Madam Secretary, and the Crimea to Moscow?
Madam Secretary is one of the enjoyable TV series. Recently the show had a great guest: Madeleine Albright, “real” ex-Madam Secretary of State and a distinguished politician of President B. Clinton’s Administration. The presence of M. Albright is also a sign that Madam Secretary is not far from seats of power in Washington DC.
Our short post is to spotlight a small, maybe banal, yet very interesting, representation of the Crimea is US-and-Russia dialectics, usually a subject of imagination, even speculation, in political drama TV series. The Crimea, in one of the programme’s episodes, is presented as part of Russia, and not Ukraine.
Maps and negotitations
Maps are legal documents which value is sometimes superiour to texts’. The fact to negotiate over a map with fixed borders means, de facto, reecognising theses borders. Othrwise border-conflict negotiation maps are either border-free throughout the contested borders or presented as “ambiguous” zones over contested borders.
… But not for Madam Secretary‘s Crimea!
In Greater Good , episode 12 of Season 2, US President Conrad Dalton is negotiating a ceasefire, or peace agreement, with Maria Ostrova, Russian Federation’s Head of State. President’s Dalton’s Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord, is present (the show protagonist, played by Téa Leoni). The negotiations are held over a bilingual (English and Russian) map of Ukraine: the territory supposed to belong to Kiev is in orange colour while foreign territories around are in grey. And Russia is represented by dark grey.
The suprise is in the map used for the programme: Ukraine is without the Crimea. In other terms the US President and his Secretary of State are holding negotiations based on a Crimea-less Ukraine map and thus de facto recognise it as Russian (or non-Ukrainian) territory which is commanded by Moscow as its sovereign political centre. Is it a lapsus?
1- If it is a mistake: then why a Crimea-not-controlled-by-Kiev-but-by-Moscow map of Ukraine is used? Did the directors think, à tort ou à raison, that the US Administration recognises Crimea a s apart of the Russian Federation thus recognises the legitimacy of its annexation in 2014?
2- It is not a mistake: the directors put the map intentionally. What does this imply? We know it is a mere TV series. But it is clear that it is not that far from decision-making circles of Washington DC. Thus what is the reason of this deliberate choice?
Placing the centre
The placement of the centre is important on the map: the centre can tell about the whole entity. A simple colour switch or change or omission or adding on a map can change the entire view. And maps are not only mererepresentations: they are actors embedded with meaning and great representations of power relations of our real world.
“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life”, says Oscar Wilde. Does this apply to Madam Secretary? We do not know. But the depiction of a US Administration in recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea is open to interpretation.
This is not our first post about the Crimea. We did another almost two years ago (about the Crimea being the birthplace of both Russia and Ukraine). But the shift in representation, in an American TV series supposed to be a reflection of the Federal Government’s weltanschauung is interesting. We understand that the show is independent and fiction. But still, who hosts Madeleine Albright has to justify his/her map choices: in other terms Madam Secretary shows the US President as fully recognising Russian sovereignty over the Crimea.
Maybe, a dream, another great Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice – herself an expert in Russian studies and Russian language – can appear in a next episode of Madam secretary and tell us about this ambiguity!