Millennials who are just watching the legendary ’90s sitcom Seinfeld are apparently outraged by the amount of racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes included in the show, proving that some things just don’t age well.
- To be fair, some of the jokes were pretty questionable. At the end of last year, Bustle published a listicle of 13 Seinfeld jokes that wouldn’t go over well on today’s network TV, and while they’re actually completely right, many people took issue with nitpicking one of the most popular sitcoms to ever exist. However, there’s no denying that the Soup Nazi, the “Indian giver” joke, and the “joke” about Jerry and George being in a relationship (among many others) likely wouldn’t be written in today.
- Friends is the same. Everyone loves Friends — in fact, the show is more popular than ever and has ushered in a whole new generation of fans. But between the jokes about Carol’s lesbianism to Chandler’s dad being trans to the whole “Fat Monica” thing, there were plenty of offensive things the show relied on for laughs.
- Times have changed. All entertainment is the product of its time. Seinfeld would be a very different show if it was made in 2019, but then, would Seinfeld even be made in the current entertainment landscape? Probably not. Angela Florio, who wrote the Bustle piece, hoped that watching the show would make people aware of the way humor has evolved. “Hopefully most people can agree that comedy, even ‘edgy’ comedy, doesn’t need to alienate marginalized groups in order to make people laugh,” she wrote. “Thanks to more modern understandings of what political correctness entails — and why being PC is important — it’s less common these days to find jokes like the offensive ones that often played out on ‘Seinfeld.'”
- Is it “just a show”? There’s always the argument that everything shouldn’t be taken so seriously, that it’s “just a show” and that the writers likely weren’t being intentionally racist, sexist, or homophobic. But does intention really matter when the end result is offensive? That depends on who you ask. Many would say that you can still enjoy Seinfeld without it being that deep, but others are still staggered by the kinds of “jokes” that were cleared for TV even 20 years ago.
- Either way, it’s eye-opening to watch. Florio is right about one thing: rewatching many of the big shows of the ’90s and even early 2000s is a good thing, as it points out the fact that you don’t necessarily have to offend people to get laughs, and that sometimes the most offensive jokes are also the cheapest and least intelligent. That doesn’t mean shows like Seinfeld and Friends aren’t still funny in their own right, but that they could have been just as hilarious without a few key gags.