THE LAST WORD

Not Wag the Dog—It ls Seinfeld

Did David Cash Jr. mimic the popular sitcom about nothing?

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It is sad that we live in the kind of society today in which reality sur-

passes parody, where a dark com-. edy becomes not a tool for self-exami­ nation but a justifi-

cation for apathy.

Recent news-stories about David Cash Jr., the V.C. Berkeley student who stood by apatheti­ cally while his friend Jeremy Strohmeyer raped and killed a seven year old African-American girl named Sherrice Iverson in a Las Vegas casino, is another instance in which life has imitated art. This time it has imitated, not a Hollywood movie, but a television show. That is, if a sitcom like Seinfeld can be called art.

. 1 remember the first time I tuned in to Seinfeld-Iong after it had become a hit show "about nothing." This particular episode depicted the show's characters park­ ing in a handicapped space, thereby causing a disabled woman to have an accident. Forced to buy her a new wheelchair, the group cut corners by offering her a

lemon. The show ended with the

poor woman tumbling down a ramp in her chair, unable to stop. Ap­ palled by the characters' insensitiv­ ity, I turned the TV off in disgust, swearing never to watch the series again.

Of course, I didn't stick by my resolve. There were those bleak rainy nights, when, with nothing else on, I watched the episode in which Jerry stole a loaf of bread from an old woman, and the epi­ sode in which Elaine broke up with a man on death's doorstep, and the one in which Kramer dropped a mint into a patient's abdomen while watching surgery. The Seinfeld characters didn't directly kill any­ one, unless you count George

Castanza's fiance, who died from licking the glue on the cheap enve­ lopes he bought for their wedding

invitations, thereby relieving him of the burden of breaking up with her just before their mar­ riage! At the end of tha~ episode, the camera moved to the foursome's faces as they heard the news of her death, and just as George's lips broke into a small smile, they all blurted out, "shall we go have coffee?"

Jerry Seinfeld, the million-bucks-an-episode actor on the show, often took pains to.point out that the show was a dark social comedy, that it was a parody of American life today. But this fine point was generally lost on the average audience,which rooted for George Castanza, the ultimate personification of self-absorption and neuroses, even though Jason Alexander, the actor who played him, often pointed out that anyone who identified with George would have

to be an appalling human being.

It is sad that we live in the kind of society today in which reality surpasses parody, where a dark comedy becomes not a tool for self-examination but a justifica­ tion for apathy and selfishness. So it was that women allegedly were grateful for the tips they got on the "male view of dating" from Seinfeld, which pecame famous for episodes such as the one in which Kramer exclaims, "I wasn't looking for a long term relationship," when informed of his girlfriend's death at the hands of a serial killer .

Of course, Sherrice Iverson's brutal rape and mur­ der, or David Cash's apathy to it, cannot and should not be blamed on Seinfeld. In fact, black people were not central characters on the show. Apart from the fly-by­ night injury-lawyer, the only other prominent black person I remember from the series was a white guy who was mistaken by Elaine for black because he had curly hair. But that is precisely my point.

If the show was a social commentary, 'it portrayed a segregated, "me first" society, in which callousness and self-aggrandizement reined, a world in which no one cared about anyone else; it presented a milieu in which David Cash would have felt utterly comfortable. Mind you, the Seinfeld characters rarely broke any laws, or at least scrupulously avoided getting caught. The famous foursome would have done exactly what David Cash did; walk away from a crime without trying to prevent it or even report it, simply because it didn't affect him personally.

In fact, that is exactly what the Seinfeld characters did in the concluding episode of the series, when they failed to come to the aid of an old woman being mugged on the street. After undergoing a' trial for breaking the Good Samaritan Law of a Northern state, they ended up in jail, feeling, not remorse, but irritation, at the color of their prison uniforms. As the camera zoomed in on the foursome sitting behind bars, the audience felt an incredible sense of vindication. It was in that last brilliant episode that the creators of Seinfeld conveyed the most powerful social message of the entire series, namely that Jerry and George and Kramer and Elaine were anti­ heroes, personifications of what each of us should struggle not to become.

The critics, of course, panned that last episode. The message of the show was mostly lost on the audience, for whom the line between cynicism and callousness, be­ tween the possession of a social conscience and the lack of one, had long 'blurred. I laughed hysterically during that last episode; I didn't know then that people like George and Elaine and Kramer and Jerry really existed.

David Cash Jr. has made me realize that worse human beings are living among us today. David Cash Jr. has made it necessary for us to take that "Good' Samaritan" Law from the concluding episode of Seinfeld and pass it in every state. ◻