Seinfeld: Is Elaine Benes canonically sizzling?

For one purpose (Netflix) or one other (Netflix), I discovered myself re-watching Seinfeld over the past couple of weeks, revisiting a present that I first encountered as a child. I’m now roughly the age of Seinfeld’s leads, and it’s been a humbling expertise to slowly relate to and giggle on the characters that I as soon as dismissed as middle-aged dweebs.

Which is how, in a roundabout approach, I’ve discovered myself fascinated with Elaine Benes.

Is Seinfeld’s greatest character sizzling? Clearly Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who performed Elaine Benes for 9 seasons, is a certifiably attractive girl, however that’s not the query. Is Elaine herself canonically sizzling? If she is, why is she hanging out with these dorks? Is she a sizzling girl doing dorky issues? Or is she a dorky girl who occurs to be extraordinarily sizzling? Are hotness and dorkiness mutually unique properties?

After an episode (season seven’s “The Secret Code,” extra generally often known as the “Bosco” episode) during which she pursues a person who can’t appear to recollect her, I noticed that how enticing one finds Elaine is essential to the textual content.

If Elaine is an average-looking girl, the sort who shouldn’t make George Costanza (Jason Alexander) pull the stays of his hair out simply to be in the identical room as her, then her forgettability is one factor. Nobody likes to be forgotten. But when she is, as she seems to be, beautiful, then her pursuit of Fred, an aggressively below-average man, is far funnier. Elaine isn’t a lady clawing her approach as much as win the love of a person, she’s a lovely girl sinking to subterranean depths.

Sitcoms, particularly these from the ’80s and ’90s, are an odd animal. There’s a baseline stage of attractiveness that individuals, particularly ladies, have to get on tv, and sitcoms often depict what are speculated to be “common” folks. Additionally, after I first watched Seinfeld, I used to be 8, and homosexual — Elaine’s attractiveness eluded me.

Elaine’s canonical hotness might sound clear to trendy, grownup eyes, however there are causes to query it.

The scant proof that Elaine isn’t sizzling

Right here’s some proof that Elaine wasn’t created particularly as a capital-B lovely girl, however an interesting everygal. Earlier than Elaine turned Elaine, there was Claire (Lee Garlington), a down-to-earth waitress who stuffed in as “girl” within the pilot. When the position was reconceived, comic Rosie O’Donnell was amongst these thought-about, and the character is rumored to be primarily based on Seinfeld author Carol Leifer (who later had her personal one-season sitcom, Alright Already). Leifer, O’Donnell, and Garlington are all enticing — they bought to be on TV, and people are the principles of TV — however they aren’t ladies who had been forged as bombshells. Plainly when Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David thought-about a feminine character for his or her foursome, they didn’t need her hotness to be paramount. Maybe that is why Seinfeld’s males recurrently acted like Elaine was, at greatest, average-looking.

Kramer, Jerry, and George all look at Elaine.

A scene from “The Tape” episode, one of many uncommon instances Elaine’s associates notice she’s a bombshell.
NBCU Picture Financial institution/NBCUniversal by way of Getty Photos

Seinfeld operates on the self-esteem that this good friend group is equally hyper-observant and blazingly neurotic. In every episode, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Kramer (Michael Richards), and Elaine residence in on the small issues of their lives (marble rye, a financial institution code), have what is basically a gaggle gossip session about it, and for Seinfeld’s three males, one of many matters is commonly lovely ladies: Bette Midler’s understudy, the bare girl throughout the road, Marla the virgin, the nurse giving sponge baths in the identical hospital room as George’s mom, the cop who offers Jerry a Melrose Place polygraph check, the lady with the massive palms. But these males, who’re terminally obsessive about each wooing lovely ladies and analyzing how they’re perceived by lovely ladies, don’t react to Elaine in the identical approach.

A few of that is defined away by Seinfeld lore. Jerry dated Elaine and each had been mature sufficient to proceed a platonic friendship (aside from a short “associates with advantages” dalliance in season two’s “The Deal”). George and Kramer, out of deference for Jerry, would respect that.

In re-watching the present, I understood that it additionally makes for a tighter story. When you handle the elephant within the room — the pachyderm being Elaine’s magnificence — then it adjustments the dynamic of the good friend group and the present. Had it gone in that route, with Jerry and associates being drawn to Elaine, Seinfeld can be extra like Pals or perhaps a prototype of The Large Bang Principle. The present’s chemistry would’ve been irreparably altered.

“I can let you know this, which is that I do know that the writers made it clear that they weren’t doing that,” stated Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, a Seinfeld skilled and creator of Seinfeldia: How a Present About Nothing Modified All the pieces. The “that” in query can be a “will they or received’t they” kind of rigidity between Jerry, or any of the boys, and Elaine. Seinfeld’s writers didn’t need their present to hinge on their leads getting romantically concerned.

“The community was all the time harassing them to recreate a Sam and Diane on Cheers factor with Elaine and Jerry. After which lastly simply stated, ‘No. We’re not doing that, as a result of we’re not a standard sitcom,’” Armstrong added.

So trying immediately at Elaine’s hotness can be, for the present, like trying immediately on the solar — however there are moments when the boys briefly notice that they’re within the presence of greatness.

The overwhelming proof that Elaine is actual fairly

There are a variety of indicators that Elaine certainly seems like Julia Louis-Dreyfus: All three males snap out of it in “The Tape” (season three, episode eight) when she data a horny message on Jerry’s tape recorder, and in episodes like “The Sneakers” (season 4, episode 16) and “The Gum” (season seven, episode 10), different males are so distracted by Elaine’s attractiveness that they neglect what they’re speculated to be doing. However maybe the clearest affirmation that Elaine Benes is canonically lovely is by the transitive property of the boys she dates. A couple of ideas of a working concept:

The Jerry theorem: Jerry solely dates lovely ladies. All through the span of the present, there have been a reported 73 totally different ladies that Jerry has dated, and so they’ve been performed by the likes of objectively lovely actresses like Lauren Graham, Kristin Davis, Courteney Cox, Marlee Matlin, and Teri Hatcher, amongst others. Elaine dated Jerry. Ergo, Elaine is gorgeous.

The regulation of Puddy: Elaine’s longest relationship on the present is with on-again, off-again boyfriend David Puddy (Patrick Warburton). Empirically, Puddy and Elaine aren’t a match. He’s all id and he or she, like her associates, is all ego. However the pertinent factor to recollect right here is that Puddy, who additionally presents as a hunk, would by no means date a lady that wasn’t bodily lovely. Puddy dates Elaine, therefore Elaine is gorgeous.

The well-known man thesis: In Seinfeld’s New York Metropolis, males are continuously courting ladies out of their league. That implication is that the ladies are sometimes settling and the courting pool on this universe is advantageous towards males. The exceptions to this rule are celebrities just like the late JFK Jr. (name-dropped in “The Contest”; season 4, episode 11) and New York Mets all-star Keith Hernandez (season three, episode 17) who’re implied to be the catch. They’re so well-known, particularly in New York Metropolis, that they may date any girl they need. Each of them are serious about Elaine. Elaine is gorgeous.

The beard proposition: In “The Beard” (season 16, episode 6) a homosexual man named Robert strategically enlists Elaine to assist him. Robert asks Elaine to go see Swan Lake with him, to present the phantasm that he’s straight to his conservative boss. In selecting Elaine, it’s steered that she, at least, is spectacular to straight folks. Within the Seinfeld universe, presumably, a homosexual man wouldn’t select any average-looking girl to impress a straight male boss. Elaine additionally has a one-night fling with Robert the place she thinks she will get him to alter “groups” however that’s short-lived. Elaine is gorgeous, however not lovely sufficient to change males’s sexuality.

The clunker paradox: There have been instances when Elaine has gone out on dates with males who will not be as much as her customary, just like the aforementioned Fred (“The Secret Code,” season seven, episode seven). She acknowledges it herself in that episode, admitting that she solely went out with him as a result of he had hassle remembering her. This isn’t a sign that Elaine is in some way bodily unattractive however somewhat a sly commentary on the dire courting scene for New York Metropolis ladies within the ’90s. Elaine dates clunkers however continues to be lovely.

Elaine’s hotness solely makes the jokes at her expense funnier

Arguably one of the best Elaine-centered joke of the whole sequence is her aesthetically disagreeable dancing which debuts in “The Little Kicks,” the fourth episode of the eighth season. George accompanies Elaine to an organization celebration during which Elaine offers a toast and, moved by the spirit and Earth Wind & Fireplace’s “Shining Star,” she begins to bop.

Elaine’s dance perturbs her associates. The best way she strikes haunts them, terrorizes their sense of magnificence. It’s like watching an historical, forbidden horror, and after seeing it, nobody’s life is ever the identical. “It was like a full physique dry heave set to music,” George tells Jerry, who consoles him by saying that he too has witnessed the assassination of rhythm by one Elaine Benes.

“Nobody is aware of how you can inform her to cease or what to say. Everybody is rather like oh no,” Armstrong, the Seinfeld skilled, defined to me. The disturbing actions Elaine produces are at odds with how lovely she is, and that’s the joke. “And it’s completely against how it could play if it was like, ‘Hey that’s simply dorky Elaine,’Armstrong added.

Having Elaine play in opposition to kind is what Armstrong cherishes in regards to the character, and what makes the present singular. Permitting Elaine to be inelegant, messy, and crass was a radical factor.

“I feel that it was simply actually uncommon to see this all collectively — she was lovely, and sensible and profitable, and was allowed to be humorous, as humorous as the blokes,” Armstrong defined. “She was really allowed to be as the whole lot as the blokes, like humorous and gross. And, you understand, at the same time as terrible! I might say they’re 4 fairly terrible folks and he or she was equal in that. And that was a revolutionary factor for us.”

The concept of permitting a lovely feminine character to be crass and goofy and semi-rotten and having that be championed as a revolutionary act can appear foolish if not bleak — rise up constructed on what are basically crumbs of illustration.

As Armstrong identified, nonetheless, Elaine’s predecessors — like Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary — had been hardly ever allowed to be humorous and fairly on the similar time. Elaine’s friends had been usually caught being wives or love pursuits (see: Pals), and in the event that they had been allowed to be attractive, it usually got here with an apology — one thing to be laughed at for being cheesy (Fran Positive) or uncouth (Peg Bundy). The sitcom trope the place a lovely girl is married to probably the most aggressively common of dudes exists for a purpose.

Seinfeld is a present with this lovely, completely large, unmissable girl who’s given full equality — a lady in the midst of this very like male comedy experiment. I’ve to present them credit score for that,” Armstrong stated.

Elaine being unapologetically attractive is essential to the character’s legacy in mapping out what humorous ladies are allowed to do, how they behave, and the issues they’ve. She’s essential to Seinfeld’s enduring brilliance. And like the blokes in that one episode, I can’t cease fascinated with her.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles