The Either-Or Proposition in Seinfeld

By: Lacey Worsham

“Sitcoms, like other forms of popular culture, provide safe opportunities for rebellion but ultimately reinforce the status quo.” Judy Kutulas, in the Sitcom Reader, successfully wraps up the general theme and consequences of sitcoms into one cohesive statement. She then goes on to discuss the barrier between women’s role in the workplace and in the domestic realm that appeared in the 1970s workplace comedies, but still exists today.Female independence and success in a career can often seem to be admired in sitcoms, but only to the extent that these women give up all hope of a romantic or family life in order to achieve this independence.

This poses a dangerous assumption that while men can “have both” a working life and a family life, women must choose in which realm they will succeed. Elaine, in Seinfeld, can be seen as a representation of this assumption, because although she finds success in her job with Pendant Publishing, she also experiences many failed romantic relationships at the same time. Most of these failures are the results of her male partner’s decision that her actions or feelings do not live up to their standards. Jerry acts as a counterpart to this female issue, as he is a successful stand-up comedian who is also in complete control of his romantic life. He is the one who decides, often rashly, that he does not want to continue seeing whichever girl he is with at the time. By appearing in control of both the workplace and his romantic relationships, Jerry shows us that this  idea of female inability to assert this control is still extremely prevalent.


SEINFELD — Season 7 — Pictured: (l-r) Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes, Jerry Seinfeld as Jerry Seinfeld (Photo by Andrew Eccles/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

As seen in previous sitcoms, especially in the 1970s, we are made to admire the female desire to be independent and economically successful, but we are not allowed to forget that it would be easier and more fulfilling for these women to conform back to the domestic realm ideal. We should not let this assumption slide by us when viewing modern sitcoms today. In the same way that men are seen as successful in both the workplace and in the family life, women must also be portrayed with this ability.


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One Response to The Either-Or Proposition in Seinfeld

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I think this is a very relevant post that shows real-world issues embedded within our beloved sitcoms. I feel like the whole work-life balance controversy really started to gain momentum in the past few years, but knowing that popular shows like Seinfeld touched upon them much earlier makes me wonder why this hasn’t been addressed earlier. The quote you chose was dead-on and articulates the generalized “situation” of situation comedies. Very thought provoking post!!

    -Sam Moore

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