Friday, May 4, 2007

Evolution of "Seinfeld"

For my final blog post I chose to do the fourth option on discussing the evolution of my understanding of my topic over the semester. I chose to do this option because I feel like my feelings and views of my topic have definitely changed over the last few months. In the beginning of the semester I chose my topic basically because it was my favorite show and I am very familiar with it. I knew that it would be easy for me to think of certain episodes that would relate to course readings and topics discussed in class because I have seen each and every episode of “Seinfeld.” I also chose my topic because I knew that the show was rather controversial when it fist aired. I was not sure to the extent that this would help me analyze it, but I knew that “Seinfeld” was basically thought of as similar to the way “Family Guy” is thought of today as a show that approaches some controversial topics. I also knew that “Seinfeld” was basically the first sitcom to approach controversial topics, such as homosexuality and masturbation, and I knew that if all else failed this would give me something to discuss in my blog. These feelings towards “Seinfeld” are quite evident in my first few posts, especially in the one in which I responded to another person’s blog on the show.

As the semester progressed, I realized that “Seinfeld” was about much more than just the few episodes in which they approached new topics. I began to notice that it often reinforced certain social norms, especially early on in the series, but also challenged these norms in the later years. In my blog post about “The Deal,” I discussed how the show did nothing but reinforce the sexual values based on patriarchy that many men become exposed to at a very young age. Then as I looked at other episodes from the earlier seasons, I noticed that the show often stuck with social norms. I think that once the show gained more popularity, this is when it started to challenge certain hegemonic views and social norms because it already established an audience.

My next two blog posts supported this claim. In my collage post about “The Outing” I discussed how “Seinfeld” used humor, and especially sarcasm, to approach the topic of homosexuality. In this episode I do not feel that the show made any definitive statement, but it was able to at least broach homosexuality as a subject. In my final post about motherhood in “Seinfeld,” there is no doubt in my mind that the show made an effort to purposely challenge hegemonic views by using the Elaine character to do so.

In conclusion, I feel that my overall blogging experience has been very worthwhile. In the beginning I was a little wary of the idea because I was uncomfortable with the technical side of blogging. However, once I got comfortable with it, I feel that it became a very good learning experience. I was able to learn and realize how different shows, especially “Seinfeld,” are not “just TV shows” and are not really “shows about nothing.” In fact, these shows really help shape the way a lot of people think, and therefore have a large influence on ideas shared by our society. Personally, “Seinfeld” is still my favorite show. I still find it absolutely hilarious and I still watch it numerous times a day when it re-runs on television. However, through class discussions, course readings, and my own analysis I am also able to see the show from a different point of view. Now when I watch it I am able to analyze it as well as enjoy it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Feedback from Jess B, author of "Pop Culture Blogging"

The two questions response...Your strongest analytical work was in the post "Male Sexuality and Patriarchy in "The Deal." You picked a specific topic and clearly analyzed it.Throughout all your posts you chose quotes that accurately supported your analysis. You could use this strenght for your last post, by picking a specific topic from one of the episodes and then chosing quotes to back up your analysis.

Response to third question...~From the beginning you picked a clear topic. For readers who liked your topic, the could continue returning to your site to find new analysis on your specific topic.~You chose a topic that is interesting because it has been a major part of popular culture for many years.~You did a good job sticking to the topic of gender. All your posts were analysis of different aspects of gender throughout "Seinfeld," which kept the blog focused and interesting.~You did a good job making your posts analytical and finding readings to cite which assisted in the understanding of your argument. The only post I felt you didn't analyze quite enough was the one on "The Girls Next Door." You just brushed the surface of analying the show. If you had gone further into it, it would have been great.~The quotes you used very accurately support your arguments and you chose for a variety of readings, which was good. They helped to give you a broad range of topics on gender.

4th question response...~I thought it was great how you chose a variety of gender perspectives to analyze. It made your blog focused and interesting.~I found it a little confusing when you included actual conversations from the episodes because it was not always clear what it added to the post. Just make sure that it adds something to your topic.~You're really great at picking a topic for analysis and choosing readings that support your argument and provide understanding of it. It makes it easy for you readers to understand.~I wish you could focus on a new element of gender for your final post. If you picked a new reading to support it, I think your final post would be great. Your overall topic and different ways of analyzing it have been great. I think you have done a really good job on you blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blog Buddy Work with Jess B, author of "Pop Culture Blogging"

1. Where has your Blog buddy shown strong analytical work (be specific—is it a particular post, a type of analysis, a site for analysis that seemed to click more so than others, etc)?

2. How could your Blog buddy use this strength for the final Blog post and presentation?

3. Think about the following statements in relation to your Blog buddy’s Blog and then provide feedback on each area (constructive praise/criticism):

The Blog is on a topic that has been clearly evident in the Blog posts throughout the semester
The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy
My Blog buddy’s topic is one that has produced a good set of posts that were analytical used gender as a primary category of analysis
The posts make analytical arguments. The posts are understandable and each post logically outlines and supports the argument presented. The posts were clear, provided insight, evidence, and analysis to connect the topic with the assignment for each of the posts
The sources cited in each post are relevant to the topic and help to aid the understanding of the argument and/or assisted in proving the argument.
The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course readings throughout the semester.
The quotes were clear and succinct; additionally, the material was presented so that I could differentiate the Blog buddy’s ideas from that of the author cited.

4. Finally, complete the following:
I thought it was great when you...
I found it confusing when you…
You’re really great at…
I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/etc these three things…

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Motherhood in "Seinfeld"

For this blog post I decided to discuss the way “Seinfeld” views the topic of motherhood. Thus, the most obvious person to analyze would clearly be the show’s only regular female character, Elaine. When browsing through the initial six seasons of “Seinfeld,” the first thing I noticed was that none of the episodes discussed or were based on the topic of motherhood. Initially, I thought nothing of this and figured that the show just decided not to broach this particular subject. However, after finally stumbling upon the episode entitled “The Soul Mate” I realized that the absence of the topic of motherhood to that point was in fact no mistake at all. Motherhood was not discussed to that point because in this episode it becomes very clear that Elaine has no intention of having children, and “Seinfeld” once again uses humor to make a mockery of the belief that all women are supposed to do so.

Elaine first appears in “The Soul Mate” in her apartment with three of her friends who recently had babies named Carol, Gail, and Lisa. The following discussion occurs:

CAROL: ...but because it comes out of your baby, it smells good!
ELAINE: (sarcastic) Well, that's...that's sweet.
GAIL: Being a mother has made me feel so beautiful.
CAROL: Elaine, you gotta have a baby!
ELAINE: (trying to change the subject) Oh, hey, you know...I had a piece of whitefish over at Barney Greengrass the other day...
LISA: Elaine. Move to Long Island and have a baby already.
ELAINE: I really like the city.

This conversation is the first indication that Elaine does not want to have children. Elaine is obviously not interested in hearing about how great it feels to be a mother and does her best to change the subject and hint to her friends that she is not interested in having a baby. Later in the episode, Jerry and Elaine are discussing Elaine’s night with her friends and her feelings towards motherhood become very obvious…

ELAINE (to Jerry, imitating Carol): "Elaine, ya gotta have a baby." Ugh.
JERRY: Why do you invite these women over if they annoy you so much?
ELAINE: They're my friends, but they act as if having a baby takes some kind of talent.
JERRY: C'mon, you want to have a baby.
ELAINE: Why? Because I can?
JERRY: It's the life force. I saw a show on the mollusk last night. Elaine, the mollusk travels from Alaska to Chile just for a shot at another mollusk. You think you're any better?
ELAINE: Yes! I think I am better than the mollusk!
KEVIN: I couldn't help overhearing what you were saying. I think I agree with you. I mean, all this talk about having babies.
ELAINE: Yeah, like you must procreate.
KEVIN: Besides, anyone can do it.ELAINE: Oh, it's been done to death.

Once this conversation is over it becomes very obvious that “Seinfeld” has challenged the social normative that all women should procreate. At this point in the series, Elaine is perfectly healthy, has a well-paying job, and is becoming what society would view as “middle-aged.” Therefore, it is obvious that Elaine could definitely have and support a child, but she simply chooses not to. The show goes on to further reinforce its position on motherhood throughout the episode, even going as far as having many of the men in the show willing to get vasectomies to prove to their girlfriends that they are dedicated to them. In conclusion, the episode makes a mockery of the normative idea that all women should eventually have children.

Friday, March 30, 2007

"Not that there's anything wrong with that"...or is there?

For this post I chose to do a collage of images based on the episode "The Outing." In this episode homosexuality is a topic of great analysis. Using humor "Seinfeld" created a show based on a mistaken "outing" of George and Jerry as a homosexual couple by a student journalist. Throughout the episode George and Jerry do everything in their power to clear up the misunderstanding and tell everyone that they are not gay..."not that there's anything wrong with that." This quote has become very popular since the show aired because it "serves in part to mock standard liberal attitudes toward homosexuality" (Raymond). This supports the queer theory suggested by Raymond that sexuality are cultural inventions or choices, and not something that is essential to the individual. But at the same time, did the episode also serve as a groudbreaking episode in which homosexuality was brought to the forefront by "Seinfeld" while also making society more comfortable with the topic as a whole?
Raymond, Diane. "Popular Culture and Queer Representation." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Male Sexuality and Patriarchy in "The Deal"

Upon choosing a topic for this blog, I could not help but realize how much one of my favorite shows could be used to analyze various aspects of popular culture. In the nine seasons of "Seinfeld", one can find at least one aspect of gender, sex, religion, or race in almost each episode. During the years that it aired, "Seinfeld" was able to use humor to approach subjects of popular culture that other shows could not. Therefore, "Seinfeld" helped shape popular culture in the late 90's, and I wanted to analyze some of the influences it was able to make.

One particular episode in which I found an interesting topic to analyze in relation to gender is the last episode of the second season entitled “The Deal.” My feeling towards this episode and its relation to hegemony is very similar to the overall claim made in one of the readings from class, “The Myth of the Sexual Athlete.” Although in this particular reading Sabo is writing predominantly about athletes and the locker room, when watching “The Deal” I found it very easy to think of Jerry, George, and Kramer’s interactions as a microcosm of the locker room sex talk and how this ultimately influences Jerry and Elaine’s relationship.

Early in the episode after Jerry and Elaine have worked out a deal in which they can have sex together on a regular bases without committing to a relationship with each other, Jerry and George meet at the coffee shop for lunch. In this scene Jerry blurts out that he had sex with Elaine the night before, and George begs for details. I could not help relating this conversation to “…the late Sunday morning breakfasts in the dorm. We jocks would usually all sit at one table listening to one braggart or another describe his sexual exploits of the night before” (Sabo). Jerry proceeds to give George details of his sexual relations with Elaine, and it is very obvious that this gives Jerry an overwhelming feeling of pride. It is also evident that George is impressed by Jerry’s “accomplishments.” Jerry and George are acting as if they are teenagers in the high school locker room talking about their sexual relationships with girls and using these experiences as a way of judging and respecting one another.

As the episode proceeds, the twist arrives when it becomes evident that Elaine wants not only to have sex with Jerry, but to have a relationship as well. This is when Jerry begins to juggle the idea of committing to Elaine with the possibility of being able to remain friends and still have sex. Jerry is “torn between yearning for excitement and longing for love and intimacy” (Sabo). As the episode comes to an end, Jerry eventually chooses to break things off completely with Elaine. This serves as a perfect example of “the expectation that we [men] are supposed to act as though we want to be alone, like the cowboy who always rides off into the sunset alone” (Sabo). Jerry ultimately chooses to be completely alone, rather than be in a committed relationship. Taken as a whole, this particular episode of “Seinfeld” does nothing but reinforce the sexual values based on patriarchy that many men become exposed to at a very young age.

Sabo, Don. "The Myth of the Sexual Athlete." Sex, Violence, & Power in Sports: Rethinking Masculinity. The Crossing Press, 1994.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

"Much Ado About Nothing" by jsoliver

From 1989 to 1998, NBC aired a sitcom that shouldn’t have gone over well. Broadcasting to a nation that was largely conservative, Christian, and populated by millions simple folks, one mightn’t expect much to come from a show whose very essence exuded a distinct brand neurotic New York Jewiness. But somehow Seinfeld became the flagship sitcom of the nineties, in spite of its nature as a definite acquired taste. How millions of people managed to acquire that taste, however, might have to do with the fact that Seinfeld spoke to the neurotic New York Jew in us all.
But seriously, what’s up with that?
Actually, it’s really not so hard to fathom. Brandon Tartikoff, an NBC executive in 1989, claimed confidently it was just “too Jewish” for broadcast television (his words, not mine). But although on a superficial level Seinfeld was typical of that particular brand of humor (particularly in terms of characters who were paranoid, obsessive-compulsive, cheap, liberal, neurotic, and paradoxically atheist), it was at its heart a show about social values and how they affect us all. There was not a single episode in which one of the main conflicts did not hinge on a debate over some particular social nicety.

My Response:

jsoliver, nice analysis of “Seinfeld.” Your thesis was well-stated and well supported. To say that “Seinfeld” is really a show about nothing is ridiculous when you think about its ability to cover topics that actually are very important to us as individuals and as a society. You mentioned that the show is “about what we are, here and now” and although I agree completely with that statement, I like to think it’s about even more than that.

With its great popularity, “Seinfeld” was not only able to cover topics of our everyday lives that were important at the time, but also more controversial topics that may have been less acceptable in our culture had it not been for the show’s influence. With its ability to make people laugh, “Seinfeld” was able to cover rather taboo subjects such as homosexuality and masturbation to make its audience and our culture more comfortable with these issues. For example, in the famous episode entitled “The Contest” Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer make a bet to see who can go the longest without masturbating.

At the time, masturbation was not yet a subject widely discussed in our society and the fact that “Seinfeld” was able to air an entire show based on the topic was relatively controversial. Throughout the episode the characters have various conversations inferring that they all masturbate regularly, with Kramer claiming he does it everyday and George explaining how he got caught doing it by his mother. The show was able to come up dilemmas for each character that many people were able to relate to, thus making light of the subject and making it a more comfortable topic of conversation. Also, the fact that Elaine, the female symbol of the show, was included in the contest and ultimately lost introduced the subject of female masturbation as well. “Seinfeld” was able to assist in what we have become as a culture because it was not only about what we as individuals and a society were really about at the time, but also about what important topics were on the horizon and where we were headed as a society.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Analyzing "The Girls Next Door"

For this post I chose to blog about the concepts of masculinity and femininity as found in the reality television show “The Girls Next Door.” “The Girls Next Door” is a show about “Playboy” founder Hugh Hefner and his three main girlfriends Holly, Bridget, and Kendra. Although each and every episode of this series does nothing but reinforce normative roles and concepts related to masculinity and femininity, I chose to look at one particular episode. This episode deals with the three women getting prepared for a big birthday celebration for Hefner. Within it, the women are constantly worried about their self-image and body weight so that they can “look their best for Hef” and are at no time portrayed as intellectual.

To start, the first concept of the show that is blatantly obvious because of the particular episodes topic is the representation of the “Barbie-girl” image. Since in this episode the women are preparing for Hefner’s birthday party, each are adamantly concerned about their appearance, and what they will be wearing to the party. In one particular part, Bridget is having a meal with her parents and only eats vegetables because she’s on a diet. Only eating a few pieces of vegetables is definitely not a sufficient way of nourishing oneself and Bridget sees it necessary so that she can look her best for Hefner. This sends a terrible message to younger women, and especially teenage girls. Meanwhile, during the same meal, Bridget’s dad is shown numerous times while eating his meal, making it very obvious that he is eating as much as he wants and is enjoying it. This work by the producers to show that Bridget is overly concerned with what she is eating while her father chows down on his meal reinforces social norms that it is commonly accepted for men to eat disregarding their body and for women to do the complete opposite.

Furthermore, the very beginning of each episode begins with the show’s theme song that includes the three girlfriends shown as cartoon characters. This immediately depicts an image of each woman as childish due to the fact that cartoons are obviously attributed to children and the immature characters associated with them. Also, throughout the mini-interviews done during the show the women are often seen acting and speaking in the same manner. The show does nothing to hide this either, making sure to include each clip in which they slip-up or do something clumsy and then reinforcing the ridiculousness of the act by adding some demeaning music. The producers are clearly guilty of reinforcing normative definitions of femininity.

If these women were acting as themselves it would not differ from other shows. However, because it seems to me that these women are putting on an act it makes it much worse. As is guilty of most reality television, Holly, Bridget, and Kendra do not seem to be acting as they would if the cameras were not around. It is hard for me to believe that these women are not actually much more intelligent than they are letting on. All three women have received some form of higher education with Holly and Bridget attending Universities, and Bridget even possessing a master’s degree in communication. Despite their intellect, the women always seem to act silly and childish, and does anyone else think it’s odd that each of them has the cliché bleach-blonde hair to go along with their acts? These women are just as much to blame for our society’s view on women because younger girls or teenagers who watch the show “are even more powerfully attuned to images of women, because they learn from these images what is expected of them, what they are to become” (Kilbourne).

Anyway, not only are the producers of “The Girls Next Door” to blame, but Holly, Bridget, and Kendra themselves are guilty as well for doing nothing but reinforcing the view that a “Playboy” playmate or “the perfect woman” should act and is intellectually inferior to Hefner, or the male. It is important to keep this notion in mind when analyzing concepts of masculinity and femininity because we need to realize that these normative definitions are coming from all aspects of our society.

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, The More You Add". Gender, Race, and Class In Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Some other "Seinfeld" related pop culture sites for your enjoyment....

A lot of the sites I came across when "researching" Seinfeld related info were obviously more fan-related articles, but I did manage to find some stuff that has begun to analyze some of the major pop culture influences the show had. I found it interesting to see how many conflicting views that people had. Here are some links to those sites....

Here's a good one that discusses gender identity and masculine power in one particular episode of the show:

This site seems to be in the preliminary stages, but it does have some good info including some books in the bibliography that I want to get around to checking out:

This article discusses the show's influence on many aspects of American culture...

A site dealing more specifically with religion issues in Seinfeld:

more to come...

Monday, February 5, 2007

Blogging in College: The Gender & Pop Culture Blog Experiment

The Professor's Page! The ringleader of this crazy project! My 28 students and I will be blogging all Spring Semester 2007 on many forms of pop culture. This site will link to all of their sites, and provide the evolving dialogue we will consciously be intervening in via the technology of the blog and through critical analysis. Please visit often as it will change rapidly! Provide links, feedback, anything is fair game right now...

Some clips from "The Outing"