Why do We Like Unlikable Characters in TV Shows?


I was watching the last 2 episodes of the Seinfeld series the other day after starting it just a month or 2 ago, and it made me think of a question I am sure has come up at some point in this class which is “why do we like unlikeable characters so much?”. The second to last episode of Seinfeld is like a walk down memory lane as it contains 20+ minutes of the funniest moments, people they met along the way, and bloopers from behind the scenes shooting. In the Finale, the crew is charged with breaking the “Good Samaritan Law”, a law that requires you to help somebody out when you see them in trouble, rather than being a bystander. The case against the crew was pretty concrete as Kramer recorded the entire incident on his video camera which included a fat man being car jacked and the four protagonists simply making fun of his weight and mocking him as they watched and laughed from a distance, and the prosecution used that video at the trial. After showing the video, the prosecution paraded witnesses in for what the news reporter in the show called “a process that went long into the night” and “could have gone on for months had the judge not stopped it”. The different character witnesses recounted their stories of bad experiences with Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer and it was perhaps the most fitting end to a show I have ever seen. For 9 seasons, the crew seemingly got away with living by their own rules and in their own bubbles where their own self-beneficence was all that mattered, and to have it all come back to haunt them by a silly law in which bystanders were guilty rather than innocent is hilarious. Watching these two episodes and getting a full review of all of their past actions, I realized just how unlikeable these characters were to the people around them, and I wondered what about that makes us as a television audience like those characters? Apparently, the Finale of the show has not always been liked by television audiences and Larry David, the show’s co-producer has apparently received a lot of scrutiny about how the series ended. I on the other hand, found it hilarious to hear the judge tell the four characters that it was in society’s best interest to lock them away for a year to think about their actions. For more int he show’s finale and the mixed opinions surrounding it, read this article.


Max Lissette (WEEK OF 2000’s BLOG)

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