Wed, 07 Jun 2023

Russia in American movies - starter pack

03 Jul 2022, 04:55 GMT+10

What is a typical American movie about Russia and the Russians like? We have drawn up a list of the compulsory components of "Russianness", as recounted by Reddit users.

A fake and horrible Russian accent

At this point, as a rule, you begin to realize that you have a Russian character in front of you. What gives them away is their strong accent or what the makers of the movie regard as a Russian-sounding accent.

"This pissed me off so much in the Marvel movies. They have hundreds of millions in their budgets, but can't afford a good Russian actor or at least voice coaching... ? It's so lazy," writes czaremanuel.

Walter Hill/TriStar Pictures, 1988

"I'm watching 'Orange Is The New Black' and, holy f*ck, they couldn't even make a couple of Russian characters sound maybe a little tiny bit like real Russians. Every time they say anything in 'Russian' they get every, I repeat, every stress wrong and their speech is completely illegible," notes JenniferOrTriss.

"Russians are always portrayed as villains, which I can't stand. But also, in a lot of movies, the actors playing Russian characters can't speak Russian very well, with very obvious accents and mistakes in pronunciation and stressed syllables. I could barely understand what one of the characters was saying in this one clip from an American superhero movie, for instance, if it weren't for the captions," writes SomeHomestuckOrOther.

Russian names

Guy Ritchie/Columbia Pictures, 2000

"Boris. Why always Boris?"

If there is a Russian character, he is invariably called 'Boris'. Moreover, Boris is not even among the most popular men's names in Russia. "Worst thing is, they always make the stress wrong. It's not boris, it's boris."

And if the character is not called Boris, then, more likely than not, he is going to be Vladimir, Ivan or Alexander. At some point, Vladimir is likely to be shortened to Vlad, which is the short form of a different name altogether - Vladislav, but what the heck.

"And there is always a 'Dimitri' guy," says Entire-Guard.

Fake Cyrillic

Doug Liman/Kennedy, Marshall Company, 2002

Use Cyrillic - any old how. Many still remember the biggest epic fail: Jason Bourne's Russian passport has his name written as 'Ащьф Лштшфум'! "Seems like they just turn on the Russian language on the keyboard and press the same buttons as they did on the English keyboard," says reptiloidruler.

Yes, it is indeed so. Ащьф Лштшфум is gibberish. It may look convincing to those who've never studied Russian, but to anyone who knows the Russian alphabet at least a little bit and can read it, it looks like a load of bizarre visual guff. This happens all the time: Take, for example, 'Independence Day' (1996) with its non-existent city of Novosyoyrsk, or 'Red' (2010), in which, at minute 45, a combination of words appears on the screen that makes no sense whatsoever.

The nightclub scene

David Cronenberg/BBC Films, 2007

"You forgot the nightclub scene with neon blue/red/purple lighting with some pumping techno playing... pumping techno hard bass playing," writes captain_finnegan.

We explained the Russian hard bass phenomenon at length here and Hollywood must have heard of it, too. A nightclub appears to be an ideal habitat for a Russian villain (as a rule, he is a Russian mafia godfather).

Sometimes, instead of a nightclub, it is a "bath house with naked, fat guys" with voices "that sound like they've been smoking since before they were born". And "usually there are not many good Russian villains, they are mostly cringe," others noted.

Always the villains

Christopher Nolan/Warner Bros. Pictures, 2020

"You forgot a well dressed Russian villain," says ErwinRommel4419.

Russians are usually portrayed by Hollywood as classic villains. The Russian good guys can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

"You know that a movie has a weak plot line when there's a villain character who has no real motives to be a villain except for the fact that he's from Russia (Andrey Sator from Nolan's 'Tenet', 2021)," users write.

"Men usually are short, have buzz cuts and gold chains, while the women are very tall and hot," says mexus37. Furthermore, if a woman is a "villain", it's 99 percent certain she's a spy.

The sexy female spy

Joss Whedon/Marvel Studios, 2012

All Russian heroines are femmes fatales, including the female spies. They are stern and fanatical women devoted to the regime, whose hand can falter in only one circumstance.

"Hot Russian spy who grew up in orphanages and is a stone cold killer and uses sex as a weapon and has done it over a thousand times. But, as soon as she has sex with hot American spy, she becomes anti Russian and can't kill him," according to demogorgon_king.

Yes, it makes no sense at all, but that is the way almost all Russian female spies behave in Hollywood movies.

Grey filter

Paul Greengrass/Universal Pictures, 2004

Has it struck you that, in the movies, Mexico is often shown through a yellow filter or in sepia, Australia in the most vibrant colors, while Japan, as a rule, at night with neon lighting? As for Russia, it has quite the opposite "filter" to any of these.

"I don't know who originally came up with the rule that Moscow has to be color graded like a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea," ponders sam__izdat.

"Russia is blue, sometimes with a tinge of greyscale," says amandaxzee.

"Put on a blue filter, make the set slightly foggy, film during a cloudy day and, boom, you have Russia in pretty much every superhero movie," PuzzleheadedMouse9 points out.

It's probably just the way filmmakers try to convey the cold Russian climate (or its stereotype), but, the end result is as "if it was still in the Communist USSR days". Only the UK can perhaps compete with Russia when it comes to its place on the Hollywood "greyscale".

Forever winter

Guillermo del Toro/Columbia Pictures, 2004

"Nonsense, according to American movies, not only is it blue in Moscow, it's also always snowing," says Phantom_61.

While it may be true that it is always snowing somewhere in Russia (the total area of Russia's Arctic territory is in the order of 3 million sq. km or 18 percent of the whole country), this plainly does not apply to Central Russia or, specifically, Moscow.

Nevertheless, there's snow all year round. "It may be summer in the U.S., but, somehow, when they go to Russia, it's suddenly snowing and freezing cold," notes bararumb.

Communists, vodka and the Kremlin

Adrian J. McDowall/Netflix, 2019

"Every opening shot of Moscow in U.S. thrillers contains the Kremlin (with optional marching soldiers), snow and serious Russian music, regardless of season," ChayD comments.

The usual trope of the Kremlin with the Lenin Mausoleum next to its walls backfired on the makers of 'The Last Czars' on Netflix: In showing the Kremlin in the year 1905 they failed to remove the mausoleum (the first mausoleum, which was made of wood, only appeared after Lenin's death in 1924).

What else? "They drink vodka without anything after and they say na zdorovye when nobody in Russia says it," other users recount.

And, naturally, they still address one another as 'Comrade', because they are all still devoted to communism.

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