Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seinfeld: "The Subway"


I chose to do this media portfolio on the episode of Seinfeld titled “The Subway”. In this episode, Elaine, George, and Jerry all have incidents in which they either encounter someone who is violating a social norm, or they themselves are violating a norm. Elaine is on her way to a friend’s wedding who is a lesbian. She has a gift in her hand and the lady next to her on the subway asks about the gift and what it is for. Elaine says that it is a wedding gift for a friend. The lady then asks about the groom and what he does. Elaine simply responds that there is no groom and that Elaine is the best man of the wedding. The lady then changes her tone and thinks that Elaine is a lesbian as well. Elaine tries hard to explain to the lady that she is not actually a lesbian.
George is seated next to a well-dressed woman in business attire. He also is dressed in a nice suit and is reading the newspaper. The woman asks him is he is looking for a job and he tells her no. She then tells him that he didn’t look like a man that was looking for a job because he was nicely dressed. George then continues to use the fact that he is dressed as a business man in his favor and tells the lady that he owns a bunch of stocks and is wealthy so that he can impress this lady.
Jerry runs into a naked man while on the subway. Jerry is the only one that is seated on the same side of the subway car as the naked man. Everyone else on the subway is shoved tightly together as far away from this man as possible. Jerry begins to ask the man why he is naked and why doesn’t he have any shame in his body. The naked man is a bit overweight. The man tells him he doesn’t need to have any shame.
These situations relate to Johnson’s Chapter 2, Privilege, Oppression, and Difference. All of these situations involve a category from the diversity wheel that was discussed in Johnson’s Chapter 2. Elaine’s situation with the women who looks at her differently once she finds out that she is attending a lesbian wedding goes along with the sexual/affectional orientation portion of the diversity wheel and the fact that homosexuals are not of privilege when it comes to sexual orientation. However, the fact that Elaine is heterosexual and the lady then accuses her of being a lesbian, takes away Elaine’s privilege and Elaine panics and tries to explain to the lady that she really is not a lesbian because that would be oppression.
George uses the fact that the attractive woman views him as a successful, white, businessman to his privilege. The woman stereotypes him by the way that he is dressing that he is successful and not someone who is actually looking for a job. This gives George privilege and prominence that he does not usually have and so he uses to his advantage to get the woman. So the fact that he was white male and nicely dressed he was able to be viewed as someone who is dominately privileged in our society. The part of the diversity wheel that this would fall under would be gender and race.
Finally, Jerry’s run-in with the naked man on the subway first of all shows someone who is violating a social norm. People don’t go out in public without clothes on. That is something that we have been socially taught not to do. The fact that this man was doing so even violates some laws that we have made in our society. Also, the fact that the man was overweight is something that is common in our society but looked down upon. Weight is something that our society is very cautious about and everyone wants to be skinny. However, this man was perfectly fine with his body and comfortable with being naked. This would fit under the physical abilities/qualities part of the diversity wheel because people looked down upon him that he was overweight and okay with it.
I found it rather interesting that all of these instances took place in one episode and the fact that it was funny. The audience was laughing about these instances and the only reason why they are funny is because it is something that we think should not typically happen on a subway ride. I felt like this episode showed how social norms are out there but we don’t really realize them until they are violated, just like privilege and power.

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