In his blockbuster hit, 25th hour, Edward Norton goes on a seemingly endless rant in which he stereotypically bashes nearly every immigrant group and community in New York City. From the Koreans “with their pyramids of overpriced fruit” to the "the Upper East Side wives with their Hermes scarves", Norton’s character leaves no common stereotype unmentioned. Most would agree that his description of “the Russians in Brighton Beach” as “mobster thugs sitting in cafés, sipping tea in little glasses, sugar cubes between their teeth. Wheelin' and dealin' and schemin’ ” is not too far off from their own view of Brooklyn’s “Little Odessa.” Having walked the streets and boardwalk of Brighton Beach countless times, we can safely say that the only time we have seen Russian gangsters is on our television screens. But is that to say that they do not exist? And if the stereotype is accurate then is that all there is to the biggest Russian community in America? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. The stereotype of scheming gangsters drinking tea on the boardwalk may not be completely false, but it is only one piece of a massive puzzle that is the identity of Brighton Beach.


From our surveys, we discovered that while the mafia, spies, and communism are often associated with Brighton Beach and the Russian community, the only basis that people have for these connections is the media. Television, movies, and pop culture strongly influence the way that outsiders perceive Brighton Beach. The outsiders who were influenced by personal experience or word of mouth, associate the Russian community with vodka, an unfriendly attitude, and materialistic items like fur coats, jewelry, or nice cars. It is interesting that these perceptions were not only experienced by the outsiders, but by the insiders as well. From this, it is evident that influence through personal experience and word of mouth is more accurate than influence through the media.