“Happy Festivus, Georgy!”: How Seinfeld continues to be a cultural force 17 years after its end

image_pdfimage_print

FOR THE REST OF US!!!!

It’s December 23rd today and I know what that means. No, it does not simply mean that tomorrow is Christmas Eve or that the next day is Christmas. No, to me and mine, today is something different, quite unlike Christmas and not nearly as significant. Yet it still has meaning and I could not escape it if I wanted to.

I’ve been awake for only a few hours and I have already been wished a “Happy Festivus” by text, Facebook message, or in person six times. Many others are waiting for me to wish it to them. This happens every single year. Every year a made up holiday that was a plot point of a singular Seinfeld episode 18 years ago, invented by a loose cannon secondary character, interrupts the Christmas songs, cuts through the peaceful Christmas vacation time with family and causes dozens of people in my life to ‘celebrate’ with odd things like unadorned poles, wrestling and telling each other bluntly exactly what you find wrong with them. (For the record, nearly all of this is done in jest. Nearly all.)

IF IT WERE ONLY DECEMBER 23rd THAT I EXPERIENCED THIS…

What is even crazier is that the other 364 days of the year are similar in bringing Seinfeld references into the excruciating minutia of every single daily event. Every time my friend Josh Crowe and I have a silly disagreement, one of us quotes Frank Costanza: “You sayin’, you want a piece of me?” When my brother Ashley and I text, things like “Eric the Clown” come up constantly. Every time I have to stop suddenly at a traffic light I hold up my arm to brace my wife’s sudden jerk forward, I say “Everybody knows….” and then she adds “I stop short.”

     Every year a made up holiday that was a plot point of a singular Seinfeld episode 18 years ago, invented by a loose cannon secondary character, interrupts the Christmas songs, cuts through the peaceful Christmas vacation time with family and causes dozens of people in my life to ‘celebrate’ with odd things like unadorned poles, wrestling and telling each other bluntly exactly what you find wrong with them.

[Kayla is a fairly new fan. She actually watched all 180 episodes of Seinfeld twice, just so she could understand my random comments in everyday life. I don’t quote Seinfeld on purpose most of the time; it just comes out because its vernacular is so ingrained in me lo these many years later. I can go months without seeing an episode and it will still be at the forefront of my brain. She got this early on. And being the excellent wife she is, she allowed Seinfeld references all over our wedding day festivities in both subtle and overt ways, from the best men being “pretty good men” to marching out to a string quartet version of Good Riddance to having “WORLDS COLLIDE” in big letters behind us as we sat at our reception. To pay her back, I am also a recent and big Harry Potter fan, and quoted it in my vows.]

I’M PRETTY SURE EVERYONE WATCHED SEINFELD

The Seinfeld references don’t stop with quotes either. Plot points make their way into our daily actions and norms. My church is a clear example. My pastor bought me 3 feet of Twix bars this year for Christmas, just so he could say, “They were all Twix!” when he gave it to me. My church gives out a “Cosmo Kramer” urban scholarship to summer interns most years and part of their contract states they must be willing to go by the name ‘Darin’ all summer and they have to watch the episode that explains why.  In 2007 my brother Ashley told me that someone should preach a sermon on “Dealing with the Ramon’s in your life” – a direct reference to an episode where Jerry finds a guy so annoying, he tells him they can’t be friends or hang out any more. Ashley told me that he has those people in his life and used a Seinfeld episode to communicate that clearly and succinctly.

This kind of long term influence is everywhere in society today. You can find it in multiple places in the mainstream. When longtime Yankee owner George Steinbrenner died a few years ago, the Chicago Tribune did a full page article on his life…and a half page on his presence in Seinfeld even though he himself never appeared on the show but was instead portrayed by co-creator Larry David.  A few years ago my brother Tracy sent me an article over email about a prisoner in California who requested a specialized diet and lost. In his appeal to a court, he cited “Festivus” as the holiday he celebrates. The judge acquiesced, awarding him the necessary “Festivus” diet. Every month–and sometimes every week–I see something on ESPN, the local news, or even religious blogs that references the show.

It goes on and on. And while there is no doubt that Seinfeld is my favorite show, there is also no doubt that its influence is far bigger than my small little world. But for those of you blessed enough to be in mine, I say, “Happy Festivus!” And if you have any grievances to air about this article–or me in general, today is the the day. And Festivus is never over until Tracy pins me. But seriously (although this is all serious), enjoy today whether you celebrate this inane holiday or not.  Merry Christmas!  Enjoy the site!

 

Gowdy Cannon

I am the pastor of the bilingual ministry of Northwest Community Church in Chicago. Our church is intentional in trying to bring English and Spanish speakers together in worship and community. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married two years. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to adult immigrants in my community. I am, at times, a student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

3 thoughts on ““Happy Festivus, Georgy!”: How Seinfeld continues to be a cultural force 17 years after its end

  • December 29, 2015 at 6:40 pm
    Permalink

    I think one of the things that makes Seinfeld such a lasting part of the cultural vernacular is that it appeals to the shallowness of humanity. Every single person has an area of their life that is flawed, and in many ways shallow. Each Seinfeld character is flawed and shallow, and I think we can all see a little bit of this in ourselves. We can relate to George, who is bald, not wanting to go out with a bald woman. We can relate to Jerry being freaked out by his dates man hands. The list could go on and on. The writing, plot, acting, and dialogue of Seinfeld make it great, but the thing that makes a great sitcom iconic is whether or not the audience can bring themselves into the series. Seinfeld does this better than any other. I could digress much longer on the genius of Seinfeld, but I will put my keyboard away for now. Well written, I am enjoying the site.

    Reply
  • December 29, 2015 at 11:49 pm
    Permalink

    I agree 100%. I was just telling my wife the other day that in one sense I’m better than George, but only because I couldn’t really live the way he does and still sleep at night. But I have his reactions all the time to people. The context was that someone I didn’t know that well ribbed me in a social situation and I thought of a perfect comeback later. I didn’t fly to Akron to zing him, but I wanted to. I’m George in my innermost self. Another time, before I met Kayla, I went on a date with a girl from a dating site. There were good reasons to not go on a second date, but my best friend from church asked why I didn’t continue going out and I said (among other things), “She had weird mannerisms.” He said, “That’s the most Seinfeld thing I’ve ever heard.” Yeah, I relate to the characters. And write as much as you like or have time for. I enjoy this very much.

    Reply
  • July 25, 2016 at 9:41 pm
    Permalink

    I am not an animal!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *