The Portrayal of Americans VS Russians

Think of the most horrifying person you’ve seen on television, or in a movie – did that person, by chance, turn out to be Russian?  After the Cold War, the ocean between Russia and America became larger.  Hollywood, being a company on the rise – chose to grab a hold of the opportunity.  At the time Russia was viewed as a Communist superpower, basically a big dude with a big red gun.  Hollywood was intelligent, they grasped the most terrifying thing that people saw in society, and portrayed it as an image of a villain.  Little did they know that twenty-four years later, that image would still stand? What makes a Russian so scary? What are the general stereotypes of a Russian in the media and how much are really true? What does Russian media have to say about America?

Before we get into the media, let’s examine that which makes America hate Russia, and vise versa. “The Cold War was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact).” [1] After WWII Nazi Germany was no longer a high power, leaving only the USA and Russia as the two superpowers of the world, defaulting both nations into a state of unrest and political tension. Avoiding mass destruction, the two superpowers never directly fought, but indirectly used smaller country’s civil war’s, to pick which side those countries will join.  With tension building up, Hollywood propagandized their multimedia villains as Russian. Why not, you might ask? It makes sense if the country is terrified of ‘the boogey man’.

If you enjoy an American action or thriller movie you have probably noticed that the Russian guy is portrayed as the bad guy. Comedian Dan Soder makes a joke, “Russian’s are the Scariest White People.” [2] Even though he is a comedian and he is portraying it as a joke – there is truth in what he is saying. If we look back at the Cold War, it was clear political tensions between the two countries where not so high, but twenty-four years later, are they still that bad? Steven Kurutz in ‘Russians: Still the Go-To Bad Guys’ states: “I suspect screenwriters and studio executives have deemed Russians to be politically safe villains. No advocacy group will protest. No foreign distribution deal will be nixed.” [3] I believe this is the biggest reason for Russia continuing to be depicted as the villain for so long. There really isn’t anyone to fight the media on this. Being a Russian, I have to say that there is something satisfying about it. When people find out my nationality, they are taken aback, stepping back, raising their gaze to my face. It’s amusing, and makes me feel a little better about myself. Being portrayed as a scary person was satisfying in high school, because people left me alone and didn’t bother me. Now, what kind of stereotypes does the media have for Russians, regarding Americans?

I am sure that many have seen the famous film ‘The Punisher’. In The Punisher, there is a fight scene where a huge Russian guy fights Thomas Jane, The Punisher. It seems as if this big guy is the perfect definition of a Russian who is portrayed in the media. A big, violent man with a tight shirt, and a dumb look on his face. The following is a list of Russian stereotypes, which are mostly not true. All Russians love vodka. Pretty Russian women are brides and gold-diggers. Russian ladies are submissive and just cook a lot. We are anti-laughter. Everyone wears those furry hats (ushankas). Russia is basically one giant ice cube. Russians have pet bears. We only read Dostoyevsky, Pinsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov. Russians miss the USSR and they’re Communists at heart. Everyone is in the Russian Mob. All of us are bad drivers. Russians are homophobic. Russian ladies are especially vain. We’re insanely rude. We’re nuts. Russians like weapons. We have our own version of Winnie the Pooh. [4] We all have a long last name. First off, we don’t all like vodka – I don’t even drink. Being a man, I don’t know a women’s intentions, but I would like to say that they aren’t just porcelain dolls on a shelf. I have to say, Russian ladies have a cooking feature built into their genetics – they can all cook amazing food and a lot of it, but they are not submissive. If you have hung around me or my friends you will know we are not anti-laughter, but quite the opposite. Everyone I know owns a furry hat, although not all of us wear them. Siberia is the only place that basically is an ice cube. The rest of Russia gets the same weather as the US. I wish we could have pet bears, that would be absolutely amazing. Truthfully, I don’t like Russian books – they tend to be over-dramatic, but my mom loves them. I have no comment on Communism – that is a personal life choice, and not something that can be explained by me – someone who lives in the USA. We are not all in the Russian Mob, even if we dress like it. We Russian men like to drive a little faster, but the woman are absolutely crazy drivers. Yes, we are nuts and crazy and rude, but we are naturally more aggressive. Russians don’t like weapons any less than Americans. I do have to say that our Winnie the Pooh is better than the American version.

Finally, I wanted to look at Russia’s media and how they portray America. In my research, I found something very interesting. Russia had very limited movies in which America was promoted to villain status. What was more interesting, was how no matter if the movie was American or Russian, Russia dealt with the issue of the given plot in said show or movie, by using violence and force. The American bad guys were always the business corporations that are ruining society. In the movie ‘Brat 2’, a few brothers in arms come home from serving in the military, to find that their town has been occupied by the mob. The first movie sequel is about how they cleanup their streets of the mobsters. In the second movie sequel, they go after the American business men who think they are safe, because of the ocean between the two countries. To their surprise, the brothers make it to America, and terminate the corrupt business officials. [5] It was really interesting to find out out that the Russia community would rather turn to violence to solve an issue, whereas the American community would not. Jenya states in ‘Russians: American Film Antagonists’, “I have never seen a Russian-made movie that depicted Americans with the same level of vitriol, though I am sure they must exist.” [6] Jenya is right, there are very few movies about American villains – but when there are, they aren’t portrayed as evil as expected. America doesn’t need anyone to make fun of them, they do a great job of it themselves. The US is known for hiding from the rest of the world. That was how they fought WWII and the Cold War. They believe that having a large body of water in enough to hide them. Fortunately for the rest of the world, the US is destroying itself from within – but that is a different subject, for another day.

In conclusion, answering the previous questions. What makes a Russian so scary? What are the general stereotypes of a Russian in the media and how much are really true? What does Russian media have to say about America? What makes a Russian horrifying, is the natural build that a good portion of us are born with, and also the fact that Hollywood has shown us as the bad guys. Hollywood, in doing so, programs Americans from a young age, that Russians are indeed villains. Above, we went through a list of stereotypes – and interestingly enough, there was a good portion of them that made sense and were true. The most interesting thing that I found, was the lack of Russian media that portrayed Americans in a bad way. This research project was intriguing, and forced my eyes open to a few political situations which I previously was not prone to.



MLA Citations:

[1] “Cold War.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 17 May 2015.

[2] “Russians Are the Scariest White People.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 17 May 2015.

[3] Kurutz, Steven. “Russians: Still the Go-To Bad Guys.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 May 2015.

[4] Vaynshteyn, Gina. “Bustle.” Bustle. N.p., 24 Nov. Y2014. Web. 17 May 2015.

[5] “Brat‚ 2 – Trailer (2000).” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 17 May 2015.

[6] Jenya. “Russian Language Blog.” Russians: American Film Antagonists. Transparent Language, n.d. Web. 17 May 2015.

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About jrdrey94

Hello I am a student studying Electrical Engineering. I went to collage right out of high school. I got a job just before turning 17 to pay off school when I finish high school. Growing up all I ever wanted was to leave Portland and do something else. Now that I am in collage I don't think that is the case anymore. I like anything outdoors. Basically I love the country, but the benefits of the city.

2 thoughts on “The Portrayal of Americans VS Russians

  1. Hi jrdrey94,

    I totally understand where you are coming from when you say that Russians are portrayed as villains. Not to backlash on America but it sucks that our U.S. Society always have to view themselves was the greatest. Growing up in America, I was taught that Christopher Columbus was this great man that discovered America. I was never taught that we stole this land from the Natives. According to Teacher Vision, we are taught this way because our society wants us to be proud of being an American. Is it fair that Americans make themselves feel proud by denying the past or looking down on other countries. Having the media portray many ethnicities in the wrong way. Is any of this fair? I really enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work!

  2. Good job on your blog post. I feel that all of us are seeing how powerful popular culture can be in influencing our perceptions of people. I liked how you gave example from the other perspective, from Russian eyes. I feel a lot of the US opinion on Russia was created during the cold war in order to give the Americans something to fear. We can see the same thing with terrorism today. I think a lot of these characteristics commonly bestowed on Russian maybe came from stories of how ferociously they fought in WWII. Anyways you gave good examples from several sources and did a good job of interpreting them.

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