In her book, Putin Kitsch in America
(McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019), Alison Rowley
examines the outsized influence that Vladimir Putin, both the man and the myth, have had on US political discourse in the last decade. Starting with the 2008 election, Rowley demonstrates how Putin’s frontier masculinity--best illustrated by the ubiquitous shirtless picture--has served as an important foil for US political figures, particularly Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Rowley examines various kitsch mediums, from seemingly innocuous coloring books and finger puppets, to more risque Putin bikinis and thongs, to the x-rated Trump-Putin slash fiction. Importantly, Rowley’s head-first plunge into Putin kitsch would not have been possible without the internet and on-demand printing and publishing services. Her book therefore also offers thoughtful commentary on what it means to be a political in the digital age, and offers Putin kitsch as an optimistic counterpoint to the quite dire predictions about democracy’s relationship to the internet.
Chelsea Gibson is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Binghamton University. Her research explores the reception of Russian terrorist women in the United States before 1917.