Analysis: “Seinfeld” is in an Asylum – Part 1

“Seinfeld” was a landmark TV sitcom in the 1990s. It ran for 9 seasons and was most famously dubbed a “show about nothing.” Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer got into all sorts of trouble, usually by their own doing and malaise. It generated numerous catchphrases and entered the pop culture consciousness where it will remain in eternity. But was there a dark tale being told underneath the laughs? I am not talking about how the foursome was probably the most loathsome group ever to grace the small screen. No, that was presented upfront. No, I am talking about something more sinister:

Jerry Seinfeld, the main character on the show, was actually in a mental asylum after suffering a nervous breakdown after a poorly received standup act and was imagining his adventures of a single guy in New York City with his friends.

NOTE: This theory does not pertain to the real Jerry Seinfeld, nor cocreator Larry David.

The standup that acted as the cold opening and the show’s coda for many seasons is blend of real and fiction. That was the poorly received show forced Seinfeld into the asylum. While the act is real, the crowd’s response is not. In Seinfeld’s dream version, everyone is laughing at the cute gags. In real life, no one uttered a guffaw. This drove the Seinfeld character mad and he broke from reality. This would explain why the non-standup scenes reflect the standup: crazed Jerry is trying to justify the jokes he wrote by placing them in “reality.” Those sly observations of his are true to life. The act is not commenting upon the meat of the episode, it is the reverse: the plot of the episode springs from the act and Jerry constructs a world around it.

Furthermore, each character represents a part of Jerry’s psyche:

George: his neurosis. George is Jerry’s “lifelong friend.” Jerry has always had these problems, where he analyzes things in the extreme. It is what causes him to go crazy when his act failed. Rather than admit the material was weak, he recedes into his own mind. The sometimes contentious relationship between the two is Jerry fighting with himself, trying to poo-poo his neurotic behavior and become better.

Kramer: his wild side, the part of him who wants to throw off social norms and live life however he pleases. As Jerry once said Kramer is leading the life people should pay to be able to experience. Kramer survives despite not having a steady job. His apartment is never fully seen in the show. He is made up. He is who Jerry wishes he could be sometimes, the person who just doesn’t care about anything and just seems to be able to enjoy life on their own terms. He is even successful in the entertainment world with his coffee table book. Kramer also may rub more celebrity shoulder than Jerry does over the course of the show. Kramer is Jerry unleashed.

Elaine: his feminine side. Elaine and Jerry used to date but now they are just friends. So they were “together” and now they are apart and have only a casual relationship, a metaphor for Jerry’s broken psyche. Despite the fact that Elaine is a woman, she is accepted as part of the boys and even acts like one from time to time (her physicality, her ability to dismiss a suitor without a second thought). She is a reflection of Jerry, except with an X chromosome. Her never ending break-up/make-up relationship with Puddy is a reflection of Seinfeld’s struggle with reality. As Elaine finds Puddy boring and stupid sometimes, so does asylum Jerry. When Elaine finds out that Puddy is religious and it disturbs her, this is Jerry’s reaction to other people’s hope that he finds God to help with his own problems. Like Elaine, Jerry pushes away the source and retreats further into his own world.

Part 2 will discuss specific instances from the show that illustrates Jerry’s inner psyche.

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One Response to “Analysis: “Seinfeld” is in an Asylum – Part 1”

  1. Stephen Says:

    Wow, this is disturbingly insightful.

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