Skip to Content

Weaponizing Absurdity

Raunchy Russian Cadets Set Off Wave of Political Solidarity

The spreading solidarity shares something with the scene in Spartacus where everyone says, "I'm Spartacus! ... No, I'm Spartacus!" when the Roman army is trying to identify the leader of the slave rebellion. It also reminds me of being a male teenager and “mooning”. When you think about it, that sort of thing probably was a bit “gay” in the sense Freud, Jung and the rest of them considered all humans to be bi-sexual somewhere on a continuum. As for mooning, there were different styles; for instance, when one pressed his ass-cheeks against the window in the backseat of a car during a drive-by mooning, it was known as a “pressed ham.” Nowadays, in our exceptional, late-capitalism culture, in some circles it’s great sport to moon passing AMTRAK trains.

Masha Gessen wrote about the "Satisfaction" phenomenon in a New Yorker article titled "How Russia’s Hilarious, Homoerotic 'Satisfaction' Became a Nationwide Meme of Solidarity". The article has links to a number of the videos, which Gessen suggests one watch to get the full humor of the phenomenon. Gessen is an outspoken Russian lesbian and LGBT activist with children who is against marriage for everyone. She was dismissed as editor of the Russian popular-science magazine Vokrug Sveta when she refused to send a reporter to cover Putin hang-gliding with cranes. She is currently a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her recent book The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia won the 2017 National Book Award. She disdains both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Here's how she described the "Satisfaction" phenomenon:

"Given Russia’s official and highly politicized homophobia, these parodies are pure protest, raunchy and playful. They demonstrate that Russians can still form horizontal connections, despite the state’s monopoly on the public sphere, and despite the threat of harsh penalties for protest in general and 'propaganda of homosexuality' in particular. Each clip is at once a show of solidarity with a group of young strangers and a show of ordinary people’s ability to organize and act together—an ability that the state would seem to have stamped out. Many of the videos involve a fair amount of staging, choreographing, and shared risk; most culminate with a scene in which a dozen or so young men dance together, whether in the laundry room of a student dormitory or underwater.

The original video of "Satisfaction" and the initial parody that set off others in solidarityThe original video of "Satisfaction" and the initial parody that set off others in solidarity

"As the videos continue to replicate, they become, generally, less sexy and more funny. But in most cases the last scene is still pointedly homoerotic. This is remarkable in a country that’s not only deeply homophobic but has also been in the grip of an anti-gay campaign for some six years. Performing homoeroticism is, as it turns out, the real power tool when it comes to sticking it to the authorities."

story | by Dr. Radut