In the history of television, few shows have had such an impact on pop culture His field did. At its peak in the late 1990s, it was the biggest thing on television. Each week it seemed as if the series created new catchphrases which then became part of the lexicon, from “yada yada yada” to “no soup for you!” and “There’s nothing wrong with that.” As Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Kramer (Michael Richards) and Elaine (Julia Louis Dreyfus) left the airwaves of NBC in 1998, the series and its importance didn’t really fade due to syndication and DVD releases, and now with its streaming run on Netflix.
It’s crazy to think it’s been a quarter of a century since the much maligned season finale aired. While His field is still part of our zeitgeist, is seen today in a completely different world than back then. While it’s still as awesome and fun as it was then, it can also be hard to see because the culture of then and now is so different. Friendsanother NBC mainstay of the late ’90s, is also struggling with how it stands now, but because of His field and its broad appeal, as we see it today, especially among younger audiences seeing it for the first time, holds up a mirror to us for who we used to be.
“Seinfeld” shows a safer world that no longer exists
Our world has changed in many ways since the 1990s. Some of it is out of Jerry Seinfeld’s control, LarryDavid, or someone else who wrote for the series. Her view of New York, where the Seinfeld Four lived their self-absorbed lives, was a carefree place where the biggest concerns were dating, movies, baseball, and soup. Even if most His field was shot in Los Angeles and not New York, it looked and felt like New York. You can’t help but watch the show now and see a pre-9/11 world where everything still made some sense and there wasn’t fear around every corner.
His field has no scenes set in the World Trade Center, but one episode unintentionally hits too close to home at a now awkward moment. In Season 8 of The Nap, George Costanza works for the New York Yankees. To find a way to take naps during the day unnoticed, he built an area under his desk to disappear into for an afternoon nap. As his boss, owner of the Yankees George SteinbrennerWhen he looks for George in his office, which he presumably finds empty, he decides to wait for George’s return. Unnoticed by him, Costanza is under his desk and now can’t get out unnoticed.
In order to escape and get Steinbrenner out of the office, George calls Jerry and whispers that he needs him to call a bomb threat. That takes everyone away, including Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner gets the call from Jerry, who is pretending to be a terrorist bomber. Hearing a clock ticking under George’s desk, Steinbrenner runs out of the office yelling about a bomb. He then gives in to Jerry’s terrorist demands, which end in him wanting the Yankees to have a Fitted Hat Day. It’s top His field absurdity, and while it’s still funny, it makes you squirm a little when you see it now.
Diversity wasn’t a strong point of Seinfeld
The biggest criticism of Friends Today, almost every single person, from the leading lady to the smallest role, is white. His field has similar issues when looking at it in 2023, but it doesn’t quite get the heartache Friends does. That’s because the creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, are both Jewish. On top of that, their religion is not hidden, but addressed in several episodes. Although Jerry’s character is the only Jewish of the four main characters, all of the main cast (Seinfeld, Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards) are Jewish. Several other characters throughout the run are also Jewish.
Nonetheless, this is the place His field is being criticized today for the show’s often poked fun at Judaism, as in the Season 9 episode “The Serenity Now,” in which gentile Elaine discovers her “shiksa appeal,” with several Jewish men being attracted to her become. A Jewish boy even renounces his faith because he’s so in love with Elaine. Most memorable is Season 8’s The Yada Yada Yada, when Jerry’s dentist, Dr. Whatley (Bryan Cranston), converted to Judaism. Whatley starts making several lewd jokes about Judaism, which he can seem to get away with since he’s also Jewish now, but Jerry worries he only converted because of the jokes. “You’re an Antidentit,” Kramer says to Jerry. “The next thing you know you’ll be saying they should have their own schools.” It’s a fun way to look at some of the absurdities of religion, but in today’s climate where Jewish people are under more attack, be it with words like KanyeWestor through violent action in the increased number of hate crimes, the light gaze on the issue feels insensitive.
It’s not just religion that does that His field Gang gets himself in trouble. Very little is taboo. Kramer uses homeless men to pull a rickshaw in Season 9’s The Bookstore. George attacks a sick child in a bubble in Season 4’s The Bubble Boy. In Season 3’s “The Alternate Side,” Elaine is dating a much older man who is having a stroke. The studio audience laughs at Elaine’s disgust as she is now stuck spoon feeding this wheelchair bound man who can barely move. Speaking of wheelchairs, in one episode Season 4 “The Handicap Spot” a lazy George parks in a handicap spot. A woman in a wheelchair who could not park there is later injured. When her wheelchair breaks, George and Kramer get her a cheap new one, but it stalls and she screams as it hurtles down a hill.
Now, sensitive issues in “Seinfeld” were often used for comedic purposes
His field also had no problem shaking feathers about the breed. In Season 9’s The Wizard, Elaine is dating a man she thinks is black, but she’s too scared to ask him out. It’s embarrassing for them, and now it’s embarrassing for us, because who cares what their race is? In Season 5 of The Cigar Store Indian, Jerry gets into trouble with an Indian woman by leaning into offensive stereotypes. She gets upset, but we’re told that it’s her fault that she’s so easily offended when Jerry didn’t mean to do anything wrong. Jerry talks to a woman on the phone in season 6’s “The Chinese Woman.” He is interested because her name is Donna Chang, but upon meeting her he is disappointed that she is not Asian. In season 6 of The Diplomat Club, George gets in trouble by making an insensitive remark to a black man, so he tries to befriend someone else who is black to show he’s not racist. In Season 8 of The English Patient, Kramer orders Cuban cigars, but there is a misunderstanding and Cuban men show up instead. A character named Babu Bhatt (brian george), which appears in some episodes, gets all the Afghan tropes in the book. Then there’s the final season episode “The Puerto Rican Day” where Puerto Ricans are stereotyped and Kramer accidentally burns the Puerto Rican flag. That was still considered offensive in the 1990s.
Sexuality is also the subject of some awkward moments. It’s hard now to watch Season 6’s The Beard as Elaine tries to make a gay man straight. In the episode, it actually works out for a while, with the man dating Elaine before identifying as gay again. It tells us that someone who is gay can choose their sexuality, even if it’s only for a short time. The most memorable example of His field and his take on homosexuality, however, comes from what is perhaps the show’s most popular episode. In Season 4 “The Outing”, a reporter Jerry believes that Jerry and George are a gay couple. You freak out. You can hardly handle it. George’s mother ends up in the hospital when she hears the news. To show they’re not homophobic, when George or Jerry have a panic attack because they think we’re gay, they’re quick to follow, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Today, in 2023, so many shows have an out-gay character. We’re not worried about that, and it’s definitely nothing to freak out about assuming you’re gay when you’re not.
It may be difficult to look at these examples today, but His field get away with it. Part of that is simply making some of the people being attacked not that great themselves. The Bubble Boy is an idiot who had it all. The woman in the wheelchair leaves Kramer because he didn’t look good enough for her. The boyfriend who Elaine thought was Black breaks up with Elaine because he thought she was Spanish. But it goes even deeper. While Friends may not have known what they were doing, or may have been guilty of being comedy from another era, His field was the “smart” comedy who knew exactly what she was doing, mocking and making fun of others. Its main characters should be terrible. They are said to be self-centered and insensitive. In the end, in the finale that so many didn’t like, the gang get their compensation and are put on trial for all the horrible things they did and said before being sent to jail.
In our contemporary era we have a number like it’s always sunny in Philadelphia. Almost everyone is white and mean and selfish. They always do something offensive, but they get away with it because they scoff at such behavior. These characters get their comeuppance in every episode. In His field, That was not always so. Sometimes it is written that the gang is actually right. They’re the fake ones who deal with so many oversensitive, easily offended people. For a generation past, and even for some growing up today, it’s still one of the greatest shows ever made. For others, it’s an impossible watch. His field may have claimed to be a show about nothing, but it really was about a lot, and not all of it has aged well.
https://collider.com/seinfeld-aged-badly/ Why is ‘Seinfeld’ so hard to watch now?