Professor Nina Khrushcheva follows how Russians are portrayed in American pop culture and especially in film. She was recently cited in a BBC article, Hollywood stereotypes: Why are Russians the bad guys? which highlights the use of stereotypes that have made Russians out to be the “bad guys” since the Cold War era. Her own articles on the subject include: As if things weren’t Badenov: Even in good times, Russians are villains in Hollywood, and Putin face-off: Make Schwarzenegger our man in Moscow. In them she discusses how Russians have been portrayed as villians in Hollywood movies over time and why Arnold Schwarzenegger should have become a US Ambassador to Moscow.
Action movie villains are often former KGB agents or Russian mobsters and this trend has not changed much since the height of US-Russian tensions and shows no sign of changing in the near future. Nina notes that “you can’t even turn the TV on and go to the movies without reference to Russians as horrible”.
This is not to say that other races, ethnicities and nationalities have had their moments of playing the villain. Since 9/11 Arabs have increasingly been portrayed as the evil doer in American cinema and historically speaking, Germans and Japanese were the “bad guys”, especially around WWII.
Movies have the power to influence powerful figures, even heads of state. Nina states that “Vladimir Putin has been significantly influenced by Hollywood’s parade of evil Russians. “He moved into that villainous image that was presented by Hollywood of Russia or Russian leaders. He watched all those movies. He was like, ‘Well you’re going to portray me as a villain anyway, so I might as well go and start biting off other parts from other countries.’”
Related to this topic, Professor Nina Khrushcheva’s exhibition Romancing True Power will open on February 12, 2015 at Pasons’ Arnold and Sheila Aronson Gallery, 66 Fifth Avenue. The workshop will address the relationship between those who hold political power and the power of their films around the globe.
Stay tuned for news and updates on the show and possible workshop on Dictators as Directors in Spring 2015.
Please contact Yiqing Wang (email@example.com) if you are interested in the Parsons show and/or the workshop.