The Red Machine: The Dehumanization of the Communist Enemy in American Cold War Cinema
Keywords:image of Russia; Cold War; US cinema; image of the enemy; dehumanization; propaganda
This article deals with the US Cold War cinematographic construction of the Soviet enemy. The researcher focuses on the means of dehumanising the communist enemy, external and internal, by equating it to a machine. The author applies Nick Haslam’s dual model of dehumanization (2006), according to which dehumanization is visible in two main forms: animalistic, by associating members of the out-group with animals, and mechanistic, by associating them with a soulless machine. The materials used consist of US films from the “Long Fifties”, in which Hollywood, equating the enemy to machines, developed three plots: the robotic existence of individuals in a totalitarian society; the transformation of Americans into zombies by communists by means of Soviet science; and the body snatching of Americans by an alien mind, an allegory of a future communist occupation of the USA. The article demonstrates that dehumanization was implemented by directly labeling the representatives of the communist world as robots and by attributing to them a lack of emotions, consciousness, will, individuality, initiative, warmth, love, friendship, creative abilities, and even the ability to smile. Such an image of the enemy implied a moral exclusion, treating them as an inanimate object unworthy of empathy, including in the event of their destruction. The author points out that the use of mechanistic dehumanization was very effective. Essentialization of the differences between “us” and “them” occurred: the symbolic border between them is presented as a boundary between living and nonliving. The image of mortal danger was created: the “Red Machine” is strong and merciless, it cannot be moved to pity, and so it is permissible to destroy it. This image contributed to the legitimation of power: the political opponents of the authorities are represented as internal enemies who are anxious to turn Americans into obedient executors of someone else’s will and to deprive them of humanity. At the same time, the machine also has weaknesses, and it is possible to defeat it: since it is devoid of human creativity, it is clearly inferior to the free human spirit embodied in America.
Aho, J. A. (1994). This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy. Seattle, Univ. of Washington Press. 224 p.
Alpers, B. L. (2003). Dictators, Democracy, and American Public Culture: Envisioning the Totalitarian Enemy, 1920s–1950s. Chapel Hill, Univ. of North Carolina Press. 405 p.
Bonnell, V. E. (1997). Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin. Berkeley, Univ. of California Press. 363 p.
Crenshaw, K. W. (1991). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. In Stanford Law Rev. Vol. 43. No. 6, pp. 1241–1299.
Davydova, O. S. (2019). Illyuzornaya ideologiya: kak neigrovoe kino SShA prevratilos’ v orudie Kholodnoi voiny [Elusive Ideology: How American Nonfiction Films Became a Cold War Weapon]. In Terra Aestheticae. No. 2, pp. 82–105.
Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U. S. Hockey Team (2001 TV Movie). (2001). In YouTube [website]. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=29&v=CDBuPpalXI4 (mode of access: 12.12.2019).
Dunne, M. W. (2013). A Cold War State of Mind. Brainwashing and Postwar American Society. Amherst, Univ. of Massachusetts Press. 300 p.
Fedorov, A. V. (2017). Otrazheniya: Zapad o Rossii / Rossiya o Zapade. Kinoobrazy stran i liudei [Reflections: The West about Russia / Russia about the West. Cinematic Images of People and Countries]. Moscow, Informatsiya dlya vsekh. 389 p.
Frayling, C. (2006). Mad, Bad and Dangerous? The Scientist and the Cinema. L., Reaktion Books. 240 p.
Harle, V. (2000). The Enemy with a Thousand Faces: The Tradition of the Other in Western Political Thought and History. Westport, Praeger. 232 p.
Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: An Integrative Review. In Personality and Social Psychology Rev. Vol. 10. No. 3, pp. 252–264. DOI 10.1207/s15327957pspr1003_4.
Hendershot, C. (2001). Anti-Communism and Ambivalence in “Red Planet Mars”, “Invasion USA”, and “The Beast of Yucca Flats”. In Science Fiction Studies. Vol. 28, pp. 246–260.
Jahn, H. F. (1995). Patriotic Culture in Russia during World War I. Ithaca, Cornell Univ. Press. 229 p.
Keen, S. (1986). Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination. San Francisco, Harper & Row. 199 p.
Kenez, P. (2008). The Picture of the Enemy in Stalinist Films. In Norris, S. M., Torlone, Z. M. (Eds.). Insiders and Outsiders in Russian Cinema. Bloomington, Indiana Univ. Press, pp. 96–112.
Krugman, P. (2016). Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate. In New York Times [website]. 7 July. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/22/opinion/donald-trump-thesiberian-candidate.html (mode of access: 10.09.2019).
Leyens, J. P., Demoulin, S., Vaes, J., Gaunt, R., Paladino, M. P. (2007). Infra-Humanization: The Wall of Group Differences. In Social Issues and Policy Rev. 2007. Vol. 1. No. 1, pp. 139–172. DOI 10.1111/j.1751-2409.2007.00006.x.
Martin, L. (1990). The Red Machine: The Soviet Quest to Dominate Canada’s Game. Toronto, Doubleday. 293 p.
May, E. T. (1988). Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. N. Y., Basic Books. 284 p.
Palmer, W. J. (1993). The Films of the Eighties: A Social History. Carbondale, Southern Illinois Univ. Press. 335 p.
Peacock, M. (2014). Innocent Weapons: The Soviet and American Politics of Childhood in the Cold War. Chapel Hill, Univ. of North Carolina Press. 304 p.
Porshneva, O. (2014). Image of the German Enemy as Perceived by Russian Army Soldiers during World War I. In Quaestio Rossica. Vol. 1. No. 1, pp. 79–93. DOI 10.15826/qr.2014.1.024.
Riabov, O. (2013). “From Russia with Love”: obraz SSSR v gendernom diskurse amerikanskogo kinematografa (1946–1963 gg.) [“From Russia with Love”: The Image of the USSR in the Gender Discourse of American Cinema (1946–1963)]. In Obshchestvennye nauki i sovremennost’. No. 5, pp. 166–176.
Riabov, O. (2017). Gendering the American Enemy in Early Cold War Soviet Films (1946–1953). In J. of Cold War Studies. Vol. 19. No. 1, pp. 193–219. DOI 10.1162/JCWS_a_00722.
Riabov, O. V. (2019). Zhenshchiny natsistskoi Germanii v zerkale sovetskoi karikatury (na materiale zhurnala “Krokodil”) [Women of Nazi Germany in the Mirror of the Soviet Caricatures (Materials from the “Crocodile” Magazine)]. In Ural’skii istoricheskii vestnik. No. 3, pp. 84–92. DOI 10.30759/1728-9718-2019-3(64)-84-92.
Robin, R. T. (2003). The Making of the Cold War Enemy: Culture and Politics in the Military-Intellectual Complex. Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press. 296 p.
Rukavishnikov, V. O. (2005). Kholodnaya voina, kholodnyi mir: obshchestvennoe mnenie v SShA i Evrope ob SSSR/Rossii, vneshnei politike i bezopasnosti Zapada [Cold War, Cold Peace: US and European Public Opinion on the USSR/Russia, Foreign Policy and Security of the West]. Moscow, Akademicheskii proekt. 863 p.
Sharp, J. P. (2000). Condensing the Cold War: Reader’s Digest and American Identity. Minneapolis, Univ. of Minnesota Press. 232 p.
Shaw, T. (2007). Hollywood’s Cold War. Amherst, Univ. of Mass. Press. 352 p.
Shaw, T., Youngblood, D. (2017). Cold War Sport, Film, and Propaganda: A Comparative Analysis of the Superpowers. In J. of Cold War Studies. Vol. 19. No. 1, pp. 160–192. DOI 10.1162/JCWS_a_00721.
Stevens, J. W. (2010). God-Fearing and Free: A Spiritual History of America’s Cold War. Cambridge, MA, Harvard Univ. Press. 448 p.
Strada, M. J., Troper, H. R. (1997). Friend or Foe? Russians in American Film and Foreign Policy, 1933–1991. Lanham, Scarecrow Press. 278 p.