and the Putin imputation
By Kathleen Knox
PRAGUE - To hear Dobby, the
friendly, computer-animated elf who stars in Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Brothers' latest film about the schoolboy wizard, you
might not get a sense of the controversy the character
is currently stirring.
But take a look at Dobby
and you might get a better idea. With his long nose,
buggy eyes and somewhat dour expression, the
computer-generated house elf bears a startling
resemblance to Vladimir Putin, president of Russia.
The similarity, of course, only goes so far.
Unlike Dobby, Putin's skin is not colored. Nor does he
have disproportionately large ears. But news of the
Dobby-Putin resemblance has nonetheless attracted a lot
of public attention. Russian, German, and Italian media
have all carried reports on the look-alikes. The BBC's
Russian Service even polled its website readers on
whether they also saw the similarity. A whopping 77
percent answered "yes".
The topic has also
prompted much discussion in Internet chat rooms. "Poor
Dobby! Being compared to a politician," said one
message. Another visitor to a Russian chat site said he,
for one, couldn't see what everyone was talking about.
"You guys need to drink less," he wrote. "Or is it me
who isn't drinking enough?"
Brothers, it seems, had nothing to say. Their publicity
department declined to comment.
But if some
reports are to be believed, not everyone is amused. The
Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy reported that a group
of Russian lawyers is preparing to take legal action
against the film's producers. The lawyers apparently
claim that the artists who created Dobby intentionally
based him on Putin. And that, naturally, shouldn't be
If news of
the suit proves true, it wouldn't be the first time
concerned Russian citizens have taken the image of their
president to heart. In 1995, the Prosecutor-General's
Office began an investigation into the satirical puppet
allegedly insulting then president Boris Yeltsin. The
case was later dropped.
Will Dobby have his day
in court? The validity of a pending case is difficult to
judge. The Ekho Moskvy report failed to name any of the
lawyers alleged to be involved, and no one seems to know
who they might be.
public-communications head of the Russian Lawyers'
Guild, spoke to RFE/RL's Russian Service. "As regards
[to] these rumors, I don't rule out that maybe some
lawyer or group of lawyers [is] using this kind of, I
would say 'black PR' in order to boost their
reputations. Similar suits have taken place. It's very
difficult for courts to rule on them; lots of experts
have to be called in. It's doubtful if it has a chance.
It seems to me it would be a long, drawn-out process.
Probably people are doing this specifically to attract
attention. That's the only explanation I can have for
this action," Digishev said.
Perhaps now that
the Dobby-Putin scandal has attracted so much attention,
the lawyers will come forward. Or perhaps we should
expect a countercomplaint. As one Harry Potter fan put
it, "Maybe Dobby should be the one suing."
Copyright (c) 2002, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted
with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC