As I turned the channel to Lifetime’s Russian Dolls Thursday at 11:30 PM, the ghost of Dostoyevsky entered my body. As his designated spiritual medium, I transcribed his impressions of the show. These are his words.
In last night’s episode “Tough Russian Love,” woman and man alike must question the tactility of love – whether it is a commodity to be controlled or an emotional prison of created by humanity. What does it mean to obtain love, what does it mean to give love? Is the ultimate price of love the surrender of one’s freewill? All this, and women of the night with candelabras fixed atop their weary heads.
“Most Russian women are dependent on the guy.”
Young Anastasia hopes to rise above a destiny of being a kept woman. To keep herself, she must make a career for herself. And yet, she struggles to rise above the futility of higher education. Melancholy courses through her Russian veins, leading her to flit from academic major to academic major like a bee to a flower in springtime. It is society that forces us to define ourselves, to draw boxes around our identity through the auspice of “Psychology” or “Pre-Law” or “General Studies.” Anastasia sees through society’s lie and yet cannot help but be torn asunder by it.
“I plan to live every day like a beautiful person”
Says Belarussian Renata, as she sweats through an Aerobo-Pilates class. She steps in place but goes nowhere. What imaginary ladder in the sky are you climbing, beautiful Renata? Wed to a man she believes looks like a Russian gangster, Renata dreams of being a singer, but cannot escape her husband Boris’ control. One must question whether the man to which she is contractually bound is what controls her, or if she herself is keeping her dream captive. Is Boris the keeper of Renata’s love, or has she buried it in a prison within a prison, like a smaller Russian doll within a larger Russian doll?
“I’m not a fruit person.”
Renata’s friend Sveta possesses such an enlightened sense of self that she recognizes she does not care for fruit, nor does she care to try to like it simply because it may be the wish of patriarchal structures around her. They may swallow her whole, but she will drown on her own terms- and with a belly empty of any fruit. One can only assume fruit is either frivilous possession, the hedonist distractions of life or perhaps human emotion altogether. Sveta is a cactus in the tundra of life. This much is clear while Renata and Sveta shop in the supermarket. But what is so super about it?
“You are like a mean person.”
The woman who once held complete control over Anastasia when she carried her in the womb, tries to wield her amniotic influence over her daughter’s career choice of law. Anastasia is overcome with a fever, a sickness. She’s blinded by the pointlessness of it all. Who should she be? No. The conversation should be “who is she NOW?” Anastasia proclaims her being over it, over her mother, perhaps over her existence altogether. Her madness drives her to hysterics, causing her mother to flee and Anastasia retreat within, towards the increasingly smaller selves living inside her spray-tanned outer shell.
The name of the restaurant at which Renata will make her singing debut is clearly a metaphor for the prison sentence of suffering we know as life. We are all serving time towards a greater power, whether 1001 nights, 5000 days – life is just a series of sunrises and sunsets.
“It’s not Chanel, but it’s a French designer.”
When one party guest at 1001 Nights has the pedigree of her accessories challenged – she defends the French heritage of her baubles. Why are we to assume that France is considered superior? When was this caste system established and by whom? It must be the utter lack of reason in fashion that drives women to construct a superficial hierarchy. To make sense of the senseless – that is how social structures are born. Also the patriarchy is involved somehow.
“You don’t know what the future holds.”
After making amends with the matriarchal forces in her life, Anastasia experiences a moment of true clarity. She will study pre-law for now, but knows perhaps she will not be able gain acceptance into a law school. She realizes one cannot know what the future holds. And to relinquish control over the future is to liberate love from within the emotional confines of the soul.
In the end, a Russian Doll must open herself to open herself.