Anymore, most of the news about Russia and the United States’ rocky relationship with the sometimes friend, sometimes foe is anything but good or funny. However, the recent news coming out of Russia, while likely considered very serious to the Russian nation, is unbelievably funny and entertaining for the people of the United States and elsewhere as well. Russia is currently in the news for banning pictures of Putin dressed in drag. Yes, that’s right! The Russian government has actually gone out of their way to pass a law banning these photoshopped and otherwise doctored photos of their nation’s leader in women’s clothing and makeup.
The ban was actually for a specific picture of Putin in drag, wearing pink lipstick, over-the-top eye makeup and a glittery, feathery ensemble. This image has been labeled as “extremist propaganda” by the government. While this is all but unheard of in the United States, it is far too common in Russia. In fact, this latest image of President Putin in drag is far from the first item on this list of extremist materials. There are currently more than 4,000 items on that list, in fact.
The reason behind the placement of that image in drag on the list is even more strange. Apparently, it depicts the President as having a “nonstandard sexual orientation” and is therefore considered propaganda based on a 2013 law passed forbidding “gay propaganda” in the country. It is not surprising that the prevalence of pictures of Putin in drag has only gone up since that law was passed as the images are considered to be an act of protest.
These images of Putin in drag are amusing to say the least. And, the fact that Russia’s president feels so threatened by those images that he needs to ban them is also funny to those of us outside of the nation. But the ban and the power that the government has over everything that occurs in Russia is nothing to laugh about. This ban and the insistence of the Russian government to control everything including the sexuality and gender expressions of the Russian people is frightening and disturbing to say the least.
There are no limits to what the Russian government can do to the people of their nation. The control of images like this is something often attributed to fascist regimes including Nazi Germany and the current government of North Korea. A recent conviction came down in Russia against a man named AV Tsvetkov who circulated pictures of Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in Nazi uniforms may have also been the impetus that started the images of Putin in drag circulating again. The people of Russia that do not necessarily fall into line with the Russian government’s policies and beliefs need to turn to subversive means in order to have their voices heard.
It is important to see these images of Putin as more than just comical jokes. They are protests. They are the voices of the marginalized. And they are the opposition to an oppressive regime that is only becoming more oppressive and controlling with every item added to that long list of so-called extremist propaganda. These are important things to keep in mind as we as a people consider the current U.S. President’s possible relationship with Russia and Putin and whether or not our nation could be headed in the same direction.