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The Russians Are Bad Guys Again, and It's About Damn Time

Things are getting a mite testy down Crimea way:

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainians in this nation's capital prepared themselves for war after results from the disputed referendum in the Crimea showed an overwhelming majority in favor of joining the Russian Federation.

Crimea's election committee said that 97% of voters backed a union between the largely ethnic-Russian peninsula and the huge neighboring country.

"I have a feeling that today is the last calm day," said Lubna Petrova, a grandmother who was watching TV coverage of events in Crimea. "Tomorrow Putin will start a war against the Ukrainian nation, and he won't stop until he takes over the entire country."

Good times. But even with all the fears for Ukraine's sovereignty and the possibility of armed conflict between Russia and the West, there is some good news. Specifically, it's now safe for Hollywood to make Russians their main movie villains again.

Hollywood producers would be the first to tell you they got lazy during the Cold War, assuming -- like many of us -- the stalemate between U.S. and U.S.S.R. would continue indefinitely. Having used Commies as adversaries since the 1940s (Walk a Crooked Mile is the first I can think of), there didn't seem to be a reason to stop.

And why would they? The Soviets were *great* enemies. They could be a straight up military threat -- whether conventional (Red Dawn, Amerika) or nuclear (The Day After. They were a constant spy menace (Ice Station Zebra, The Manchurian Candidate, SMERSH in the Bond movies, a zillion others), and also threatened us in ways that made all Americans feel vulnerable: the sporting arena (Rocky IV, uh, The Cutting Edge).

So when the Berlin Wall came down after the so-called "Peaceful Revolution" of '89, it may have signaled the end of hostilities, but also brought on an entirely new crisis. We'd become complacent, taking comfort in the fact the Russkies would always be lurking there on the big screen (hell, it was almost worth the constant nightmares about nuclear holocaust). Now what?

It was a dark time, as Hollywood struggled to define the next Big Bad. They tried leveraging the Drug War by using Jamaicans (Marked for Death) and Colombians (Clear and Present Danger). South Africans were trotted out during apartheid's decline (Lethal Weapon 2), they being the closest thing to Nazis we could find (and everybody hates Nazis). They tried using the Chinese, who are sort of Communist, but that went nowhere. Even Muslim terrorists have lost their luster as movie villains, possibly because we've grown weary of fighting them in real life.

These failures were inevitable, really. In addition to economic niceties (China is both a trading partner and a source of immense amounts of box office revenue) and declining support for the War on Drugs, none of those really posed an existential threat. The "Crimson Jihad" can plant some bombs, and the South Africans can murder Martin Riggs' girlfriend, but none of them are capable of reducing the United States to ash like the good old Soviet Union.

More to the point, the Russians never *really* went away. You still had rogue elements (Air Force One), corrupt officials (A Good Day to Die Hard), and dudes who were just plain scary ... mostly because they were Russian (Jack Reacher). And behind it all was that sneaking suspicion that they were just waiting for their chance to menace the free world again.

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Sure enough, the supervillainous Evil Empire of yore appears to be back. And who do we have to thank? None other than the man holding sway over all, Russian President Vladimir Putin. His comical public persona at times makes him seem like a Bond villain, yet he still commands the world's largest nuclear arsenal, and his maneuvering in Crimea has utterly stymied the United States and the EU.

With Putin's Russia reasserting itself as an aggressor state, I submit to Hollywood that the time is now to scrap all movies currently in development and immediately begin production on new versions of Rambo, Red Dawn, and Invasion U.S.A. Obviously this means bringing Chuck Norris out of retirement and reviving Patrick Swayze from cryosleep.

While they're at it, go ahead and make Putin the main villain in every one of them. He'd probably be flattered.

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