20 August 2009
Posts about Nothing: The Life and Death of George Costanza
Welcome, young readers to Part Three of our Posts about Nothing dealing with the main characters of Seinfeld. Here we have now one of the greatest and most complex characters ever put on television, George Costanza. I dare not get into the deepest realms of George's mind (I believe I would emerge paralyzed and catatonic with fear), but there are just a few particular points I want to highlight for the purposes of this post, namely the harsh darkness and death that accompanies this bald, stocky, slow-witted man's life. Let's begin our journey.
George is known as the biggest liar, ("The Beard," [S6;E16], "It's not a lie if you believe it"), the biggest cheapskate ("The Truth," [S3;E2]) and the whole, one of the most worrysome, neurotic characters ("the Heart Attack" [S2;E8], "The Hamptons" [S5;E21], "The Postponement" [S7;E2], about any other episode you can find). On a few major occasions the true depth of George's dark and disturbing psychosis is demonstrated. These are mainly "The Gum" (S7;E10), "The Andrea Doria" (S8;E10) and "The Serenity Now" (S9;E3).
"The Gum" is very notably for having a (somewhat) non-partisan witness to basically, a typical week or two in George's life. The funny thing about this episode is that it is a pretty typical Seinfieldian George story, full of paranoia and coincidence, but it is witnessed by a neighborhood friend, Deena. Deena, through witnessing normal George events and reactions, believes that George is absolutely crazy and on the verge of a full mental breakdown. Thus, to others, the daily life and actions of George Costanza appears absolutely insane.
In "The Andrea Doria," George's life story (anecdotes from "The Subway" [S3;E13], "The Limo" [S3;E19], "The Hamptons," "The Rye" [S7;E11] and "The Invitations" [S7;E24]) stacks up not only against a shipwreck survivor, but in his words, "...could go bumper to bumper with any one else on this planet!" Indeed, the tenant board is in tears upon hearing the completion of George's pitiful life story, in essence, more pathetic, heart wrenching and tragic than a survivor of the Andrea Doria. Truly a sick man.
Finally, in "The Serenity Now," George is continually probed by Jerry to open up as Jerry has done with new found feelings. The suppression and superciliousness of Jerry's emotional state is a discussion for a future post and a great highlight of this episode. Once George opens up his own dark secrets and past, however, it absolutely horrifies Jerry, his best friend for decades. The emotional spectrum of all the characters in this episode is incredible really, from Kramer, Elaine, and George's suppression and subsequent release at inopportune moments, to Jerry's constant openness and scarring from George's story. George is a deeply dark and disturbed character. The key to Jason Alexander's portrayal is to let the darkness peak out from time to time while maintaining a well-to-do, charming, stocky facade.
The final test for George's character I will divulge into here is basically all of Season 7. There has been no truer test to George like the implacable Susan and looming wedding date. For the best insight into his character examine "The Engagement" (E1), "The Postponement" (E2), "The Pool Guy" (E8), "The Sponge" (E9), "The Gum," "The Rye," "The Seven" (E13), both parts of "The Cadillac" (E13-14), "The Friar's Club" (E18) and finally of course, "The Invitations" (E24). I will spare you the effort of digging into all these episodes, but let me wrap up my ideas about Susan Ross in general.
If the preceding of this post may be seen as the Life of George Costanza, the following must be the Death. It really is a brilliant way for George to get out of the relationship, really the only way he would ever be able to escape. A death that is sort of his fault, but certainly not intentional by any means. Let's talk a second about Susan, however.
She comes from an absolutely dreadful family, perhaps one even worse than George's (contrast "The Cheever Letters" [S4;E8] to most of Season 5 that has George living with his parents, for insights into his childhood, home movies in both "The Merv Griffin Show" [S9;E6] and "The Fire" [S5;E20]). Susan, though, turns out generally alright and tends to be on the most level-headed of George's or Jerry's girlfriends (hell even of Kramer or Elaine's relationships). She has a good job, formerly as and NBC executive, later explicitly stating that she makes more money than George ("The Invitations"). She's generally an attractive, cute woman, with no major flaws or neuroticisms. This is partly why she ends up disagreeing with hanging out with Jerry and Elaine ("The Pool Guy"), and doesn't want Elaine or Kramer at the wedding ("The Invitations").
So after her insanely troublematic parents somehow raise her to be a successful level-headed, attractive woman, she meets the entity known as George Costanza. Who knows if George really loved Susan, I think that's totally up for grabs. Moreover I believe he was momentarily dissatisfied with his life and craved a drastic change, but when it came he realised that he belongs in a muldry pathetic existence, but could not curtail the change he enacted despite his best efforts. Indeed it seems that George is most unhappy when he fails at failing ("The Millenium" [S8;E21]). George can never get married, nor can he have a happy life. To do so would render him an Un-George. The very trials that he endures make him who he is. If his life were not pathetic then his character would not be George, thus he would cease to exist. It's a very profound ideology that Larry David and Jason Alexander nailed precisely.
Thus we come to the conclusion that when a happy, successful women who tries to get close to George, and possibly really actually does love him very much, the only single possible outcome is her Death. That's right, there was absolutely no other alternative other than her demise from the world of the living to keep George's miserable character, and thus his miserable life woefully intact. This is why Fate afforded Jerry the mutual breakup. Jerry is a happy, congenial person. His engagement was allowed to be broken off through amicable means. George's darkness and desperation lead only to the death of the closest human to him.
Maybe not ("The Cartoon" [S9;E13]).