Thursday, September 18, 2014


Transmission

The Muppets Steal Putin's Show In Crimea

Constantine (left to right), Miss Piggy, and Kermit arrive for the advance premiere of Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 11.
Constantine (left to right), Miss Piggy, and Kermit arrive for the advance premiere of Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 11.
His forked tongue impedes his efforts to mask villainous designs for Europe. He stares down opponents with piercing, beady, eyes and a dismissive sneer. And he is a martial-arts expert who has a penchant for going bare-chested.

Meet Constantine, aka "Criminal No. 1," and star of the new Disney film "Muppets Most Wanted."

Constantine is cast as the evil Russian impostor of Kermit the Frog, the good-natured leader of the popular U.S. puppet clan known as the Muppets.

But moviegoers who catch the film's world premiere on March 21 can be forgiven if they see some surprising parallels to real-life events and global figures.
Written when the Cold War was still something to joke about -- i.e., before Russia's recent foray into Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula -- the film plays heavily on West vs. East stereotypes that will probably not generate many laughs in Moscow.

Constantine, hell-bent on going down in history as the world's greatest criminal, sets out with his inferior sidekick, Dominic Badguy, to "steal the unstealable" in Europe.

His struggles to overcome a heavy Russian accent while speaking English are reminiscent of Russian President Vladimir Putin's attempts to speak English.

The parallels to real events and people don't stop there, as a rundown of the characters reveals.

Dominic could be mistaken for Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who has long been seen as subservient to Putin.

Constantine: "[My plan is near completion,] ensuring that my name goes down in history as greatest thief of all time."
Dominic: "You mean 'our names,' right?"
Constantine: "Of course. My name first, then -- spacebar spacebar spacebar -- your name."

The film's female lead, Miss Piggy, arguably bears some resemblance to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose stance on Russia has toughened considerably as the Crimean crisis unfolds.

Miss Piggy: "I don't want to talk to you, Kermit! I said I want you out!"
Constantine: "I don't think you know what you want."
Miss Piggy: "Yeah I do, I just told you."
Constantine: "Shhh."

The Muppets, meanwhile, are initially wooed by Constantine as he launches his grand scheme, drawing comparisons to Putin's stated rationale for annexing Crimea: to protect the local Russian population. 

Constantine: "Now you guys have all the freedom you want!"

Kermit himself might be the hardest character to pinpoint. Once the ruse is revealed, the normally easy-going frog is viewed as a stabilizing influence and the only one capable of confronting Constantine:

Is Kermit the United States? President Barack Obama? James Bond? As Kermit himself once said: "Life is like a movie. Write your own ending."

-- Mike Scollon

Tags: Crimean crisis

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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