Several months ago we mentioned that Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, about Palestinian chicken,* would have, if it had been done by anyone else, elicited a wave of protest and faux think pieces in assorted media. That it has come and gone with almost no discussion let alone public displays of angst, we thought then and think now, speaks to the intrinsically false and ginned up nature of a great deal of media hysteria. In other words, if it’s not viable clickbait, there’s no crisis or concern. Or to put it another way, it is a story, about nothing.
That in turn is a reflection of the blunt reality of how so much of Capitalist Realism is nothing more or less than media heroin injected into the culture to both agitate and dull your senses. The purpose of that is to control you; to gin up your anger, then sabotage it, while always keeping you on edge, in a state of withdrawal and being subdued as you take a hit from the needle of the system.
Which brings us to a Larry David related episode of Seinfeld. “The Stand In” (written by David) is a brief moment in the 5th season in which a series of interconnected things – all seemingly minor – add up to a general sense of barely controlled chaos. Meta meanings and coincidences combine to form a kind of dreamscape where nothing much happens and things of no substance take on the veneer of an existential crisis. In other words, the world of Seinfeld. Or post industrial America.
But amid the nothing that is of course fraught with meaning, Jerry sets Elaine up on a date with a friend of his. Jerry later asks how the date went and Elaine, after some consideration says: He took it out.
Jerry is shocked and incredulous and Elaine is fairly matter of fact, if annoyed or more accurately, disappointed. Though her irritation is within the context of her resignation in the face of the never ending existential and absurd world she lives in and as a result, she’s not as upset as one might expect, and far less upset than today’s zeitgeist would demand.
Which brings us to an interesting dilemma. Post #MeToo, the episode could not be aired unless there was a lesson learned and justice served. That of course would violate the central aesthetic of the show – the idea that you are living in a state of entropy in which everything is both tragic and meaningless and that there are no lessons to be learned.
In addition the episode presents another problem. Elaine’s existential sang froid reduces the offense to a kind of trivia, which would today be contextualized as unacceptable and immoral. But if the incident is read as outrageous and immoral, that in turn requires transforming the show into a patriarchal and misogynistic avatar of social tyranny. And except for the way it’s presented, Elaine as emancipated, sexually liberated, and as capable of giving as good as she was given, and that the show dealt with bigotry, homosexuality, and abortion, it’s a valid point. Then there is the issue of how the show treats the act as inherently funny if not hilarious. Which then means either Seinfeld (the show and everyone involved) were morally wrong, or there is, however uncomfortable an idea it may seem, more than one legitimate response to the subject
But recontextualizing Elaine as a victim means robbing her of her former autonomy and reduces her to being less than the other three. Refusing to see the incident as only somewhat offensive, means reducing concepts of offense to the level of subjective opinion, or allowing for subjective truths within a wider understanding of social norms, which undermines the blanket approach of so many of today’s terminally outraged.
That all of it is being orchestrated by a dominant paradigm of artificially constructed templates that in turn are false narrative frames is of course never discussed – either by those in control or those expressing their anger. Capitalist Realism of course controls all aspects of the thunderdome and economic Gulag including not just how outrage is framed, but the construction of the frame.
But beyond all of that, as with Curb’s Palestinian chicken, and it’s transformation of Zionism and Jews and Arabs into a sex fetish, “The Stand In” is another example of the mendacity of the media. No one in the media is going to go to war, rhetorically or otherwise, with Seinfeld because, as with David, he’s too smart, too wealthy and too articulate. Being able to ruin people with one perfectly calibrated turn of phrase is, for the professional blockheads in the establishment media, too much to tangle with and so, it becomes a non event.
Or, an episode about nothing.
*See our previous piece on David and Curb, here: