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November 24, 2006

The Definitive "Racist Kramer" Post (Updated)

Dan Charnas nails it:

Are You Really That Surprised?

...Don’t get me wrong: I love “Seinfeld,” adore Kramer’s character, and think that Michael Richards is a comedic genius.

But I harbor no illusions: The construct for “Seinfeld,” like so many other comic teleplays and films, is a monochromatic world where White People are central, and people of color — if they appear at all — are simply used as accessories, as added “color” for a scene.

When you think about “Seinfeld,” and you realize the only recurring Black characters were either there because they made our white heroes uncomfortable simply by being Black (like George’s nemesis Mr. Morgan at the Yankees); or to parody a Black celebrity (like Kramer’s erstwhile lawyer Jackie Chiles doing his best Johnnie Cochran), you get a peek inside the archaic white psyche. It’s a headspace where white people simply do not know how to deal with a world that is slowly become not their own. So they literally ignore it. “Seinfeld” is Ralph Ellison’s argument made visual...

(should be read in its entirety)


L.M.B. sent along this Danny Hoch video, also noted by Sparkle and Jeff Chang. I thought the clip's presentation was a little heavy-handed, with all the stunned-silence audience shots punctuating his big lines, but among other things it does illustrate Seinfeld's relationship to "otherness" that i mentioned below in the comments. When other ethnicities appeared on Seinfeld there was usually a joke that went beyond their ethnicity, but underneath it we were also invited to simply laugh at their funny accent... their otherness itself was presented as inherently comical. That's one of a few reasons I never got too deep into the show, though I did like it.

Also check this interview with Sinbad, who was actually there at the club that night.

Posted by jsmooth995 at November 24, 2006 11:49 PM

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