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October 22nd, 2017

Max’s View

Exporting Raymond
***1/2
Available on DVD and iTunes

In articles about Russia’s attempt to control the Ukraine, the writers inevitably describe the conflict as the beginning of a “new Cold War.”

I find that point of view unjustified and discouraging. I agree that Ukraine’s civil war is horrible and largely due to Vladimir Putin’s meddling. But I don’t agree that it is any of our business. And I certainly don’t agree that it is wise to view Russia as our enemy again.

I don’t want a second Cold War. I never understood why we even had to have the FIRST Cold War.

Authoritarian communism was the most destructive political movement of the 20th Century. The Soviet Union was the enemy of prosperity, freedom, democracy, and human dignity. But it wasn’t the enemy of the United States. There was never a real chance that the USSR was going to conquer America or convince us to go red.

It’s sad that it took 35 years of tension for Washington to come to its senses about the actual threat level posed by the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan rightly observed that communism would inevitably collapse because it’s a lousy system of government. His plan of criticizing communism confidently while working peacefully with Gorbechev worked splendidly. I don’t understand why Obama and Kerry can’t find a way to co-exist amicably with Vladimir Putin.

Could it be that we find ourselves at odds with Russia simply because Russians and Americans are so culturally different?

In the ridiculously entertaining documentary “Exporting Raymond,” Hollywood television producer Phil Rosenthal learns that Russians aren’t just tall Americans with big furry hats.

Rosenthal created the TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond.” And in 2010, he went to Moscow to help create a Russian-language version of his hit show.

At first, Rosenthal casually boasts that his characters and situations are “universally relatable.” It turns out that Russians live in a different universe.

A young Russian TV producer tells Rosenthal that the character of Raymond is fundamentally flawed because he is a man who lets his wife tell him what to do. He explains that Russians are fundamentally more macho. I guess that’s why there are topless publicity photos of Vladimir Putin carrying a high-powered hunting rifle on the internet.

Rosenthal has a heated argument with the show’s style consultant when he discovers that she has dressed Raymond’s wife in a fashion-forward $400 outfit to clean the house. Rosenthal says that the outfit isn’t realistic. The style consultant tells him that he just doesn’t understand Russians.

So Rosenthal goes to the studio of some progressive Russian artists to learn more about Russian taste. The hip artist explains that Russians love Brittany Spears because she focuses on style and fashion rather than substance.

Rosenthal discovers that the style consultant was right and he was wrong. The $400 cleaning outfit stayed in the show.

We are not the same as the Russians. There will never be a topless publicity photo of Obama carrying an assault rifle. We may never be friends with the Russians. But I still don’t see why we have to be enemies.

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