Freedonia, according to the 1933
Marx Brothersmovie " Duck Soup," is a fictional country in Europe. Over time, however, the word has come to have a more generic meaning. It can be anything from a noundescribing a plausible yet fictional country, to an adjective("Freedonian") used to characterize a place "like" the Freedonia of "Duck Soup". Because the Marx Brothers' Freedonia had so many qualities— autocracy, diminutiveness, and obscurity, to name but a few — a place can be described as "Freedonian" for having any one of these qualities.
Freedonia in "Duck Soup"
In the movie, tiny Freedonia ("Land of the Spree, and the Home of the Knave") is suffering from severe financial problems, and government leaders request a loan from wealthy widow Mrs. Teasdale to keep things afloat. The widow agrees on the condition that Rufus T. Firefly, played by
Groucho Marx, take control and run the country. In the musical number that accompanies Firefly's first day in office, Groucho lets the audience know how things will run, singing lyrics such as "if you think this country's bad off now/Just wait till I get through with it."
Firefly insults and angers Ambassador Trentino from the neighboring nation of Sylvania, which leads to war. Chico and Harpo Marx appear in the film as spies for Sylvania, and their trial for spying turns into an absurd musical number. Chico's character, Chicolini, doubles as Freedonia's secretary of war, while Harpo's character, Pinky becomes Firefly's chauffeur.
Zeppo Marxplays Firefly's secretary.cite web
title = The New Pictures
publisher = Time Inc.
date = 1933-11-20
url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,929605-2,00.html
accessdate = 2007-04-09 ]
When the film was first released, the village of
Fredonia, New Yorkcomplained about the possible negative impact the film might have on them. The Marx Brothers replied, in typical Marx fashion, "Change the name of your town. It is hurting our picture." The satirical depiction of Freedonia is said to have led Benito Mussolinito ban the film in Italy.cite book
last = Kanfer.
first = Stefan
title = Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx
publisher = Vintage (
date = 2001 (reprint)
location = New York
url = http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375702075&view=excerpt
id = ISBN 0-375-70207-5]
References to Freedonia in later works of fiction
In the 1960s,
Woody Allen, working on " Candid Camera," used Freedonia as a practical joke by asking passersby what they thought of the bid for independence for Freedonia. In the 1990s, the satirical magazine "Spy" pulled a practical jokeon several members of the United States Congress. The magazine successfully convinced several Congressional members, such as Corrine Brown, to issue statements condemning the " ethnic cleansingin Freedonia," without their realizing that Freedonia was a fictional country.
"Duck Soup" is used as in-joke amongst characters portrayed as knowledgeable about the film in a Season 3 episode of "The West Wing", while another episode in Season 6 recalls the general plot details of "Duck Soup". In "
Enemies Foreign and Domestic", C.J. Cregg, Sam Seaborn, and Toby Zieglerare discussing the relevancy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) in a post- Sovietworld. C.J., being briefed by Sam on a number of countries she has to mention as possible new candidates for NATO membership, wonders why Freedonia's being left out of the mix. She goes on to reference Groucho Marx by singing "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" under her breath. When upbraided by Toby for not taking the briefing seriously, she asks why her attempt at humor is less valid than Sam's or his. Toby responds that he's heard her joke before, implying that he's seen "Duck Soup". Determined that her Marx Brothersreferences be respected, she ends the sequences of references by offering to pay Toby $500 if he'll sing " Lydia the Tattooed Lady". During Season 6, Freedonia popped up again when Congressman Matt Santos, then hoping to become the Democratic nominee for president, showed his anger with modern political debates. The question of the "situation in Freedonia" was asked of a candidate in a Senate debate, and after the candidate said he would look into it, there was no allowed time for the other candidates to challenge him about the existence of the country.
The American game publisher
FASA's name was originally supposed to stand for "Freedonian Aeronautics and Space Administration." In their first publication (a set of starship deck plans for the game "Traveller"), the accompanying introduction was signed "Rufus T Firefly, Director".
Sierra EntertainmentPC game , you get to meet some of the Marx brothers: Grouchco Marx ("Ali Fakir", the saurus seller), Harpo Marx (wandering around Shapeir's streets with a horn) and Chico Marx (the merchant "Ali Chica"). If you ask about "Ali Chica" after his disappearance, you are told that he went to "Fredonia".
In the 2007 "
Doctor Who" episode " The Shakespeare Code", the Doctor claims his companion Martha Jonesis from Freedonia. He also claims this in the "Doctor Who" novel " Sting of the Zygons". Although the usage may be intended simply as a plausible name for a country of which the listener ( William Shakespearein the former case) has not heard, it is specifically linked to "Duck Soup" in at least one official reference work. [cite book
last = Russell
first = Gary
authorlink = Gary Russell
title = Doctor Who: The Encyclopedia - A Definitive Guide to Time and Space
publisher = BBC Books
date = 2007
location = London
pages = pg. 69
id = ISBN 978-1-84-607291-8]
"Freedonia" as metaphor in general English
"Freedonia" is sometimes used in political editorials and news stories to illustrate a point about another, real country. Sometimes the point being made is that a particular country is so small or remote as to be unknown to its readers. Other times, the term may negatively connote that a real country is run by an autocratic leader who is out of step with his or her people. Still other times the author may simply use "Freedonia" to mean "a fictitious country for the purposes of illustration". [ [http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/ian_williams/2007/05/save_freedonia_1.html Comment is free: Save Freedonia ] ] [ [http://www.conservative.org/columnists/barr/061220bb.htm Freedonia on the Potomac ] ] [http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_50/c3711050.htm McNamee, Mike. "Invest in Freedonia!" "Business Week" website. ]
"Freedonia" is a word which retains currency in modern metaphorical English. For instance, it is common to several
blogpage or article titles. The general content of blogs so named are articles having to do with the excesses of government [http://www.capo.typepad.com/report_from_freedonia/ Report from Freedonia blog] [http://newfreedonia.wordpress.com/ New Freedonia blog]
*imdb title|id=0023969|title=Duck Soup
*tcmdb title|id=73717|title=Duck Soup
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