Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Where Spiderman and Jack Sparrow are Defeating the Russian World Every Day

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – Much ink has been spilled on the conflict between the television and refrigerator for the hearts and minds of Russians; but an even more important battle may be raging between Western culture and Russian values – and it is one that in Belgorod Oblast, at least, Western values are winning out hands down among the young.

            That is the conclusion offered by Dmitry Bosov in his study of the reactions of young Russians to the heroes they see in films (“Western Mainstream Cinematography as a Factor in the Socialization of Russian Students,” Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, Seria 7: 4(30) (2015): pp. 139-144).

Yesterday, the editors of Tolkovatel portal excerpted and summarized Bosov’s findings  (ttolk.ru/), suggesting that the sociologist had chosen Belgorod “not by chance” because it is “a model region for present-day Russia,” one that gives the incumbent regime the highest levels ofsupport including for Moscow’s repressive laws.

In his study, Bosov noted that “among the 125 Western films” Belgorod young people have watched, 122 were from the US or the UK. That in turn means that globalization isn’t about the dialogue of culture but about “the domination of the world of mass culture in its American and English-language forms.”

Belgorod young people like Western films about fighters and comedies, but “in essence, Bosov continues, the two “forma  single picture of the world which is based on action without reflection (the militant films)  and a definite cynical view on the world (the comedies) with a laughing dismissal of traditional and modern values.”

Indeed, the sociologist argues, these two kinds of films reinforce one another, promoting anti-intellectualism and action without reflection. And those values, he says, are the ones that are “spreading in the student milieu [of Belgorod oblast] under the impact of mainstream cinematography.”

The four favorite movie heroes of the students are Blade, Spider Man, Jack Sparrow and James Bond, Bosov says, all of whom are expressions in extreme form of the typical “mass man.”  They may have abilities greater than others, but they are people of action rather than reflection and promote the idea that genius is somehow equivalent to “madness and criminality.”

“In present-day Russia,” the sociologist continues, “almost in all spheres of spiritual-artistic and aesthetic life, mass culture and art of the American type have penetrated. As a result, young people evaluate others not by their work of creative achievements but by their bank accounts.” 

Bosov draws the following conclusions: American films are “stigmatizing” work and intellectual achievement even as they celebrate thoughtless violence and anti-intellectualism, and they are leading Russian young people to conclude that “primitive bodily strength” is the basis of who wins, something that is leading to “the demoralization and degradation” of society.”

Tolkovatel says that if one translates this from the language of sociology into everyday speech, this means that in one of the most Russian areas of Russia, young people are increasingly oriented toward “Western ideals of life, admittedly in a hypertrophic form,” a development that means that Russian state propaganda has finally and irretrievably lost ‘the information war.’”

Or put in even more common language, the Russian portal concludes, it means that the heroes of Western mass culture like Spiderman and Jack Sparrow “are winning” the battle with “the Russian World.”

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