Could Someone Please Reassess "Seinfeld" by Woke Standards? I Need to Know If I'm Allowed to Enjoy It
Everything I've ever loved from a bygone era needs to be re-analyzed through a modern lens to determine whether or not it is currently woke, Seinfeld included.
It's undeniable that Seinfeld was the quintessential '90s show, perfectly representative of an era before PC culture and 9/11, back when you could call a guy a Nazi for not giving you soup without worrying that anyone would actually think you were calling him a real Nazi.
I spent countless evenings watching "The Puffy Shirt" (that episode always seemed to be playing for some reason), and I cracked up every time that kooky guy with weird hair burst in yelling, "Hey Jerry!" But that was 20 years ago. I'm an adult now. And just like adult me realizes that my head won't actually turn into a deformed banana when I eat Gushers, adult me also believes that everything I've ever loved from a bygone era needs to be re-analyzed through a modern lens to determine whether or not it is currently woke. Since Seinfeld is coming to Netflix in 2021, now seems like a perfect time for someone to really reassess Seinfeld by modern standards.
If someone were to reassess Seinfeld by modern standards, there are a few burning questions that I'd really like to see explored. For example, the core Seinfeld group is composed of three men and one woman. Isn't that sexist? Wouldn't their friend group be more equally balanced if two of them were women? I'm not entirely sure, but that's something I'd really like to read an Internet writer's take on.
Also, if I remember correctly, all four of them are Jewish, which doesn't seem particularly diverse to me, but I'm also not sure if that's an appropriate thing to say about a minority group. If Seinfeld came out today, at least one of them would probably be non-white, but I'll leave the discussion of the details up to the writer who one day will hopefully tackle this important subject matter.
Another thought: I always found Newman very funny, but I worry that part of the humor was derived from his portly appearance. I'm not sure if it's kosher to laugh at physical comedy nowadays, especially when it comes at the expense of an actor who may not have realized that audiences thought he looked silly. Was Seinfeld intending to fat-shame Newman? That would be very uncool in a modern context considering our current body positivity culture. On the other hand, maybe Newman was supposed to be representative of Americans embracing their bodies even when they don't conform to unrealistic body standards, in which case Seinfeld might have been ahead of the curve. I really have no idea, so perhaps someone else could better inform me on whether or not it's still okay to laugh at Newman.
Unfortunately, even if it is still okay to enjoy the physical comedy of Seinfeld, navigating the narrative might be a real minefield. For instance, many of George's plotlines revolve around his relationships with women. In many of those relationships, George behaves badly, to say the least. Some of his behavior might even be considered manipulative or gaslighting. It's been a while since I watched, so I don't have any specific examples, but I'd love to see someone really lay into George because I have a feeling that in a modern light, people might view his behavior as somewhat toxic. I hate to say it, but I don't think George Costanza was a very good role model for kids. Maybe we need to #MeToo him?
Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, all of the main characters in Seinfeld were kind of bad people. All four of them were selfish and not particularly nice to one another or the people around them. From what I can remember, every episode revolves around the characters getting into some sort of conflict that was usually their own fault. Is that the kind of television show that modern audiences would be interested in watching––one starring characters of dubious morality? I'm not so sure.
Even worse, it looks like the kooky hair guy was played by Michael Richards, a comedian who went on a racist tirade in 2006. That racist tirade definitely would not hold up nowadays. In fact, I'm fairly certain that if Michael Richards said those things now, he would be canceled on Twitter. This new information presents an important ethical dilemma for modern day viewers: Can we still enjoy Seinfeld now, even though one of the actors said something very offensive 13 years ago? Certainly, this is a unique problem of our modern times that no humans have ever encountered or addressed prior. I'm positive that if anyone were to write a piece really exploring that question, it would be a real watershed moment in media criticism.
Furthermore, is it even possible to enjoy a TV show from yesteryear when the potential exists for someone somewhere on the Internet to re-analyze it later? What if we enjoy it now, but then a few years down the line (when social mores have changed even further), someone writes a think piece that puts everything in an entirely new perspective? Scarier, what if we read their take on the subject, and then still enjoy the show regardless? Is that okay? Are we allowed to apply nuance to the shows we like and understand that media, especially comedy, doesn't exist in a vacuum and that multiple perspectives can be equally valid at the same time? Or perhaps, we should just cancel ourselves upfront?
I don't know the answer, but I hope someone writes an article about it soon.
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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The country band, FKA Lady Antebellum, are suing a Black blues singer over the rights to their new name.
Last month, the country band formerly known Lady Antebellum showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement by changing their name to Lady A—a name that had already been used by Black blues singer, Anita White.
Now, Lady A (the band) are digging themselves an even deeper grave by suing Lady A (the singer). But, hey! At least their original band name isn't racist anymore.
"Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended," Lady A (the band) said in a statement to CBS News. "She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years."
According to the lawsuit, Lady A (the band) had been using that nickname in tandem with their original name, Lady Antebellum, since as early as 2006, and it became an official trademark for the band in 2011. The lawsuit also reads that "prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs' open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the Lady A mark as a source indicator."
The suit says Lady A (the singer) has identified as that name since 2010, although she told Rolling Stone she's been using the stage name for 20 years, adding: "It's an opportunity for them to pretend they're not racist or pretend this means something to them. If it did, they would've done some research. And I'm not happy about that. You found me on Spotify easily—why couldn't they?"
Although Lady A (the band) and Lady A (the singer) have seemingly been in a constructive discussion over their shared name, the singer's ultimate opinion is that this is an issue of "white privilege."
No Weapon formed against me shall prosper #LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist #TheRealLadyA https://t.co/KBYGnlw6Lw— Lady A (@Lady A)1594250961.0
Under a trademark coexistence agreement, it is possible for two artists to share a trademark so long as the artists in question don't interfere with each others' enterprises; for example, two singer-songwriters can both be known as Alex G because they access different markets. The Lady A debacle could possibly fall under this agreement, if both the band and the singer comply.
But, as Lady A (the singer) pointed out, Lady A (the band)'s decision to sue their namesake is indicative of their white privilege. From the start, the band's choice to change their name was met with a debate over whether or not it was actually constructive in achieving racial justice.
The world "antebellum" literally means "before the war," but it has since come to be most often associated with the Civil War; for example, the Antebellum South describes the period from the late 18th century to the end of the Civil War, when the southern United States depended on and profited off of slavery.
Due to the racist undertones of the word "antebellum" and the recent spark in Black Lives Matter activism, Lady A (the band) shortened their name—although we all still know what the word stands for. Though the band claimed the word "antebellum" was referencing the style of architecture of the home where they took their first band photos, to use the word at all was a gross move. To then adopt a Black artists' name as your own without doing your research and sue that artist is incredibly backwards logic.
Though it's understandable why Lady A (the band) would feel such a strong attachment to the name, perhaps they'd be better off changing their name entirely. Considering the fact that their only other statement regarding the Black Lives Matter movement was a photo of a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote (and no mention of Black Lives Matter at all), it seems clear that Lady A (the band) aren't set on achieving racial justice or effecting any real change—this legal battle is just an attempt at self-preservation.