Metro Weekly

Anti-gay presidential ad in Russia uses homophobia to scare voters to the polls

Many believe the ad is being pushed by pro-Putin operatives hoping to increase turnout to give election air of legitimacy

Russian presidential campaign ad – Photo: Sergey Burunov, via YouTube.

A three-minute campaign ad encouraging Russians to vote in the presidential elections next month plays to deep-seated homophobia among the Russian populace by offering a vision of a dystopian future where a law has been passed forcing Russians to host a “gay homestay” for a week, reports The Guardian.

The video shows a 52-year-old man mocking his wife for wanting to vote in the presidential election, saying: “As if they won’t elect someone without you.” He then falls asleep, where he dreams that a multicultural group of soldiers is trying to conscript him into the army, because the conscription age has been increased to 60.

He’s then accosted by his Communist-affiliated son for donations, and finds that there is a gay man in his kitchen. The gay man tells him: “I’m a gay on a homestay.” The dreamer’s wife then reminds him that under a new law, Russian families are required to take in gay people abandoned by their partners.

“If he doesn’t find himself a pair, then you’ll have to be with him,” she tells the man.

The man retreats into the toilet, only to find that “toilet time is restricted,” according to an intercom and flashing red lights. He wakes up screaming, and turns to his right, finding the gay man in bed with him. He then wakes up in real life, before pushing his wife out of bed and saying they need to vote “before it’s too late!”

Much of the ad resorts to relying on over-the-top stereotypes, not the least of which is the flamboyantly feminine gay house guest.

Russia’s Metro newspaper claimed that the video has been viewed more than 3 million times, which would make it “viral,” but three different online versions of the video posted to YouTube showed only 4,433 views, 152,227 views, and 15,773 views, respectively.

Opposition journalists believe the video was produced by either President Vladimir Putin’s campaign team or the government-controlled election committee. The Guardian notes that Russian officials are eager to see a large turnout in order to give Putin — who is guaranteed to win — an air of legitimacy, even though he has consolidated enough power to ensure he is president for life. In contrast, opposition leaders have been urging Russians to boycott the election, saying it is rigged.

A spokesperson for Russia’s election committee told The Guardian it had nothing to do with the video.

At least seven major candidates are running against Putin in this year’s elections, including Ksenia Sobchak, a liberal journalist who has spoken out in favor of LGBTQ rights. 

Sobchak called the video an “incitement to hatred” against members of the LGBTQ community, saying: “In my opinion, we can laugh about anyone. About Hitler and about gays. But to expose LGBT people to a threat in a homophobic country, this is no joke.”

But Svetlana Galka, the actress playing the wife in the ad, dismissed those who believe the commercial is homophobic as being overly sensitive, telling the Govorit Moskva radio station: “This is simply a humorous promo, so what?”

“This is simply a humorous promo, so what?” she said.

Watch the ad below:

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com