09Feb09 — 14 Яolcats Via Ben Goldacre, “English Translations of Eastern Bloc Lolcats“. Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailReddit Related Golly! Not Dead
Speaking of Carol Thatcher.
Yes, the proprietor of Яolcats seems to think that the only experience most English-speaking westerners have of reading Cyrillic script is on merchandise based on Soviet-era government/party posters and has invented alternative captions for contemporary Russian-language LOLcats in a similar style. The results appear to be mocking Communist propaganda.
I hope my post linking to that site didn’t offend any Stalinists amongst my readers and would like to apologise in particular for any hurt caused to members of the tiny minority of Russian citizens who remain nostalgic for a more glorious age.
I’m a bit worried that by focusing on Stalinist tendencies – conclusively proven by a TV phone-in vote – you’re missing the full extent of the comedic talent displayed on that site. What about that hysterical allusion to Russia’s other major contribution to the world’s culture, the mail-order bride? Or am I being unfair? Were you too distracted creasing up at the mafia references?
Look, I probably set the tone for snark in my first response, and you’ve responded in kind, fair enough. It’s your gaff, and I’m not a regular commenter.
But if I can ask a serious question, do you really think I’m over-reacting to find that depiction of Russia depressing, if not downright offensive?
I’ve been through all this before when someone got upset by my linking to a site baiting Nigerian 419 scammers, without noticing that I was, in fact, born in Nigeria and the bastards are, in fact, mostly Nigerian, and Nigeria, is, in fact, a deeply corrupt country, and, despite my being a generally law-abiding person, the activities of less law-abiding Nigerians have, in fact, make it that much harder for me to get through customs at airports and border checkpoints around the World—because Nigeria, the country, puts up with them. Sometimes I’m stopped because I’m brown; sometimes because of my place of birth. The former is racist; the latter isn’t.
It is also, in fact, the case that I spend large slabs of my time cleaning Russian mail-order bride (and other) spam, originating, in fact, in Russia, from a variety of Websites. It originates in Russia because it’s tolerated in Russia. Making jokes about Russian mail-order brides or the Russian mafia is like making jokes about British orthodontics or dodgy cockernee geezers putting on disguises and gahin’ robbin’: these are relatively unimportant attributes of the respective countries, but ones with a conspicuous overseas profile and a basis in fact. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but it’s not racist and it can be funny.
Do I get upset about Hollywood villains being bald Englishmen? Well, maybe a bit.
By the way, why don’t you think the ungrammatical babytalk and the obsession with cheeseburgers that people project onto US LOLcats are crude stereotyping of the intelligence and taste of the people of the United States of America? At least the Soviet cats have a rich vocabulary and know how to spell.
[I cannot believe I am having this argument. When will people stop perceiving insults where there are none and just grow a pair?]
[No offence to neutered cats was intended by the above comment.]
To be honest, never having really considered the cheeseburger as emblematic of America, I tend to take the whole lolcats thing as a comment on the taste and intelligence of people who latch onto internet memes. One of my minor gripes at the site is that the original Russian captions are, as you say, quite erudite. Granted, it’s erudition judged by lolcat standards, but still, they tend to be considerably better efforts than the cod-Russian remarks in the Яolcats translated version. (You’re never going to tell me that the deliberately inaccurate “translation” is a sophisticated gloss on the linguistic inaccuracy of anglophone lolcats, are you?)
I don’t think I’d have an issue with a site having a go at Nigerian 419 scammers; from your account, it seems clear the salient point was the scamming, not the Nigerianness. Where I think this site differs is that it sets the lickle fluffy beasts up as Russian – Russian, mark you, not Soviet – and then attributes one of a very limited range of consistently negative qualities, as a direct property of that Russianness. And that’s what ticks me off.
Incidentally, try here if you want a site that acknowledges the very real strangeness that can manifest itself within Russia, without denigrating every last inhabitant – that job tends to get left to the comments threads…
I’m with you on the bald Englishman thing, though.
The original captions are funny, but in a generic way. Everyone would get the joke if they were translated, but the joke is not that special. The mock-Soviet captions remind me of the graveyard humour prevalent in Russia in the late 1980s.
Frankly, if foreigners feel compelled to take the mickey out of Russians, I’d much rather they focused on communism than on mail-order brides. Communism is not nice and joking about it is a constant reminder of that.
I found both the original Russian and the fake translations funny.
By the way, for a nation which wants to be a superpower and respected around the world, Russians are unbelievably sensitive to not only criticism, but what they perceive to be criticism. I had a bloke trying to start a fight with me on New Year’s Eve because I was making fun of the check-in process at Sheremetovo 1 with a Muscovite. He thought my doing so was an insult to Russia, or something. I see it as a result of 3-4 years of believing their own bullshit.
Tim, I’d accept some Russians are, I’ve met enough myself. Then again, so are some Americans. I suppose by definition we only notice the vocal ones, not the individuals who don’t get that bothered by the subject.
I think there are interesting reasons why there is this tendency, which I’ve briefly explored, but my trackback was rejected by our gracious host’s server as potential spam – I wonder whether, for reasons he has mentioned in this thread, the word Russian is an, ahem, red flag.
Thanks Poot, this is pure (Kremlin) gold.
Totally unrelated but you should file this under Gay Trousers: http://bit.ly/gaytrousers
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