I am back so soon to discuss the show Russian Doll. I have not watched any more oscar noms since my last post, but I cannot get Russian Doll out of my head so y’all know the drill: I have to write about it and all of its genius. This post contains spoilers so if you have not seen the show in its entirety, just check back when you have.
Russian Doll stars Orange Is The New Black‘s Natasha Lyonne as the head girl, Nadia. Natasha Lyonne has something special radiating from her at all times. Whether it seeps out through her gorgeous fire hair or it flows from her raspy voice, whenever she is on screen it is magic. Her facial expressions, mannerisms, the way she smokes her cigarettes, are all ICONIC. The show opens with her staring at her reflection in the mirror,
“gotta get up gotta get out gotta get up before the morning comes” plays over and over as she has to relive her birthday night. In the bathroom that she continues to “restart” in has a blue hole on it that resembles a portal to another dimension.
One of the best tools that we have in media is the use of color. Colors elicit different emotions and feelings based on which colors we see and associate with different moods. Breaking Bad is what comes to mind with the best example of use of color, as each character has a designated color that brings about their traits and sense of self. Russian Doll executes this perfectly, if not even better. Nadia’s color is red. Red for chaos, passion, intensity, and fun. The story gets really interesting when Nadia finds another person who, just like her, no longer fears death and it seems that he and her are both reliving a night of their lives. This guy’s name is Alan and his color is blue. Blue for tranquility, control, calm, and order. Alan is the complete polar opposite of Nadia. He has everything in his apartment organized and in order, while Nada looks like she lives in an overcrowded shoe box. The two main colors of the show are red and blue. This is shown in the lighting of the different scenes, as reds and blues light up the streets of New York.
So whenever we see red we think of surrendering yourself to the universe and accepting the bad. With blue we think of having control in our lives and manifesting our own destiny. But the problem with both of these theories of living life is that no one is better, or even complete, without the other. Ruth, Nadia’s basically adopted mother who professions as a therapist says that Nadia’s mother was a little unstable. She would get fixated on little things and think they meant the world. Ruth mentions one time that her mother was obsessed with the 7th crown chakra. This is the chakra that represents wisdom, spiritual enlightenment, and an overall understanding of the universe. Ruth says Nadia’s mother saw that the color purple represents the 7th chakra and she wore nothing but for a while. Purple. Red+Blue=Purple if I still have my primary color knowledge from first grade.
Another thing about the show that I loved was the fact that every single character, even the minor ones, seemed completely well-rounded. Nadia’s friends were intelligent and funny and they were able to be this while only being on screen for like 2 minutes an episode. Nadia designs video games. Alan plays video games. Alan orders cake and the delivery girl shows up and asks if its a birthday or a break up, to which he responds “birthday”. His problem is the break up. Nadia broke up with her guy 6 months prior to the start of the show. She thinks the problem is the birthday but really its the break up too.
While Nadia is trying to figure out why she keeps reliving this night she goes to see the Rabbi. When she doesn’t get let in because she’s a woman who might be trying to seduce him (lol) she brings in a fake husband to go interrogate the Rabbi. The Rabbi tells John (Nadia’s ex that she brings in to play her fake husband) that places are not haunted, but that people are. This is a relatively new idea for me that I have been playing with since October. I believe in manifestation, and magic, and demons, and things like that, but I also believe that they only hold power if we think that they do. I believe in demons and ghosts to a certain extent in that I believe that if person thinks they have some reason to be haunted, then they will be. Humans only know how to see what they want to see. Naturally I would think that everyone wants to be happy, therefore they would see themselves being happy and see things that would make them happy, but humans are not so simple. We don’t just want to be happy, we want to be whole. Being happy without being able to put a reasoning behind it does not feel whole. It even emphasizes the hole that is not filled. Sometimes, humans even like to make themselves sad or angry just because they don’t know how to be anything else. They float around like ghosts, bringing despair and “realism” to the parties they attend and they leave, having done more damage than helped anyone. These are the people who are haunted and continue to haunt others.
One of the days that Nadia makes it through the night, she goes to see Ruth and she tells her that the best any of us humans can do living on this earth is become as comfortable with two, equally compatible and paradoxical answers at the same time as possible. She talks about the good and the bad, the day and the night, the way that we humans are constantly pushing forward while clinging to the past at the same time. We are ambiguous creatures that can only find peace through accepting the cognitive dissonance. She also says “without therapists, us humans are often unreliable narrators of our own stories.” It is so easy to tell yourself you are the hero. That you are good. But it makes even more sense to accept the fact that no one person is 100% good. We make mistakes, we fall into the pitfalls of society. We are selfish. We fuck up on a daily basis. But our fuck ups and good deeds do not a bad person/good person make. There are no good people and bad people, there are only people. Some making selfish decisions, some not, and then they all switch the next night. Russian Doll does such a good job of explaining the way that we make decisions.
Nadia goes through an entire character arc in what seems to be one night played over about 15 times. The audience can see what triggers her and what makes her make the decisions to be an asshole and when she decides to be an angel. We all are presented with these choices every single day and we write them off because “Oh I would never do that” or “I would have done something!” and the answer is that somewhere, in some other timeline, you would or you wouldn’t. We, as consciousnesses that grow and change every day based on our experiences, have the ability to make our decisions in a split second. We all have the ability to make the same exact choices, just in different parts of the globe. If I am walking down the sidewalk, I can throw
my spare change into a homeless man’s pan or I can keep my hands in my pockets and save it for some chipotle. The choice is mine, every single time I walk outside. Does me keeping my money every time for myself make me a bad person? As I have said before, I don’t think so because there are no good and bad, black and white people, only a mishmash of gray but I think that if we accepted those other outcomes as possible futures more often, then maybe we would perform some more random acts of kindness.
Nadia has been through her whole life, she feels, alone. She could not rely on her mother or anyone else and she adopted this belief that all people are shitty and you have to do everything alone in this world. Obviously this is ridiculous. Just like how human people are the demons and evil in this world, they are also our angels and saints. Nadia learns that she can help people because even though we want to think that we can do everything on our own, we can’t because we need other people no matter how hard we try. Someone needs her and she needs someone. Actually, probably the harder you try to say you don’t need people probably just means you need them that much more.
Alan’s struggle is more about thinking that you’re a good person. Alan has his whole life together. He’s got the girlfriend, the job, the clean apartment, and he listens to affirmations every day to get himself PUMPED. But the problem is that his girlfriend is cheating on him with who he believes to be an asshole, and everyone around him thinks that he is so uptight and fragile that if anyone were to go against him he might hurt himself. Come to find out that everyone was right. He had kept up a facade to himself of control and order, but his girlfriend wasn’t happy. He has to understand that while it isn’t his fault that she was unhappy, that he also wasn’t totally off the hook for it. He has this air about him that says “I’m morally superior” but that all crumbles to the ground when you find out that his first death he killed himself to spite his cheating girlfriend. That’s not cool. We all have to take responsibility for the choices that we have made that have led us to these points in our lives. Once you acknowledge that you got yourself here, you realize that you can get yourself wherever you want to go next.
The final thing I really wanted to talk about in regards to Russian Doll was the little Poof Point reference I may have constructed for myself. Nadia and Alan both have fish tanks in the place that they keep waking up in. First Nadia sees a bunch of fish, then she sees 2, and then they disappear. Alan has 2 fish, and then they start to disappear as things disappear in their reality. I instantly thought of the Disney Channel Original Movie, The Poof Point starring Tahj Mowry. Tahj and his sister are the children of esteemed scientists who are working on an anti-aging machine. They both try it out and they start mentally aging backwards until the hypothetical “poof point” where they disappear from existence. This is a fear of both Nadia and Alan when people start disappearing from their realities and as soon as I saw the two fish, I thought of the two fish from the poof point that they first used to test their machine. They realize that the poof point exists because the fish eventually *poof* GONE.
Russian Doll has become one of my favorite shows of all time so quickly it pisses me off a little bit because I only have 1 season to base that on. I usually like to have a little more to go from, but Natasha Lyonne is a shining star, the soundtrack is phenomenal, and the cinematography is beautiful. The dialogue is hysterical and extremely helpful and I think that everyone needs to just watch this show and see for yourself.