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29 April 2013


................................. A show about nothing: Seinfeld and the modern comedy of manners.......... 1 29 April 2013 ii ProQuest ..............Tabla de contenido 1..

it may seem absurd to suggest that Seinfeld has anything in common with the witty. Texto completo: In one of the episodes from the highly popular TV series Seinfeld. the sitcom group (family. Unlike the characters of the standard sitcom genre. they continuously watch themselves play out these absurd situations even as they realize they cannot avoid the comic "pull of the absurd. Elaine Benes. show topics have included such matters as: how do you get that funny smell out of the back of Jerry's car? or how do you get a table at your favorite Chinese restaurant? or the last loaf of marble rye? She finds in these sitcoms about young urbanites with no apparent family or career responsibilities and with plenty of time to just hang out and talk." Within the world of Seinfeld. but rather in the small social blunders which comprise the spectrum of social manners in the nineties (McConnell 19-20)."1 In fact. "Seinfeld" is extremely egalitarian in its satirical thrust. He maintains that the central thematic of the traditional comedy of manners is the dramatic tension best exemplified by a newcomer attempting to assimilate into upper-class society (Jane Austen's Emma). a disturbing message about the end of work and family life. stable sitcom group (Jerry Seinfeld. but without offering much in the way of compensation except celebrating the trivial (Rapping 37). the complexity of social manners that exists both within and outside their own social group. George has the brainstorm idea that they could simply do a "show about nothing. Cosmo Kramer) which does not change from one episode to the next. democratic American society still apprehensive about its own social growth (249). George (Jason Alexander) and Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) are both struggling to come up with an idea for a TV situation comedy. John Bryant has suggested that the American TV situation comedy genre does. upper-class dramas of Moliere and Goldsmith.Documento 1 de 1 A show about nothing: Seinfeld and the modern comedy of manners Autor: Pierson. Enlace de documentos de ProQuest Resumen: Pierson explores the highly popular TV series "Seinfeld" as a comedy of manners. Frank McConnell has suggested that Seinfeld may be best described as a "modern comedy of manners. While Seinfeld features a typical. false deceptions. and sometimes evading. the characters of Seinfeld are just as obsessed and frustrated with following and often circumventing the prevailing social codes (of an American middle-class civility) as the English Restoration comedies of Congreve and Sheridan. But in the American TV sitcom (I Love Lucy. Ellen. David P. in fact. the absurd does not exist in well-conceived comic gags or wisecracks. and desires. Friends) fills its storylines with the endless "trivia of everyday life. The social mobility present within the TV sitcom is "not movement between classes but within and out of the group" (Bryant 249). Mary Tyler Moore). does express the inherent hopes and fears of a young. One of the central differences between Seinfeld and more traditionally oriented TV sitcoms like Coach is that the main characters "know" they are involved in an elaborate.2 Since Seinfeld's characters do not easily fit into the social climbing world of the literary manners genre. 1 (Summer 2000): 49-64. However. Instead." rather than a traditional domestic TV sitcom. co-workers. As a modern comedy of manners. Elayne Rapping has lamented that Seinfeld along with its friends-oriented clones (Mad about You. George Costanza. but unlike the English Restoration comedies or the traditional comedy of manners. its characters do not appear to be consistently consumed with either personal growth or advancing themselves out of their own social status or social group. At first glance. create its own distinct version of the English comedy of manners literary genre. while not directly addressing the anxieties of upward social mobility. friends) functions like an egalitarian social class that both forces its members to conform as well as providing them with their social identities. 29 April 2013 Page 1 of 10 ProQuest . the main characters are continuously preoccupied with discerning. largely contrived social game of witty dialogue. "Seinfeld" invariably shares several narrative and thematic concerns with the dramatic genre. refined." After all. Bryant argues that the sitcom. After much deliberation. following. Información de publicación: Journal of Popular Culture 34.

"style-mongering" elites of the Reagan-Bush era (79). Since the comedy of manners involves the critical exploration of the social manners and mores of a particular society. have selected the comedy of manners form to dramatize and examine various closed social groups of "self-interest" which were closely associated with the materialistic. high cultured" social elites residing in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. These rules are essential to the members of these societies primarily because a person's comprehension of these rules dictates whether he or she is socially accepted within this society (Greene 80). selfcentered perspective of the British upper-class societies in late-nineteenthcentury Victorian England. hedonistic character who openly defies the social taboos of marriage and lifestyle. These social rules also serve to regulate the innermost desires of its members. and thus. rules for telling (or more aptly. and thereby. In many ways. Beyond social satire. adultery and divorce" (Hirst 1). ambition). the form addresses the main topics of "marriage. several American playwrights. not telling) the truth. Such disparate comedians as Lenny Bruce. Richard Greenberg. rules for conducting a dinner party. there is an emancipatory tendency lying beneath the surface of the manners drama. The dramatic universe of the comedy of manners is a place comprised of a multiplicity of complex rules: rules for engaging in romantic and sexual relationships. rules for friendships. rules for conducting business. These dramas are distinguished by their emphasis on a strong sense of style. Greene further relates that since the mid-1980s. Woody Allen. Gilbert and Wilde employ the dramatic form to invert conventional Victorian values and use their comedies to reveal and attack social hypocrisy (Hirst 4957). these plays allow playwrights to highlight and expose the social hypocrisies of these closed societies. it also serves as a suitable vehicle for social satire. This emancipatory impulse to unmask or at least demystify the underlying hypocrisies of modern Western civility can be found within the American-Jewish comic tradition (Berger 84). mocks the moral rigidity of the seventeenth-century English upper-class societies. social structures of a society. In the Restoration comedies. N. rules for marriage. the dictates of propriety which. there is usually at least one free-styled. The American playwright S. financial. David Hirst argues that the genre's main subject is the complex ways in which people behave and the social manners they employ within a distinct social context. Behrmann explores the intricate social manners and moralities of a group of "wealthy. The central concerns of the genre's characters are sex and money. family relations. The genre's emphasis on style is not merely a form of superficial expression but rather the means by which its central characters triumph over the repressive. including John Guare. and Howard Stem have satirized and lampooned a wide range of prevailing American manners (sexual habits. "these rules are society's unwritten laws regulating behaviour. leisured world of the courtiers in late-seventeenth-century England. Shelley Berman. and Terence McNally. an inclination to reveal and release the larger society from the social dominance of social codes and rules derived largely from closed societies. The Restoration comedy of manners focuses on the self-enclosed. are always basic to the conduct of the characters in the comedy of manners" (2-3). For example. As Hirst relates. The winners of this game are the characters who are the most adept at discerning and manipulating these rules to their own advantage. and so on. The characters rely on these rules or social manners to play an elaborate social game where the stakes involve the satisfaction of certain centralized desires (sexual. Oscar Wilde's comedies examine the narrow-minded. rules for living in the city or the countryside. deportment. and a game in which their actions are circumscribed within the social rules of a given society.the popular TV sitcom can best be associated with the modern comedy of manners dramatic genre. though they may differ in detail from age to age and class to class. racial 29 April 2013 Page 2 of 10 ProQuest . Alexis Greene points out that the comedy of manners is "the dramatic form of choice for playwrights who intend to depict the assumptions and values of closed societies" (79). The dramatic act of exposing the social hypocrisies of a closed society serves as a type of social-leveling device to bring the upper-class societies down to the egalitarian stratum of the rest of the wider society. the comedy of manners is intimately related to the social conditions of the time. As a dramatic genre. and a witty repartee that is used to conceal the raw emotions which lie just beneath the surfaces of the dramatic lives of its characters. These closed societies are chiefly defined by their own set of self-inscribed rules which determine the range of accepted behaviors for its members.

The characters of Seinfeld are just as self-interested and self-absorbed as the characters which inhabit the comedies of Congreve and Wilde. places them in an opportune position to experience and satirize many of the social manners that comprise a postmodern American civility. as a highly successful TV series with impressive ratings and critical acclaim. In other words. drawing-room world of societal elites. middle-class. But Hirst points out that the manners genre is not simply relegated to an exclusively. Rapping does make an apt point about the characters' apparent lack of commitment to either family or career (37). The English playwrights Joe Orton. The primary function of this self-interest is the pursuit of intellectual and sensual pleasures. In this regard. takes as its main interest the social codes and manners of an urban. Jerry and his friends satirize the highly discriminating and noncommittal ethos of the '90s single adult dating scene.less Dockers' jeans commercials becomes the fertile grounds for their eventual breakup." for example. Jerry Seinfeld with his keen observational humor and successful TV series Seinfeld is part of this continuing American-Jewish comic tradition with its central interest in exposing the paradoxical nature of manners comprising Western civility. and comically elevates them into highly absurd situations (McInerney 15). perfectly captures both the complex cultural pleasures and anxieties associated with the continued maintenance and practices of contemporary American manners. middle-class American lifestyle. In the TV series. On the one hand. and John Osborne have each chosen this dramatic form to collectively explore the conflicting social moralities and manners of working class." Jerry's offhand comments to George and Kramer that his girlfriend likes the almost product-. Jerry. their self-identities become intimately linked to the idiosyncratic nature of changing social manners in contemporary American society. On the other hand. and repeatedly negotiate a revolving multiplicity of manners from new dating rituals to the tenets of political correctness. and Kramer's (Michael Richards) quest for the requisite bottle of wine and a chocolate babka to bring to a house party turns into a long nightmare of misfortunes that 29 April 2013 Page 3 of 10 ProQuest . Hirst argues that the comedy of manners is a form thematically flexible enough to dramatize and examine the moralities and manners of any social class in Western society (116). because these characters are not firmly bound by any long-term relationship or career responsibilities. In many ways. These goals are just as true and applicable in the Restoration comedies as the Reagan-Bush manners dramas.3 In the episode "The Phone Message. Jerry has dumped his suitors for a wide range of peculiar character traits. The characters combined status as thirtyish. Harold Pinter. But.attitudes) of both Jewish and Gentile cultures. Seinfeld. While a few scholars like Carla Johnson have focused critical attention on the complex interrelationships between the series' main characters and the classic Yiddish-Jewish folkloric humor tradition. Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). and manners of a rapidly evolving American society.4 Perhaps one of the underlying factors for the series' popularity is that it implicitly acknowledges a deeply held cultural ambivalence toward the constantly changing social codes. the main difficulty with associating Seinfeld with the comedy of manners genre is that its characters clearly inhabit a middleclass lifestyle rather than the genre's usual stylish. Seinfeld. these same characters must continuously keep up with. with plenty of unfettered time on their hands. they have few commitments to anybody or anything but themselves. One of the underlying assumptions of these dramas is that people primarily act out of self-interest and as such. In the episode "The Dinner Party. unattached adults. in order to navigate through the hyperreality of everyday social life in late-twentieth-century America. attitudes. middle-class. along with the more direct concerns of acquiring and maintaining material goods and services. including not laughing at his jokes and laughing too strangely (Jerry remarks that Naomi's laugh sounds like "Elmer Fudd sittin' on a juicer"). through its satirical and often absurdist humor. and uppermiddle-class English societies. the show's characters strongly rely on these manners and social codes to structure their own individual identities while also receiving great pleasures from the social context richness of postmodern American cultural life. The series' characters demonstrate a high degree of creativity in finding new ways of getting into and out of romantic and sexual engagements. George. it is important to acknowledge that a major facet of Seinfeld's phenomenal popularity is that both its characters and topics are clearly accessible across a wide social spectrum of American society (117). Of course. upper-class universe. In many of the episodes.

an integral part of the social formation of social manners and civility. Jerry fashions several interesting name attempts." Following Freud's familiar scheme. and Kramer (as evidenced by their endless debates over the exact meanings of words). recently hired as a reader for Elaine's company Pendant Publishing. Elaine. The only clue that he has is that her name supposedly rhymes with a distinct part of the female anatomy. the main characters' inherent drives and desires (sex. in an attempt to placate her incessant demands for a steady relationship." Jerry is unable to find a quiet place to have intimate relations with his girlfriend Rachel (Melanie Smith) because she still lives at home with her parents and his own parents are staying at his apartment. Seinfeld invariably shares several narrative and thematic concerns with the dramatic genre. In "The Sponge. At the front door. Donald Bruce relates that one of the central comic themes of the English Restoration comedies or comedy of manners is that basic human impulses and inclinations must be disguised in reason in order to "mask passion and appetite with decorum" (89). with his strong impulsive desires for sex (he earlier confessed to Jerry of his long-term infatuation with cleaning women). diverse system of language." only to have his girlfriend angrily storm out of his apartment. Jerry violates social decorum in doing it during a film portraying such a grim subject matter as the Holocaust. Essentially. frustrates Jerry's best efforts to salvage his relationship with his new girlfriend. but also enables him to make a good middle-class income by comically highlighting the contradictions embedded within our rich. informs George's boss. Jerry goes to visit Rachel only to discover that Newman has already told her parents. and the other with his close friends (Jerry. the comedy of manners acknowledges that all human social behavior is socially structured through societal social manners and customs. Elaine. The only semi-private place they find for intimacy is at a movie theater showing Schindler's List. Consequently. For Jerry. Later. Mr. Rachel's father angrily forbids Jerry from further seeing his daughter. George's unconscious id. in this episode. While couples necking at a movie theater is a common enough American cultural experience (particularly among adolescents). Lippman (Richard Fancy). Susan. Jerry's libidinal desires are frequently hindered or sidetracked by the dictates and demands of established contemporary social manners. through its comical concern with social manners and customs. Jerry's emerging relationship with his girlfriend is severely disadvantaged due to his inability to recall her name. George has the tendency of first acting on his impulses only to later suffer from the social consequences of his actions. In "The Implant. seems to assert not the decline of civility but rather its preponderance in American society. money. In the episode "The Raincoats. in the episode "The Pool Guy." language. Unfortunately. In many of the episodes. Lippman bluntly fires George for his social improprieties. As a modern comedy of manners." Kramer's refusal to wear a red-ribboned AIDS awareness pin on an AIDS charity walk results in him literally being cornered and confronted by an angry mob of red-ribboned pin wearers. Kramer)-creates havoc as the intensely neurotic George witnesses the collision of these two worlds. In the episode "The Red Dot. including the word "mulva. But the woman quickly spots the red dot and now insulted. The main characters on Seinfeld must not only understand and negotiate the prevailing social manners. language and a keen interest in "words" is not only a special pleasure that binds his friendships with George. he gives her the same damaged (it has a small red dot on it) white cashmere sweater that he earlier tried to give to Elaine as a Christmas gift. along with its aggressive behavior. friendship) must be disguised while often being comically frustrated and complicated by the impending requirements of a range of social manners. is very much like Freud's conception of the unconscious "id. Jerry's nosey neighbor Newman (Wayne Knight) spots them necking during the movie and subsequently informs Jerry's parents. In Seinfeld. On their final date together. George." George's habit of "double-dipping" his potato chips causes a huge disturbance at the funeral of his girlfriend's aunt. Following a chastisement by his parents. In "The Junior Mint. Mr. succumbs to a late-night temptation and has sex in the office with a cleaning woman. they must also be attuned to each other's personal mannerisms. However. While Jerry consistently finds his own libidinal desires thwarted by social conventions. For example.ends with them abruptly presenting the gifts to the hostess and not attending the party." Jerry and Elaine's apparent ignorance of George's idiosyncrasy of separating his worlds into two spheres-one with his fiance." George. about his lascivious activities. Seinfeld. must be 29 April 2013 Page 4 of 10 ProQuest .

After partly listening to Elaine's remarks. Jerry openly chides Elaine for amazingly discovering yet another reason for breaking up with someone-"Punctuation. Seinfeld satirically and painstakingly shows the inescapable interdependency underlying American civility. A central part of the humor of this episode is the sheer depths of Kramer's addiction to "fresh" produce and how emotionally distressed he becomes when he realizes his produce connection might be cut off. one person's unintentional acts or social blunders usually cause irrefutable comic damage across a diverse range of interweaving narrative situations. the sight of George cleaning the windshield reinforces her impression of him as a street panhandler and a bum. Because the characters in these plays are caught in an intricate social game in which all of their actions are circumscribed by social rules. the most serious social blunder a character may commit is to fail to maintain one's proper social image and thus reveal to others one's concealed intentions and desires. At a house party with his girlfriend and her mother (Lois Nettleton). the main characters (Jerry. Pitt wearing 29 April 2013 Page 5 of 10 ProQuest . One central aspect of Seinfeld's comic narrative construction is its interweaving narrative situations. Jake storms out of her apartment but not before he gestures back to her a final emphatic exclamation point. often oblivious of any resulting social consequences. George. internalized social standards. and attempts to clean the windshield for the driver." Kramer is banned from his local greengrocer. As a contemporary comedy of manners. In a final attempt to change the mother's misguided impression of him. The episode "The Gymnast" begins with George boasting to Jerry about how adept he is in handling his girlfriends' mothers. Ultimately. and is forced to rely on George and Jerry to buy his produce. In many of the episodes.punished by the authoritarian super-ego which in this case is represented by Mr. Loot-"People would talk. Hirst relates that the final line of Joe Orton's modern comedy of manners play. For instance. Later in the episode. a recently signed author with Pendant Publishing.' Within most of its episodes are separate narratives involving one or more of the characters which inevitably intersect or at least interrelate to each other throughout the narrative course of the program. Later at Jerry's apartment." Another underlying theme that cuts across the comedy of manners genre and Seinfeld is an overwhelming concern with maintaining social appearances. Undoubtedly. an example of computerized artwork interact to create the final absurd image of the mesmerized Mr. Unfortunately. to the mother. Lippman. George irritatingly intrudes by insisting that she will invariably find something wrong with him. Kramer is portrayed as an individual with almost uncontrollable impulses and appetites. The thematic of maintaining social appearances is central to the comic narrative structure of Seinfeld episodes in which small social blunders always seem to escalate into highly absurd comic situations. Such is the case in the episode "The Gymnast. the mother spots George cleaning the windshield of a parked car. Elaine's specific character issues occasionally stem from her own strictly self-regulated. he consistently follows his own innate impulses and inclinations. George attends another house party. we must keep up appearances"-reflects "a belief basic not only to his plays but to the genre as a whole" (2). George's pristine appearance is shattered when the mother sees him grabbing for a discarded eclair in the kitchen garbage container. Later. Pitt (Ian Abercrombie). The episode "Sniffing Accountant" begins in a coffee shop with Elaine gloating over her new boyfriend Jake Jarmel (Marty Rackham). Although Kramer is definitely concerned with his social image. Elaine fulfills George's prediction by taking Jake to task for not using an exclamation point in recording a note about her friend having a baby. in "The Mango. As a result. George's proficient tact with his girlfriend's mother backfires because he is now only capable of forming the wrong social appearance with her. Likewise. a situation brought about when he accidentally spilled a cup of coffee on the car. In Seinfeld. presenting an acceptable social image is the most important social rule they must follow. George's penchant of loosening his clothing when in the bathroom takes a disastrous turn when he is temporarily mesmerized by a hypnotic art print (hanging in the bathroom) and inadvertently returns to the party not wearing any shirt. Mr." where several narrative actions including Elaine's tossing of an open ink pen into her purse and Kramer's act of showing her boss. While George's human impulses are readily regulated and punished through external authorities and social codes. Elaine) of Seinfeld are just as concerned and obsessed with the intricate social manners and details that comprise their own social appearances. Of course.

who was once a close personal friend of Jacqueline Onassis. At first it may seem apparent that Jerry. Elaine). who had earlier tried to rescue the baby from what he referred to as a "barbaric ink-stained Hitler-like mustache addressing a board meeting about taking over the "Poland Creek" bottled water company. In the episode "The Nose Job. evade. and ironic posturing. Jerry gets into a furious fight with the mohel. But. with his witty. In effect. and who always speaks the truth. In many episodes. While Elaine unwittingly hires an intensely neurotic." Jerry and Elaine are both chosen as godparents and are given vital roles in the Jewish ritual. sarcastic repartee. By the end of the episode. or gain ego-satisfaction from a society's social manners will invariably become casualties of its (society's) social rules.6 the vast majority of comedies tend to satirize the upper-class members of Western societies. primarily because he acts instinctively and freely on his own impulses. The Truewit is the play's certified pragmatic philosopher who produces much of the drama's verbal humor. no matter how impolite it may be. is the show's Truewit. He is also secretly concerned that she may be "too good" to be his girlfriend. moral pretensions of goodness (Jerry. George is distraught to discover that Audrey has become a radiant beauty and that Kramer is her new boyfriend. through Kramer's Truewit character. But when he discovers that she may not be as angelic as he initially assumed. One of the series' recurring eccentrics is the lordly Mr. is painfully striving. along with being relatively dishonest about his flaws. Kramer's impulsive and blatantly honest behavior wins out over the other characters' scheming (George) and self-satisfied. George decides to break up with her. In these representative episodes. Seinfeld's actual Truewit is Kramer. and as such. Elaine must endure a bewildering array of Mr. who helps her find a new plastic surgeon. Pitt's eccentricities. Kramer's recurrent. to convince his girlfriend Audrey (Susan Diol) to get a "nose job. this 29 April 2013 Page 6 of 10 ProQuest . for the most part. At the end of the episode. in a very coy manner. Perhaps the most explicit trait of the comedy of manners is that it is frequently used by playwrights to satirize the social manners and mores of a given society. he frequently neglects to tell the truth in his romantic and family relationships. This representative episode exemplifies Jerry's self-centered and duplicitous nature. financial) are not the consequences of a conniving schemer like George. While Jerry. In the episode "The Sponge. Kramer. they also serve to satirize the intense interdependence and the related complexities associated with contemporary American civility. Although it may seem peculiar. Seinfeld does direct a part of its comedic force to satirize the strange eccentricities of a few upperclass characters in modern American society." George. unrelated acts do matter and thus have undeniable social effects for others. Jerry's human traits of maintaining impossibly high standards for his suitors. to his fondness for eating Snickers candy bars with a knife and fork. with the help of Jerry. The Truewit is also the type of person who truly "knows" and accepts his own nature. he bluntly remarks that she could be stunning-all she needs is a nose job. chance achievements (romantic. does not make any pretentious to "moral goodness" (Greene 81). George." Jerry deliberately conceals the fact that he got a woman's phone number off an AIDS Walk list. and Elaine spend most of their time and energies on following and circumventing social rules. in the episode "The Bris. from his obsession of purchasing socks with the proper elasticity. she competely rejects him because he lied about the fact that he relabels his jeans from a 32" to a 31" waist." is compensated for his genuine concern when the couple names him the sole godparent to their newborn. when Audrey's first operation is botched. Kramer. Seinfeld comically argues that even small. While there have been some noted exceptions. Seinfeld. While these intersecting comic narratives frequently lead to the humorous creation of identifiable absurdist moments. cranky mohel. Another distinct characteristic of the comedy of manners is that each play usually has a character who is the "Truewit" of the drama. But they both botch their duties. make him an unfit contender for Truewit status. simply and instinctively acts on his own desires. In fact." When Kramer is first introduced to Audrey. It appears that Audrey's only true friend is Kramer. Despite the seemingly indomitable individualism attached to postmodern American civility. This person is usually the most contented character in the play. but rather the unintentional outcomes of a person (Kramer) who does not always adhere to the social dictates of American civility. Also. But while Jerry is surely the show's quickest wit. As his personal assistant. In this respect. Pitt (Elaine's former employer). affirms the proposition that those who follow.

constructs its comic narratives to satirize and lampoon a plethora of social manners in the 1990s. Seinfeld interjects itself into this debate by comically asserting that political correctness (regardless of its virtues) is just another social obstacle for its characters to contend with in their daily lives. elimination. Seinfeld.9 Since this time the issue of political correctness has settled into a more reasoned but still emotionally volatile debate both within and outside U. John Fiske argues that because television is often accused of vulgarity. which represented an inversive universe characterized by the ludic subversion of all social norms. As Jerry pursues Winona. academia. and contend with an increasingly dense web of social manners. and includes such bodily functions as hunger." Jerry's gift of a wooden Indian to Elaine inadvertently insults the Native American Winona (Kimberly Norris).S. Despite its social attributes. The most implicit assumption of the carnivalesque principle is that one of the central goals of a modern society's social structure is to control and discipline the expression of the human body and its functions. From a dentist who converts to Judaism in order to tell Jewish jokes.7 Another eccentric featured in the series is Sue Ellen Mischke (Brenda Strong). But because these satirical topics are too numerous to address. During the carnival. the show comically maintains that people from all social walks of life are primarily defined by their pet peeves. and too restrictive of the open expression of speech and thought. According to Todd Gitlin. Sue Ellen's eccentric behavioral quirk of wearing a bra instead of a blouse while walking down a city street inadvertently wreaks havoc for Elaine and her friends. social habits. some people have severely criticized and accused the practice of political correctness of being too mechanical." Another predominant topic satirized in the sitcom involves the ways in which human materiality. published a number of emotionally charged stories in the fall and winter of 1990-1991. In one episode. the body principle literally becomes a powerful.8 However. sensing a "moral alarm" over the issue. nationality. misunderstood. to a dry cleaner with a penchant for wearing his customers' clothes. The series asserts that personal idiosyncrasies and eccentricities are not the sole properties of the socially elite. the heretofore academically confined issue of "political correctness" came into the public limelight when journalists. For instance. social class. in the episode "The Cigar Store Indian. thirst. In fact. religious belief. this essay will focus on only two central satirical topics-political correctness and human materiality. and sexual orientation. Gitlin laments the fact that the attacks against political correctness primarily rest on the presumption that there are only two sides to the issue-for or against (486-87). or more specifically. the carnivalesque directs attention to public festivities such as the carnival. the sitcom satirically illustrates the complexity of social manners. In many ways. is socially repressed by the social dictates of Western civility in general. ethnicity. At its most basic level. Jerry's tenuous relationship with Winona is permanently severed when he is unable to take back his indirect comment that her request for him to return her copy of TV Guide implicitly makes her an "Indian-giver. and copulation. and 29 April 2013 Page 7 of 10 ProQuest . as a comedy of manners. and the O'Henry candy bar heiress. As with multiculturalism.latter eccentricity is cleverly used to illustrate the ways in which certain social manners are traditionally disseminated "top-down" throughout society. one of the most perplexing ironies of the post-1960s cultural expansion of social group diversity and individualism. he finds himself trapped in a minefield of political incorrectness. and concerns. bodily excessiveness. The thematic relations between human materiality and a society's hierarchial social structure is best exemplified by Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of the "carnivalesque. unlike the English Restoration comedies or traditional comedy of manners. Seinfeld is extremely egalitarian in its satirical thrust. vexing force that joins with festive laughter to form a symbolic conquest over death and all that oppresses or constrains (Stam 86). with their inherent social demands. Bakhtin's carnivalesque also involves his "body principle" which is directly related to the material human body. in order to express tolerance of all people regardless of race. Elaine's life-long social nemesis. political correctness involves being socially sensitive in language or manner." According to Robert Stam. gender. is that the majority of Americans must keep up with. the human body along with its bodily functions. which comprises a contemporary postmodern American civility. Common expressions like "ticket scalper" and "making a reservation" become linguistic obstacles in his amorous pursuit. The episode concludes with a frustrated Elaine enraged to find that all the patrons of Monk's Cafe have appropriated this strange dining habit.

Tia remains thoroughly disgusted with his social impropriety and no longer wants to see him. In "The Contest. masturbation. and Kramer enter into an unusual wager to determine who can refrain from practicing masturbation for the longest period of time. Kramer. But. Yankees. George. and that such material concerns will never be completely repressed by the discursive dictates of an official high culture within the American social structure." which was originally broadcast on September 30. but also parodies existing social hierarchies by making the declared winner a royal member. Seinfeld. 'I'm using the term "postmodern" to describe the current unstable. Regardless of the enduring social debates over the decline or demise of American civility. The winner of this competition will be declared either the "Master" or "Queen" of his or her domain. Ultimately. Pitt. ZIn the series. Jerry and his friends continue to remind us that civility is actually an ongoing daily process involving such seemingly trivial matters as the cultural value of holding onto a prime parking space. In the episode "The Pick. urination. quickly withdraws from the contest and pays off his gambling debt. by placing contemporary social manners at the forefront of its narratives. represents the carnivalesque by taking the small common matters of everyday social life and raising them into the arena of televisual discourse. Jerry and his friends must continuously contend with keeping up appearances. commercial television is limited in that it can only refer to certain activities through carefully chosen words or references (241). 1992. politics) into 29 April 2013 Page 8 of 10 ProQuest . Seinfeld chooses to examine such dilemmas as: how do you find out if your date is refunding the dinner you just bought her? or how do you successfully break up with your girlfriend in order to date her roommate? The sitcom embodies Bakhtin's body principle by elevating the low materiality of the human body (along with bodily functions) into the forefront of its own narratives. the contest not only elevates sexual functions of the lower body stratum to a higher discursive level. Seinfeld episodes have featured such taboo or rarely addressed material concerns as constipation. Almost from the outset. George and Elaine have both changed their job positions. comically portraying the oppressive nature of the material to the social. Elaine's job offer from Mr. vomiting. Pitt primarily arises because of her supposedly uncanny resemblance to the late Jacqueline Onassis. For instance. the popular sitcom illustrates that even within the flexible. While some sitcoms may aspire to address such socially relevant topics as drug addiction. In many ways. and copywriter at J. While the stage play of Merrick's life and this episode clearly rest on opposing dramatic poles (the tragic and the comic). nevertheless they both interrelate to the discursive collision of the material body and the social world. Seinfeld. Elaine's job shifts have included being a manuscript reader at Pendant Publishing. rapidly changing state of American civility. it shares many attributes with Bakhtin's carnivalesque principle (241). 1992. Footnote 'The episode in which Jerry makes this remark is "The Watch. these job changes have occurred not because of any personal initiatives on their part but rather due to chance encounters. with its inherent absurdity. abortion. the perpetual "introduction" of new social manners and customs (fashion. food.Y. Despite these inherent limitations. or teen suicide. Seinfeld effectively illustrates the sheer density of social standards and customs which comprise the spectrum of civility in the nineties. postmodern state of American civility. Despite Jerry's relentless pleading that he was merely scratching his nose.general offensiveness. unable to control his own innate impulses for even a brief period of time. the popular sitcom asserts that small social details like finding a restroom in a mall parking garage do matter. Interestingly. Footnote Notes Footnote 'The one-hour episode in which George and Jerry pitch their sitcom idea is called "The Pitch/The Ticket" and was originally broadcast on September 16. While George has advanced from unemployment to a lower-level management position with the N. Jerry. as Fiske points out. defiantly yells out to her and the world a variation of John Merrick's (The Elephant Man) dramatic declaration that he is not an animal but a human being. Peterman's catalog company. True to the inversive nature of the carnivalesque. personal assistant to Mr." Seinfeld's most audacious episode. and exhibitionism. Elaine. As with Bakhtin's carnivalesque. Jerry. comically expresses the complex ways that civility both enriches and constrains all human social actions." Jerry's budding relationship with the beautiful fashion model Tia (Jennifer Campbell) is abruptly terminated when she sees him "appear" to pick his nose during a traffic stop. In showing us a stable group of characters continuously dealing with the everyday minutiae of social manners.

Robert." Dissent 42:4 (Fall 1995): 48697. "Luckless in New York: The Schlemiel and the Schlimazl in Seinfeld. The Conditions of Postmodernity." Palmer argues that most film and TV comedies establish their own contradictory absurd logics which are intimately tied to specific comic characters. Pitt's candy bar quirk is "The Pledge Drive. The Genius of the Jewish Joke. Hirst. 1991) "The Phone Message" (13 Feb.22 (1996): 14-22. NJ: Jason Aronson. comic narrative construction is probably best Footnote explained by Jerry Palmer's "theory of the absurd. Johnson. 1996): 19-20. 'In his essay. David L. 1991. 1993) "The Junior Mint" (18 March 1993) "The Mango" (16 Sept. London: British Film Institute." Commonweal 123:3 (9 Feb. Drama. Berger. viewers receive immense comic pleasures from either the show's adherence or deviations from its own absurd. "Emma. 1995) "The Watch" (30 Sept. In Seinfeld. 1993) "The Nose Job" (20 Nov. Harvey." Journal of Popular Film and Television 22. 1987. References Works Cited References Adler." originally broadcast on October 6. and Film.D. AuthorAffiliation David P. Bruce. Greene. The Logic of the Absurd: On Film and Television Comedy. 1991): 3240. 1992) "The Pitch/The Ticket" (16 Sept. Television Culture. Materia: Television programs. 1994. Frank. 1996) "The Cigar Store Indian" (9 Dec. please consult David Harvey's The Conditions of Postmodernity (1989). Comedy of Manners. 1991) "The Sniffing Accountant" (7 Sept. Jerry's usual acceptance of George's advice invariably leads to an absurdly disastrous situation for him. 1994) "The Pool Guy" (16 Nov. New York: St. Carla. Subversive Pleasures: Bakhtin. References Seinfeld episodes cited (original broadcast airdates): "The Bris" (14 Oct. "Is Seinfeld the Best Comedy Ever?" TV Guide 44. This early frenzy of media interest in political correctness probably culminated in President Bush's University of Michigan commencement speech on May 4. Lucy and the American Situation Comedy of Manners. in which he warned about "the new intolerance" sweeping the nation's universities and condemned "the boring politics of division and derision" (Gitlin 487). New York: Methuen. New York: Methuen. Fiske. the "middle-class milieu" has dominated the plays of later playwrights such as Pinter and Orton (116). and the Atlantic. Martin's. Oxford: Blackwell. 1996. John." Journal of Popular Culture 13:2 (Fall 1979): 248-56. 1994) "The Gymnast" (3 Nov. References McConnell. For a further analysis of the interrelations between postmodernity and post-Fordism. PostFordism involves not only the acceleration of the production process. Donald.3 (21 Jan. "The New Comedy of Manners. New York ("Are You Politically Correct?"). Literary criticism Título: A show about nothing: Seinfeld and the modern comedy of manners Autor: Pierson. 1995) "The Raincoats" (28 April 1994) "The Red Dot" (11 Dec. 1993) "The Contest" (18 Nov. David P 29 April 2013 Page 9 of 10 ProQuest . "Are You Politically Correct?" New York 24. 1974. "The Demonization of Political Correctness. 1987. Jerry. 1994) "The Implant" (25 Feb. McInerney. 1991) "The Pick" (16 Dec. Palmer.3 (Fall 1994): 11624. 1989. Topics of Restoration Comedy. Jerry. Arthur Asa. 1995): 37-38. Design for Living) in the 1920s and 1930s." originally broadcast on January 25. 1992) References Stam. comic narrative logic. 1993) "The Sponge" (17 Dec. Taylor. Elayne. Rapping.mainstream American culture may be related to the further expansion of media into practically every facet of culture. Alexis. 1993) "The Caddy" (25 Jan. the New Republic. Bryant. 1979. along with the "speeding up" processes of the emergent post-Fordist style of capitalist production. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Todd." Theater 23:3 (Summer 1992): 79-83. In effect. 1992) "The Pledge Drive" (6 Oct. Jay. "How Seinfeld Was Born: Jane Austen Meets Woody Allen. 1997. Cultural Criticism." Newsweek 116." The Progressive 59. 'The sitcom's complex. 1992) "The Dinner Party" (3 Feb. Northvale.9 (Sept. Gitlin. but also the marketing and consumption of new products and services. Pierson is a Lecturer of Communications and a Ph. 1989. BThe episode involving Sue Ellen Mischke is "The Caddy. candidate at The Pennsylvania State University. David. "The Seinfeld Syndrome. Footnote 7The episode featuring Mr. John. "Thought Police: Taking Offense. 6Hirst argues that since Noel Coward's comedic examinations of the English middle class (Hay Fever. 1990): 48-54. John.26 (24 Dec. Gitlin asserts that this so-called "moral panic" could be detected in cover stories in Newsweek ("Thought Police"). et al.

Lugar de publicación: Bowling Green País de publicación: United Kingdom Publication subject: Literature. Sociology ISSN: 00223840 CODEN: JPOCBB Tipo de fuente: Scholarly Journals Idioma de la publicación: English Tipo de documento: Feature ID del documentos de ProQuest: 195362722 URL del documento: http://search. Reservados todos los derechos. .Términos y condiciones 29 April 2013 Page 10 of 10 ProQuest . Copyright: Copyright Popular Culture Association Summer 2000 Última actualización: 2011-10-24 Base de datos: ProQuest Central _______________________________________________________________ Contactar con ProQuest Copyright  2012 ProQuest LLC.proquest.Título de publicación: Journal of Popular Culture Tomo: 34 Número: 1 Páginas: 49-64 Número de páginas: 16 Año de publicación: 2000 Fecha de publicación: Summer 2000 Año: 2000 Editorial: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.