So much of our culture today seems to be about finding reasons to hate pop culture from even a decade or two ago.
Now, one of the most popular and successful TV shows of all time is considered problematic for several jokes that were okay – or a little edgy – in the 1990s that are now offensive to American millennials. The previous victim of this new, politically correct world was “Friends.” Now, “Seinfeld” is getting the social justice warrior treatment.
In an article for Bustle just before the New Year, writer Angelica Florio details 13 jokes from the nine-season show that are unacceptable by today’s standards. Number one on the list is possibly the most well-known joke from the entire series, the “Soup Nazi.”
“What might be the most well-known joke from Seinfeld is also one of its most disappointing ones. Maybe in 1995, when the episode (titled ‘The Soup Nazi’) aired, it felt okay for viewers, but in 2018 when groups of Neo-Nazis have become noticeably emboldened, using the term "Nazi" to label someone as a joke doesn't sit so well anymore,” Florio wrote.
It’s not the fault of “Seinfeld” that the media 20 years later gave constant attention to a small group of radicals and gave them outsized importance. It’s also not “Seinfeld”'s fault the media has made the term “Nazi” meaningless because it uses the label on anyone to the right of Nancy Pelosi.
The second example on Florio’s list refers to an episode that itself points out how problematic Jerry Seinfeld’s character is acting. It’s the episode with the cigar-store Indian, in which Jerry is trying to date a woman and finds out she’s Native American and can’t stop using stupid terms that refer to her heritage, like “Indian Giver.” The episode itself points out how terrible Jerry is for doing this.
The article also mentions an episode that was controversial when it came out in 1998. Every once in awhile this happens with TV shows. “Family Guy” has gone through it several times.
Other entries on the list harken back to the problems today’s writers had with “Friends” – mainly, claims the show was homophobic for jokes that are no longer acceptable. (No jokes are acceptable now, so it’s really pointless to even act like any comedy Is still allowed.) Other problematic jokes include “If I like their race, how can that be racist?” and insensitive jokes about other people’s appearances.
Sadly, Bustle is not the first to condemn “Seinfeld” for jokes that are no longer acceptable in today’s victimhood culture of offense. In 2017, the Guardian wrote about “problematic” TV shows and included “Seinfeld” in its list. In 2015, Salon wrote about 10 episodes of “Seinfeld” now deemed racist and sexist.
It’s no wonder Jerry Seinfeld won’t perform on college campuses anymore. If the “show about nothing” is too offensive for today’s youth (note: Seinfeld himself didn’t like that label), then what chance do today’s comedians have to be edgy or push the envelope?
“Seinfeld” now joins “Friends” in the category of beloved shows we now must be ashamed to watch.