In light of the recent debacle involving comedian Michael Richards and his offensive outbursts at an LA nightclub, I watched a few Seinfeld episodes last weekend to see if I could identify anything that was overtly or even tangentially racist about Richards’ "Kramer" character.
In so doing, I uncovered nothing that was inappropriate, and if something seemed risqué, it surely resided in the realms of satire and good taste. However, as a byproduct of this exercise, something significant popped up.
Though its title was a less-than-inspiring eponym, Seinfeld became a highly memorable brand name due largely to its cultural impact on the American language. More specifically, it penetrated America’s cultural DNA and embedded within it numerous coined words and terms often used today.
Case in point: “shrinkage”; “regifting”; “double dipping”; “master of my domain”; “yadda yadda yadda”; “no soup for you!”; “Serenity now”; et al.
These words, phrases and ideas, also known as memes, have infiltrated the public consciousness so effectively that DVD sales of the show continue to do well. This remains to be true despite the fact that Seinfeld is played in syndication ad nauseum nearly 8 years after it went off the air!
Why is this so? Although no extensive market research has been done on this, one can conclude that the show’s memes have been so heavily adopted by American culture that, in many ways, to live without the show is to deprive oneself of the cultural validation that those memes provide.
In other words, because the show had such an imprint on American culture, fans of the TV series want to show their sense of ownership over it by adopting its memes as their own. This is why DVD sales of the series and the Seinfeld brand name will remain strong, even despite the Michael Richards setback.