Jan 11, 2020 in Analysis

Representation of Russia and the Russians in GoldenEye

A contemporary world is full of stereotypes and preconceived ideas. In many cases, people, who judge or characterize each other, as well as nations of other countries, are guided by cliche portrayed in mass media. Such stereotypical viewing of individuals allows people to feel as if they know something about them. While preconceived ideas are more often negative than not, they demonstrate a quite interesting understanding of the people who create and follow them. In this regard, it is crucial to investigate stereotypes and attitudes held by Americans towards Russia and the Russians. Whereas mass media, specifically movies, have become a source of information and influence on the audience, the focus of this paper is a movie GoldenEye. This is a thriller from the Bond films that reveals relationships between America and Russia. Therefore, taking into consideration the Cold War period, Americans' cultural perceptions, and western hegemony, GoldenEye represents Russia and the Russians as cruel and ruthless killers, villains, and seductress-spies.


In GoldenEye, the main character is a British agent who is sent again on a mission to save the world. In this case, James Bond has to deal with Russia involving a madman who makes attempts to destroy the world, a worthy female opponent, and a pretty Russian computer programmer who becomes a lover of the main character. In the movie, Russia is portrayed as an outdated country that has not changed the established order. Although at the beginning of the movie a villainess Xenia Onatopp says Mr. Bond that everything has changed in Russia, specifically that it has transformed into a country of opportunities, later the audience sees a completely opposite situation. Thus, neither Russia and its government nor people living in it have changed. For example, the explosion on the Russian Space Weapons Control Center is arranged by the Russian general and spy, whereas the government claims that it is an accident during the training. In this respect, in a conversation with the head of MI6, James Bond says, “Governments change, the lies stay the same”. Thus, these words emphasize the fact that nothing has changed in Russia. In fact, there is no progress in the country that attempts to become the most powerful state in the world. 

Throughout the movie, Russia is always portrayed as a cold and winter country. At the beginning of the movie, James Bond together with the agent 006 performed the mission in Russia. Arkhangelsk Chemical Weapons Facility where the two agents came was surrounded by mountains covered with snow. Moreover, Arkhangelsk is a city located in the north of the country where usually is cold and snowy whether. When Bond arrived in Russia for his next mission, it was again in winter. In this respect, such representation of Russia displays stereotypical viewing of the country as always cold and chilly state. Moreover, an organization where Bond's companion Natalya Simonova works is situated in the snowy forest. When Natalia survives after an accident and comes out she sees nothing but trees covered with snow and sled with huskies. Thus, the stereotypical understanding of the particular country is perfectly supported by its representation in GoldenEye. In fact, Russia is depicted as a faraway and snowy country where it is always cold and where there is nothing but the dense forests and big mountains.

Taking into consideration western hegemony and the Cold War period, Russia was regarded as one of the dominant countries on the political arena. In GoldenEye, the Russians view their state in the same way: an advanced and progressive leader that is allowed to govern the world. The representation of the Russians, specifically Xenia Onatopp and Boris Grishenko, demonstrates the arrogance and pompousness of these people. While Xenia praises Russia and its achievements, Boris openly claims that Americans (the citizns of an opponent country of Russia in the Cold War) lack intelligence. Moreover, the main villain in the movie, Alec Trevelyan, attempts to take revenge on the government that has betrayed his parents. He is Lienz Cossack and a former MI6 agent who is led by the great desire to destroy Britain's economy. In this respect, a certain tendency can be observed – Trevelyan together with his Russian friends oppose the western world viewing it as an enemy. Thus, the representation of the Russians as vindictive and opinionated people perfectly matches stereotypes about them.

Moreover, Russians are portrayed as arrogant people who consider Americans stupid. For instance, there is an episode where Boris, Russian computer genius, hacks the security system of American Department of Justice. Once a man succeeds in hacking into an FBI database, he says, “Better luck next time...Slugheads!”. Thus, Boris considers himself a genius of computer technologies, whereas actually he is an arrogant misogynist who dismisses female computer skills, as well as sexually harasses women who work with him. Viewing themselves as very intelligent and technologically advanced, Russians only confirm the stereotypes of limited and overconfident people. At the same time, nervousness and lack in restraint are also characteristic features to the Russians. For example, Boris' nervous habit is a constant clicking ballpoint pen that once has led to the accident. The main villains in the movie, Arkady Ourumov and Alec Trevelyan are also characters with nervous habits – they constantly kill and punish people who disobey or interfere them. Therefore, the Russians in the movie are represented as arrogant and impulsive people who consider themselves invincible and the most developed nation in the world.

The movie contains many scenes and episodes where the Russians are depicted as villains and brutal murderers who are able to kill their own agents and people, specifically when they make mistakes. Thus, Arkady Ourumov kills a soldier when he has disobeyed him and opened fire. Later, the general betrays his country and shots down Russian Defence Minister Dimitri Mishkin. Furthermore, Xenia, an antagonist in the movie, is portrayed as an extremely sadistic villain. The woman is a sexual sociopath who likes to play with her victim before she murders him or her. In one scene, Xenia is killing all the military personnel and technicians on the Severnaya station getting great satisfaction from the process. When the female character murders a Canadian admiral, she also achieves a big pleasure from taking one's life. Although both Ourumov and Xenia are depicted as cold-hearted villains, the former does not show his feeling and emotions, whereas the latter openly enjoy murdering people. Thus, the two representations of the Russians can be singled out: the cold and unemotional killers and insane sociopath. 


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