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Tootin’ with The Putin—making sense of WFMU’s Vladimir Putin fan fiction project

In real life, Vladimir Putin is the poker faced Prime Minster of Russia—liked in his own country despite a pretty creepy human rights record and his past with the Soviet Union’s KGB. But on free form WFMU-FM he is the semi-regular subject of Thunk Tank’s Salutin’ Putin fan fiction feature, hosted by Bronwyn and Jay.

“We’re obsessed with him now,” Bronwyn confides to Jay on a recent program. “I do think it’s healthier that you’re obsessed with Putin. Because when you used to be obsessed with Justin Bieber, that made me worry a lot. But this is better. He’s like a more masculine, manly . . . ”

Putin says relax T-shirt

A Vladimir Putin action comic T-shirt

“Well,” Jay interrupts, “they’re doing a Colab, is what I heard. 2012—it’s going to be the Putin/Bieber ticket.”

“That’s horrifying,” Bronwyn exclaims (laughing).

Somebody almost calls the station, then doesn’t, and the conversation goes on.

“How did this start?” Bronwyn continues. “I don’t remember.”

“I got very excited last week to talk about Putin putting out forest fires,” Jay explains.

“And then I read that he went out in a little rubber raft, out on the choppy northern Atlantic ocean or Arctic ocean or some frigid ocean—” Bronwyn jumps in.

“—wearing a very sporty orange jump suit,” adds Jay, “very nautical.”

“And he shot a dart with a crossbow. I like the story that he shot a gray whale with a crossbow. But then because he’s Putin and he knows, right? that shooting a whale with a crossbow is not that cool, it was actually a dart with some kind of vaccine in it to help the whale.”

“No no no. It was for scientific research. They were taking a sample.”

“Yeah. Whatever.”

Soon to be an adjective

“What I also love is that Putin is a man of the people—right? And he has a real humility that he brings to his endeavors. And so when he came from shooting the whale with his crossbow, he said, ‘I got it on the fourth try.’ He admitted that three times he missed the whale with a crossbow. But on the fourth time he got it.”

“He did that intentionally!”

“Well, there’s a question.”

“I think he did! I think he hit it on the first try, but he doesn’t want to say. I think you’re right. He’s a man of the people. Trying to be a man of the people.”

“The average person could never sit in that boat and shoot that gray whale with a crossbow. That is a Putinesque endeavor.”

“Has ‘Putin’ become an adjective yet?” Jay asks.

“It should,” Bronwyn declares.

One can’t resist reading something into this very funny repartee—something drearily learned about the meaning of it all. I’ll keep it brief. Here we are, living at the end of history, and what’s the payoff? A global free market Internet economy in which a canned mediocrity like Justin Bieber rises to the top, and a newly “democratized” world that puts its faith in political fixers like Vladimir Putin.

But if you want to live, you gotta laugh. And that’s what shows like Thunk Tank are for. Thanks guys.


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