I don't know what sort of wacky-ass mailing list I'm on. Did someone sign me up for this, or is the logic something like "This guy has a Web page. Ergo, he has to import potential mates from former USSR nations."?
The Mail Order Bride plot line is where a man marries a woman from a poor country sight unseen, or seen once. Usually played for laughs, but can also lead to Marriage Before Romance.
A common setting for this is in The Western, but can easily evolve in any situation where there is a surplus of men at one place and a surplus of poor women at another place. The World War II version of this trope would be the "Army War Brides" movie/movies. In that time period, many soldiers returned to their home country with a foreign bride.
If the trope is dealt with in a drama, it will be in a series like Law & Order. The mail order bride plot causes a crime or scam that results in murder. In SVU, it will be prostitution or rape, with plot complications caused by the bride's uncertain legal status.
See also the Spanish Prisoner variant Russian Bride for the scam version of this trope.
Lucky Luke's Wife had the titular cowboy escort a large number of women across the land to their potential husbands, due to a serious gender imbalance in their respective communities. (Curiously, it was the women who got to pick from pictures of the men, while the men had no say.) The problem arises when one girl's betrothed is temporarily unavailable and Lucky Luke has to fill the husband role. It turns out to be an attempt to ensnare Luke so he can become their sheriff permanently.
Played to heartwarming effect in Sweetland, where a young Minnesota farmer gets a German mail-order bride around WWI. Needless to say, Germans were not exactly popular at the time, but the farmer and his wife fall in love, and he defends her against the angry townspeople.
Played very seriously in Birthday Girl, where an Englishman hires a mail-order Russian Bride. Then she and some accomplices extort him into robbing the bank that he works for using a variant on the Spanish Prisoner act.
The plot of Once Upon a Time in the West is kicked off when a mail-order bride (played by the incomparable Claudia Cardinale) arrives at her new home just hours after everyone there was slaughtered as part of a land grab. Definitely not played for yuks, since he wanted a mother for his children and she wanted a new life.
A mail-order bride is also in Wagons East. Very refined lady, horrified to discover that she's stuck with seven guys who make Neanderthals look civilized.
In the 1954 movie, The Naked Jungle, Charleton Heston plays a wealthy cocoa plantation owner in Venezuela who sends for a mail-order bride, who is a widow from New Orleans. It is actually a marriage-by-proxy with his brother standing in for him during the legal ceremony. After she arrives and they meet, the two strong-willed individuals both at first regret the arrangement. However, a plague of army ants allows true love to triumph.
The astonishingly bad 1971 movie Blindman. A blind, but deadly, gunman, is hired to escort fifty mail order brides to their miner husbands. His business partners double cross him, selling the women to bandit Domingo. Blindman heads into Mexico in pursuit.
The Harvey Girls stars Judy Garland as one of these, but when she arrives, she takes one look at the prospective groom and gets a job as a Harvey Girl instead. (The Harvey Girls, who actually existed, were waitresses at Harvey House restaurants.)
The Australian film Russian Doll features a Russian mail-order bride arriving in Australia only to find her groom has passed away. A Citizenship Marriage is still arranged however, when the married man she subsequently has an affair with 'engages' her to his best friend so she can stay in the country and they can continue the affair.
In the animated film Gay Purr-ee, Mewsette, a naive cat from the country, is tricked into being a mail-order bride to a rich American cat.
In Lars and the Real Girl, Lars claims to be dating a girl who came from a horribly abusive life in a foreign country... but it turns out she's a sex doll.
Sarah Plain and Tall, a children's book published in 1985, later made into a movie and stage play, is about a mail-order bride in the late 19th century.
A Reliable Wife involves a rich, lonely man in rural early 20th century Wisconsin and his mail-order bride, who has...an agenda unrelated to being a good wife.
Honolulu follows the saga of Regret, a Korean girl who travels to Hawaii as a mail-order bride in order to escape life in restrictive, Japanese-occupied Korea in the early 20th century.
Achimas Welde from The Death of Achilles orders brides every half a year or so (with time-limited "service contracts"). He never marries them, of course, given his job, but treats them as legitimate wives for as long as they stay with him.
Picture Bride A novel by Yoshiko Uchida about a Japanese woman who comes over to America and is later imprisoned in internment camps
A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine has very little to do with tractors, but is actually about an older gentleman marrying a woman who is just using him to get a visa.
Played with on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. One man ordered a Russian mail-order bride and then killed her when she wasn't really in love with him and was planning to leave him for a less-controlling man. By the time the CSIs find her body years later he's already remarried to another mail-order bride from China.
Jasper from My Name Is Earl has a Mail Order Bride from Russia. He lives in a storage container and tends to peddle *cough* suspect wares, though he told her he lived in a fancy gated community.
Aussie soap opera Neighbours featured one character ordering a Russian mail order bride. She was deported when she tried to bribe the Immigration people.
Played in the short-lived sitcom Thanks. Differing from the usual, she was an English woman being sent to Puritan-era America. When she arrives looking like a modern-day supermodel, her husband-to-be is horrified. (People of that era having a much more healthy ideal of beauty.) She ends up with the town's mayor instead.
Wonderfalls: A boy orders up a Russian bride for his widower dad. Although, at first, the boy seemed intent on marrying her himself!
Subverted on Series Malcolm In The Middle. Francis' elderly roommate in Alaska announces he is getting a mail order bride. Francis tries to convince him not to, and on the day she is supposed to arrive, they find out it was a blow-up sex doll. It is actually quite a Tear Jerker when this is revealed.
Quantum Leap once had Sam leap into a man that just got back from WWII in time for his new Japanese war bride wife to introduce herself to his family.
It is implied that Alan Partridge's girlfriend Sonja in the second series of I'm Alan Partridge came to England on such an arrangement. She's a gregarious woman who clearly cares for Alan, which is a bit unfortunate for her since he views her with little more than contempt and is clearly only in it for the ego-boost of getting to sleep with someone 17 years younger than him.
A friend of the Cartwrights ordered one in Bonanza. He broke his leg, so he asked Hoss to pick her up for him. Unfortunately, the woman becomes attracted to Hoss, much to his horror and to the friend's anger.
Series three of Little Britain had Dudley and Ting Tong, the characters of a repulsive middle-aged man and his Thai mail-order wife. Each episode would reveal something untoward about Ting Tong (such as that she was actually a "ladyboy" and born in London) until she eventually invites her whole family to Britain, kicks Dudley out of his house and turns it into a Thai restaurant. Little Britain Abroad shows that Dudley's brother has a Russian mail order bride as well.
Wings had Roy order a Russian mail order bride. The bride showed up and it was clear that she really didn't like him. But, she had no choice but to marry him. At the last minute, Roy had a change of heart and let her go to marry a man she fell for.
In The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Brisco & Bowler help a trio of women who had set themselves up as brides to some western characters sight-unseen. Brisco talks to them about how awful this idea is and they agree - although apparently it's better than the alternative.
Subverted in an episode of Veronica Mars. A woman claiming to be a Russian emigrant looking for an ex-boyfriend she met through the Internet turns out to be a member of Russian mafia searching for a witness.
One episode of Law & Order had a mail order bride desperate for a real life, whereas her husband just wanted a maid he could fuck. The bride and her lover were two of the more sympathetic murderers in the franchise history.
Parodied in Dilbert, when Wally mail-orders a bride from Elbonia. She turns out to be a pig (literally).
This apparently caused protests from some men with mail-order brides, as well as some groups who accused the creator of racism. Reportedly he was surprised, as he merely meant to imply the company was faulty. Elbonia is generally portrayed as Cloudcuckooland in any case.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force features Carl and Shake going halfsies on a mail order bride...only to have her barricade herself in Carl's house when she first sees the two of them.
Johnny Bravo had a second season episode about this, "To Helga and Back". Johnny ordered a girl from a dating service who turned out to be a very large German tomboy. He did eventually fall for her after many Zany Schemes to repulse her, but lost her when he started acting like his usual, narcissistic self.
On The Oblongs, one of the main characters' co-workers buys a mail-order bride. By the time she got to The Valley, she was dead. No one had drilled holes in the box.
A throwaway gag on The Simpsons referred to Groundskeeper Willie ordering a mail order bride but being too cheap to pay the postage and her being held at the post office.
In another episode, Marge is kidnapped by a biker gang, and Homer asks Bart to call a "Korean Love Brides" number if he fails to save her.
At one point, Moe did have a mail-order bride, who left Moe because she was homesick for her previous life: diving for tourist pennies in a swamp in Micronesia.
Monkey Dust had a recurring sketch much like the Little Britain example above, where a truly disgusting middle-aged man has a mail order bride who remains permanently adoring of him no matter what repulsive thing he says or does.
Beavis and Butt-Head - an agency dumps a Russian woman on a looking-to-score Butt-Head...she's repulsed by him and smacks him if he gets near her. She then hooks up with thug Todd, and Butt-Head sees the bright side of it, where if Todd is doing it with his "wife", that somehow makes them related. Butt-Head loves Todd...