“Russian Dolls”: Who Are They?

“If the Soviet authorities had wanted to torture Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn beyond endurance, they would have forced him to watch Russian Dolls.” – said Alessandra Stanley in her review, published in New Your Times.

Well, that could not been put more accurately or keenly, if one wished to characterize a new reality show about Russian-speaking community of Brighton Beach, as well as the reaction of the audience the show applies to.

Started on previous Thursday on Lifetime channel, the show “Russian Dolls” drew heated response not only among the Russian community. American radio stations and mass media vied with each other in discussing the show, quoting the most ludicrous, in their opinion, dialogs and expressions. Apparently, “Russian Dolls” became a real event in show biz world.

It seems to be the same old story, just like it once has been with Italian community in “Jersey Shore” or Afro-American community in “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

– These reality shows are about low live, – my grown up daughter had warned me, foreseeing my painful reaction long before the show has even started.

However, I realized the meaning of her words only when I saw the pilot episode of the show “Russian Dolls”, that is supposed to “entertain” the public for almost 3 months.

The heroines of the show, studded with diamonds, dressed to kill, and driving Maserati, didn’t arouse in me nothing but pity for them. First of all, because they represent themselves worth then they probably are in real life out of sight of cameras, just because the scenario demanded them to show it like that. And secondly… well, happiness is supposed to be something quite different.

Anyone, who once walked the path of immigration, can tell a touching story about it’s ties and hardship. However, not all of the immigrants will confirm that the whole idea of their immigration was in getting a “fat slice of bacon”.

Still, a show is a show. It is dedicated to entertain, not to introduce the cultural heritage of one of the communities.

That’s why indignation of Russian community of Brighton Beach, who even wrote a letter of protest against the show to the Lifetime channel, is being swamped with guffaw of sarcastic laughter of a much larger audience.

The originator of the protest, John Lisyanskiy, believes that demonstration of such show is nothing but an insult to his family. As Mr. Lisyanskiy said, the name of the show itself – “Russian Dolls” – would better fit a brothel, in addition to the content of the show: sex, alcohol, and violence.

“Obviously, that doesn’t do any favor for the image of Russian immigration; and their [Lifetime] main goal is TV ratings. Showing criminal gangs and corrupt practices raises the ratings, while showing virtuous successful people does more for some culture channel or PBC – Public Broadcasting”, – said Lisyanskiy in an interview.

Meanwhile, one of the show heroines – Anastasia Kurinnaya – advises not to take it too close to heart and judge too severely. She says that she participates in this show just for fun, and her family recommended her to smile more on camera.

Indeed, this particular genre requires “cheesecake” behavior and grotesquely presented reality to increase a sleazy impression. Any commercially thinking producer would approve such move.

Bread and circuses! – nobody has yet abolished this fundamental principle of entertainment industry, which a crowd needs so desperately throughout the history of humankind.

As for intelligence and high feelings… Everyone chooses to one’s liking and level of development.

For instance, not so long ago Philadelphia hosted performances by a sensational troupe “From Russia With Love”, who has introduced a whole number of classical works. These concerts were attended not only by the Russian audience. Americans of all nationalities were appreciating the performance mastery of Russian musicians as well. I hope their opinion of Russian community in America would be different from the one the fans of “Russian Dolls” have.

Same goes for visitors of an exhibition devoted to Russian artist Chagall, which took place at Philadelphia Art Museum couple months ago. The exhibition was presenting masterpieces not only of this artist, but also of his contemporaries. One had to see how excited and inspired the visitors were watching this priceless heritage of art!

It’s truly amazing that Chagall belongs to the culture of a community, which is partially represented by heroes of “Russian Dolls” show.

Apparently, this attempt of the authors of the show, who incidentally are of Russian descent themselves, to become popular and make a career on presenting Russian community in such way shouldn’t be taken too close to heart.

However, let’s be honest, such “Russian Dolls” do exist in our community, just like other communities have their “black sheep”. But still, does this dirty linen have to be washed in public? Absolutely, believes Lifetime, and shows the dirty laundry for the sake of popularity.

Malvina Yakobi


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