As a member of the Russian community I have become accustomed to witnessing how Russian television has taken almost every show from American media and duplicated it into their own Russian version of the show. This time the Lifetime network has taken the idea of the Jersey Shore to create the show Russian Dolls. Like Jersey Shore which focuses on all of the stereotypes of being Italian, Russian Dolls exaggerates all of the stereotypes about being a Russian immigrant. A Huff Post says that the show portrays “Russians in tacky clothes who do little more than eat, drink and party.” Here we see that there are reality shows and then there is reality. But what truth do some of these stereotypes hold?
I myself am a Russian immigrant, and I found out about this show through varies other Russian immigrants that I know. Each of them expressed their terror in how negatively this show will make our community look like as a whole. As we all know, the media’s aim is to entertain us; sadly our society has deemed such things as misrepresentation, stereotyping, violence, drinking, and partying as entertainment for us. The only thing sadder, is that they were right; this type of television is what people tend to watch.
One of the episodes focused on a cast member that was dating a man that wasn’t Russian. When telling her mother that she is dating a Hispanic man, her mother simply regards this as unacceptable. She tells her daughter that she is at an age in which she should be thinking about marriage and that she must marry a Russian Jew. While this does sound rather racist, from personal testimony, I believe that it’s not so much about being racist towards other groups, but has to do more with Russian people’s dedication towards their thick Russian ethnicity. This show is created in Brighton Beach which can be considered the Russian community’s home away from home. Most people in this neighborhood speak Russian, eat Russian food, go to Russian stores, socialize with other Russians, and have families that are made up of Russian people. To have someone marry into a non-Russian family is to accept giving up some of the thickness that is instilled in their ethnicity.
While it is easy to say that all Russians are like the cast of Russian Dolls, that they drink Vodka all day, party all night, only socialize with other Russians, and wear fur coats, this stereotyping obviously can’t be generalized to the entire community. Although some of the characteristics and ideas are common amongst many Russians I believe that it is just their way of holding on to their ethnicity, admitting that they do not want to let it go.