Wednesday, July 15, 2015

City Girls Aren't Carrie Bradshaw, They're Elaine

"You can't find a wife in the city. These bitches all are obsessed with their career that isn't going anywhere. Account executive. Who cares? They have a notch count on par with mine. They never can keep a man. One I'm seeing now fits this to a T. Cute girl, like an 8 on a good night, great sense of humor, one of the guys, and she's down to f*ck quickly. She's always talking about her intelligence, could've gone to an Ivy but wasn't a rich kid. Bitch, you're 32, get over it. City grind is killing her but she won't admit it. She doesn't even have female friends anymore she is so burnt out. She has a few frenemies but has a few close guy friends. I think she's still in love with one as he's an ex from her early 20s. Weird. She's one of those Carrie Bradshaw 'Sex and the City' wannabes."

Wrong. That city girl you are dating that bounces around is Elaine Benes from Seinfeld.

The archetype of a generation
This type that you read about often in forums is not Carrie Bradshaw (or Charlotte, the good, sexy one always looking for a husband). Carrie had the face of a shoe but was a fashionista who lived the glam life with female friends and eventually landed her Mr. Big for the happy ending. Carrie Bradshaw was 20s and 30s. Carrie Bradshaw and her compadres are the upscale versions of the Girls crew. The 30-somethings that seem "wife material" become "What is she doing?" head scratchers and fit that description above are mimicking the life path of Elaine Benes.

Let's run through Elaine's personality and background...

- From the suburbs but moved to NYC for her career and city life
- 30s and into her 40s on the show
- Childless
- Can get guys, but can't keep guys
- Funny, "one of the guys"
- Educated (Tufts was her safe school)
- Has what sound like cool jobs but are not cool
- Limited female friends, frenemies (O'Henry bar heiress), but a circle of guy friends
- Sarcastic, bit of a ball buster
- Would get physical with guys (Get out >chest shove<, picks fights)
- Hangs with her ex that she is in love with
- Foul mouthed
- Sex is a bit of sport for her. Not a romantic girl.
- Never see her cook
- Loves bossing people around yet has no authority
- Considers 95% of the population undateable
- Will date guys who are bad news just because of the tingles

What we criticize now for being a widespread dating type and social life failure was already widespread enough to be represented in a character on television 25 years ago. People had to identify Elaine as a type, consider her funny yet also sympathetic. Sex and the City did poison a generation of women who watched it, but the type was already there in Elaine. Elaine is a better fit too because she is cute/pretty but presented in a normal attractive woman way, not the glam crap that SaTC did with the leads. In all honesty, women probably started carrying water bottles around with them in cities due to Elaine.

We see this elsewhere. The concept of childless SWPLs too self indulgent to be bothered by having children was already widespread enough in the 1980s to be called DINKs. These types have just become more common, more encouraged and higher status. TIME magazine does an article on the increasing choice of childless couples and there is no tsk-tsking, only encouragement. Last I checked, our feminist filtered media pushes the careerism lifestyle, nothing traditional. These trends are multigenerational now and have moved downstream.

The key to the Elaine role being more accurate instead of the Carrie Bradshaw role is the ending, too. These modern young women think they will land their Mr. Big. It is not going to happen. It did not happen for Elaine. These women are Elaine, especially that cute 32 year old with no time to get married but always looking. She is most likely going to end up alone, working for an oddball boss, giving up on fulfillment and still in love with the guy she should have married ten years ago but was too stupid to make it work.

8/10 Would Bang. Aged very well.


DCThrowback said...

The irony being JLD married early and had a 2 sons w/ fellow comedy writer Brad Hall. Same w/ Tina Fey, and to a lesser extent Amy Poehler.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. And yes, Elaine was, and still is, very good looking and cute-pretty. Way better looking that any of the SaTC broads.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Kristin Davis who played Charlotte was a classy looking knockout. I'll take her over JLD.

Elkman said...

Seinfeld was a good, maybe great, show, because of the writing (obviously), and because of the well-cast characters. Ironically though, it might be said the Seinfeld as Seinfeld was not well cast. That is not trying to be clever, it is just that Seinfeld was a hilarious writer to the point that he could get away with stand-up (his material was that good) but as a stage presence and actor - there is not enough tension in his personality for it to be compelling. That was my impression. But the show is not something you want to be caught dead re-watching, unless you are in your underwear during the middle of the the afternoon, on a workday, in the summer, with a lot of vodka in the freezer. If that is what you are going for.

One of Jerry’s brilliant bits was in the episode where George was trying to make this Chinese girl played by some well known actress fairly hot, and he was going to double date with Jerry and whoever, and in George-fashion he asked Jerry not to be too funny so that he doesn’t come off as lame. So Jerry does his freind the solid and plays the part of a depressive and goes on a poetic monologue on the meaningless of these declining days, … and the girl falls for Jerry, because he is so “dark”.

George was another character who was a type that they somehow managed to nail. In prior generations, the hapless best friend, the hanger-on, was the “lovable loser”, and that was what George was supposed to be, … except for that he wasn’t lovable, just a loser, with a personality that you didn’t like.


Elaine has aged well, if you can believe the publicity photos. Perhaps money helps with that. It is funny that this was posted today, because just this last night in the wee hours i was thinking of this girl i knew, and she was basically a variant of Elaine, and what i was thinking was how we both are now childless (the sex was “protected”), and even though we weren’t compatible, maybe it still would have been for the best, had she become pregnant etc, and i was wondering if that thought were in her head too.

Old age without children and a family? i think that a man can handle it, for the obvious reasons that he can cultivate his interests and hobbies and virtues, and for that he can still stay somewhat viable (hopefully), but for a woman it is a different story. Though in fairness, i know a number of half-way well adjusted spinsters.

PA said...

"Old age without children and a family? i think that a man can handle it, for the obvious reasons that he can cultivate his interests and hobbies and virtues, and for that he can still stay somewhat viable (hopefully), but for a woman it is a different story."

Men have biographies. Women have grandchildren.

bjdubbs said...

Maybe most of the characters on Seinfeld are inconceivable before the 90s. Sure, the characters on cheers don't seem to have jobs, but Norm is an accountant, the shrink, the mail carrier, etc. But the Seinfeld characters seem to be unemployed half the time. George and Kramer are mostly unemployed. That would have been a really implausible premise for a show just 10 years earlier. The world changed. There are probably lots of Luftmenschen in NY these days where people say "what does he do exactly? Something with the internet?"

Great post by the way. I remember seeing a sexy poster of Elaine on a door in college and getting the first inkling of the SATC lifestlye that would become so popular.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog.

I would suggest that there even exists a precursor to Elaine Benes: Mary (The Mary Tyler Moore Show in all of their iterations). Even this show's theme song spoke of determined spinsterhood. The irony here is that Moore started her TV sitcom career as loving and devoted wife to Dick van Dyck only to morph into a very iconic INK (Income No Kids) Woman. This sitcom was a sign of the times to come.

Anonymous said...


I'd also recommend that men raise families and leave children behind them. Dying alone is never a good thing. This idea that "families are for wimmenz, men can be single for life" is utterly idiotic. Self-actualized genius outliers are just that - outliers.

Elkman said...

Fathers have a different perspective: “It’s all about the kids.” It is a fairly obvious statement, but how it actually means (that it’s all about the kids) is pretty profound. My friends who have children have outgrown me, it seems. They are just not worried about things that don’t matter. Where we used to talk about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to spend our time, which was youthful parlance for the bigger more difficult challenge of who we wanted to become, … those conversations now, to them, are inane. I can remember them though, whereas they do not: they have neither the time and energy, nor the inclination, for it: to them it is idle speculation that fell by the wayside and is oh so beside the point. Me, i am still struggling to become, and after awhile that turns into a trap a catch-22 and a lost cause.

This phrase “Self-actualized genius outliers” is a part of that trap, that is for sure. I would like for someone to take on this phrase and explain what it means, particularly the part about self-actualization. Without cheating on the question and using the internet, what is this concept about? what is a self-actualized person? The phrase is kind of a catch-all for a man who knows himself, does not lie, and does not fall victim to his cravings. But that last part, of not giving into desire, becomes easier with age.

Basically loneliness sucks, though some people come to terms with it better than others. Just this evening i was walking the dog, and i stopped at some guy’s driveway and asked to use his hose to get my dog some water (these things happen), and that guy was sympathetic for me, a saw myself in him. He was not friendly but always going to lend a helping hand, and cooking out on his driveway, alone. In his outlook was a reconciliation with not having a family, or other people at all. That’s reading into it quite a bit, perhaps? but when a person cooks and eats alone, that means a person is alone. This modern life is so sad and lonely, "sorrow is everywhere you turn." That last quote is from Paul Simon, who like Seinfeld is from New York City (New York City?!), and both those guys could be described as genius, but i don’t know about the self-actualized part (i don’t know what that phrase means).

Another common feature of those two guys is that they are jewish, and i don’t know, but there is something particular to those people that allows them to express with words and music and humor, what other people are thinking and feeling; such “channeling” seems to come more naturally to them. Without a doubt such talent is associated with their genetics and strategies of mimickry, which might more typically be used deceptively, but with the aforementioned is to the good.

But with Seinfeld, like i have tried to say before, his humor is metaphysical and cerebral. Very much at the center of it is all that jewish common sense, which common sense is by no means their exclusive domain, except that it sort of is, at least when white people’s quality is diffuse and scattershot and does not express, … as common sense. But the axioms of his humor are presented in the depressive personality that Jerry played in the scene i referenced above: that we all get old and die, and that it happens day by day, and these are the days of our lives, and they are really (probably) not what you would have hoped for yourself, as a kid. But Seinfeld’s humor is the type that you can think about, rather than the type that gets a roomful of young adults pissing their pants.