Feb 20, 2013

12 Things I Love and Hate about Seinfeld


I had a love-hate relationship with Seinfeld (1989-1998), the sitcom about four friends having coffee and kvetching in a surreal, absurdist small-town Manhattan: comedian Jerry Seinfeld (playing himself); nebbish George Costanza (Jason Alexander); failed book editor Elaine Benes (Julia-Louise Dreyfus); and hipster doofus Kramer (Michael Richards).

I've seen every episode a dozen times.  I have huge portions memorized.  I recognize actors who appeared just once when they star in something else.  There are lots of things to love about it:


1. The rich detail of life in Manhattan: from riding the M uptown to street corner Papaya dogs, Seltzer, and black-and-white cookies.

2. The friendship between George and Jerry.  At least in the pre-Susan's Death (S.D.) era.

3. The homoromantic friendships between Kramer and various men, especially Mickey (Danny Woodburn).  (I've always been attracted to short men, the shorter the better.)

4. The relationships.  Most episodes are about trying to find, maintain, or end relationships with friends, parents, employers, lovers.  In the pre-SD era, Seinfeld is about lonely people looking for love.

5. The never-ending parade of hunky guest stars, such as Anthony Starke as "The Jimmy" and Tim DeKay as "The Bizarro Jerry"

6. The cleverly convoluted plots, especially the 1997 "backwards" episode where they all travel to India.





I hate:

1.The four friends believe that same-sex desire is disgusting. In one episode, George dates a woman who looks like Jerry, which suggests that he is actually into Jerry.  Everyone broaches the idea of same-sex desire as "sick," "disgusting," "disturbing."

2. And that same-sex relationships are disgusting.  Among the "terrible" things Kramer did to George's girlfriend Susan was outing her father.

3. Actual gay characters who appear on the show are butch or femme stereotypes.  Elaine is "best man" at a lesbian wedding.  Two gay-femme thugs terrorize Kramer.

4. Seinfeld teaches us that gay people can easily "turn back" to straight.  Elaine tries to convert a gay man, but she's not good enough in bed.  George "drives" Susan to lesbianism, but she "turns back" after Kramer converts her girlfriend.

5. Susan's death.  She dies from licking the toxic glue on the envelops on her wedding invitations.  Who would do that?  Who would die from that? (NB: I checked; no envelope glue is toxic).

6. The post-SD episodes (the last two seasons), when they all turn into amoral jerks.  The friendship is over; they loathe each other; they are trapped in Sartre's No Exit, exclaiming "Hell is other people!"

7. The series finale.  Horrible.  Slap in the face of fans.