On November 16, 2015, the political satire series Servant of the People was released, depicting the life of fictional high-school history teacher Vasiliy Petrovych Goloborodko. After Goloborodko is recorded ranting about corruption, he’s confronted with unexpected results. The political satire explores Goloborodko’s journey into internet stardom and presidency. Volodymyr Zelensky, a prominent comedian and actor in the Ukrainian entertainment industry, played Goloborodko.
Servant of the People ran for over fifty episodes, and interestingly enough, Zelensky’s fictional role foreshadowed his own real presidency—he formed a real Ukrainian political party and took a leap into politics, winning the Ukrainian election in 2019.
Recently, when Russia invaded Ukraine, President Zelensky once again impressed the public with his ongoing resistance against Russia, bringing further attention to Zelensky and his previous career. Servant of the People gained a new audience, and many companies, including Netflix, capitalized on this popularity boost, including Netflix. Netflix added the first season of Servant of the People to its huge database of entertainment, sparking controversy.
On one hand, the streaming of Servant of the People offers a unique opportunity to explore the parallels between Zelensky’s presidency now and his fictional presidency. The show pushes newly-elected Goloborodko as an ambassador for change—someone that directly addresses national crises rather than avoiding them. The very roots of Zelensky’s original campaign sprouted from this political satire, and many of the values he preaches today are apparent in the comedy.
On the other hand, Servant of the People raises moral questions. Netflix’s eager moves to add Servant of the People might be in bad taste when considering the conflict in Ukraine. On March 16, Netflix tweeted, “You asked, and it’s back!” to announce the political satire’s return to screens. The lighthearted tone of the tweet is peculiar, especially in the face of such a tragedy, and knowing that Netflix will profit off this show’s streaming makes the tweet worse. It’s important to note that despite this addition, Netflix halted service in Russia in response to their actions against Ukraine.