@tired_programmer It sounds as though I have fallen behind in my consumption of Russian media a great deal if what you describe is so common- and if so, I'm almost glad I have, for that certainly paints a very disappointing picture.
As for whether lack of respect for women explains this phenomenon- when I think of the female characters in the works of writers like Dostoevsky and Turgenev, it would seem like a great disservice to say that they were lacking in personality- (even if their fates were ultimately constrained by the limitations of the time period) and yet I very much doubt the society of Tsarist Russia had greater respect for women as a whole.
It sounds to me like part of the problem is media being treated as a consumer product first and foremost, with all of the one-size-fits-all pandering that implies. Writing storylines with flawed, emotionally complex human beings is not only difficult to write, but hard to consume as well. It requires what may well be a tired audience looking for quick, easy entertainment to put a lot of thought into what they are watching or reading. But not everybody likes thought-provoking entertainment. In fact, some might argue that only a vocal minority of people, whether they be men, women or otherwise, have much interest in things that encourage introspection. This doesn't mean that they are less intelligent, or lack hobbies and interests, or that they aren't complex human beings in their own right- but you can be a perfectly complex human being who just wants to come home from work, turn on the tv at the end of the day and watch a melodrama. I believe most of the executives and producers responsible for selecting what will be broadcast on television, for example, would argue that very thing.
And on that note- I do find myself feeling this same way about the absolute majority of male protagonists I encounter in North American popular entertainment. This may seem like a controversial statement- but to be perfectly honest, I think many (not all, to be fair, but many) superheroes, super-spies, assassins, and other hyper-masculine hyper-violent protagonists designed to appeal to a primarily male viewership are equally one-dimensional. In fact, I feel like I can more easily connect with the one-dimensional female protagonists of romances- at least they are portrayed as being capable of empathy. I prefer that to what appears to be a never-ending line up of emotionally void one-man killing machines.
As to why some women enjoy these stories, I've spoken to a number of people in my life who like them (not all of them women, incidentally) and asked the same question. The answers I have received can be summarized as something like this: "I'm tired a lot, and I don't have a long attention span for what I read or watch. When I have free time, I want to do something easy and relaxing. I don't want something depressing, or something that forces me to think. I want a story that's fun. There can be challenges, but the ending should be happy. And if there are sexy men, that's a huge bonus."
Personally, I have a very different approach to the kind of media I want to consume. Stories that make me think are the only kinds of stories I really want to read. But I can respect that there seem to be plenty of people who don't want these kinds of stories in their lives. They may even be the majority- and if so, it makes sense that in societies where isolated aristocratic scholars don't have a total monopoly on all forms of literature (which I believe is a very good thing, incidentally- we are in a stage of human history where an unprecedented variety of voices are able to make their mark), the vast majority of stories circulating in the contemporary world cater to the vast majority of readers.