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Seinfeld: Characters About Nothing

By Shannon Marks MCS351: Final

Characters About Nothing: Thesis “Jerry stole a marble rye from an old woman’s hands! They sold a handicapped lady a faulty wheelchair! George possibly murdered his fiancée Susan! And knocked over a clown and an old lady when a house was on fire! Jerry peed in a parking garage!” noted an article by David Simms for The A.V. Club regarding the countless missteps by the characters of Seinfeld, going on to state that co-creator Larry David was striving to “make a point about the nastiness of his characters and their dark, weird lives.” in “The Finale” (9.23). Though the final episode of the show did force audiences to see the Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer in a different, more “evil” light, it can be argued that Seinfeld wasn’t a show about nothing, but rather, a show about people who thrived doing nothing, and only became the “bad samaritan” versions of themselves when they tried to to interject.

The Dream Cafe: Blind Leading the Blind

across the ” fe a C m a e r c opens “The D tt a h B empty eclecti u r b e a v B e , e ) .7 th 3 y ( b ” In “The Cafe ni food. Ultit. Fascinated n ta e is k tm a r P a r p e a ff o erry’s u. In this indvice to only a b a e street from J B th lp u e b h a B to erry offers ’s best efforts ut nothing y o r b r a e J w e o it h s p restaurant, J s a e not so much goes under d (Almost) is fe w n a o e c h e th S th A ld , : fe ly ld in e mate arc in “Seinfe ny others, “S M a m id v s a e are choosa D in ll e y la b w E t s u d a p , n e a s c a y n r r g,” sta e, George, Je n implies cates nothin e d o o v th d is y a p r t e r a e e J th . th s f w e o as a sho pes of cuisin . e conclusion ty th t n n e I r .” fe g if d in t eir dilemma n a th w to ll n a o t ti u About Noth b lu o er the perfect s ant for dinn r n u e e ta b s e e r v a a h g in ld m Cafe” wou a e r D e h T “ t tha

Good Intentions/Bad Advice

By adding this tidbit at the end, in true Seinfeld-ian fashion, a tinge of irony is added to the theme of the episode. Jerry’s intentions throughout the episode are positive, though misguided. Only when he takes it upon himself to do a “good” deed to things go awry. This example is of a seemingly helpful action going sour and making Jerry’s actions seem malicious in retrospect, though that was not the intention. If Jerry had stood by and done nothing, Babu’s fate could have been different, as the conclusion of the episode implies. But, in the end, by breaking from his trend of apathy and ignorance, Jerry stirs up trouble.

In “The Caddy,” (7.12) George leaves his car parked in his office’s parking lot for an extended amount of time, leading his bosses, Mr. Wilhelm and George Steinbrenner, to believe that he’s been working late. This is a prime example of George actually doing nothing—not even driving home from work, and getting rewarded for it. Under normal circumstances, physically moving the car wouldn’t grant him any recognition, understandably. However, by avoiding the responsibility of moving his car, he is rewarded for his inaction.

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Later on in the episode, George lends his car to Kramer and Jerry to get a car wash, resulting in an accident due to another sub-plot of the episode. The car is damaged, including remaining blood from the crash, thus leading George’s bosses into believing that George is dead. Afterward, George shows up to work in bandages, faking injuries from his “accident,” only to find that he had been passed up for a promotion at work. The car’s movement in this episode is symbolic for George’s. Once the car is damaged, it leads George to lie his way out of things, as usual. Had he just denied that he was working late and ignored the crash instead of lying, in other words, had he done nothing, his fate at work could have resulted in a different outcome.

Death and Demotion

In the same episode, “The Caddy,” (7.12), Elaine’s old friend, Sue-Ellen Mischke, heiress to the “Oh-Henry Candy Bar” fortune, is known for not wearing a bra. In an attempt to “support” her friend, Elaine purchases a bra as a gift for Sue-Ellen’s birthday. This action does not go over well with Mischke, and she instead uses the bra alone as a top. Later in the episode, when Jerry and Kramer are taking George’s car for a wash, they are distracted by Sue-Ellen’s scantily-clad apparel and crash the car. Because of Elaine selfishly intervening, Jerry and Kramer crash the car and only grants Sue-Ellen Mischke more attention than before. Had Elaine ignored her friend’s unsupported breasts, the car crash could have been avoided, and ultimately, George being denied a promotion at work. Elaine thinks she’s doing a good thing by giving Sue-Ellen the brassiere, but ultimately, her apathy and avoidance would have gotten her further, and prevented her from being perceived as a menace.

Supporting a Friend

In one instance, however, the gang’s tendency to do nothing gets them in trouble. In “The Finale” (9.23), George, Elaine, Kramer and Jerry are arrested under the new “Good Samaritan” law after witnessing a mugging and doing nothing to intervene. In other words, they are arrested for doing nothing. Throughout the finale, the audience hears testimonies from the many people that the four have wronged over the years by nosing in (The Soup Nazi, Babu, the marble rye, etc.). All along, the characters’ intentions were muddled by their rash actions, classifying them as bad people. This realization has the ability to turn the perspective of the entire series around, making all of their antics seem malicious.

Nothing Will Get You Nowhere

Conclusion Seinfeld’s characters’ ideals were turned around in the finale episode, making their everyday minutia and slapstick antics seem malignant and intentionally harmful. However, citing the circumstances of the misdeeds, it can be argued that Kramer, Elaine, Jerry and George were never intentionally evil, but rather, their misguided intentions got them into trouble. Here is a group of characters that thrives on doing nothing, that is safest and most benign when doing nothing. Seinfeld is a show about a lot of things, but the character’s of Seinfeld are certainly better off doing nothing.

Works Cited “”The Finale” S9 / E23-24.” AV Club Live. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2013. Lavery, David, and Sara Lewis. Dunne. Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain: Revisiting Television’s Greatest Sitcom. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group, 2006. Print.

Shannon Marks MCS351  

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