Friday, June 25, 2010
The brilliance of Seinfeld is that it shows anyone can be an asshole
Seinfeld appears to be the most stereotypical show ever. Jews, New Yorkers, the "batty" Yankees coaches, the off-the-wall art snobs like J. Peterman all get the cookie-cutter treatment. But I think the real significance is not these run-of-the-mill assholes, but showing that in life no race, minority or nationality is exempt from having jerks and assholes among them. It is simply human nature.
This is a rare thing, because in TV non-whites have traditionally been "tokens" - generally flat, flavorless, and consistently nice and cool.
But not in Seinfeld. Take Bubble Boy. He has an auto-immune illness and must live his life in a plastic bubble. People come over to visit and keep him company, because he's sick and has a miserable existence. But don't pity him, because he's a real asshole. He's aggressive, has an amazing temper and heaps abuse upon his parents and visitors.
Or the Armoire-thieving gay couple. They aren't happy-go-luck effeminates - they are basically muggers. No stereotypes there.
Babu isn't a cab driver - he runs unsuccessful businesses. The Soup Nazi isn't bringing the flavor of his native Eastern European homeland - he's a dick who makes great soup.
I find this liberating. It breaks down the nice little boxes we categorize people into. No longer are certain types of people "cute", "charming" or "exotic." They are all, generally, jerks like us. How nice.