The Cultural Significance of Seinfeld

In an age of political correctness where the only unforgivable sin is openly admitting to human failings, prejudices and biases without trying to pretend that you alone are the one person in whom said feelings don't really exist, Seinfeld was unashamed. The observances, experiences and reactions of Jerry and the gang were obviously humorous exaggerations, yes, but still honest.In fact, should scholars ascribe Seinfeld with any lasting legacy, it is our belief it will have something to do with the way the characters were never afraid to express real human emotions, even the unpleasant ones. In a country obsessed with trying to look perfect on the surface, it was, like most good cultural icons, the right thing for the right time.At its best, Seinfeld was modern anti-propaganda, the characters were out-of-Stepford wives; so they themselves couldn't possibly be restrained. Less than five years after 1984, the year social critic George Orwell set his futuristic novel of government thought control and technology-buffeted behavior police, Seinfeld debuted with a dark, irreverent edge as thankfully un-Orwellian as anything in a long time.Some of the un-PC story lines involved Jerry dating the girlfriend of a man in a coma (encouraged to do so by Kramer who said as long as you wait 24-hours, it's okay to loot anything the coma victim might have that you want), an over-joyed George trying to seem upset when his bride-to-be dies just before their wedding, George and Jerry experiencing typical male-homophobia when it was suggested they were gay and (as a mocking nod to political correctness) following all their paranoid hysterics with the line "not that there's anything wrong with that."And these are just a few that come immediately to mind. There were, in total, about 200 episodes each with three or four different story lines.More than any singular plot line though, the whole Seinfeld world was a big, self-centered metropolis where everyone was openly concerned about him or herself. Their collective relationship was never a nice fuzzy image of people who really loved each other, couldn't live without each other and got together out of a Big Chill-like sense of friendship and community. The only reason Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer got together was because each, on his or her own level, wanted to for their own sake.As cynical as it might sound this is a reality much closer to the world we live in than most people would probably care to admit. In all, it was a sitcom set in a very un-sitcom environment inhabited by very un-sitcom people. And though our lives don't resemble the lives of the cast of Seinfeld, we do share that with them: our lives aren't like sitcoms either.The cast of Seinfeld was even gracious enough to pioneer a trail for the rest of us. Because of this show's honesty, you shouldn't feel uncomfortable anymore to tell an otherwise wonderful man or woman you don't want to see them again, because you secretly can't stand the part in their hair or how much perfume/cologne they wear or any of a million other little idiosyncrasies that can annoy you simply because they aren't your own. It's just how human nature is, too bad.Ultimately, the people on Seinfeld were who they were, for better or worse, and change didn't come easily. Unlike most sitcoms that came before it, the characters were always themselves and they didn't learn a valuable moral lesson each week. Their lives, like ours, were comically tragic because the traits that defined the characters made them funny and endearing at one moment, and despicable and pitiable the next.So Jerry dumps another girl because she doesn't like super heroes, George loses another job because of uncontrollable neurosis, Elaine still can't meet the right guy and Kramer, the ultimate eccentric, remains oblivious to any consequences his actions might have. The Seinfeld world just keeps spinning, in syndication at least.Oh yeah, and one more thing we should mention, it was funny. Sidebar OneSeinfeld's SecretThe most closely guarded secret in Hollywood is not whether Roman Polanski is the father of Jodie Foster's baby, it's what is the plot of the final hour-long episode of Seinfeld. Web sites devoted to the search are posting any rumors, hints and clues they can get their hands on.Here's what we've heard so far: The final scenes have the cast for some reason in a wedding chapel. Could Jerry and Elaine finally marry? Might Kramer and Naomi, the girl with the horrible laugh, tie the knot? Could it be wedding bells for George and Marisa Tomei?Who knows, it could be one, two or none of these. We've decided we think they're going to throw America a curve ball and replicate last year's big TV event by having George and Jerry declare they're gay (not that there's anything wrong with that).The two close friends, we think, will join together in an unsanctioned holy union. Reporting on the bizarre incident for the Daily News (George's only reason for getting up in the morning) will be a young, female tabloid journalist who once worked for the NYU newspaper -- the very woman, in fact, who first outed the pair when she wrote up an interview with Jerry.The other big rumor is that Newman will be laid-up in the hospital during the series finale. Beyond that, no additional information has been given. We are willing to speculate that Newman will sustain one of two possible injuries.First, Newman may have annoyed Jerry once too often leading the usually laid-back comic to develop an evil revenge plot whereby Jerry will make amends with Crazy Joe Davola and convince him that Newman had a big party and purposely didn't invite him. Crazy Joe "The Killer Clown" will then be so overcome with anger that he'll kick Newman in the head. Only Newman won't be wearing the motorcycle helmet that saved Kramer's life when he was kicked by Crazy Joe because everyone knows Newman traded the helmet to Kramer for a broken radar detector.Second, Newman is a postal employee so injuries sustained during a fellow employee's rampage are never out of the question. Nor is it a subject we feel Seinfeld would mind broaching.Rumor has it George will get the series' last words, but the list of things he might possibly say is endless. How about if he picked up the phone and said "Vandelay Industries, may I help you?" as the credits rolled? Or what if he tossed in one more third-person reference like "Good-bye everybody, George is finished."Either of these would be a good choice, but we decided on a more Seinfeld-ian approach. What if the reason the gang is going to be in a wedding chapel is because George is once-again reluctantly getting married? And what if some crazy tragedy (fatally-dry wedding cake, blood clot caused by an extra-tight garter or tainted batch of bosco at the rehearsal dinner) befalls the bride-to-be?Then, as the darkly comic moment travels like a wave across the wedding party, George, looming over his love, says with as much sincere sadness as he can muster, "Oh my god, she's gone!" Or, even better, "Oh my god, she's gone! Anyone wanna' go for coffee?"Sidebar TwoCreate Your Very Own SeinfeldGetting so lonesome you just can't bear it? Missing Jerry, Elaine and the gang too much to go on? Don't know how you'll be able to make it through a week without your Thursday night dose of sarcasm and insanity? Well the doctor's here. Just keep a handy copy of Electric City's Create Your Very Own Seinfeld and any night can be a brand new episode of The Sein'. Thanks to our crack staff of writers the laughs don't have to end with "The End" on May 14.Setting: (A: coffee shop, hospital, Jerry's apartment or in line at a movie theater)Elaine tells the rest of the gang she has just met someone she likes very much except this new flame has (B: a personal grooming quirk, a rare and comical psychological dysfunction, or an embarrassing skeleton in closet). The others tell Elaine that something like that shouldn't affect their relationship. However, when Elaine asks them if they would be seen in public with her if they were together Jerry, George and Kramer answer in unison, (C: "Absolutely not," "What and risk catching it?," or "Uh, yeah. . . but could we pretend we don't know each other?")Just then they are interrupted by Newman who is in a panic because he needs someone to (D: help him get rid of a vicious poodle on his mail route, move a steam bath he's getting from a guy who will only give it to him if he gets it out of his house within the hour or testify in front of the postmaster that he was really sick the previous day when he called off work to go to the dog track with Kramer).Elaine suggests her new boyfriend, the one with the little problem, could help since he happens to be a (E: a dog-catcher, a power lifter or a workplace dispute arbitrator). But she'll only ask him to help if Newman will, in return, help Jerry stop delivery on an embarrassing letter he sent to (F: Uncle Leo telling him how much he hates Cousin Jeffrey, a fellow comic who stole his material which, it ends up, Jerry stole from Milton Berle, or a girl he wanted to break up with but who he now realizes he's going to have to trick into breaking up with him because she called him "the nicest guy she's ever met.")Jerry, after much discussion with George and Kramer -- who happens to be in Jerry's apartment because he (G: needs cereal, needs someone to scratch a wicked itch he has in the middle of his back or is looking for investors in his new scheme to sell used gourmet coffee beans in discount cafes called "Faded Starbucks") -- decides he owes Elaine's friend a thank-you. But when Jerry goes to his apartment to thank him, he can't shake the man's hand because he keeps thinking about the problem Elaine told him about.Being unsubtle about it, the guy immediately catches on and almost forces Jerry to shake his hand. Jerry though wrestles away and runs down the street screaming (H: enter a paper-thin apology of your choosing). Thus mortally offended, Elaine's new boyfriend refuses to do anything that would eventually help Jerry.So Jerry's letter gets delivered because Elaine's friend won't help Newman. Therefore, Jerry ends up in hot water and furious with Newman. Newman ends up furious with Elaine and secretly pleased to have screwed Jerry. And Elaine finally decides that she's not keeping the guy with the little problem because (I: he's not rich enough, she can't get past his problem either, or he's not sponge-worthy.)


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