What? Did you think this new blog was going to be nothing but recipes for stuff that no one in their right mind would eat?
Like most people my age, I loved Seinfeld. My dad claims it was the best show ever on television, rivaled only by MASH. His words, not mine. I think its only rival may be Looney Tunes.
Over the years, a lot has been said about the social impact and cultural significance of the show. Mostly about the type of humor on display.
It ushered in the current favorite brand of humor: awkwardness. Paving the way for the Office and culminating in the nigh unwatchable “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”.
It also made it ok to use “mean” humor. In fact, the show’s final episode makes light of just that. I feel like you would be hard pressed to find a show that made a joke out of pushing down an old lady during a fire before Seinfeld. Without Seinfeld, there would be no “Louis” or “Legit” or other shows that are clearly heavily influenced by the Seinfeld formula.
But one of the more interesting theories about Seinfeld is its, perhaps, more subliminal influence.
Namely, that the film “Robocop” (1987) was made by the Illuminati (or a bunch of city planners and real estate moguls) to plant the idea in people’s minds that the city was a dangerous place to live, and that they should move out into the suburbs.
Similarly, the television show “Seinfeld”(1989) was made by these same people to bring people back into the city and make it seem hip to live in the city again.
Whether that is true or not, I found something in an episode of Seinfeld the other day that got me thinking (if you follow me on the twits, you already know what I’m about to say)…
Right there. Season 6, Episode 6, about 1:40 into it.
Jerry Seinfeld owns a copy of “Child’s Play 3” on VHS.
To quote Pee Wee Herman, “What’s the significance????”
For starters, I’ve always described Jerry’s character on the show as the normal, average guy that all these weird characters revolve around. The rock that Kramer, George, Elaine, and all the other peripheral characters break themselves upon. There’s even an episode that focuses on how he is “Even Steven” and everything balances out to average for him.
Granted, there’s no denying that Jerry is the focus of the show. It is named after him, after all. But, in a nutshell, here’s what I’m proposing:
#1. That Jerry is more of a weirdo than I’ve ever really given him credit for.
#2. That Jerry, like Robocop, was the first character to make it ok to be a “geek”.
#1. Jerry is more of a weirdo than I’ve given him credit for.
The horror genre has been in a renaissance for quite some time now. Although it’s debatable when it started (or if we experienced a brief lull in the action between what is actually two different high points), or which film began it, I am fairly certain that on November 3, 1994, horror was not a hot commodity. According to the internet, the biggest horror films of 1994 were “In the Mouth of Madness”, “Wolf” (debatable), and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”. Big movies, to be sure, but nowhere near the level we see these days with stuff like “The Conjuring”.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Surely there’s a logical explanation for all this. Perhaps ‘Child’s Play 3’ and ‘Seinfeld’ are owned by the same people.”
Wrong. Seinfeld was produced by Castle Rock. Child’s Play 3 was produced by Universal.
The only explanation is that the character of Jerry Seinfeld actually likes Child’s Play 3. And I mean, he must really like it because if you examine the screenshot above, he only owns about 10 movies, one of which looks to be some sort of golf instructional video.
Sure, Jerry is allowed to watch whatever he wants, but I’ve seen every episode of Seinfeld multiple times, and I hafta say that I just can’t picture Jerry cozying up to a bowl of popcorn and a film about a murderous “My Buddy“.
That said, Brandmed pointed out that Jerry tried to see “Plan 9 from Outer Space” several times (Season 2, Episode 6 “The Chinese Restaurant” and Season 7, Episode 2 “The Postponement”). “The Chinese Restaurant” aired on May 23, 1991. The Tim Burton film “Ed Wood”, which stirred up a lot of mainstream attention for Ed Wood’s little opus, was released on September 28, 1994.
Not only did Jerry know about “Plan 9” when most people probably thought it was a made-up title used as a plot device (and before the internet), but he was actively interested in going to the cinema to see it! This may have been before the internet, but I have to think that in New York Jerry could have found a copy at his local video rental shop.
While “Plan 9” may not be scary, it is definitely in the sci-fi horror genre, along with perennial favorites “Alien” and “the Thing”. Aliens resurrecting the dead to stop humankind from figuring out how to explode sun particles. Definitely horror.
In fact, while this may not seem like a big deal, “Plan 9” is one of the only “real” films that the gang ever goes to see in the theater. This puts it alongside “Schindler’s List” and, of course, the “fake” films like “Rochelle, Rochelle”.
#2. Seinfeld Paved the Way for Nouveau Geekery
It’s been said that there is a Superman reference, or sighting, in every episode of Seinfeld.
There he is, the Man of Steel. Guarding Jerry’s precious copy of “Child’s Play 3”. If you can see or hear about Superman in every episode of Seinfeld, this little action figure must account for over half of them. I also know that he sometimes has a Superman magnet on his refrigerator.
While Superman is definitely Jerry’s favorite (he mentions him constantly), Jerry also makes references to Aquaman, Spiderman, Batman, and Plasticman.
Jerry likes baseball, which is the geekiest of the major sports.
He’s also neat and doesn’t drink alcohol much.
He seems to have very little practical knowledge.
He is moderately obsessed with breakfast cereal.
Besides “Plan 9”, the show references tons of films that were definitely not a part of the current pop culture, but that geeks would recognize immediately:
“The Wolf Man”
“Friday the 13th”
“Star Trek 2 & 3”
Most of these references aren’t even named outright, they are merely alluded to, or imitated in some way. They’re more like Easter Eggs in the show, before “Easter Eggs” meant something besides colorful chicken fetuses.
In fact, if he wasn’t a successful comedian, I can definitely see him living in his parents’ basement. He is a classical geek! 18 years before “Big Bang Theory” (not that I’m comparing the two, which would be like comparing Beethoven to Katy Perry).
But Jerry is also seen as a role model in the show. He’s always got his shit together. He’s successful. He’s single. He lives in Manhattan.
Jerry is both a cool guy and a geek, thus making it ok to talk about Superman in public without having your masculinity questioned.
Let’s take a look at some of the other sitcoms of the early 1990’s, which was Seinfeld’s heyday:
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
You get the idea. None of them are Seinfeld. None of them feature characters that, sans the baby mullet, could fit in on any television program made today.
While the definition of “geek” is probably open to interpretation, I’d have given the honor of making it okay to be one to the late Harold Ramis in his signature Dr. Spengler role.
That could be true, but Ghostbusters was in 1984. Not that it doesn’t have a lingering social impact or anything, but I just think Seinfeld is a more direct descendant of, what I call above, the “nouveau geek”. Partially meaning a normal, well-adjusted person with geek tendencies. I would probably classify Egon as a “classical geek”, meaning someone who is still of the pure, undiluted, essence of geekdom.
When we were talking about this the other night, I was going to point out some of the things you mentioned that show that Jerry is a geek. Also, I’m pretty sure that VHS is there in more episodes as well. And “Prognosis Negative” sounded like it could be horror-ish, or at least the “psychological thriller” style of horror that was popular in the post-Silence of the Lambs 90s. Jerry is definitely a comedy geek (obviously) and a comics geek. I think the fact that he is a fan of DC Comics predominantly makes him even geekier than if he were a fan of the “cooler” Marvel stuff.
Agreed. I think “Prognosis Negative” is even alluded to several times as being a sort of medical thriller/horror film. Like something by Robin Cook.
Also, I agree with you that DC had a more clean-cut, geekier, image than Marvel. Wolverine wasn’t spending his days helping old ladies across the street, or hanging out with Jimmy Olsen (who Seinfeld references several times as well).
Suddenly recalling an ad from the mid-’90s in a Marvel publication–a stoic pre-teen in Ray-Bans and moussed hair with the declaration “It’s a good bet the kid’s favorite mutants ain’t turtles.”
Hey, bingo! http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4118/4774759637_0f8543198c_b.jpg
(It was indeed a simpler time.)
Damn. That kid’s a rough customer. Definitely not Jerry.
I mentioned it on twitter, but last night I was watching another episode where Jerry had an in-depth discussion about what blazer Frankenstein wears.
If you’ll pardon my being “that guy,” he was referring to the creation (not the creator) when he said the name?
Only asking because last Halloween, when I was facilitating some language training (in the spirit of the season, for the entire month of October I was giving the attendees choice translated selections from Dracula, Frankenstein and the works of Poe), and we ended up having an impromptu nerd round table: Was it actually A-okay to refer to the monster as Frank, as well as the doc? I think the consensus was that since Victor was the “father,” yeah; his “son” could technically be lumped into the family, and we could tell the pedants to bugger off.
Worked for me.
Oh yeah, he was definitely referring to The Creature. I think it’s ok to refer to The Creature as Frankenstein. As I learned in a linguistics course, language’s purpose is communication, and that’s it.
Not too long ago I referred to the “Song of Ice & Fire” books as “Game of Thrones” and was corrected by an overly zealous fan, much to my irritation.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this reply is not going to go to the appropriate place in the conversation chain we have going, but I was always partial to the reasoning of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society for the study of language: “Communication…?” “No! To woo women!”
So yeah, communication; a very specific form. I’ll drink to that.
Robocop encouraged people to move into the burbs? People have wanted to live in the burbs starting after WW2. Many sitcoms like The Brady Bunch made suburbia the place to be.
Maybe so. I just heard that somewhere and thought it was interesting. The key point, I guess, would be that Seinfeld made it ok to be a geek. However, the heyday of Brady Bunch style suburbia was the early 70s. By the time Robocop was made, people had begun moving back into the cities. Most people who believe in this theory would say that the goal was to keep people moving back and forth, to boost housing sales and keep the prices high everywhere.
Honestly, I don’t really believe that is what happened. I think it was probably just a movie. Robocop couldn’t exist in a crime-free suburban dream.
I’m pretty sure that’s actually Child’s Play 2 – which ironically, one of the actresses from that movie plays Susan’s mother in the show.
It’s not ironic! It’s a conspiracy! Just kidding. That does look like Child’s Play 2.