An unusual video clip – the latest in a series of Internet memes attacking Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the US State Department – is circulating among Russians online. The clip was posted last Friday, June 20, and features a scene from the 1988 Soviet film “Heart of a Dog,” based on Mikhail Bulgakov's novel by the same name.
In the original scene, Poligraf Sharikov, a dog transformed into a human being (Bulgakov's “slovenly and narcissistic incarnation of the New Soviet Man”), brings home a woman from work, telling his creator that they intend to marry. In the story, the woman soon learns that Sharikov is actually a dog, and leaves in disgust.
In the viral video, Psaki has been digitally added as the face of Sharikov's ill-fated fiancee. The video's author created two more clips, as well, using the same moment in the film. In the next two versions, Psaki is replaced by Conchita Wurst, the transvestite who won this year's Eurovision music contest, and Valeriya Novodvorskaya, a Russian political activist and former Soviet dissident.
The video has over 210 thousand views, with almost 90 thousand alone on June 22, the peak of its popularity. The author of the clip, an anonymous YouTube user called “Viosmart,” has been active on the site sine May 2009. Viosmart's oldest uploaded content is a 27-second-long video of two Russian musicians edited to make it seem they are humping one another.
Yandex's blogs search engine returns over 2 thousand hits for the words “Psaki” and “Sharikov” posted to social media since June 20, when Viosmart published his video. Studying a random selection of those reposts, however, doesn't help explain why the clip has appealed so strongly to Russian Internet users. On Twitter, Vkontakte, Facebook, and elsewhere, most people sharing the clip, titled “Sharikov and His Girls,” simply repost the link and collect “likes.”
There is some indication that the humor implied is a reversal of Bulgakov's original joke. In the story, as in the movie, Sharikov's bride-to-be is devastated to learn that he is in fact not human. Sharing the Psaki-edited clip, in what could be representative of why others are laughing, Natasha Melehina writes on Facebook, “poor Sharikov,” implying that the three women added into the film are even worse than the wretched New Soviet Man.
Whatever the exact prank on the State Department's spokesperson in this viral video, it is safe to say that grouping her with Wurst and Novodvorskaya, a cross-dresser and an obese conspiracy theorist, is hardly intended to be flattering.