Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Are You Master of Your Domain?" On Masturbation and Seinfeld

Prior to deploying I had only seen a handful of Seinfeld episodes and though usually finding them funny to some degree I was never quite sold on the show. But I became a Larry David fan after seeing his performance in the Woody Allen film Whatever Works. Wanting to see more I briefly did some research (which usually entails perusing IMDB or Wikipedia) and discovered that Larry David was one of the co-creators along with Jerry Seinfeld of the eponymous Seinfeld. Thus, I decided that there was no better time than this deployment to give Seinfeld a shot. So I took a risk and bought the entire series after a failed attempt to download it. And thank the maker that I took this risk because I've enjoyed the show immensely.

But there's one episode in particular that I want to mention, namely, "The Contest". It's about masturbation. More specifically it's about the four main characters' attempts to win a contest to see who can refrain the longest from masturbating. It's one of the best and funniest episodes but it's also culturally important for tackling what was then still a very taboo subject to refer to on TV (even though most humans and animals engage in this act). In fact, Larry David in the "Inside Look" on the DVD for this episode talks about how he was afraid that Jerry and the network would never green light this episode because of its subject matter and so left this episode and its description out of his list of upcoming episodes that he normally had displayed on his work board. But to his surprise Jerry was on board thinking it not offensive at all though it was him that suggested using a white glove approach to the topic by never actually mentioning the word masturbation which just made it that much better. And, surprisingly, the network gave their go ahead with some reservations of course. The end result is one of the best episodes of Seinfeld and Larry David rightly won an Emmy for the script.

I think what makes Seinfeld work so well is that many, if not most, of the stories are based on actual events that happened to Larry, Jerry, and the writers (including this episode) and its sophisticated handling of potentially offensive subject matter. I'm now in the fifth season and can say for certain that the risk was well worth it. Anyways, enjoy this clip from this famous episode (the embed is disabled so you'll have to click on the link):

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