Once upon a time, my university, KU Leuven, hosted an educational program in Slavonic Studies, in which I used to teach Russian literature, culture and grammar. Ruben Coomans was among the very last generation of students who graduated in this program. In 2020, he wrote a splendid master thesis on Zelensky’s performance as the fictitious President of Ukraine in the television series Servant of the People. During the last two years, I had the pleasure of reworking it, together with Ruben, into a scientific article, which now has been published in the peer reviewed journal Image & Narrative.
Here’s the abstract:
When the current President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, ran for election, the electorate only knew him as an actor. In the widely acclaimed satirical TV series Servant of the People, he played an inspiring but clumsy teacher who, out of indignation at the corrupt state of Ukrainian politics, successfully makes a bid for the presidency and aims to reform his country. This TV series has been accused of being political marketing, but a systematic analysis of its marketing potential has not yet been made. This article want to fill this gap by performing a screen character analysis. As it turns out, as a fictional being, the lead character bears a striking physical resemblance to Zelenskyi. His most striking trait is modesty. He is driven by a high sense of responsibility, guarantying his moral integrity. As an artifact, the lead character is portrayed as a part of the common people. As a symbol, he equals servitude to people, but also the historical person who plays him. It is concluded that the confusion between Zelenskyi and the lead character allows for labelling the TV series Servant of the People as a unique example of political marketing with the potential of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Ruben and I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Prof. Dr. Kris Van Heuckelom for his useful theoretical advice.
To watch an interesting fragment of the TV show Servant of the People, you can click here.
You can download and read the article (PDF) here: