEN), ambiguously Asian nerdy speechwriter, a white male personal assistant (who is gay). Oh, and another staffer who is a straight young father of a charming young girl – but he is a Southerner. You know – just to cover all possible voters’ demographics!
The premise of the show is “Oh, if only Hillary had remained the Secretary of State!” Instead of giving us some commentary on the real life events (both current and from recent history) and demonstrating to us the “right way” to solve all those blunders that the US have FUBARed during the last couple of years (decades?), the creators of the show give us the pure purity of StateSec Elisabeth McCord, who wants to solve worlds problems with hugs and kisses (and the indiscriminate use of the black ops/mercs). Instead of any long time strategy or tough moral choices she waltzes through every single crisis due to her incredible luck and her ideological opponents’ unbelievable stupidity. What, is this Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in a nutshell? “Vote for me and we will be lucky!“?
Also – take a drink every time the U.S. solves international problems in this show using international forums, conferences, direct diplomatic channels or in concert with other countries. Oh, wait! There is no such thing! Sorry, you are in a dry season here.
So, what this kind of a show (which enjoys rather… healthy ratings and is more or less popular with its viewership) can offer us in Russia portrayal department?
Take a deep breath. You are in for a wild, wild ride!
[to be continued]