Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture
Publication Year: 2007
Perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union transformed every aspect of life in Russia, and as hope began to give way to pessimism, popular culture came to reflect the anxiety and despair felt by more and more Russians. Free from censorship for the first time in Russia's history, the popular culture industry (publishing, film, and television) began to disseminate works that featured increasingly explicit images and descriptions of sex and violence.
In Overkill, Eliot Borenstein explores this lurid and often-disturbing cultural landscape in close, imaginative readings of such works as You're Just a Slut, My Dear! (Ty prosto shliukha, dorogaia!), a novel about sexual slavery and illegal organ harvesting; the Nympho trilogy of books featuring a Chechen-fighting sex addict; and the Mad Dog and Antikiller series of books and films recounting, respectively, the exploits of the Russian Rambo and an assassin killing in the cause of justice. Borenstein argues that the popular cultural products consumed in the post-perestroika era were more than just diversions; they allowed Russians to indulge their despair over economic woes and everyday threats. At the same time, they built a notion of nationalism or heroism that could be maintained even under the most miserable of social conditions, when consumers felt most powerless.
For Borenstein, the myriad depictions of deviance in pornographic and also crime fiction, with their patently excessive and appalling details of social and moral decay, represented the popular culture industry's response to the otherwise unimaginable scale of Russia's national collapse. "The full sense of collapse," he writes, "required a panoptic view that only the media and culture industry were eager to provide, amalgamating national collapse into one master narrative that would then be readily available to most individuals as a framework for understanding their own suffering and their own fears."
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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...6. Men of Action: Heroic Melodrama and the Passion of Mad Dog 159...
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The average human body contains between ﬁve and six liters of blood.The average Russian novel and ﬁlm contain far more. Nor is blood the onlybodily ﬂuid that threatens to spill out onto the page and the screen: con-temporary Russian books, ﬁlms, and televisions shows abound with beau-tiful women who are sexually available by deﬁnition—indeed, that would...
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This project has been with me for over a decade and has beneﬁted fromthe insight and support of so many people that I am afraid I cannot possiblyremember them all. David Bethea, Clare Cavanagh, Arlene Forman, andJudith Kornblatt, my teachers before this work began, continue to inspire mewith their example and their observations. Adele Barker and Natalie...
NOTE ON TRANSLITERATIONAND TRANSLATIONS
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The Library of Congress transliteration system is used in this book when-ever unfamiliar Russian words are introduced. For the sake of easier reading,however, when well-known Russian authors, politicians, and places arenamed in the body of the text, I have chosen the most familiar Englishspelling (e.g., “Dostoevsky” rather than “Dostoevskii”). The “Works Cited”...
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Less than half a year before Russia’s relations with the United States weresoured by the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the Russian State Dumabegan a war of words about an issue of no apparent signiﬁcance, althoughits subject was literally earth-shattering: the Hollywood blockbuster Ar-mageddon, whose depiction of a Russian cosmonaut wearing a fur hat as he...
Chapter OneABOUT THAT
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...“We’ll never understand it,” Anyuta tried to explain. “That wasWalk into any sex shop in Moscow, and with enough cash or the rightcredit card, you can buy a perfect plastic replica of international porn star JeffStryker’s erect penis. Clearly, the penetration of the Russian market has beena success. To make an analogy unlikely to grace the pages of a college entrance...
Chapter TwoSTRIPPING THE NATION BARE
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Khrushchev carefully unbuttoned his pants, pulled down his semi-transparent black shorts, freeing the leader’s swarthy, straining phallus. Spit-ting on his ﬁngers, the count [Khrushchev] began to tug tenderly at Stalin’snipple and moved his lips down the leader’s body—to his blood-engorged“Give me your ass, my sweet boy,” Khrushchev commanded him softly,...
Chapter ThreePIMPING THE MOTHERLAND
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In the old days, the boys’ ideal was the positive hero: the secretagent, the tank driver, just a good guy, and now they all imitatebandits. And the girls walk the streets. We’re becoming cheap la-bor for “Pepsi-Cola” factories, living merchandise, mail-orderbrides. The great and mysterious bear has been transformed into a...
Chapter FourTO BE CONTINUED
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...—Dar'ia Dontsova, A Kiss, Execution Style(Kontrol'nyi potselui)Violent crime in popular entertainment is ﬁrst and foremost a questionof storytelling. On the most basic level, violence demands more story thandoes sex. Consider, for example, the extreme cases in popular entertain-ment directed at roughly the same demographic (men): in pornography,...
Chapter FiveWOMEN WHO RUNWITH THE WOLVES
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At ﬁrst glance, the blood-soaked landscape of 1990s popular entertainmentwould appear numbingly monotonous. How many different ways can peo-ple be beaten, assaulted, and killed in the course of ﬁfty minutes or fourhundred pages? The cultural hegemony of violent crime in virtually allmedia (prose ﬁction, television, and ﬁlm) creates a self-perpetuating conﬁ-...
Chapter SixMEN OF ACTION
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Deep down I wanted to create a hero who was like I saw myself inmy dreams. To endow him not just with unbeatable strength, swifthis friends and merciless to his enemies. And honesty and justiceare as natural to him as breathing. . . . Intuitively I understood thatI needed a hero the sight of whom would inspire the fair sex to fall...
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...decided not just to live, but to live in harmony with herself andwhat she saw there—the pathetic or wretched remained up there,work—this must be how the different understandings of life anddeath, of good and evil, of beauty and ugliness, fall apart, when aBut can this essence really open up to a person only in a forgotten...
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With someone like him, things are easy, at home and at friends’.“If there’s no obvious breaking news, we start with the president.”In the summer of 2002, an unknown female duo called Singing Together(Poiushchie vmeste) released a surprise hit, literally singing the praises ofVladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the man who became president of the Rus-...
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Adorno, Theodor W. “Culture Industry Reconsidered.” Media Studies: A Reader.2nd ed. Ed. Paul Marris and Sue Thornham. New York: New York UniversityAgamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. DanielAitmatov,Chingiz. The Place ofthe Skull .Trans.NatashaWard.NewYork:Grove, 1989.Aksenov, Vasilii. “Matushka-Rus' i igrivye synochki.” Playboy July 1995: 50–58....
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Culture and Society after Socialism