Skip to comments.Meanwhile, in Russia: Buzzfeed, Russia and the west
Posted on 12/02/2013 8:58:21 AM PST by cunning_fish
A middle-aged woman lies on a rug, propped provocatively on one elbow; spread out next to her is a gigantic catfish. A young man in a wifebeater and bandana wields an AK47 in his right hand and a vacuum cleaner in his left. A skinny ninja poses in front of a rug on a wall
Welcome to the world of Russian dating. Or rather, to the internets version of Russian dating sites. Buzzfeeds latest detour into the wacky world of kerraaazy Russia has been something of a viral hit: 28,000 Facebook shares may not be a record, but its pretty good from where Im standing. The photostorys success can be attributed to its fusion of two viral favourites: the dating site freakshow and Mother Russia, the inscrutable and inebriated land of dashcams and dancing bears.
As with a lot of recent virals, the lure for punters is the promise of something weird and inexplicable fresh meme-meat for a jaded online audience. In the attention marketplace of the internet aggregator, novel ranks high on the list of virtues, alongside simple, sexy and feline. It is no coincidence, then, that in the past few years Russia has become a rich hunting ground for easily consumable visual content (This special relationship took on an official character when market leader Buzzfeed chose the Guardians Russia correspondent Miriam Elder as its new foreign editor). The Russian-language internet has all the characteristics necessary to be the perfect fail-farm for those in search of a photo-fix: it is huge and active (with 70m users in 2011, its Europes biggest internet market) and, in contrast to inaccessible behemoths China and India, the dweebs and doofuses starring in Russian photobombs and facepalms dont look so very different from English-language users.
(Excerpt) Read more at calvertjournal.com ...
(Im aware of the multicultural make-up of western internet users, and, in fact, of Russian society; but dont pretend that bored-at-work viral sites, or the internet, or even culture in general, reflects this diversity.)
Unlike their counterparts from, say, Austria or Canada, Russias loons and losers continue to be characterised by their country of origin: theyre not subsumed into the homogenous online country of Internetia; the word Russian always has to feature in the title. Russianness has, it seems, become a powerful online brand, a good way of guaranteeing clicks and thus ad revenue.
There are several reasons for this. First, there is indeed a certain aesthetic that means a photograph can be identified as originating in Russia, or at least the Russophone post-Soviet space: the ubiquitous wall-rugs, the squatting men in tracksuits, the omnipresent combed-down fringes.
"Russia is not the wests antagonist anymore, but its slightly unhinged stepbrother"
Second, because the Russian language is incomprehensible to most, the images are unmoored from any context and become more open to different interpretations. Its telling that Buzzfeeds non-Russian version of the dating photostory coupled the images with captions: as cringe-inducing as these are, they humanise and rationalise the subject of the image. An inability to read Russian means you can turn a blind eye to existing explanations, and to the actual origin of most images many pictures in the dating selection had nothing to do with online romance at all. No explanation, just action.
Finally, Russia works as a viral brand because most people at least both know what and where it is, and have a few preconceptions that will tempt them into clicking a link. A quick look at the comments below these articles seems to suggest that Russia is returning to its traditional position in global culture, after the long aberration of the twentieth century. Russia is not the wests antagonist anymore, but its slightly unhinged stepbrother familiar, similar even, but also very different. The polarities of the Cold War era, when Russia was constructed as the opposite of the dominant American culture, are now over. In fact, their last gasp may have been the now moribund In Soviet Russia meme originated by Seventies comic Yakov Smirnov. You know it: In America you can always find a party; in Soviet Russia the party can always find you etc repeated ad infinitum. Its essentially a verbal re-enactment of the logic of superpower rivalry, with Russia as the inverse of America: all the same words and ideas just turned the other way around.
"To drinke drunke is an ordinary matter with them every day in the weeke"
As that meme has faded, the internets dominant discourse around Russia has come to be one of unbridled excess, the triumph of the impulsive id over the whiny ego: while people in the west are gazing whinily at their twentysomething navels, the Russians are drinking, climbing big buildings and swearing at flaming lumps of space-rock. This reputation for untrammelled emotion originated long ago, but was interrupted by the Cold War, which turned Russia into a byword for scientistic rationalism. In The Russian Point of View (1925), Virginia Woolf gave her not inaccurate summary of Russian literary culture and, in particular, Dostoevsky:
Indeed, it is the soul that is the chief character in Russian fiction. It is formless. It has slight connection with the intellect. It is confused, diffuse, tumultuous... Against our wills we are drawn in, whirled round, blinded, suffocated, and at the same time filled with a giddy rapture.
Across the eras the idea of Russia as a spiritually freer, less rule-bound alternative to western society has prevailed. A place that is on the edge, literally and metaphorically. This image is also, of course, eagerly promoted and exploited by Russians looking to emphasise their spiritual exceptionalism. Go back even further in time and English traveller Jerome Horseys account of the Russia in the reign of Ivan the Terrible could be a comment on YouTube:
To drinke drunke is an ordinary matter with them every day in the weeke. . The whole countrie overfloweth with all sinne of that kinde. And no marveile, as having no lawe to restraine whoredomes, adulteries, and like uncleannesse of life.
"Russia may have regressed even further, back to its medieval role as 'Barbarous Tartary'"
One thing has changed, however: with the introduction of new homophobic legislation, there are now plenty of laws against alleged "uncleannesse". Luckily for online aggregators, reports on these quasi-medieval governmental invasions into bedrooms and classrooms are also eminently clickable. The internets penchant for mix-and-matching evil tyrant stories with freewheeling freakshows also feels like a return to pre-Soviet models. The USSR might have been the Upper Volta with rockets, as US diplomat Dean Acheson memorably described it, but contemporary Russia may have regressed even further, back to its medieval role as Barbarous Tartary home to vicious despots, dog-headed men and not much else. Its reminiscent of the classic orientalist model of the east: the cruel, vain, impetuous sultan may strangle civil society, but, compared to the buttoned-up west, it is a land of adventure and boundless possibility.
Its not a completely false portrait and some things are just not going to change. While we can hope against hope for political change, we know for sure that portly provincial princesses will continue to pose in front of rugs in leopard-print lingerie; that skinny nerds will always think that nunchakus will make them irresistible; that Russians will still be lousy drivers. To rescue its online reputation, therefore, Russia needs a collection of YouTube-era Dostoevskys and Gogols, native Russians who can keep in all the trademark crazy that westerners love, but inject it with homegrown genius and rational, intellectual brilliance. Well still get the Slavic kicks we crave, and therell still be all sorts of imperialist issues at play, but at least the Russian component will be acknowledged as something more than an affinity for the inexplicable.
The Volga doesn’t have Russian plates. Where is it...Belarus?
It might be Belarus or Poland.
What is a bear doing in that taxi? Where’s he going? Is he paying the fare? What about the tip? Do bears tip well?
Jamie Rann sounds like artistic Illuminati. How much of this reflects Russia and how much is time wasting jackass stunts for "click" traffic?
Hilarious Video. Leopard Hangs out of an Audi. Soldier returns Home
siberian tiger out on the streets in Russia
In fact you can see a lot of these there.
It seems to be Photoshopped. There’s no body of the bear visible through the rear window.
A comment following the article says Belarus.
If this keeps up, I’m gonna start believing all those shots of Putin riding bears and tigers.