Many of us spend an entire lifetime trying to get famous. But in today’s social media-obsessed world, an arguably bigger achievement isn’t making it in Hollywood or winning an Oscar – it’s becoming a meme.
Luckily for Jason Statham (and at the risk of getting him canceled by the Western media), he’s both a movie icon and now something else – a “Great Russian philosopher.”
Confused? So are many of his English-speaking fans. One look at Statham’s comment section on Instagram will have you baffled. Hundreds and hundreds of Russian comments have been flooding the actor’s posts since May.
There are so many comments in Russian, in fact, that many of his nearly 40 million followers are now questioning his Britishness.
“Is he Russian?” one user asks under a snap of ‘The Transporter’ actor. “Seriously, what’s with all Russian comments here, what’s going on?” queries another.
So, I took it upon myself to put all the non-Russian speakers out of their misery.
In a nutshell, it’s no secret that Statham is known for his portrayal as the tough-as-nails masculine macho man in action-thrillers such as ‘The Mechanic’, ‘The Expendables’, and the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise. The characters are often so macho and impossible to kill off that they become the target of mockery and parody – so much so that screenwriters have since embraced the ridicule and integrated sarcasm and senseless quotes.
For example, Statham’s character in the film ‘Spy’ says ever so calmly: “I watched the woman I love get tossed from a plane and hit by another plane mid-air. I drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while on fire. Not the car: I was on fire.”
His character in ‘The Transporter’ says “you don’t need your mouth to pee,” while in ‘The Transporter 2’ he observes “have a good life… what’s left of it” to a henchman just before he kills him.
Of course, it helps that Statham’s dry British humor and his ability to perform the roles with his trademark pokerface have made him one of the leading men in Hollywood – and an even bigger star, it seems, in Russia.
One Statham fan explains: “There were loads of [VKontakte] communities (similar to Facebook) for ‘real men’with tips and secrets how to be a real man and quotes of famous guys, and Jason Statham was one of the most popular authors of those quotes.
“Even though there was no real proof that he’d really said any of those words, it became a meme. You can literally say any phrase that will sound like advice and add Jason Statham there,” he adds.
Another fan explains how “Russians make fun of ‘brutha’ phrases, attributing them to Jason as he looks brutal and could have said something similar. Lots of phrases from childhood can also be referred to him, that’s the main point. An example is something like ‘it’s better 10cm in front than 20cm from behind,’ or ‘as my grandpa said, I’m your grandpa’.”
Indeed, the fact that Statham’s real-life character mirrors many aspects of his Hollywood roles makes his portrayal in the movies, and the memes, even more relatable.
From practicing Chinese martial arts, kickboxing and karate, to selling fake perfume and jewelry on street corners, Statham is the ultimate self-made alpha male icon – and the ideal target for a meme, it turns out.
Some of the made-up quotes credited to Statham under his Instagram posts include: “A weak man looks for excuses. A strong man has prepared them in advance,” and “If you get lost in the woods, then go home,” as well as “If you have fallen, get up. If you get up, get down.”
But he’s not just a “Great Russian philosopher.” As one fan pointed out, “also Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Turkmen and Tajik enjoy these jokes. Most probably all the post-Soviet Union countries are enjoying them.”
Yet besides drawing in millions of Russian fans to Statham’s account – the number of comments on his posts has risen from around 4,000 to a staggering 14,000 under some pictures – the memes have had another surprising effect on his English-speaking fans. Some now want to take up the Russian language and head over to the country to visit.
“I need to learn Russian as quickly as possible,” says one. “It’s worth it,” another says, while one follower writes: “I’m planning to visit Russia soon and I’ve always wanted to learn Russian because it sounds really cool.”
So, could Jason Statham make Russia cool again in the West? He may be the action hero Russia never knew it needed. Either way, I’m just glad Russians have made English-speakers eager to understand our world a little bit better – even if it’s just over an inside joke.