Southern Brooklyn

Kagan Bashes "Russian Dolls" Brighton Reality Show


Ari KaganNow that we’ve got our first real glimpse of Russian Dolls, the new Brighton Beach-based reality show to air on Lifetime, it was just a matter of time until the reviews came in from Russian leaders. After we published the video on Friday, Ari Kagan – whose credentials in the Russian-speaking community include a journalism career, a one-time candidacy for the State Assembly, being the current liaison to the Russian-speaking community for Comptroller Liu, and a rumored contender for Michael Nelson’s City Council seat – sent us the following note condemning the show:

There is no question in my mind that the Russian Dolls series will depict the Russian-speaking community in a distorted way, as a caricature, as a joke. Lifetime does not care about the thousands of great, beautiful, funny, smart and hard-working young Russian speaking women who attend colleges and universities, make money as paralegals, librarians, nurses, journalists and computer specialists. They are great daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. They don’t spend most of their time in nightclubs, bars or lounges. They don’t speak this dirty language and they hate vodka.

Of course, we do have our own bad apples, low lives and criminals, but they constitute a minority in the Russian speaking community. Lifetime wants to create a lot of fun and entertainment by throwing the reputation of Russian-speaking New Yorkers under the bus.

It looks like Kagan is throwing his lot in with John Lisyanskiy, who condemned the show’s title as synonymous with prostitution, and who authored a letter to Lifetime expressing concerns that the channel will be “reducing would-be contestants to vodka-drinking ethnic caricatures who ‘love attention’ and do little more than ‘eat, drink and party.’” Lisyanskiy is the founder of the Russian-Speaking American Leadership Caucus, and the letter was co-signed by 42 elected politicians and Russian-speaking activists.

We have a feeling, as the show gets closer to its August 11 premiere, Kagan won’t be the last voice we hear from.

Comment policy


  1. Kagan and John lisayanskiy is like DUMB and DUMBER.
    They are upset because the show didn’t want them.

  2. Stupid Politicians. The more they protest and rail against it the more ATTENTION it’s going to generate for the show. That means increased ratings, which means more seasons.

    They’d have been better served by ignoring the shows existence setting an example.

  3. You might be right. Also it is not about Russians and community, it is about public and sale. If public is buying sex and vodka, they will sell it. We know who we are, we don’t have to be worried about stupid show and image of Russians. Our actions speak for us, good and bad.

  4. I was ashamed when all the self-proclaimed “Russian” Republicans/conservatives were making robocalls in 2010 on behalf of a Dem candidate (who still lost). Let’s see who da better ho… – bring it on, Brighton Beach! Davai!

  5. If the people are not like this, let them not take the money to appear on this crappy television show.  If they don’t want to act like trash, then don’t.  The actors should fight to be not actors, but themselves if they want everyone to know how the real russian community is.  I know some very classy russians, I also know people who are really like the people in the show.

  6. “paralegals, librarians, nurses, journalists and computer specialists”?  Because none of us are lawyers, professors, doctors and CEOs?  Wow, what a sexist list!

  7. You are right! There are plenty of great female doctors, lawyers, CEOs, teachers, businesswomen and many other successful people in the Russian speaking community. But Lifetime consider their life stories boring.

  8. You are right! There are plenty of great female doctors, lawyers, CEOs, teachers, businesswomen and many other successful people in the Russian speaking community. But Lifetime consider their life stories boring.

  9. You are right, but unfortunately, the minority make things bad for the majority – and that is in every nationality and religion.

  10. This isn’t about Lifetime.  I’m referring to YOUR comment.  When you’re talking about accomplishments of Russian-American women, and you only include traditionally female, subservient job titles, you’re implying that women only work in those positions.  It sounds like a 1950s Barbie ad:  Barbie was a nurse, Ken was a doctor.  I think you need to apologize rather than try shifting the blame to Lifetime.  

  11. Dear Enia! The whole point of my comment was to praise
    great Russian-American women and to defend their reputation! I did not “imply” anything else. It’s true that I did
    not include many noble professions in my very short list. But read my comments carefully: I was talking mostly about young students and recent college graduates. And I don’t think
    that journalists or computer specialists fit your “traditionally female, subservient job title”

  12. My initial and already valid and proven concern, based on numerous comments to the Russian Dolls trailer on various sites, is that this idiotic show will not only portray Russian speaking community in a disgusting way, but will further a lot of growing anti-semitism in Russia itself and abroad.

    The definition of Russian for an average American eclipses, ethnicity and republic( of the former USSR) of origin.   But the reality is that most of the immigrants to USA, espeically based in Brooklyn & Brighton Beach are Russian speaking – a lot have never lived in Russia itself and are not ethnic Russians.

    Since the creators of this show are Jewish(and do they even speak Russian???), and there is a very deeply embedded historical antagonism (pogroms!) against Jews in Russia and the fact that the show associates Russia with “prostitutes and etc” – the show will only serve to add fuel to an already growing aggressive Russian ethnic nationalism and xenophobia.  

  13. To say that Ari Kagan must apologize is a very strange comment I could have expect from the debate on the issue. Russian Dolls will be as shallow, cheezy show, like the Jersey Shores, or rather The Real Housewives of New Jersey. There were a lot of Italians who were upset and were writing letters, stating that the shows like Jersey Shores degrade the image of the Italians, which they do in my opinion. When I asked some people I know why do they watch Jersey Shores, the answer was – well, it is like watching a freak show. And I do agree with Ari Kagan, that Russian Dolls will make the negative stereotype about Russians even worse. As for accomplishments of Russian-American women, I would rather have my daughter Barbie, the nurse, than Barbie shallow stupid bar hopping girl that is bragging that her furs and diamonds are bigger and brighter that the one her friend has. It has nothing to do with gender, if Barbie works hard, she will become a doctor, or lawyer or else. And when Ari Kagan was talking about paralegals, etc, clearly, people become doctors and lawyers when they are older, and the list of the professions is just a list. Let’s not hang up on the specific job titles and, please, enough of this “sexist” stuff, I am an immigrant, I was a paralegal first, and now I am a lawyer. The point that Ari Kagan was making was not the specific job, but the idea that there are a lot of serious young women and they should be the face of Russian community.

  14. Ariella is right, the show would benefit out of publicity.
    The best thing we could do not to turn on Lifetime TV, ever!

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  16. Not for nothing.. I could not even finish watching the first episode! These girls don’t even look as hot as half the Russian girls I know.. Just really.. ewwwww!!!


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