Some time ago, People Magazine ran a small photo of a shirtless Vladimir Putin along with a caption that objectified him physically. Finally, after many years of absolutist rule, the editors at People have taken notice of the man who might just be the World’s Sexiest Tyrant.
Strong like bear. Not weak like tiger I shoot. Marketing Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as the macho representative of a dominant, powerful, vigorous Russian state centers on supplying the world with photos of the overlord participating in some extraordinarily masculine activities, and doing it all bare-chested. He has, after all, put out his own instructional Judo DVD with companion book. He also fishes shirtless near Mongolia, tranquilizes Siberian tigers shirtless, practices Judo shirtless, swims shirtless, rides horses shirtless, and invades nearby countries, presumably shirtless as well. After the emasculating collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin, especially topless, embodies the ardent new Russia: fearless and lusty, but even so, still a little frigid.
I am too sexy for shirt. So, it seems natural that People Magazine, the harbingers of that eagerly-anticipated, infamous, yearly accolade, Sexiest Man Alive, would also ignore the blatant political tyranny associated with the Russian prime minister and run a photo of him half-naked. But People isn’t about to miss the Putin bandwagon: right now, editors at the magazine are still kicking themselves, wondering why they passed on that 1995 pictorial featuring Slobodan Milošević.
Bush like Brokeback Mountain. Putin is Russia’s Marlboro Man, conquering the wild Siberian frontier with nothing but his bare hands and a team of photographers nearby to capture his bare-chestedness. He is an überman, who cut his teeth cowboying around an East German outpost while working with the KGB and then rose to popularity by wrangling Russia into shape with an onslaught of political, social, and legal reforms. His popularity in Russia is astonishing, but many foreign heads of state have also succumbed to his overwhelming machismo. Even fellow cowboy and self-declared frontiersman George W. Bush could not help but fall for Putin’s macho sexuality: in 2001 Bush looked Putin in the eyes and [cue the Texas twang] “was able to get a sense of his soul” (1). Hot.
Ladies wish husband was like Putin. The Russian press routinely dispenses Putin’s alpha-male image worldwide, writing about his overwhelming appeal to women, an image which also, undeniably, appeals to conservative Christian, former frat boys-cum-world leaders of mildly average intelligence. He is, quite possibly, Russia’s first living icon. So, enough with the photographs. Surely, the Russian prime minister deserves his own video montage? An ode to Putin the Potent perhaps?
Take me to the magic of the moment. Cue the Scorpions’ “Wind Of Change.” Perfect, no? Incorporate Putin menacingly flirting with Duma deputies and Federation Council senators, move on to Putin dictating Dmitry Medvedev, more of Putin shaking hands with various world leaders, kissing babies, and making women swoon, Elvis-style. Show the softer side of Putin with glimpses into his intimate judo sessions and a slow motion pan of Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, walking hand in hand through Gorky Park and dancing a tango in Red Square, where Putin leaves his wife’s side, picks up a balalaika and gently strums the last strains of the song, the breeze softly blowing through his hair, letting his balalaika sing what Rudolf Schenker’s guitar wants to say, in the wind of change…