To make Ukraine the leader, watch Servant of the People on Netflix

Clad in a green T-shirt and armed with little more than a camera and an internet connection, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has successfully captured the world’s attention while largely isolated in a war zone. From his virtual appeal to Congress Wednesday to his viral social media communications with his own people and the world, Zelensky has masterfully employed against his Russian enemies a skill he had honed long before he entered politics: the affable Actor, comedian and political satirist with a populist bent has channeled his media savvy and honesty to advance his country’s cause.

Before taking office in 2019, Zelensky’s most notable role was on the amazingly prescient half-hour comedy series Servants of the People, which ran from 2015-2019. (Season 1 just returned on Netflix this week.) In it, Zelensky stars as Vasyl Petrovych Goloborodko, a high school history teacher who is unexpectedly elected to office after a student films and then posts a video speaking out against corruption the government railed, and the clip went viral.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the TV series "servant of the people."

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the TV series Servant of the People.

(Studio Kvartal 95)

“It’s always the smallest of two a’s – and has been for 25 years…” the disgruntled teacher grumbles in what he believes to be a private conversation with a colleague. “Nothing will change. You know why? Because you, my dad, me, we’re going to vote for another S-Stick one more time. We all know he’s an asshole, but the other person is worse… .They loot and talk s— and talk some more s— and cheat. Same s—, different day. If I had only a week in office I would show them. F – the motorcades, f – the perks, f – the weekend chalets….Let a humble teacher live like a president, and a president like a teacher!”

And with only minor changes to the narrative, that’s exactly what happened in real life. When Zelensky, who also created and produced the series, ran for the presidency of Ukraine, he named his political party after “Servant of the People” – and won by a landslide victory. Adopting a platform similar to his fictional character, he vowed to break through corruption and politics as usual: the little guy against a vast geopolitical machine, the everyman fighting for the Ukrainian people where others see them as obstacles to them repressing is the way to go in the pursuit of greater conquests.

Now, in a poignant case where life mimics art, Zelensky has proven that there was more to the loyal, authentic, and deeply invested character he played on television than his acting skills and shrewd comedic timing. The humble Petrovich shares many of the qualities we’ve seen in Zelenskyy in recent weeks: Ukraine’s real-life leader is a resourceful and unflinching defender of his people, one who has long since shed the “perks” of office – and indeed continues to be Risking life – while broadcasting from besieged Kyiv.

A bearded man in an olive green shirt sits next to a Ukrainian flag

In this image, taken from video provided by the Ukrainian President’s press office and posted to Facebook, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses members of the US Congress from Kyiv, Ukraine on Wednesday.

(Associated Press)

Fighting to save the country he loves, the man who voiced Paddington the Bear for Ukrainian children, using communication skills forged in a decidedly modern media environment, launched an unprecedented virtual campaign, challenging Western leaders called for action.

On Thursday, in a speech to Germany’s Bundestag, he shamed leaders for allowing Russia to expand its influence. He even went thereevoking the memory of the Holocaust. “Every year politicians say, ‘Never again,'” said Zelensky, who is Jewish. “Now I see that those words are worthless. In Europe, a people is being destroyed.” Urging Congress on Wednesday, he compared the Russian attack to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and implored Biden to be “a world leader.” He referred to Winston Churchill when speaking to British leaders, and in his speech to the Canadian Parliament he used the Prime Minister’s first name, Justin.

A presidential actor is nothing new, particularly in the US, Ronald Reagan transitioned from film to politics, serving as governor of California before making it to the White House for two terms – during which time Soviet influence in the Eastern Bloc was beginning to wane . Slipping straight from reality TV (no acting skills required) into the Oval Office, Donald Trump served a stranger tenure as “The Mask” that ended in a riot. But unlike Zelensky, none of these screen personalities satirized government, world leaders, or political beliefs — in productions they created — before becoming part of that system. And nobody had to navigate through such a wide range of target groups and platforms as he did.

Season 1 of Servant of the People is brimming with insights into modern day governance, from the absurdity of the carefully orchestrated presentation – Petrovych is pressured by his media coach to stick whole walnuts in his cheeks during his inaugural speech rehearsal – to the searing charges of bribery, power and puppetry. Faceless peddlers plotting behind the scenes offer a sardonic warning sign of the dangers Petrovych will face in office, especially when, over caviar and champagne, they discover that the humble schoolteacher’s choice was not Bought. “A man rising to the presidency who is not under our control?! Is he a puppet of the West?! The Kremlin?!”

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the TV series "servant of the people."

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the TV series Servant of the People.

(Studio Kvartal 95)

Russian President Vladimir Putin only wishes Ukrainians would follow orders from Moscow: Given the speech he broadcast on state media on Wednesday, the former KGB director derives his wartime propaganda from a script written in the last century . “Take power into your own hands,” Putin told Ukrainian soldiers, accusing their government of using its population as a human shield, hours before Russian troops wiped out a civilian shelter in Mariupol that was clearly housing children.

But firepower isn’t the only power that matters. Zelensky has secured the loyalty of his people by being their servant and using the means at his disposal to take Ukraine’s plight to the world.

“Servant of the People”

Where from: Netflix

When: Any time

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under 14 years old)

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-03-18/ukraine-russia-zelensky-servant-of-the-people-netflix To make Ukraine the leader, watch Servant of the People on Netflix

Caroline Bleakley

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