Jerry Seinfeld's intentions

After watching the last episode of “Seinfeld” for the 15th time I really wonder: did Jerry intend all along, during the course of the show, for people to view the main characters as selfish, self centered, narcissists? Because that’s what Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, and George were. Or did the evolution of plot development just go in that direction? Was there an agenda all along, or did it just turn out this way?

I’ve said this before, but look at the plots of some of the worst things you remember from Seinfeld. More often than not the main characters are the ones in the right.

This is doubly true of the finale. Were the Seinfeld four supposed to confront an armed gunman who was hijacking a guy in broad daylight? But instead, they filmed the whole thing and should have been paraded around town as heroic do-gooders.

I think it just went that way eventually, especially as all the characters became more and more horrible as the years went on - just compare the Elaine of the first few seasons with the Elaine of the last few.

I’m pretty sure they were always supposed to be seen as self-centred because that’s where much of the humour came from, but there’s a big difference between faking a doctor’s note to get a free massage or laughing at a pez dispenser during a piano recital and, say, kidnapping a dog becuase it barks or calling up Marisa Tomei right after your fiancé died or watching a carjacking and laughing about it.

But weren’t they laughing and pointing at the guy getting mugged? IIRC, it wasn’t like they really wanted to help but the best they could figure to do was hide behind a bush and videotape the crime, then run the evidence to the police station.

One of the early distinguishing things about Seinfeld was its “no hugging, no learning” rule. Unlike so many sitcoms at the time, the characters were strictly unsentimental. Sometimes the line blurred and they were indeed selfish, self-centered narcissists - and that line was crossed more and more as the show went on. But I’m not sure I believe that that was some master plan from the beginning.

Don’t forget that a lot of the show was scripted by Larry David, who has a decidedly misanthropic view. I would say that yes, Larry David intended for the characters to often be petty and self-absorbed, but the thing is, they aren’t really any more petty and self-absorbed than the average person. I think that’s exactly where Larry David looks for his satire - it’s in that low-level assholery of the average person. None of the Seinfeld characters were truly evil, but they were douchebags in the realistic ways that normal people in the real world are douchebags. I think that’s what made the show work and what makes it endure. The audience recognizes themselves in the characters. Most people are low level assholes. That’s the joke. It’s definitely intentional.

IMO the characters were often self centered jerks with a good dose of stupidity thrown in. But thats what made it funny and a bit different from your typical sitcom. Also their self centeredness often came back to bite them in the butt in the end. Or, even better, one character’s self centeredness would come back to bite on of the other characters in the butt.

Only Jerry could tell you if it was his master plan. But it certainly wouldn’t surprise me that they quickly figured out that this particular “formula” worked and made a point of “being that way” whenever it was reasonable to do so.

Re: Finale

I think Seinfled/David and the rest of TPTB knew the direction of the finale episode very early in the series run. I go back to the closing scene of The Visa, (season 4) where Babu gets deported back to Pakistan. In particular, Babu’s last line to his friend after the friend asks Babu what is going to do:

The characters were always designed to be not only jerks, but complete morons, like the Three Stooges, only dumber. That was one reason why it was so unwatchable. There was also the fact that it was poorly written, poorly staged, and has Jason Alexander in it.

Obviously there are not a lot of Seinfeld fans here. They never came off as narcissistic to me, self-centered yes but isn’t everybody. You live in your world not someone else’s. Costanza (imho) is one of the funniest characters ever in tvland, not because he is narcissistic or self-centered but because he is neurotic. “Just one? I’m living, like, 20!”

Yeah, outside of it’s massive popular and critical success, it was a total failure.

The selfishness of the characters was a constant background of the series, ISTM. The one where Jerry’s car was stolen and Kramer was asking the thief if he could get his gloves back always sticks in my mind.

Totally unwatchable. I guess that’s why it’s never appeared in reruns.

Now I’m wondering about the philosophical question:

What makes the difference between a self-centered jerk and a truly evil person?

Ambition? Level of malice? Circumstance and opportunity?

This is not an accurate description of the show. The characters were not stupid. There was no “three Stooges” slapstick, the writing was as sharp as any sitcom has ever had (easily the most quotable sitcom of the last 20 years), and Jason Alexander was iconic as George. If you’re going to shit on a show that you know so many people like, at least know what you’re shitting on.

It started off as a show “about nothing” but was really about mundane everyday events and conversations. As the show went on it got more and more surreal and yes I believe the characters were supposed to be self centered, that was part of the joke. They’re getting older, still single, and none of them can stay in a relationship. They’re too busy with mundane pointless pursuits to live a conventional “American Dream” type life.

All of those things, I guess. I suppose it’s just a question of how much real harm they were willing to do. They were selfish in small and petty ways, but they weren’t serial killers sex offenders. To me, that’s what was realistic. They were self-centered and insensitive to the degree that most people really are. They would steal parking spots, but they wouldn’t rob banks.

I suppose they did lacxk compassion, though. I don’t remember any of them ever truly seeming to care about another person.

Much of the great appeal of the show was that many people found themselves identifying with the trio, much of the hatred for the direction the show went was due to great disillusionment that these people are jerks.

I remember the great anger when the cast spoofed the Puerto Rican parade. The next day, on the Howard Stern show, Robin ( a real person) espoused the exact sentiment that fictional person Elane does: She’s been out of the city for the weekend, she needs to wind down on Sunday to prepare for a workweek, and this parade traffic is a serious problem for her. All the while, people are thoroughly angry at the “attack on Puerto Rican culture”, while others continued to support not just the humor of the episode, but actually agreed with the sentiment.

Then it hit me, the Seinfeld trio were sort of a pastiche of the old yuppie stereotype, mixed in with the new townie insult.



This degrading of character happens on all sitcoms as they go on.
Seriously. It is necessity for the writers to keep things funny. Eventually they become cartoons.

I had read somewhere that Seinfeld and David had two rules for an episode.

  1. No hugs.
  2. No lessons.

They gave a nod to Rule 1 in the last episode where the group almost all hugged each other and then pulled back.

Check out Curb Your Enthusiasm sometime. It’s a caricature of Larry David as played by Larry David. David was the inspiration for George (and as mentioned upthread, one of the creators and writers for Seinfeld).

Larry David the character is awful. He’s…clueless to the point of malicious. His agent, Jeff, is pretty bad too but not as bad as Larry. Some of the other characters - as well as stars playing caricatures of themselves - can be pretty awful too.

I suppose “clueless to the point of malicious” means self-centered. Too self-centered to see that they are being malicious.

I personally can’t stand Curb but I loved Seinfeld. It’s MUCH more watchable. It’s more cartoony than Curb.

I guess what I am trying to say is "If you think Seinfeld’s bad, check out Curb to see what George is really supposed to be like…