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.


3 responses

  1. Cayla says:

    Ilona, even though I am not Russian I agree with your thoughts about the show. It actually turns out to be that family of the cast of Russian Dolls lives on my block. People stand outside and take pictures in front of their home unaware of the reality of the show. This does show that people enjoy these types of shows as terrible as they portray a particular group. Also, this show, does not portray the area well at all. Half of the places shown are no where near or in Brighton beach. This show has torn apart an ethnicity and area, and turned it into bad humor, leaving not one bit of a true authentic Russian background. Everything shown and done has been taken to the extreme involving stereotypes. In one part of the show, a woman disrespects her mother in-law. Regardless of whatever background you are from, it is usually extremely rude to disrespect elders.

  2. I am Russian too, Ukrainian actually, and I agree with you. It is rather embarrassing but I think it will be worse in the not so distant future. If the show ever reaches such infamy as Jersey Shore, us Russians will REALLY be stereotyped and hated. Reading the first few lines, I thought you were being a little bit too harsh on the show but then I began to understand your reasoning. The reason I don’t see the show as being radically stereotypical is mainly because this IS who we are. You are right, it is not all of us. And definitely not all the time. But Brighton Beach is old people, hot girls, and cheap perfume. Personally, I hate Brighton Beach and I wish to never go there again. the over exaggerated stereotype is still very wrong.

  3. gentdisha says:

    I am definitely not a fan of this show, or of the Jersey Shore and shows like them for that matter, and for good reason; I think these shows simply employ exploitation of the people being depicted for profit. What is really troubling is that this exploitation is coupled with the serious misrepresentation involved. I am not Russian myself, but I do have many Russian friends and I’m sure that anyone who is Russian would not identify with the characters being depicted on this show. I believe there are aspects of the culture being shown is common amongst all Russians, however the show does as you say just use the stereotype of fickle, vodka drinking, party animal Russians to generalize an entire community. My real issue with the show however, is that while I may live in Brooklyn (not too far from Brighton Beach), and have many Russian friends allowing me to identify this show as an exaggeration and watch it for its humor, perhaps people living in middle America small towns without a large Russian population may form opinions based on these misrepresentations.