Annie: Who'd want to kill Mr. Warbucks? Grace: The Bolsheviks, dear. He's living proof that the American system really works and the Bolsheviks don't want anybody to know about that. Annie: The Bolsheviks? Leapin' lizards! — Annie (1982 film version)
Dirty Communists are, essentially, Cold War-era villainous portrayals of the Soviet Union's people. After World War II, there was a very large effort to make them stock villains the same way Those Wacky Nazis were and still are. Special attention is brought to emphasizing all those wacky tropes found in Glorious Mother Russia.
Although Dirty Commies reached its height with the Cold War, the trope began at the turn of the 20th Century as communism and anarchism began to take root in the capitalist powers. Indeed, even before that, the title "The Communist Manifesto" itself was an ironic attack on Europe's fear of "communism," at the time meaning a return to loosely-allied city-states.
Given the fact that the Soviet leadership was often tremendously paranoid and ran large-scale systems of political repression and censorship, the Soviet government's reputation in the west is bound to be very negative. This trope, however, is for when the previously mentioned evils of the Soviet Union are caricatured or used for comedic purposes (as pictured), or when Communists are shown carrying out their policies For the Evulz rather than out of expediency or misguided idealism. With the end of the Cold War, this has become a mostly Discredited Trope, though it oddly has a lot more universal success with Post-Soviet villains than it has ever had with actual Communist ones. Related to Red Scare. It remains a significant legacy trope that many authors still use.
See Red China for a similar trope dealing with that other Communist power. Contrast Chummy Commies.
Tropes commonly associated with Dirty Communists are:
During the fifties, Captain America of the very popular World War II comics was set against communists. The title folded quickly. Years later Marvel wanted to bring him back from near the end of the war. Who was the fifties version? An 'Evil' Cap and 'Evil' Bucky who had changed their names and faces to seem like the genuine article, made into a Knight Templar and driven madly paranoid by a version of the Super Soldier Serum. Later Cap battled Evil Cap and Evil Bucky. Evil Bucky eventually became non-evil and sidekicked for a while before being killed; Evil Cap became a supervillain for a while, died, and recently, after the death of real Cap, came back not so evil though still slightly bent, ramping up the "righteous revolution" elements for all they're worth.
The Fifties Cap fought a Communist Red Skull, who had supposedly transferred his allegience from the far right to the far left simply because they were the bad guys now. Eventually, the real Red Skull returned, was still a Nazi, and killed the pretender.
Iron Man was actually created to fight these guys. Many long lasting characters like the Black Widow and some less long lasting like the Crimson Dynamo are a result of his constant battles against the 'Red Menace.' In fact, the moral difference between The Cape Captain America and Tony, who can drift into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory, can be explained by one of them being created to fight Nazis, and one to fight Communists.
Averted in the G.I. Joe comic series written by Larry Hama and published by Marvel. The Joes' Russian counterparts, Oktober Guard, were actually reluctant allies of the Joes who set aside their differences to fight against the Cobras. The only time the Soviet Union is ever referred as an "evil empire" is done sarcastically by one of the characters. Quite a feat, considering the comic was published during the Reagan era. Of course, portrayals of their soldiers and their government are two entirely different things.
The Red Ghost is another Marvel villain with his team of super-apes (!!)
The Tick parodied this trope with a villain-for-hire actually called the Red Scare, who would take jobs dressing up in supervillain attire themed around communist Russian symbology, pretend to menace some major public place, and then get defeated by his customers in a staged fight. The whole affair went hilariously awry when the Red Scare's customer was late to arrive, and the Tick, mistaking him for a real supervillain, attempted seriously to thwart him.
Red Scare made an appearance in the live-action series as well, but in a completely different form. There, he was a 25-year-old Soviet combat android designed for one purpose: to kill Jimmy Carter. A group of diehard Russian commandos (or something) unearth it as part of a poorly-explained plan to destroy the U.S. Postal System, but the robot goes haywire (at the exact same time as Jimmy Carter arrives in town for a book signing).
Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is an unusually early non-American example.
One of the members of the "evil" superhero team the Ultimates of Ultimate Marvel encounter is a Russian Thor copy named Perun (the Slavic god of thunder) who carried a hammer and sickle instead of a magical hammer. The implications are obvious, despite the comic being published 15 years after the Cold War ended.
For one thing, the actual Slavic god Perun did carry a hammer and a sickle in the old myths. For another, he's based on the 616 Perun of the Winter Guard/People's Protectorate/Supreme Soviets.
For another, he's the only one of the Liberators to survive.
Played for laughs in Fighting American — the villains were still Communists, but they had names like Ghnortz, Bholhtz, and Hotsky Trotsky. Of course, since after a couple of episodes the entire series was a Captain America spoof, this is unsurprising.
Surprisingly, the Rocket Red Brigade (the first Russian super-team in the DC Universe) managed to avoid this. Kilowog, their original creator, was the sole survivor of an alien race that was naturally community-oriented, and he was portrayed as an idealist who genuinely believed in the Soviet Union's potential. Brigade members varied widely in personality and outlook, but many of them took on heroic roles against bigger threats like alien invaders.
The trope image is from "This Godless Communism," a feature appearing in Treasure Chest, a comic book published by the Catholic Guild and primarily distributed in Catholic parochial schools. The feature portrayed life in America after a hypothetical Communist takeover, with particular focus on the materialistic and anti-religious nature of Communism.
The National Lampoon did a parody 1950s Red Scare comic book "Commie Plot Comics" that depicted the Soviets taking over America, commandering everything including Howard Johnson's: "We have only one flavor now, Red Raspberry, and we are out of that too, little comrade! Ha ha ha!"
Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III gave John Rambo the Reagan-esque patriotism that the previously disenchanted with America character has since become famous for.
The image of John Rambo as an uber-patriotic flag waver is a false one. At the end Rambo II he is so disgusted by the government's attempt to cover up the fact that American prisoners of war are still being held in Vietnam that he doesn't return home. In Rambo III he is motivated by his desire to rescue his old friend Colonel Trautman rather than duty to the country he was born in.
Red Dawn (1984) is arguably the quintessential anti-communist movie of the 1980s.
Which, interestingly enough, while presenting communist atrocities in the harsh light that they deserve, does not dehumanize the enemy troops or present them as caricatures. The rank-and-file soldiers are shown to be Punch Clock Villains, going to theaters and hiking with their comrades when off-duty, and the Colonel is a Father to His Men who fondly recalls when he was the guerrilla resistance fighter before his side grew dominant and relegated him to State Sec, writes a Tear-Jerking letter to his sweetheart back home, and even respects the protagonists as fellow warriors and lets them go after seeing one carry off his wounded brother.
Red Scorpion shows Russians as inhuman killing machines, except the one who turns against them.
Rocky IV created Ivan Drago whom remains one of the most recognizable symbols of Communism of the 80s.
French comedy La cité de la peur features a hammer-and-sickle-wielding (literally!) serial killer. His motives are not political; however, he's copying a similarly armed killer from the hilariously badfilm within the filmRed Is Dead, a dirty communist indeed◊, who kills rich people because "profit was unbearable from his proletarian perspective."
Angelina Jolie's Salt is about the Soviet Union having a secret program of sleeper agents out to destroy the United States and restore the Soviet Union. Given they intend to blow up Mecca to frame the United States for it, they are a PROFOUND collection of dicks.
East German bobsled Captain Yushuf Grull, he was very antagonistic towards the Jamaican bobsleders in the Disney movie Cool Running. In reality the Germans were very encouraging of Jamaica. There was no bar fight at Ranchman's, and being antagonistic AFTER athletes have signed the truce wall, and partook of the Olympic truce oath would have caused an international incident.
The James Bond movies would largely avert this by replacing the SMERSH organization of the books with the fictional criminal organisation SPECTRE, as by the time Dr. No was made evil communist villains were regarded as something of a Dead Horse Trope.
Furthermore, the evil "General G" of the novels becomes the much more genial General Gogol in the Roger Moore movies. Gogol is very much the face of the USSR in Bond films of this age. For instance, in Moonraker, it is he, not the Soviet premier whom the US leadership talk to over the hotline in a crisis and in Octopussy it is Gogol who personally oversees the pursuit and shooting of a warmongering traitor who wanted to invade the West. Although he is a villain in For Your Eyes Only, he is far nicer than the others in the movie and Bond doesn't even attempt to hurt him. In the Brosnan era he actually becomes an elder statesman figure (albeit off-screen, due to Walter Gotell's death) for the now friendly Russian Federation.
Gen. Orlov from the James Bond film Octopussy is a full-fledged communist villain seeking to be a hero of Soviet Union, but General Gogol contrasts this by investigating him in unwitting parallel to Bond's mission. The result of that was Gogol attempted to arrest Orlov before the East German border guards shot the renegade general dead and it's fairly obvious that if Gogol had learned Orlov's whole scheme, he would have raced to warn NATO.
The Pope John Paul IIbiopic shows the Soviet Russians, who take over Poland after the defeat of Nazi Germany, as hardly better than those they replace. This is not surprising as Pope John Paul II was a staunch critic of Communism and is often credited with ushering along its collapse in his support of the Polish Solidarity union.
As a young man, John Paul warns his fellow laborers that the Communists will not bring freedom for the Polish people.
Karol Wjotyla: "The Communists will never bring freedom, not for us, not for anyone. .. I read their book … They have created a religion, a religion that is based on Man as its center … For Communists, God does not exist.”
There is also a scene where, in response to the Soviet suppression of Polish culture in banning religious images, Archbishop Wjotyla holds a religious procession, but instead of the usual focus on the image of Mary, simply an empty frame is displayed.
Colonel Sun is an example of how politics can get REALLY ugly in the Bond-verse. Kingsley Amis, under the pseudonym Robert Markham, wrote a very Fleming-like interpretation of the Red China threat with the eponymous sadist. What's really appalling about the book is that the book contains countless humanized Soviet villains as it goes out of its way to say how different they are from the Chinese!
The first few Bond novels written by John Gardner show SPECTRE working on behalf of the Soviets (i.e. Role of Honour), although It's Personal against Bond as well.
The Big Bad of Death Is Forever is a hardcore Stalinistic communist, who was brought into it by the man himself, whom he came regard as a father figure. He is seeking to restore international communism after the fall of Soviet Union.
Also in Bill Granger's The November Man, which is set during the Cold War as well, particularly in The Shattered Eye and The British Cross.
Dennis Wheatley had a real thing for bashing commies. Even in the stories for which he is now remembered, the Black Magic books, there is a Dirty Communist link, as the blurb on the back of The Satanist puts it: Colonel Varney had long suspected a link between Devil Worship and the subversive influence of Soviet Russia...
The Mike Hammer story One Lonely Night. It even admits that the commies are drawn to resemble a red-baiting editorial cartoon of the day. Still, there is An Aesop about America not needing to stoop to the Reds' level.
In The Zone, a 1980's action series by James Rouch (set in an Alternate HistoryWorld War III Europe) the Warsaw Pact officers are universally portrayed as brutal sadists, who casually murder civilians and even their own soldiers if it suits their purpose or whim. However The Survivialist series by Jerry Ahern (written about the same time, and set in a post-World War IIISoviet-occupied United States) makes sure to offset its evil communist villains with decent chaps such as General Varakov and KGB agent Natalia Tiemerovna.
In the 1970's action-adventure series The Executioner, Red China is mentioned as being involved in the drug trade, which given what the CIA was up to in Cambodia and Vietnam is ironic (a similar mention is made in the James Bond film Thunderball). When the series was sold to Gold Eagle in the 1980's the KGB became the main villains, often portrayed as The Chessmaster behind international terrorism.
The books do refer to the CIA/military connection, and the plot of one of the Gold Eagle era books ("Council of Kings") revolves around this. So that wasn't ignored.
The novel Malevil has Meyssonnier, a literal card carrying Communist and resents the suspicion and distrust he receives from it. Like a good commie he is both an atheist and has para-military training.
Tom Clancy used the Soviet Union as a recurring villain during the eighties in the Jack Ryan series and his other writings, then switched to Red China after the end of the Cold War. The trope is averted or subverted with various individuals, some of which rise to the level of Worthy Opponent (Pavel Alekseyev, Sergey Golovko). The Communist system as a whole is portrayed as unequivocally evil, but not necessarily the people within it.
Klingons were originally meant to represent the Soviet Union during the Cold War but have since become the prototypical proud warrior race.
Star Trek: The Original Series averts this trope when they included Chekov in the crew. He was very proudly Russian, and the Cold War was at its height when the series first aired.
He may have been proud of Russian culture, but the only things he mentioned were from the days of the Russian Empire.
The Cardassians later take over this role (appropriately updated for the late-80s-early-90s) through their sparse appearances in The Next Generation and especially in Deep Space Nine: vaguely described early on as an impoverished people with "deep spiritual values" who embraced a military dictatorship as a solution. Later, a decaying authoritarian super-power forced to relinquish its hold on the peoples it once held subject. Although the outright genocidal brutality and species-supremacism of their occupation of the Bajorans means that they have quite strong Nazi analogies at times.
This becomes quite blatant if you listen to some of the lunch conversations between Bashir and Garak, as Garak often takes a Straw Communist position when they debate some matter of politics or philosophy. Also, there is the title what the Cardassian's greatest creative work: The Neverending Sacrifice.
WKRP in Cincinnati's Les Nessman was paranoid about Dirty Communists, to the point that the emergency script he wrote for the station was an anti-Communist screed. When a tornado struck Cincinnati, Mr. Carlson ordered him to read the script on the air but to replace "Communist" with "tornado", which resulted in a long harangue about "Godless tornadoes" followed by the national anthem. His paranoia was explained in the final season when it was revealed that his father, who had abandoned their family when he was an infant, was himself a Communist, and that his mother had consequently instilled in Les a hatred of Communists.
In the 1960s, the Cybermen of Doctor Who were sometimes treated as Space Commies compared to the Daleks as Space Nazis. They want to conquer and assimilate humanity because (at times) they sincerely believe that they're the perfect society and have the obligation to bring its blessings to everyone else, they're unemotional, they lack individuality and their plans are often based (at least initially) on infiltration rather than all-out force.
These are the antagonists in Data East's Secret Service pinball, complete with a secret headquarters outside of Washington D.C.
The Price of Freedom plays it absolutely straight. In one early edition of one scenario the leader of The Klan is referred to favourably as he is anti-red. (Strangely enough, at least some Ku Klux Klan groups did expose sentiments that were, if not communist, then highly socialist during the 1930s.) The commies are presented as taking away black and Jewish people for no apparent reason. If that's what communists did, wouldn't the Nightie Knights have switched their burning crosses for red flags long ago?
Paranoia takes the notion of a Red Scare to the Nth degree and beyond, usually with humourous effect.
The Star*Drive setting has a nation called the Nariac Domain, which consists of spacefaring cyber-communists.
Halt Evil Doer! has Battle Czar, who is a communist Anti-Villain turned terrorist. Amusingly, he's close friends with flag-waving terrorist leader, General Venom.
In Chess, American chess player Freddie Trumper sees his opponent this way.
Reporter: Does your opponent deserve such abuse?
Freddie: All Soviets deserve abuse.
Modern Warfare has the Ultranationalists as a major threat. While they weren't spelled out as being communists, the big hammer and sickle on their flag implies they are if nothing else. They're also terrible people.
Just Cause has you ally with a group of them in the sequel.
The Command & Conquer: Red Alert series deals with Communist threats that start off half-way serious with an alternate continuity World War II and then go totally insane by the expansion pack Yuri's Revenge.
To the extent that even when you're playing as them they still come across as jerks:
Premier Cherdenko: We will sign this treaty, we will come together as brothers, and then... we will crush them!
Parodied in the first Destroy All Humans! video game, which is set in the 1950s; The Government and the sinister Government Conspiracy use the overwhelming paranoia around communism to cover up the actions of the protagonist — who is actually an extraterrestrial. The population eventually buys into this to such a degree that people actually scream "Communist!" as soon as they see the alien in his natural form, and the police / military report "Possible Communist activity," when the protagonist is going around vapourising people and sucking out their brains.
Freedom Fighters is pretty much the video game version of Red Dawn (1984), where the main antagonists are Communists invading America and you play as a leader of the resistance who is trying to push them out of the country. The major difference is, it's all taking place in New York and not Middle America.
Metal Gear had several examples of this. The most egregious one is Colonel Volgin who is a Depraved Bisexual that possesses lightning powers and a desire to start nuclear war with the West. Of course, the game he appears in is one long love letter to 1960s spy movies, so he's not too out of place. Revolver Ocelot might also qualify despite being ultimately disloyal to the Soviet system. Olga and Sergei Gurlukovich despite being unreconstructed communists, are played fairly honorably and thus do not fall under the Dirty Communists trope.
The state of the world in the Fallout series is due to a war with communist China.
Fallout 3 parodies this to the Nth degree. Malfunctioning military robots leftover from the war will often attack the player while screaming anti-Communist epithets at them. Members of the Republic of Dave will call you a Communist and attack you if you antagonize them. And in the game's final battle, the Lost SuperweaponLiberty Prime makes many amusing anti-Communist battle cries ("Communism is a temporary setback on the road to freedom!" "Embrace democracy or you will be eradicated!" "Democracy is non-negotiable."). The Liberty Prime example is especially ironic, as he yells anti-Communist battle cries while fighting against the totalitarian remnant the éminence grise of the U.S. federal government.
Subverted somewhat in the series as a whole with regards to the Soviet Union, who aren't touched upon much but when they are it's usually in a friendly light with regards to the U.S. One of the pre-made player characters in the original Fallout was a descendant of a member of the Soviet Consulate in LA who was given an invitation to Vault 13.
It makes sense, since the Soviet Union hated Communist China.
A classroom in a mock-up of a pre-war school in the Fallout: New Vegas add-on Old World Blues has large posters on the walls to teach the alphabet, including "C is for Commie" and "D is for Dirty Commie".
Old World Blues also gave us the talking Book Chute, who gave us such gems as, "If you haven't found any Communists in your back yard, you're not looking hard enough!" and "If you know what the word "proletariat" means, do you know what that makes you? Well read and erudite... for a Communist!"
"Stars and Stripes beats Hammer and Sickle.LOOK IT UP!"
Homefront is a game where you see the menace of the North Korean government take over Japan, Korea, and the Philippines before invading the United States' plague ridden ruins. It was written by John Milius of Red Dawn (1984) fame, and he truly outdoes himself here, even seeing fit to include the page quote.
Vega Strike has Interstellar Socialist Organization, with rather mixed image. In game and flavour materials some call them pirates and terrorists equal to Luddites, but they don't attack civilians and in one mission even act as a counterbalance to Merchant Guild captain thinking he's a greater priority than a shipload of wounded. ISO definitely is a paramilitary group habitually stealing stuff, but between their choice of signature ships (Goose, which they nicknamed "Sickle", and ugly "Hammer", nee Toad), leaving privateers alone and general spirit of being a little out of sync, they end up as a circus cosplaying Robin Hood — potentially dangerous, but hard to take too seriously.
Heavy Weapon has your Atomic Tank fight through the forces of the "Red Star", which are Russian Communists trying to take over the world. The game is pretty blatant about it as well, with your character saying things like "Take THAT, you commie pigs!", stages named "Killingrad", and bosses like "Kommie Kong".
World in Conflict has the Soviet Union start a war with NATO in order to prevent itself from coming apart. The game itself starts with Soviet forces landing in Seattle. Also, halfway through the campaign you find out that China has allied with the Soviets and is sending troops to reinforce the Soviet-held West Coast.
Red: But Earthling, they don't have Decemberween on my planet! Old-Timey Homestar: Aww, phooey! What do they have on your planet? Red: Not much. Long lines. Expensive bread.
Red Dawn +20 explores the universe of the titular movie from a point 20 years "downstream", expanding vastly on the movie's world into a plausible and rich timeline from the standpoint of veterans of the war.
Subverted in the Alternate History timeline Reds. The Dirty Communists turn out to be very much the heroes of the work, in spite of their moral complexity.
Despite world history being changed big way in 1200, the Chaos Timeline also has them. Except that everyone calls them Socialists. They take over Britain in the mid 19th century and spread over all of Western Europe.
In the "Justice Friends" shorts from Dexter's Laboratory, Major Glory's (a Captain AmericaCaptain Ersatz) archnemesis was a Dirty Communists villain parody named Comrade Red who even used a weaponized hammer and sickle. Especially notable as Dexter's Lab came out years after the Cold War ended, but it's also worth remembering that Genndy Tartakovsky was born in the USSR.
In a season nine episode of The Simpsons, "Simpson Tide", Homer ends up in command of a nuclear sub and accidentally steers it toward Russia. This prompts an immediate emergency UN meeting, in which the Russian representative refers to his people as the Soviet Union, prompting the following exchange:
US representative: The Soviet Union? I thought you guys broke up?
Russian representative: Yes, that is what we wanted you to think!
He then presses a button on his desk and the Soviet banner drops in Red Square, the turf rolls back and the Berlin Wall complete with guards and dogs rises out of the ground, and Lenin busts out of his tomb, yelling "Must crush capitalism!"
The Sealab 2021 episode "Red Dawn" has Murphy, and soon most of Sealab embracing communism. Quinn is reluctant to support it, but is forced at gunpoint to build a bomber and atomic bomb. Fittingly enough, the president of the United States and his attorney general were Kennedy expies.