I forgot to post this when it actually happened like 2 days ago. Oh well. Here's the story :)
My brother is an actor. He has been in about 10-15 episodes of one tv-series in Russia, and appeared as one of those "main character for an episode" type characters in another. Also, when he's here, he sometimes gets calls for auditions for commercials and such.
So my mother gets this call in the morning, from a local casting agency. We have a part in a something-something ad, your son would be perfect, he should audition. My mother didn't understand what the something-something was, but they did explain to her that they were looking for a casual Russian boy.
So we piled into the Ford... Taurus? A long, silver loan car we got because our X5 was in the shop. I volunteered to drive. I'm the only one who doesn't get horribly frustrated the moment I make a wrong turn, and the only one still capable of driving to an unknown place without the car navigation system telling me every step of the way. The Ford was neat. It was really long, it had the gear changer thing on its wheel and no power seats. And we set off to New York City, to Broadway, between 20th and 21st streets.
Getting there (or back for that matter) wasn't complicated or long. It was fairly straightforward and there was almost no traffic. We got there a little early, so we walked around a bit, got some free Snapple that they were handing out on the street.
We walk into this dingy icky building where the casting agency is. 3rd floor. The elevator takes forever, and I suggest a couple times that we take the stairs, but it comes eventually. I lead the way towards the right room.
As we walk in, the first thing I notice is the sign on the wall that tells us where each of the four auditions are happening. The guy asks us what we want, and when we say that we don't know which audition we came for, he smiles, suggests that perhaps it's the "Russian one", takes a polaroid of my brother and sends us to the 4th floor.
But then, he points out that the ad needs a whole family, so my mother should try out as well. She was a little hesitant at first, but eventually agrees. He says that he needs her to look "Siberian" and so she takes off her jewelry and ties her hair with my hair thing. She also gets a polaroid and sent to the 4th floor.
On the 4th floor, there is a small room, the size of a medium closet, with a door leading to a bigger, studio room. We sit in the first room, fill out some applications, along with a Hungarian woman, a really really fat German dude, a really old woman, and a brunette with two daughters.
Here's the script. I'll explain later.
It's St Petersburg. This is a dingy family composed of mom, dad, kid, girl and granma. They're sitting around the table, sipping soup. They're depressed because of their monotonous lives. Suddenly, the Pillsbury Doughboy appears on the table with chocolate chip cookies. Dad is the first to announce his name, in an incredulous tone of voice. The children pick up the "Pillsbury Doughboy!" chant happily, and soon everybody is eating cookies, dancing around the table. Then the mother goes for the carton of milk... tries it... and, realizing that there isn't any left, screams "MOLOKO!". Everybody looks at her, sighs, and soon they're back at the table, blandly eating their bland soup. It's a "Got Milk" commercial.
Ok, I don't know how many of you out there know anything about Russian culture... but this could have been set in Japan or Somalia with just as little attention paid to the local culture and just as much of the culture would be butchered.
Firstly, St Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities on the face of the planet. It's like a really really big Versailles. True, not everybody there is rich, since there are poor people everywhere, but still. They presented this to us as "you need to look poor and siberian". Um, there are asian-race people in Siberia, white ones in St Petersburg. So they deface our beautiful city with their ignorance.
Secondly, and this may come as a shock, but RUSSIANS DON'T EAT COOKIES WITH MILK. They eat cookies with TEA. And any Russian who'd see that commercial would laugh at them, again, for their ignorance and complete lack of research.
Thirdly, Russians don't eat soup. By that I mean that soup is never the only course. At least, if you go by traditional, commie-time standards. Soup is eaten only for lunch, and only followed by a second course.
These were the three things that really bothered me. My brother was annoyed that this was a Pillsbury ad as well as a Got Milk one.
In the audition session I sat, my mom played the mother, my brother played the son, some dude played the father, the old woman played the granma and one of the two little girls played the sister.
The guy who played the father would say "nummy warm goodness!" and some such crap in English, completely forgetting that he's supposed to be a Siberian dad, suddenly eating soup in St Petersburg, generally acting like an idiot, being a little too loud, a little too slow, now working with neither my mom nor the woman that ran the show. I wouldn't cast him if he were the last man on Earth.
The 80 year old woman kept thinking that she was gonna play the mother, not the granma. She kept trying to get my mother to teach her to say "moloko!", which, by the way, was misspelled in the script as "molko". She had this wierd book on how to do the Russian accent. I dunno why she did, since her character didn't actually say anything.
The little girl was amazingly bad at acting. She sat off the side of the table, put the spoon to her mouth too quickly, and didn't actually reach her mouth, much like little girls do at pretend tea parties. She's also never heard of the Pillbury Doughboy, and she was absolutely horrible at imitating the Russian accent.
My mother sat a little too straight. Her and I were the only people in the room who knew that Russian women are insanely proper and will sit up straight even if it kills them. Nobody else did. Nobody else sat up straight. She stood out. She was also better dressed than the rest of them put together, so she stood out even more. She was good at the depressy part, and good at the holy-crap-theres-no-milk-lets-all-cry part, but not very good at the yay-cookies-lets-dance part.
I didn't actually pay any attention to my brother except when he was "eating soup" in the begining. He was amazingly good at fake-eating-soup, especially considering the stark contrast with the little girl who sat next to him. I also know he was the only one in the room who pulled off a decent Russian accent when saying "Pillsbury Doughboy".
So the entire thing was an idea by people who thought it would be good to superimpose American culture onto pretend-Russian people, a misspelled script, a bunch of Americans who couldn't act their way out of a paper bag, one kid that could, and two people (me and mom) who knew that the whole thing was an insult to any Russian who watched the said commercial.
Ugh, why are Americans so stupid?