Friday, August 3, 2012

Is Seinfeld still a good pop-culture reference?

I didn't watch a lot of Seinfeld during its original run. Sure, I watched the occasional episode, but it wasn't until the reruns and marathons that I got caught up and learned to appreciate the creativity, intricate plotting, and nuances of the show. If I ever watch to watch an episode or four, I just have to wait a few hours and then some channel will be running it. Like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld has never been off the air since the 90's.

So is it still relevant as a pop-culture reference?

The last new episode, not counting the Curb Your Enthusiasm reunion, aired May, 1998. It's been 14 years, and there are people in this world who weren't alive when Seinfeld was part of Must-See-TV. We've had two Presidents since then and a lot has changed in the world. Yes, we have reruns, but is it still something we can reference in conversation? Can we still say "yada yada yada" or "serenity now!" and people will know what we're talking about? What about "low talker" or "They're real and they're spectacular?" If we rant about double-dipping, claim we work for Vandelay Industries, or say hello in a weird accent, will anyone understand what we're doing?

Back in the 90's, Seinfeld was THE water-cooler show. Now, conversation didn't literally have to happen around a water cooler, I almost never talk to people around them myself, but it was such a pop-culture phenomenon that everyone got it when you quoted the most recent episode. (Which even led to a lawsuit based on the classic "Dolores" episode.) If you worked in an office and didn't watch it, you'd be out of the loop. This was a time before Hulu and Youtube, so if you missed the episode and didn't get it recorded, you were out of luck until the rerun. (No DVD season for you! Come back next decade!)

See what I did there? I made a Soup Nazi reference. Is that still possible? Can I refer to the wedding envelopes that killed George's fiance? What about the refreshing qualities of junior mints? Will you know enough to be offended if I ask you whether you're master of your domain? (Funny story, a friend of mine in college bought a t-shirt that read "Master of my Domain" and had no idea what it meant. Good times.)

The reason I bring this up is that I teach communication classes in college. In my lectures, I like to reference shows and movies that people might have watched as a way to make the information relevant, and I prefer to use examples that everyone knows. Few of them would even get a Doctor Who reference, much less Babylon 5, but Seinfeld seemed like a safe bet.

Besides, was there a more perfect show that illustrated the concepts of good and bad communication. Watching the series should qualify you for a communication minor at least. You could create an entire communication textbook out of just one season and spend the entire semester watching episodes and talking about what we learned. 

But now the show is a lot older and dated. Sure, it's still on all the time so there's a chance my younger students will have seen it. But more likely than not, it's my older students who will appreciate the reference and my younger students will laugh politely, much the same way you feign appreciation when you hear those stories from your older relatives.

Of course, it's not just teaching. It's also every day interactions and conversation. It's hanging around with friends, seeing relatives at family functions, and planning sophisticated art-heists. It's all those social gatherings when a good pop-culture reference makes conversation that much easier. All you have to do is say it's like the time George did "the opposite" and everyone gets what you mean.

At least, they used to get it. I don't know if they will for that much longer, if they still do at all. I might need to get something more current, more cutting edge, something that people are all into these days.

Everyone's seen the show Friends, right?

 More of my Musings

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