I’ve subscribed to The Righting, a daily news summary of right-wing articles compiled by leftists. Perhaps that explains why the daily list of links shows how bull-goose loony much of the Right is, even when the articles come from the more respectable right-wing sites, like the National Review. The articles are hilarious in their denunciations of the Left (they are of course anti-vax and hate Biden), but even a blind pig can find an acorn—an acorn which you’d only find on conservative sites. One of these is their singling out of egregious wokeness.
This one, from of all places a right-wing entertainment site (Hollywood in Toto: “The Right Take on Entertainment”), describes the attacks on the television comedy “Seinfeld” for being racist, sexist, able-ist, and so on. The article links to a lot of criticism of the show.
Now I never watched “Seinfeld” much; for some reason the fact that nothing ever happened on the show bored me, but there were some episodes I found hilarious, like “The Chicken Roaster,” in which Kramer gets hooked on Kenny Rogers’ Roasters, a chicken takeout across the street from their apartment. But its flashing sign, which makes Kramer’s apartment into a nightmare of disco proportions drives him nuts. And the funniest episode I ever saw was the famous “Soup Nazi” one, based on a real soup-vending curmudgeon in New York City.
I never paid much attention to the show’s lack of “political correctness”, as it was called at the time, but now people are sniffing out infelicities in very old t.v. shows and calling them out. Back then, for instance, “Soup Nazi” was inoffensive; now it would be an insult to all brash people, or seen as a diminution of Nazism. That trend is what the article below is about (click on screenshot to read).
It’s only one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, a comedy that sparks new fans whenever it shifts to a fresh platform. It did it again earlier this year when Netflix began airing the show’s nine sublime seasons.
And, for at least six years, the woke mob has insisted we shouldn’t laugh along with Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer.Take this 2015 article, which declares one of TV’s supreme sitcoms is now too “racist” and “sexist” to enjoy. The article sprang to life after Seinfeld admitted he’d never play a college gig because students are too easily offended.
If you stick a thumb in the woke mob’s eye they quickly retaliate.
Still, the article didn’t inspire a movement. Nor did subsequent pieces hammering similar themes. The far-Left Bustle attacked singular jokes from the classic show, 13 in total, as being offensive with its 2018 screed.
The trend continued in 2020, with Cheat Sheet bemoaning that Seinfeld refused to apologize for the show’s jokes. The woke mob loves apologies. They’re rarely accepted, of course.
The Hostage Apology is akin to Struggle Session lite.
The far-left Screen Rant decided, apparently, that 2021 is the year to kickstart “Seinfeld’s” cancelation. Back in May the site ran an op-ed taking down George for his problematic behavior.
His antics “haven’t aged well,” we’re told. Screen Rant wants every character in a sitcom to behave like a gentleman, thus negating all of George’s broad comic tics.
Looper attempted its own cancellation essay this year, all the while admitting how foolish such a measure is.
Sure, Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer — and on a meta level, Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld and everyone else behind the “Seinfeld” scenes — would undoubtedly laugh at the notion of an article like this, offering a snarky remark and a reminder that the best humor (and an invaluable life necessity) comes from laughing at things society takes seriously. Nevertheless, it’s hard to dispute — these “Seinfeld” moments have not aged well.
Screen Rant’s latest broadside against “Seinfeld?” Seinfeld: 10 Things About Jerry That Have Aged Poorly
You can read the articles (I’ll put three examples below from the Screen Rant article and three from another piece), but it was my impression that Seinfeld’s comedy was meant to be edgy by taking on topics and reactions that people often have, but keep to themselves. In other words, it airs publicly what people are thinking privately, but were allowed to air in the private group of Jerry’s friends. Three examples from Screen Rant.
Three examples from the Bustle article, “These 13 jokes from ‘Seinfeld’ are actually super offensive“:
Well, I didn’t think they’d find this episode “super-offensive”, but I was wrong.
I don’t find what’s below particularly racist, for some men are attracted to Asian women. Others are attracted to black women, or to Hispanic women. I’ve never heard this as characterized as “saying you like everyone in a race”. Rather, what some men find attractive are the features of women from some ethnic group, and not all women or all people.
This isn’t “racist” unless somehow you stereotype the women by expecting them to all behave in a defined and similar way. But the relationships I know of involving white men and nonwhite women have all been pretty much like intra-racial relationships, with the same affection and closeness. The women are, after all, human beings.
Many of the ten jokes and incidents from the Bustle article, as I said, deal with people’s feelings that they’re not comfortable making public except to one’s very good friends. In other words, they highlight life as it is, warts and all. No character on Seinfeld is portrayed as a saint: they all have their flaws, obsessions, and biases.
This kind of humor was the metier of people like Lenny Bruce, and now of Dave Chappelle, but it doesn’t play well with the Woke. As we know from Titania McGrath—whose sarcastic tweets get mistaken for genuinely “progressive’ views”—one characteristic of Wokeness is that it lacks a sense of humor.
Seinfeld and other comedians have said that they’ll no longer do standup at colleges and universities, and it’s not hard to see why. Here’s Seinfeld on “political correctness”.
92 thoughts on ““Seinfeld” in the cancellation crosshairs”
Great timing! I was just watching a few episodes this week and thinking how hard it would be to put them out today.
Crud, I wasn’t able to edit/add to the post above. Anyway, I saw both The Cigar Store Indian and The Wizard the same evening. As awkward as The Cigar Store Indian was(and Seinfeld is a show about awkward moments), watching the Wizard where Elaine and her white (White?) boyfriend both thinking they were in an interracial relationship – she thought he was black (Black?). He thought she was Hispanic (Hispanicx?) – really showed how awkward it is for people to even ask demographic questions. That awkwardness has a chilling effect when people take it too seriously.
Agree. We were watching an episode of Barney Miller several months ago and I thought the same thing about that show. I don’t recall what was said or done, but I remember thinking how “politically incorrect” that would be in today’s standards of acceptance.
Oh, man, I haven’t thought of Barney Miller in a d*g’s age! That was a great show.
Yep. And it’s funny how when watching is as a kid I considered it to be a bit on the ‘Dudley Do Right’ side of the spectrum while nowadays it would likely be canceled if it ever got in the crosshairs of the far-woke crowd.
I felt much the same.
If they’re going to cancel Seinfeld, why not cancel I Love Lucy? I mean … domestic violence. How many times does Lucy have to be spanked? Or even be treated like a child?
Or just the lies …. any sitcom depends on someone LYING. Why not cancel ALL of them? Because … the kids! They’re learning to LIE! OMG!!!!!!
The thing, funny isn’t about being correct. Funny is ALL about NOT being correct. If the situation was correct, there wouldn’t be any F*g laughs!
There’s a lot not to like about Seinfeld but there’s also a lot TO like about Seinfeld. What’s objectionable about it now was just as objectionable back in the 90s. What has changed is that people are just completely intolerant of anything that makes them “offended” … instead of just changing the channel … in this case, finding something else to stream.
I agree 100% with silverapplequeen.
The “soup Nazi” opened up a world of fun word combinations for me. I had a supervisor that was a fanatic on what types of shoes people wore…I termed him the “shoe Nazi” when he wouldn’t stop criticizing and lecturing. Humor is our way of coping with the nuttiness of the world. Please don’t taking our coping mechanisms away!
I agree. And let’s face it, if there’s one group that OUGHT to be disparaged and belittled with humor, it’s Nazis (and neo-Nazis).
Yup, doubtless The Producers will soon be cancelled for the “Springtime for Hitler” song (and because Mel Brooks was involved with Blazing Saddles.
Both movies were rediscovered by my son’s generation and became hugely popular. The stage adaptation of the former sold out.
“Nazi” actually was a term of disparagement. Nazi was a traditional joke name for dull simple guys from backward Bavaria and used to populate jokes about them, short for Ignatius. To the great glee of amateur comedians, Nazi also worked as a backronym for the German long-form of the National Socialist Workers’ Party. People who didn’t like them (almost everyone if you believe what Germans claimed after the war) started calling them Nazis. Which would get one beaten up and stomped to death. Shows the importance of thinking things through when you develop your brand. Or not, if you have lots of Brown Shirts.
Anyway, people who escaped from the violence in Weimar Germany would tell foreigners, “You won’t believe what those fucking Nazis have done now….” and so foreigners started calling Hitler’s party the Nazis without getting that it was a joke.
So says Mark Forsyth in The Etymologicon.
You hit on the end game. Of course, it is not about Seinfeld the show, or the person. The sad kind of personal fulfillment they get from cancelling stuff is what motivates them. Which particular stuff is mostly irrelevant.
I read somewhere a prediction that the cancel people will need to generate in themselves a certain level of outrage for the targets of their ire, even as the targets become less and less likely to offend any sensible person. It is not that Seinfeld is more objectionable now than it was when 30 million people chose to watch every new episode. It is a little dated in some areas, as are SNL jokes about President Ford’s tendency to trip and fall down.
One might initially conclude that woke people have somehow developed very delicate sensibilities, like the stereotype of a Victorian upper class lady, who is apt to get the vapors at the slightest provocation. But any casual observation show that they are not so delicate.
They are not at all offended by the song “Wet Ass Pu$$y”. It is a hit. “Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey” is appropriate entertainment for young kids.
At one of the protests where a Confederate memorial was torn down, the organization that was responsible for and proud of the destruction has, on their website, endless glowing praise for the North Korean regime. A place where actual slavery is not uncommon, and where exporting slaves to other countries is a big business. They are not actually bothered by slavery.
I love that there is a focus on the “Soup Nazi”, an episode written by three Jews, Produced by Jews, with a largely Jewish cast. The Soup Nazi character was played by a Jew.
The people who are enraged at this portrayal seem pretty comfortable with people actually attacking and killing Jews, or Vandalizing synagogues and defacing them with antisemitic slogans.
What seems to actually really bother them is people who will not submit to their demands. They may not actually care very much about old TV shows, but they are absolutely enraged by people who disagree with them. Once they have managed to destroy whatever today’s target is, they will forget about it and look for the next one.
Meanwhile, yet another part of our shared culture has been destroyed, by people who could never create what they wish to destroy. Most of the individual losses are small. We can survive if nobody is ever allowed to watch the Soup Nazi again. But it adds up.
What organization are you referring to?
Workers World Party
If you go on their site, don’t search for “North Korea”. They believe that the DPRK is the true government of that peninsula, with bandits illegally occupying the southern portion.
Right after the protest/violence in question, I looked on their website, which was helpfully provided on all of their signs and banners. At that time, their home page highlighted several DPRK stories. Right now it is BLM and “Long live the Cuban revolution!”.
Any old TV show or movie that comes around again, Seinfeld included, I find myself thinking one of the following:
a) that’s funny
b) that’s tasteless
c) someone today would find it offensive
But never ever do I consider:
d) “Ban it!!” or “Repent M*ther F**ker! as did the walkout Netflix employees.
I would broaden your correct observation about sitcoms to say that every good story is set in motion by a lie or deception.
Jesus, the woke are a humorless lot.
And they won’t be happy until everyone else is miserable. It’s the only thing that truly brings them joy.
It is not even real joy.
In some stories, and in the minds of some religious people, there are characters who seem to want only to corrupt that which is wholesome and good. One example is “The Golden Child”, which was on the other day. Or Ridley Scott’s “Legend”. Or The Grinch. It is a recurring theme.
The woke sort of act like they share a lot of priorities with the villains of those stories.
Ever seen Hannah Gadsby, Lily Singh, or Hari Kondabolu? They’re woke comedians and are about as funny as a Robin D’Angelo workshop.
I think he and the rest are laughing all the way to the bank. If someone today has time to go over a sitcom from 30 years ago and find fault, they are leading far too boring a life. Make them watch leave it to beaver all day long and then give us a review of the great acting.
“Father Knows Best” – even the title gets under my skin. 🙂
Which calls to mind the wonderful spoof show from the movie, Scrooged: Father Loves Beaver.
Well, it last ran 61 years ago.
The fact that no one would name a show “Father Knows Best” (in a non-ironic way) these days is a milestone of our progress.
But the point, as I remember it, was that he did not know best. Mother knew best.
Q: What was the most risque thing said on television in the1950s?
A: “Ward, don’t you think you were a little hard on The Beaver last night?”
Now XCellKen, that’s funny!
Is anything in any of those articles actually calling for the show to be “cancelled”, though? Or are they just pointing out jokes that modern audiences might find problematic? Almost all the bits you’ve quoted seem fairly mild to me – most of them don’t go far beyond gentle criticism while still enjoying the jokes.
I’m prognosticating that we won’t be seeing reruns of a lot of these shows in the future.
What is accomplished, anyway, by pointing out the missteps of the past that already would not be made these days. They’re out of fashion, and going back and pointing them out is like calling out George Wallace for making racist statements. Everybody already knows it.
I agree that articles like this are fairly pointless clickbait, and there’s too much modern “criticism” in the Honest Trailers / How It Should Have Ended / Cinema Sins vein that consists of nothing but raising minor, trivial quibbles about beloved properties of the past (Screen Rant have their own Pitch Meeting series that does the same thing, although it’s reliably funny).
But I still think it’s overreacting to describe it as the “cancellation crosshairs”. Far more vocal (and I think more valid) criticisms have been raised about shows like Friends, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory without any of them coming remotely close to being removed from our screens.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the entertainment infrastructure in twenty years’ time is totally unrecognizable. I don’t understand how American television works anymore. Maybe we’ll see politically polarized entertainment packages, one for the left, one for the right, each one hosting shows and stations the other side wanted to cancel. On the other hand, I have enough friends who are saying that we are hitting a post-TV era. Cord cutters and streaming services are revolutionizing the entertainment landscape. If everything is streaming, ‘rerun’ loses its meaning.
It’s only the “rerun” name that is being retired. Streaming old stuff is as popular as ever. One of the biggest changes in recent years is that content has become more important than stars. Huge hits like “Squid Game” are obtained cheaply and have no big-name stars at all. The appetite for foreign-made shows has grown hugely also. It used to be that subtitles turned people off but that seems to have largely faded. Globalization is a good thing as it brings cultures together.
That’s why I buy DVDs/Blurays when I can. Got “All in the Family” recently. If Netflix and Hulu go Woke, good luck streaming shows like these.
Please try to find a way to back up your collection. In my understanding, many early digital discs from the 1980s have been unreadable for the last 15+ years. Check out the Wikipedia article on DVD longevity. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD#Longevity
Back in the 90s I worked for a state agency and we were looking at a DVD-R based archiving system for our records. We decided not to go with it because the vendor could not guarantee that the discs would last five years in storage. We stuck with a barcoded microfilm system for the longest time as silver-based black and white film, properly processed and stored, will last for decades. A couple of years before I retired, we switched to a digital scanner system that uploaded everything in .pdf form to the agency’s network.
Today, Gloria and Meat-head would be seen as the sincere heroes standing up against Archie’s diatribes, instead of the silly foils they were for Archie’s truth-telling. I’m glad that Archie’s character grew, though.
I saw Carrol O’Connor act Willy Loman in a stage production of Death of a Salesman years ago, after the series had ended. He was good.
I never thought of Archie Bunker as a truth-teller. Examples? In my mind, except when he was expressing love for his family or forced to apologize, the audience was expected to find his opinions terrible.
His truths, I guess. (A post-modernist expression that has currency in Canada.)
A lot of us identified with Archie. He was a sympathetic character, thanks to O’Connor and the show’s writers. He said what couldn’t be said because it was wrong, but said it anyway. And the race riots of 1967 had occurred Somewhere Else. Yes, we knew what we were supposed to think about his opinions. We saw our fathers in him.
I think those living in what would soon become Ontario’s rust-belt knew they were going to be left behind, as Archie was, even though at the time they were still getting a princely union wage for putting nuts on bolts in a car-parts factory.
All comedy, humor, jokes, etc. is/are profoundly offensive, problematic, and exclusionary toward people who are agelastic. We need to end comedy completely.
Thanks for the new word!
The Woke seem to miss the point of many of these Seinfeld episodes. The shows aren’t applauding the objectionable behaviors portrayed by the characters but drawing attention to them and making fun of them. This parallels their objections to any mention of the n-word, regardless of context.
Yes, that’s what I don’t get about these articles. The behaviors on that show are supposed to be offensive; that’s the whole point. The characters are constantly aghast at what offensive things the others say and do.
And, of course, if the characters are aghast, they hope the viewer is too. As Paul said, that’s the point. I’m surprised there’s no talk about cancelling “Curb your Enthusiasm.” Or maybe there is and I missed it.
Right! If anything, the Woke owe a debt to this kind of sitcom, dating back to Norman Lear. They ought to be tearing down statues of Andrew Jackson and putting up statues of Archie Bunker.
I’ll give you my dvds when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!
Seriously, what the hell has happened in peoples’
warped and childish minds to make old TV shows more dangerous than guns? I though legalized marijuana would have had a more mellowing effect…
I heard Cheeto sales are up 420%
In the Woke Dystopia, there will be no comedy.
Like the Taliban, they will outlaw it.
Because, in the immortal words of Valentine Smith (and I paraphrase a little because I don’t have the quote in front of me): “These jokes [that you earthlings tell], they all involve a badness for someone!”
Badness=offensive. Burn it!
Indeed. Although I think it more likely that we’ll be living under a right-wing dystopia with Kyle Rittenhouse in charge of Homeland Security.
“Kyle Rittenhouse in charge of Homeland Security.”
SNL should definitely do that one.
And C.I.A. Director Steve Bannon.
Might as well do a whole Right wing cabinet one Saturday and a Woke one on the next. Both could be very funny.
Indeed! But only one (at least to biased me) would represent malevolence.
This looks more like clickbait native advertising, i.e. the cancelation is fabricated to create a controversy for marketing purposes. It’s hard to demonstrate, I’ll admit, but when the first sign are clickbaity sites and not “grassroots” twitter mobs etc, I suggest there is no serious canceling behind it.
I agree. Websites need content more than anything, and if they can gin up clickbait controversy, even better.
“The Chinese woman is not the issue here, Dude … also, Dude, Chinese woman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.”
Also, dude, let us not omit l’accent aigu from “métier.” 🙂
The first obligation of comedy is to be funny; screw ’em if they can’t take a joke.
“screw ’em if they can’t take a joke” – I do hope that you’re not suggesting sexual violence, Ken ;o)
That “Asian-American” thing can’t be true, can it?
Canadians from China we call Chinese-Canadians if it’s relevant, as in, “The long reach of the government of China actively intimidates Chinese-Canadians who speak out against the Chinese Communist Party,” or “In the early days of the pandemic, Chinese-Canadians urged the Canadian government to stop flights from mainland China and to ignore the cries of racism that might arise.” (Both these statements are true, by the way.)
Asian-XXX is so broad as to be meaningless. Japanese people regard it as a racial slur to be lumped in with “Asians”. Canadians of South Asian descent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, maybe Burma but not Thailand and not Afghanistan) suffered high attack rates and mortality during the Covid pandemic. Politically, economically, and culturally they are a major demographic force. East-Asians probably means the Philippines, (certainly *not* Japan!) but Filipinos in Canada never refer to themselves that way. South-east Asia maybe in the abstract but the cultures are distinct enough that the individual country is usually used instead. On diversity forms, there is a tick-box for . “West Asian”, which could include anywhere from Afghanistan to … I dunno, France?.
Brought to you from the country that introduced the word ‘African Nova Scotian’
Oh, and West Asia stops at the Urals. It doesn’t go to France, but it does go to Egypt. The Sinai Peninsula, at any rate.
There was a famous Imperial put-down about Europe. I was thinking of the bowdlerized version: “Asia begins at Calais.”
I have never heard any Canadian person say or write Afro- or African in any Canadian combining context, save one self-conscious white copy writer scared to death of wrong-footing on her first job. Because the ancestors of most Black people in Canada today came recently (1960s or later) from the West Indies or Guyana they don’t think of themselves as “African”. They were living in their own majority-Black countries in the New World. If they came more recently from an African country they identify as Somali- or Congolese- or Nigerian- or South African- Canadian — and the last are usually white, or brown South Asian. Black people who are descendants of escaped or freed American slaves are not called African Nova Scotians, or African Ontarians.. That’s made-up and silly. They’re just Black Canadians. (The capital B is not yet standard but I’m with McWhorter on this.)
When I lived out east as a kid our parents taught us to say Negroes, (to vaccinate us against the other words which we would surely eventually hear), if we had to refer to their skin at all, which was not commonly necessary. And this wasn’t considered a racial slur — there was no other polite collective name for them, even among themselves. “Coloured people” could be used by older people without ill will but it was starting to fade out, just as “Negro” faded out as Black people stopped using it. African-anything has never caught on in Canada.
The final note is that Canada does not press hard for adoption of a “Canadian” identify (just as well, because no one knows what it is.) If you buy a snow shovel at Canadian Tire you’re in. So except in careful bureaucratic writing, it is common to refer to “the Chinese community” or the “South Asian diaspora” or “Filipino nurses” without adding the -Canadian part. In the U.S., “hyphenated Americans” are viewed with some suspicion. In Canada we often get rid of the hyphen, too, but in the other direction.
Wasn’t the series finale basically an indictment of the characters for being terrible people?
Yes, though I think they were also suggesting that we all are terrible in our own ways. You just have to look closely.
An interesting tweet by the guy who also wrote that Screen Rant article:
I’ve heard Seinfeld correct that rumour that he’d not do stand up at colleges. He said he never said that. I heard a great interview with him on the Podcast Smartless recently. That podcast is hosted by Will Arnett, Sean Hayes, & Jason Bateman and I love listening to it for pure entertainment. They had Seinfeld on as a guest and he pointed out that he knows if something isn’t funny immediately because audiences tell you by not laughing so comedians are always in danger of being canceled every night they do a show and he isn’t worried about cancel culture at all.
Plus I can’t believe they missed a big one that would have been scrutinized today like crazy. The one where Jerry buys a tacky native American statue from a Tobacco shop (the episode is called “The Cigar Store Indian”) and then he’s rocking it back and forth and making a “hi ya ya ya” sound causing a mutual friend to storm out and for Elaine to tell him, “she’s Native American”! I think there is a line in there where he talks about someone “getting bent out of shape” and there is some equivalency about how he’s jewish and something someone does doesn’t get him all bent out of shape. I forget the line but it would not go over well now. I loved Seinfeld. I always found it so relatable and as I get older, the more I understand George Costanza.
This is the episode: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cigar_Store_Indian
And this is the scene.
I remember seeing a panel discussion with Seinfeld and fellow comedians. One of the subjects they discussed was the problems with college gigs. I swear I heard Seinfeld agree with them. Perhaps he didn’t say he’d never do college shows again but he made it clear he wouldn’t do any soon. Perhaps my memory is failing.
I know I thought so too. I went back and listened though and he didn’t say it he was just there. He did explain it on another podcast I listened to and now I can’t remember what podcast that was or when he corrected the record because it was in the before times before the pandemic and that is too long ago now for my mind to remember details.
It turns out it was really easy to find. It was HBO’s “Talking Funny” with Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, and Louis CK. Turns out it’s on YouTube. I remember it being surprisingly funny. I’m not going to listen to it again though just to find out if they talk about gigs on college campuses. I’m willing to admit that I may have misremembered. I do recommend the show.
Ah I remembered it was on Ricky Gervais on Sirius XM because I could remember driving and listening to it on Sirius XM. Happily it’s now on YouTube where Seinfeld explains what he said.
And I found the line Jerry said. It might have been a different episode but he said:
“You know, I don’t get it. Since when are you not allowed to ask a Chinese man where a Chinese restaurant is? I mean, aren’t we getting a little too sensitive here? If someone asks me, “which direction is Israel,” I don’t go flying off the handle.” I think he could still make this joke today because it’s absurd and funny.
In practice, the risk is that the person you ask is not Chinese but merely looks Chinese. All the Asian countries have lots of people who are of Chinese heritage and, therefore, look Chinese, but don’t like to be called Chinese.
I am Sri Lankan and people take me for an Indian all the time. When Sri Lanka knocked India out of the Cricket World Cup in 2007, I happened to walk past a clutch of Indians talking about the match in a grocery store isle. They immediately included me in the conversation, blasting their team for abject incompetence. It was an awkward situation and after some reluctant nodding and even an attempt at defending an Indian player, I confessed to being Sri Lankan. Their sense of humour was intact, so it went well.
It reminds me of the time when a female friend of mine announced at a party that she was a Sri Lankan princess. I think she was testing the limits of believability and her capacity for drink.
The scene and the description of the episode (which I did not see) makes me think the producers somehow got hold of a cigar-store Indian — yes, that’s what they were called — and set the writers to work trying to make a show around it, rather than thinking up the story first and then rounding up the props. (A peace pipe would have been better and easier to handle on the cramped set.) The whole thing seems bizarre and contrived and therefore not particularly funny. A university revue production fell into this trap years ago. One of the writers told me they had found a huge papier-maché sarcophagus in the props room of the theatre and felt it was too good to pass up. But none of the several short sketches they wrote around it worked, especially since it took several seconds of precious stage time to trundle the thing on and off stage each time they used it.
Jerry’s angst from talking to Winona later about scalpers and reservations probably did work — we all can identify with saying the wrong thing and then following up by saying even more the wrong thing. But I think this apartment scene bombed as humour. Now, if Jerry had been told Winona was Native at once, before she left, it could have worked. He could have been so nonplussed at his initial faux-pas that he just digs deeper by doing the chant. Then Winona storms out instead of leaving discreetly. More offensive, I suppose, to do it in her presence, but funnier because of what it says about Jerry’s character and the interplay between him and her which sets the stage for the later date.
Anyway, I’ve tried to show how the humour works or it doesn’t, which in this case is an orthogonal question to offensiveness.
In an era where basically anything is available on some streaming service or other, I’m perfectly happy if some people want to say they find it offensive. So don’t watch it. “Cancel” meaning “socially disapprove of” is fine. Heck I’ll even say “cancel” meaning “write/email/call/text the network and say you don’t want to see reruns of it on TV” is fine too. That’s voicing your opinion, and maybe you get the programming changed. I’m okay with that. “Cancel” as in “make unavailable” – no.
Also, while the amount of offensiveness is really beside the 1st amendment or access point, 13 offensive jokes in 9 seasons has got to be a record…for inoffensiveness. Good lord, don’t let these people go back and watch MASH or Lucy.
I’m surprised “The Handicap Spot” (Season 4, Episode 22) didn’t make the Screen Rant’s Top 10 list. I believe the episode ends with a standup routine from Jerry saying “the handicap parking spot is the mirage of the parking desert.” He ends the 30-second bit with, “what is the handicap parking situation at the Special Olympics? They must have to stack 100 cars into those two spots.” I watched the clip and, even in the mid-90s, you could hear a few in the crowd groan a little bit.
I recall Christopher Hitchens—during an Oct. 8, 2006, Intelligence Squared debate titled “Freedom of Expression Must Include the License to Offend”—saying this, “call me old fashioned, ladies and gentlemen, if you will, but as you will see, I don’t think a joke is really a joke unless it’s at somebody’s expense.”
Meh. You watch pretty much any TV show after several years and you will find it has not aged well. You can write an article like this for any show — and most commenters have mentioned some gems (Barney Miller). Seinfeld is still on TV (streaming at least) as is Barney Miller (in Chicago on broadcast TV). I enjoy watching Barney Miller. Not only was it a timely, topical, and well-written show, it shows how far we’ve come as a society. It provides an honest portrayal of gays in 1970’s NYC and the prejudice they had to endure. The show had heart, too — showing people as human beings with flaws, but human beings. Seinfeld was more cynical, tho. Going simply for laughs at uncomfortable situations, but he did it well.
It is ridiculous to write about how Seinfeld is not woke when his entire point was that these are not smart or thoughtful people. They are childish, self-centered, lazy, and superficial. Comically bad things thus happen to them and people around them, and hilarity ensues.
One article I recall that really dated Seinfeld was one where the author pointed out how many of the mishaps that drove the plot of many episodes would have not occurred if they simply had a cell phone or been able to text each other.
I want a gig where I get paid to watch old TV shows and write superficial copy about how some people today might find some of the situations and dialogue offensive. I suspect the pay isn’t very much. I’d feel guilty if the fluff I wrote caused real trouble for anyone who had appeared in them, though.
They’ve been doing it at least since the ’80s and the ‘bugs bunny promotes violence’ motif.
Puritans complain about anything popular, eventually. The woke are the left’s social puritan answer to the right’s religious puritans. If it makes you happy, and it ain’t God/fighting injustice, it must be sinful.
Here in Chicago (and I believe it is syndicated nationwide), one local station has revived the early morning cartoon show. What’s nice is that they show the cartoons unedited. Many have characters that would be unPC today — Yosemite Sam and his guns, and many sexual and even racial stereotypes. Very bold of them.
I disagree with Jerry on this one. I think this post facto witch hunting Wokery is about to face a massive backlash by many millions of people. Funny content from the past is all now available on Youtube and the world is consuming it in heaping doses. To the degree that Woke mobs try to cancel past shows or their cast members prompting the networks to censor them, they will accelerate their own suicide by transitioning the new generation to old, high quality content online. The networks will die or devolve. Youtube millionaires are being made every day by creating good original content (up-voted by peers like movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or product reviews on Amazon) and new, anodyne, safe shows being released by the networks will continue to hemmorhage viewer numbers. Netflix has defended Dave Chappelle and they will win because the revenues will follow the good content.
The woke mob won’t be able to cancel Seinfeld, it’s too popular and their numbers are too small. What they will do is trigger a backlash against their childish, censorious bullshit by a majority of devoted fans and I predict that there will emerge litmus tests to identify the wokerati who won’t be getting jobs very easily in the future and will have to adapt their virtue signaling or die.
It would be nice to see a backlash against those people but I doubt we will any time soon. Instead, shows like Seinfeld will remain available and the cries of the Woke will be simply ignored. The main reason they’ve been successful with statue removal, building renaming, and rock removal is that the cost of placating them is not too high. Shows and books are too valuable so they’ll largely be ignored.
It sounds to me like a couple of websites have a problem with Seinfeld, which is completely different to postulating that there’s a mob trying to cancel the show.
Seinfeld is not getting cancelled. I’d take that bet with anyone, pretty much whatever the stakes.
I think you have to care to get cancelled. Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t care if people find his jokes don’t age well. He knows stuff doesn’t always age well….he says he works on his act all the time and workshops it in local comedy clubs so he always updates and he goes by the audience’s response so if they laugh, it’s funny and he’s doing the joke.
I thought that was the whole point (and humour) of “Seinfeld” (and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) – these characters are obnoxious people who do and say things that you’re not supposed to do and say.
Ah, Seinfeld–the show that still makes me smile whenever I hear “Yo-Yo Ma,” or “Boutros Boutros-Ghali,” because I’m picturing . . . .
. . .and “Dolores”
This woke cancel movement, especially when aimed at things that give us pleasure, is a modern version of the Bonfire of the Vanities.
Yeah, its offensive today.
But really, Seinfeld is mild compared to earlier shows. I can’t believe that MASH isn’t burned to the ground by CC.