And The Show Goes On… But Who’s Still Watching?

Daniel Fedorowycz, CERES Graduate Student, University of Toronto


 

Another year, another drama in the never-ending saga of Ukrainian Politics.  But as is the case with any drawn-out television show, at some point or another, people lose interest and stop watching. True, there are always those diehard fans who refuse to miss the latest episode of their favourite television show.  But the fact of the matter is, a show can only remain successful if it reaches a broader audience.  And with Ukraine, it seems that scriptwriters are pulling out all the

stops, but people simply aren’t tuning in anymore.

In 2004, with the now infamous “Orange Revolution,” the Ukrainian Political Drama reached its climax in terms of ratings and international interest.

And how could it not?

There was a clear “antagonist:” the Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovych, who, with the help of his cronies, rigged the presidential elections in hopes of being crowned Ukraine’s next leader.  Thankfully, Viktor Yushchenko paraded in on his western-imported white horse to save Ukraine from the clutches of authoritarianism, corruption, and everything else that comes with it.  It was a typical tale of good versus evil, with an additional element of Cold War inspired “east” versus “west.”  There were mass protests, mysterious poisonings, cameo appearances from famous celebrities, and lots of drama, excitement, and, of course, fireworks.  There was even an official soundtrack to the Orange Revolution (conveniently available for purchase online. http://www.umka.com.ua/eng/catalogue/other/collection-orange-revolution-songs-set-of-2-cds.html)

It was the perfect recipe for a blockbuster hit.

With Yulia Tymoshenko, the giftedly charismatic and equally fashionable “gas princess” by his side, the dynamic democratic duo triumphed over the “evil” Yanukovych to bring Ukraine peace, stability, and European integration.  It was the perfect end to a tumultuous story… or so we thought.  Little did we know, the Ukrainian Political Drama was far from over, and, on the contrary, a sequel was already in the works.

As the years went by, the clear-cut lines between “good” and “evil” blurred into a finger-pointing mess, and what was once a political drama has turned into a farfetched soap opera with unthinkable twists and turns.  Who would have thought five years ago that Yanukovych, the defeated and internationally shamed “villain” of the Revolution, would become the next president of Ukraine?

So where has the story taken us now? Unfortunately, Ukrainian scriptwriters have grown far too accustomed to the Hollywood mantra of “sex [and violence] sells.”  Take, for example, FEMEN (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/apr/15/ukrainian-feminists-topless-campaign).

And who could forget the brawls and smoke bombs in Ukrainian parliament (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8646171.stm)?

More recently, Ukrainian scriptwriters have made yet another faux pas, by recycling old story lines.  Didn’t show trials end with the Soviet Union?  Apparently not, since the braided Iron Lady of Ukraine, Tymoshenko, has found herself sitting in an overcrowded courtroom, tongue-lashing the judge, accusing him of being Yanukovych’s puppet and refusing to stand in his presence.  Meanwhile, hundreds of supporters chant “shame!” both in and outside the courtroom.  (Now cue the violence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWcYwMw40T4 and sex http://www.demotix.com/news/730705/femen-hold-rally-titled-its-good-idea-be-tymoshenko-kiev )

It’s a shame that this is what the outside world sees when they tune in to watch Ukraine.

So what are we to expect next? It’s hard to predict.

At the very least, perhaps those of us still watching Ukraine will somehow be able to steer this political drama away from becoming a full-fledged circus, before all interest is gone and the plug is pulled on this show.

Until then, let’s just hope that in a desperate attempt to boost ratings, Tymoshenko doesn’t bring her albino pet tiger “TigrYulia” to court, because at that point, even I will change the channel.  (http://blog.tymoshenko.ua/en/category/my-pets

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