Tuesday, December 7, 2021

COLUMN: The importance of “Seinfeld”

November 19, 2021
<p>Illustration by Emily Maze.</p>

Illustration by Emily Maze.

Photo by Emily Maze | The State News

Why do I love the show “Seinfeld” so much? That may seem like a silly question — it’s a classic show that’s widely acclaimed by countless viewers, and if nothing else, is one of the biggest shows of all time. 

But like many widely experienced pieces of content, I have my own personal attachments — these range from my childhood, to my religious identity, to passing the time during a global pandemic. This is why I love “Seinfeld,” a show that ended before I was even born.

My Experiences

I’m not sure when I watched my first episode of “Seinfeld” — my parents said it was when I was around five or six years old. But the comedic tropes of the series have been burned in my brain for as long as I can remember. 

Both of my parents were fans of the show before I was around, and they were certainly eager to revive one of their interests with their quickly maturing kid.

Looking back, “Seinfeld” is a bit of an odd show for a child to deem as their favorite. 

With countless plotlines about relationships, adult problems and dated references to ‘90s pop culture, I really didn’t know what was going on half the time. But that didn’t stop me from sitting back and enjoying the comedy around a group of terrible people navigating their way through New York City.

But even beyond these specifics, there are so many moments that are truly timeless in their relatability.

One of my favorite moments from the early show is from Season 1, Episode 4, “Male Unbonding.” 

Jerry and Elaine are sitting around in the apartment, bored out of their minds. Elaine proposes going out to eat, but says she’s not hungry. Jerry suggests they go to a coffee shop and just talk, to which Elaine replies she doesn’t want to talk. 

Small moments like these that I could experience in my own life are what make “Seinfeld” great for me. The show’s creators often joke about how it’s a “show about nothing,” and mundane scenes like these make me appreciate the world that “Seinfeld” is set in.

Of course, there’s the topic of the very setup of the show — a group of four characters who, at the end of the day, are all horrible people. Seinfeld is still one of the most prominent series to go with this worldview, wherein viewers love to hate the characters.

I feel like this is such a great way to approach “Seinfeld,” where one of the most prominent tropes in the show is the characters’ dismissal of potential love interests for the smallest things imaginable — things like not liking a girl’s laugh, or not being able to beat her in a game of chess.

While this is probably one of the most dated aspects of the show, I would say that it further contributes to the character’s hateability, and in doing so, makes “Seinfeld” really something unique — there aren’t many other TV shows that would allow their characters to show that level of cruelty and be able to find humor in it on a weekly basis.

The Meaning Today

A discussion of “Seinfeld” would be incomplete without mention of Larry David, the comedic idol of many Jewish boys around the world (myself included). David has such an identifiable style of comedy that can be seen and appreciated in both “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” another personal favorite.

Both of these shows examine one of my favorite comedic tropes — an oddball extended Jewish family that myself and many others can relate to, including characters like Jerry’s parents and the unforgettable Uncle Leo, the personification of the “kvetcher,” a Yiddish word for person who finds a way to complain about nearly anything.

Despite his limited screen time in the series, Leo’s quotables are probably what have stuck with me most — I can still hear his cries of, “Jerry! Hello!”, followed quickly by bickering about cash or fishing a broken watch out of a city trash can.

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My dad and I have been able to find particular joy in episodes centered around Jerry’s parents’ senior community, where the politics of the elderly community are seen in full force and passive aggressiveness taking over in the episode “The Pen.”

We’ve all been there in uncomfortable social situations where we’re not quite sure how to react to strange offers or statements from older folks, and I can see this interaction in the back of my mind whenever I’m in similar situations.

Personally, while my dad and I were visiting my grandparents in California, we were pulled over while driving a bit over the speed limit on the premises of their retirement community. Since then, we’ve been able to find the humor in getting pulled over by the “senior center police” for years since the incident — and the background knowledge of Seinfeld’s Del Boca Vista made the experience even funnier.

The Impact 

I think most of my close friends would be able to identify which of my personality traits I’ve borrowed from the show — things like saying, “Well, that’s just great,” or something of the sort after something annoying happens. I’ve also taken to heart the characters’ ability to find humor in tragic events, something that has brought brevity to many depressing instances in my life.

“Seinfeld” is also great to examine as a relic of its time — there are plotlines centering around purchasing illegal cable or talking to people on car phones, something that I didn’t know existed until my parents explained it to me.

The show serves as what I would consider the true peak of ‘90s comedy programming. While today I prefer more understated and dry comedies like the aforementioned “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Barry,” “Seinfeld” is one of the true laugh out loud comedies that I can always return to with a fresh view.

One of my favorite parts of viewing “Seinfeld” is remembering the plots after months or years of not viewing them. Thinking back to the last time I watched — during dinner in high school or to stay sane early in the pandemic — is one of the best parts of my rewatches.

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