Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell
aka: Why Were Bummed Communism Fell
"The first half of The Nineties largely reflected this realization that the world was no longer what we thought it'd be, from the decline of the military industrial complex, to who should be the default bad guys in fiction."
Any work that deals with the So What Do We Do Now?
environment after the Cold War
. Everything seemed to shift. What was relevant now? What was irrelevant? These works either asked those questions or focused on how people dealt with them.
And it can often be discussed in relation to modern conditions, such as comparing life back then and now, or military policy then and now.
Just to clarify, mentioning in passing that communism fell isn't enough. There has to be a sense that, well, someone was bummed.
This is somewhat Truth in Television
— many people from the Eastern Bloc regret the fall of state-socialism. For more on this, see the Real Life section.
Compare Make the Bear Angry Again
, The New Russia
Contrast Red Scare
, The Great Politics Mess-Up
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Anime and Manga
- Ex-Japanese Red Army member Takenaka from Black Lagoon is sad that he didn't get his revolution, and now allies with Muslim extremists he first met when collaborating with PFLP in Lebanon because he's become A Terrorist Without A Cause. Can be a Shout-Out to how the actual JRA operated for a time in the ME during the Cold War.
- Furthermore, Hansel and Gretel are products of Ceauşescu's rule of Romania. With the country unable to take care of them after his death at the end of the Cold War, they were sold to the Sicilian mafia, and... it goes From Bad to Worse.
- The series also features a criminal organization known as Hotel Moscow, which is composed of veterans of the Afghan War. It's leader, Balalaika, is a disillusioned former Soviet Special Forces commander who turned to a life of crime after being screwed over by the government in the wake of the war. OTOH, the end of Fujiyama Gangsta's Paradise arc could be explained only by her being, you know,.. deep in the loop. Just undercover.
- Monster includes a number of ex-GDR officers and scientists who have tried to create new lives and identities for themselves, with varying degrees of success.
- The plot of the second Patlabor (a series which previously suffered quite heavily from The Great Politics Mess-Up) movie revolves around a terrorist plot intended to show the world how vulnerable the military budget cuts brought about by the end of the Cold War have made people (at least it was before Tsuge hijacked the plan for his own personal vendetta against the apathetic citizenry and the people who hung him out to dry when his attempts to develop a Humongous Mecha school of combat fell apart).
- Many former Soviet superheroes in the Marvel Universe, especially Iron Man specific enemies created during the cold war - Titanium Man, The Crimson Dynamo. Even DC Comics gets into it with former teams such as the Rocket Red Brigade.
- In James Bond:
- Golden Eye wondered if James Bond was even relevant now. M in particular bluntly told Bond he was "a relic of the Cold War".
Alec Trevelyan "Did you ever ask why? Why we toppled all those dictators, undermined all those regimes, only to come home - 'Good job! Well done! But, sorry, old boy, everything you risked your life and limb for has changed!'?"
- Casino Royale has a throwaway line where M grouses about the new political scene, ending with, "Christ, I miss the Cold War!"
- By the time Skyfall comes around, M seems to have come to terms with this. When she's Hauled Before a Government Inquiry to answer precisely this question, she responds that espionage is even more relevant now, as modern enemies are much more nebulous and elusive than they used to be.
- Ronin. In fact the title is based on the notion that former Cold War agents are now like the Ronin samurai.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country did a metaphorical version of this by having the Klingon Empire sue for peace, ending the Space Cold War which had been raging since the original TV show. The bad guys are conspirators on both sides trying to sabotage the peace process because they don't want the familiar world of Federation vs. Klingons to end. Kirk himself feels somewhat this way at first ("No more Neutral Zone. I was used to hating Klingons."), but he comes around. The film went into production when the Iron Curtain was falling and it ended up being released just nineteen days before the Soviet Union was officially dissolved. In fact, Star Trek VI actually predicted the August Coup. The film's plot is set in motion when Mikhail Gorbachev's expy character is assassinated by hard-liners in his own government. The real coup occurred while the movie was being edited and, with Gorbachev's survival unclear, the filmmakers were left to wonder how much life would be imitating art.
- A plot to kill Gorbachev and keep the Cold War going was the subject of The Package.
- Parodied in Hudson Hawk with a CIA agent.
George Kaplan: I did my first bare-handed strangulation here. A Communist politician. I miss Communism! The Red Threat. People were scared, the Agency had some respect, and I got laid every night!
- The Long Kiss Goodnight: The bad guys turn out to be Rogue CIA agents trying to drum up funding.
- The first Mission: Impossible movie: "No one to keep secrets from but yourself."
- The main character of Falling Down is a defense engineer that was laid off presumably due to defense budget cuts made after the end of the Cold War. He does not take it well.
- Short of the Roaring Rampage of Revenge, this was a sad Truth in Television for many men and women who obtained degrees in rocket and aerospace engineering and had jobs developing bigger and better weapons, because "Uncle Sam needed them." When the Cold War ended, Uncle Sam no longer needed them, and left many of them out of a job for years while defense budgets were cut, the entire military was restructured, bases were closed, etc, while the world just generally said So What Do We Do Now?... Falling Down is that generation's Easy Rider. So it wasn't just Russians, survivalists, and militia groups that were upset the Cold War ended.
- Sneakers has Greg, a Russian "cultural attaché", who makes several comments along these lines.
(The) last few years have been very confusing for people in my line of work.
- The characters in Good Bye, Lenin! try to hide the fall of communism from their mother who just woke from a long coma after a stroke, as they fear with her weak heart condition, she might die when the truth is revealed to her.
- The film is part of a larger East German art movement called Ostalgie, which is based around nostalgia for the old communist years of the GDR. You'll note the presence of old East German cartoons throughout, the idolization of Sigmund Jähn, the protagonists' consternation over the loss of their favorite brand of pickles, and the general malaise that sets in with the city's mad rush toward the worst aspects of materialistic capitalism.
- Economically the 20-ish protagonist lands on his feet, going from apprentice TV repairman to satellite dish installer. Meanwhile his sister who had been at a prestigious university finds the degree in Marxist-Leninist economics she had been pursuing would now only be useful if printed on toilet paper and goes to work at Burger King, and several neighbors in their 50s remain unemployed throughout the film.
- Canadian Bacon centers on the US President trying to start a Cold War with Canada, now that the Cold War with the Soviet Union is over.
- There's a very funny scene where a general says the missiles are still pointed at Moscow, because "We couldn't find anybody new to point them at."
- In The Man Who Knew Too Little, this is the motivation of the villains Sir Roger and Sergai. They were heads of British and Russian intelligence (respectively) and now they're collaborating to restart hostilities between their nations, because they have nothing else to do.
- In Tremors 2: Aftershocks, Crazy-Prepared and Heavily-armed Survivalist Burt Gummer apparently became so unable to cope with the fall of the Soviet Union that even his equally gun-crazy wife left him.
Burt: Did you know Heather blames our problems on the collapse of the Soviet Union?
Earl: Well, you did take that kinda hard, Burt.
: Said I was getting too hard to live with. Said I couldn't handle life without the threat of global war
) What kind of thing is that to say to a man?
- Lord of War:
- Inverted by Yuri, who kisses the screen and is completely oblivious to his son's first steps when Gorbachev announces the official fall of the USSR. This means tons of unwanted and unused Soviet arms lying around ripe for the taking and selling.
- Yuri's rival, Simeon Weisz, plays it straight though. A traditional man with an ideological motivation for selling arms, he had trouble adapting to the moral greyness of the Post-Cold War world. His attempt to adapt by trying to sell in Yuri's turf in Liberia doesn't turn well for him.
- Brother deals with it. It's in the background, but it's there.
- In Burn After Reading, John Malkovich's character Osbourne Cox is fired from his position as an analyst for the CIA due to his alcoholism. He later lies to his father, who himself worked for the CIA, that he quit because the end of the Cold War marked the CIA's transformation into nothing more than a bureaucracy.
- Played with elsewhere in the movie, when nobody from the CIA can understand why Linda would think to sell Cox's memoirs to the Russians.
Oswald Cox: "The Russians? Why the fuck would she go to the Russians? Why the fuck!?!"
- In Man With the Screaming Brain, we are introduced to Yegor, a KGB agent who got laid off after the collapse, and now has to work as a cab driver.
- In the spy movie Company Business (1991) Gene Hackman's character gushes about the luxurious house of an Arab Arms Dealer with its gold-plated doorknobs etc, only to find the place has been stripped bare; the owner has fallen on hard times as no-one wants to buy weapons anymore. Presumably the script was written before Yugoslavia fell to pieces.
- The protagonist of Hedwig and the Angry Inch had every reason to be bummed by Communism's fall. Born a wispy little gay boy in East Germany, he was mangled in a sex change operation so that he could marry an American G.I. and escape to the west. A year later to the day, his husband abandons him and the Berlin Wall falls. Ouch.
- This is a major point in Severance, as the area the main characters are camping in happens to be an ex-compound where Soviet commandos were imprisoned when they couldn't be de-programmed after the Soviet fall. It's supposed there might be one left that escaped into the woods. They're wrong. There are several.
- In Toys this apparently Leland Zevo's Start of Darkness;
The Old General: mumble change sides.
Leland: I can't change sides, you silly old fart! There's no side to change sides to!
- In The Peacemaker, a White House official says it outright - "Russia, what a fucking mess! God, I miss the Cold War."
- Charlie Wilson's War: The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is a sign of the USSR's weakness, but it means that Afghanistan is no longer a priority for the US government. Charlie can't get any money to rebuild the country, allowing a certain group of extremists to come to power that would again capture America's attention in the next decade .
- Lee Child's books, especially The Enemy and The Affair, deal with the rapid reduction of US armed forces after the end of the Cold War, and how it affected the soldiers, including Jack Reacher, the main character.
- One could include thriller writers of the late 80's/early 90's under this trope. While the entire world changed around them, it seemed that for years the only plot they could come up with was: "Hardliners conspire to bring back the Good Old Days of the Cold War."
- The Negotiator, a novel by Frederick Forsyth, has some American arms manufacturers rather upset that the end of the Cold War means their weapon to destroy Soviet tanks isn't going to be a big seller. Time to stir the pot.
- Hell, this was the whole point of Archangel by Robert Harris. Thus the euphoria when they find Stalin's son and bring him to Moscow.
- Tom Clancy makes frequent use of this trope. Fully justified, since almost all of his characters are government agents and this trope affected (or still affects) them personally. John Clark comments at one point that he spent much of his CIA career working against the USSR, and now he's friends with the new Russian Prime Minister.
- John LeCarre's spy fiction tends to invoke this as well, especially prominent in Single & Single, where the crux of the plot is a Georgian family who fell in power after the fall of Communism.
- Played for Laughs on Saturday Night Live. The Trope Namer sketch was a Wayne's World Top Ten List for "why we're bummed communism fell". Their list is as follows:
- #10: New maps.
- #9: Is Yakov Smirnoff out of a job?
- #8: Now they'll never find out what the thing on Mikhail Gorbachev's head was.
- #7: Katarina Witt no longer has Forbidden Fruit appeal.
- #6: "The fall of Communism will deal a major blow to the trade union movement. Labor relations will revert to industrial revolutionary social Darwinism." [beat] "Okay."
- #5: Will the Beatles song be changed? ("Back in the Commonwealth of Independent, Back in the Commonwealth of Independent, Back in the Commonwealth of Independent Staaates.")
- #4: Soviets can no longer be the go-to bad guys in spy movies. ("Who's James Bond gonna spy on now, the Guatemalans?")
- #3: Playboy will no longer have "Girls of the Soviet Union" issues. Denied."
- #2: No more bogus Soviet rock bands to make fun of.
Wayne: "Remember Live Aid, that band Autograph? I mean, ex-squeeze me, baking powder (Wayne-speak for "Excuse me, I beg your pardon")"?
Garth: "I kinda liked them."
Both: Nyet! (Subtitle: "Not!")
- #1: They won't be the first ones to say on Russian television, "Live! From New York! It's Saturday Night!"
- Used again in a more recent Saturday Night Live where they are discussing a Russian spy and are nostalgic and hopeful to fight a war they can understand again.
- In Burn Notice, Sam mentions that one of the reasons he got out of the spy game was because "Now it's all about religion and oil; it's no fun anymore."
- In a sketch on The Ben Stiller Show, Stiller pretends to be Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff trying to keep his career going after the fall of communism. It doesn't go well.
- The real Smirnoff is actually doing pretty well, with a year-round show in Branson, Missouri and teaching gigs at various universities.
- An early episode of Boy Meets World has Cory studying for a geography bee, commenting that all the new little countries have made it a real pain.
In the old days, things used to be so simple. You had Russia, you had Moscow—one country, one capital. Now you've got your Latvia, your Estonia, your Ukraine, and each one's got its own capital. What were these people thinking?!
- Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? had to stop airing repeats of its entire first season after it was rendered obsolete by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Episodes in later seasons concluded with The Chief reading a disclaimer: "All geographic information was accurate as of the date this program was recorded!" and the production date, just in case a new country cropped up before the episode was aired. (Such as Eritrea, the former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia...)
- The worst part was the breakup of Czech Republic/Slovakia, since Czechoslovakia is referenced in the theme song. The worked around it by changing the lyric from Czechoslovakia to Czech-and-Slovakia.
- A late-night talk show host making quips about how badly American high school students had performed on a globally-administered geography test. "Slovakia, which had been a country since, like, Tuesday, kicked our butts!"
- The Kids in the Hall had a sketch where Dave Foley plays a "rightwing paranoid reactionary" seriously bummed that communism fell because "People used to listen to me. I fit in".
- The Golden Girls had an interesting case. In one episode Dorothy's ex-husband Stan had a cousin named Magda who was visiting from Czechoslovakia. She didn't really seem bummed as much as worried. While in a bookstore, she mentions how if her people read all those different books and different ideas, they'd get confused, and it would lead to anarchy. She felt that Communism was more fair, saying "When there's only one road, no one gets lost." Dorothy convinced her to read Thomas Paine's Common Sense, and she seemed to come around.
- Actually, what brought her around was reading Vanna White's Autobiography.
- Diagnosis: Murder played with this trope in the episode "Discards". Jesse Travis' father, played by Robert Culp, was a former spy dealing with obsolescence after the Cold War, while facing assassins hired by the son of his late partner, who blamed him and his fellow spies (played by Barbara Bain, Robert Vaughn and Patrick McNee) for his father's death. At one point, Jesse's dad, who had been estranged from his family due to his job keeping him away for so long, learned that the mission that killed his partner, arranging for the Soviets to "acquire" Western technology that the CIA had bugged so they could monitor the Kremlin, was all for nothing; the only thing the Soviets used the tech for was to maintain the Minsk subways. By the end of the episode, the older agents were offered new assignments in a new anti-terrorism unit, but Jesse's father insisted on taking an assignment in Los Angeles so he could spend more time with his son.
- Lampshaded in The X-Files: After a member of The Conspiracy gets a phone call informing him the Cold War is officially over, he looks distinctly surprised and dismayed as he tells his associates, "Gorbachev has resigned. There are no more enemies."
- On Homeland, enigmatic black-ops spymaster Dar Adul echoes M's line from Casino Royale in a conversation with Saul; "Christ, I miss the Cold War."
Saul: Prefer the daily threat of nuclear annihilation?
Adal: No, I miss the rules. The Soviets didn't shoot us, we didn't shoot them. Boy, this bunch...
- In the revived Get Smart series, Max's old nemesis Siegfried, his occupation gone, plots to re-ignite the Cold War by hitting Moscow with a missile which was itself bought at "a Soviet Union garage sale."
- One of the subplots of The West Wing episode "The Lame-Duck Congress" deals with a Ukrainian government official named Konanov who comes to D.C. because he wants to speak to President Bartlet. Bartlet and his staff don't want to speak with Konanov, but he shows up anyway, drunk. After Josh hides Konanov in an office until he finds out what to do, Josh exclaims, "Oh, how I miss the Cold War."
- This was a major plot point in the background of Metal Gear Solid. The titular Metal Gear was designed primarily as a mobile launch platform for nuclear missiles. When the Cold War ended, there was no longer any need to develop this kind of weapon, budgets were cut, so the corporations and scientists behind it went to the black market.
- The mercenary army of Sergei and Olga Gurlukovich was created from former Soviet soldiers as a response to their dissatisfaction with the new Russian government and military, to restore the glory of Russia.
- The leaders of the Ultranationalists in Modern Warfare believe that Russian glory was lost after the fall of the USSR. Notably, they don't want to bring back the USSR, but rather are interested in bringing back the "glory" of those days.
- Mike Toreno from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a government agent who fondly regards the Cold War days as "good times". Nevermind that the things he gets up to these days are much the same as back then, only set in other countries.
- However there is a scene he has with CJ where he implies that the current situation causes a lot of Paranoia Fuel since America won't know where the next attack will come from.
- The Big Bad of Phantom of Inferno used to brainwash people for the Stasi and KGB. When the Cold War ended, he picked up the protagonists and brainwashed them to be hired guns.
- Halbech, inc from Alpha Protocol derived a major source of income from cold war-related arms sales. With the cold war now gone, they decide to heat up global tensions in key areas to increase demand for their products.
- The plight of the fictional country of Novistrana from Republic: The Revolution started because of this and only increased when unscrupolous president Karasov cemented his power. The very idea behind the game is the overthrowing of Karasov's regime and trying to set a new course for Novistrana in the post-Soviet world.
- On Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee has often accused developers of modern first person shooters of feeling this way, given the number of game involving the Russians as the bad guys.
Yahtzee: So why in the name of bollock burgers do we keep coming back to the same alternate history where the Cold War escalated? I know how disappointing it was that we didn't get to have another big fancy war like in the forties, but if you're fine with rewriting history so that Americans are actually heroic underdogs rather than both sides being dicks to a precisely equal degree, why don't we ever see games where the Viet Cong have laser guns or the Taliban have giant robot snakes?
- Patrick Mulcahy from A Girl and Her Fed yearns for simpler times.
The Fed (with his head in his hands): ...Born twenty years earlier, it'd be so much easier. "Agent Mulcahy," they'd say, "Go shoot Russians." And I'd ask, "Russians from an alternate future that no longer exists?" And they'd say, "They are your average Russians. Go shoot them."
- Defied in Zhirinovsky's Russian Empire, a story on AlternateHistory.com in which, after The Great Politics Mess-Up, the infamous Russian far-right gadfly Vladimir Zhirinovsky becomes President of The New Russia and turns it into a fascist dictatorship. The Bear only gets angrier after the fall of the Soviet Union, meaning that communism is simply replaced by neo-fascism and the Cold War still goes on up to at least 2003 (the year when he's finally overthrown). Whether there's a "Why We're Bummed Zhirinovsky Fell" moment afterwards remains to be seen.
- General Eiling explains that his war with the Justice League in Justice League Unlimited was because we didn't have a clear threat like the Commies for the military to fight. It should be pointed out that Eiling is not a character to be liked, and his former co-conspirator even says that the idea is stupid.
- From American Dad!, Sergei the former-KGB agent lost his wife and son to capitalism when communism fell, so he went to America to "steal away Stan Smith's son... FOR COMMUNISM!" He failed, so he decided to plant his seeds of revenge, to grow some plants of revenge (which could also be used in a stew of revenge) and keep cultivating revenge until "the time was right."
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers does this with Commander Clash, an American agent stationed on a remote island. For some reason, his superiors forgot to tell him that the war was over for a year or two, and when the Planeteers told him, he was rather upset. He eventually found new meaning by dedicating his life to (what else?) environmental protection.
- Appropriate, since the Soviets probably did more damage to wilderness areas (just check out the rivers in Central and Eastern Europe) than any other people in history.
- There is a short film in which a chimpanzee, dressed as a cosmonaut, wanders around in a space station/satellite that's decorated with pictures of Lenin, bored out of his mind. He keeps returning to his radio set to try to contact home, but no one answers, presumably because Russia has downsized its own military and the chimp's satellite was part of a discontinued orbital-observation program.
- The Penguins of Madagascar had some fun with this in the "Red Squirrel" episode. For 47 years, Special Agent Buck Rockgut has the single-minded purpose of waiting for escaped Penguin Enemy #1 the Red Squirrel to surface and recapture him. The penguins join in on the hunt but eventually they realize that after decades of waiting, with not having seen hide nor hair of the villain, Buck has gone paranoid, accusing every animal of being secret agents for things that really don't have anything to do with the Red Squirrel. They conclude that the Red Squirrel probably no longer exists and Buck Rockgut just couldn't accept that. Then it turns out that the Red Squirrel really has been hiding in his secret lair, and he is spying with satisfaction on how his arch-nemesis is being discredited and disposed of.
- There's a political cartoon that shows two maps: one for the Cold War era, one post-Cold War. The Cold War map simply shows the US labeled as "Us" and the Soviet Union as "Them," whereas the post-Cold War one has a lot more labels for various countries like "A Little Bit of Them," "No Longer Them," "Fast Becoming Them," "Sometimes Them," and "Big-Time Them." One of the men examining the maps laments, "What's happening to me? I'm starting to MISS the Cold War!"
- Richard Foreman wrote a show for the Ontological Theatre in 2001 entitled "Now That Communism Is Dead, My Life Feels Empty!", but good luck understanding anything Foreman writes.
- The Tabletop RPG Spycraft has a setting, 'World on Fire', that has this as part of its setup. The main conspirators are top agents from both sides.
- Fundamentalist Christians had to rewrite their interpretation of the End Times, the Biblically-extrapolated sequence of events leading to the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ. Whole shelves of books and pamphlets had been written predicated on the God-revealed fact that somehow, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were the mechanism the Antichrist would use to work his dastardly Godless plan for world domination. When the USSR imploded, those Christians doggedly awaiting Rapture and Apocalypse were bereft of an obvious Antichrist. Until 9/11.....