Seinfeld on Innocence


This past Sunday I was looking through the paper and the Parade Magazine supplement caught my eye with Jerry Seinfeld on the cover. He was obviously promoting his new show: "The Marriage Ref". Because of the nature of the show, the story about him focused on his own sense of family. He talked about his relationship with his dad and his wife, Jessica Sklar, but I was most interested in his relationship with his children.

I'm giving no great insight to Seinfeld's brilliance when I say that his gift is the way that he observes ordinary things, calls our attention to them, and then mocks their absurdity. In the article he talked about the 3 "P's" of misguided parenthood: praise, problem-solving, and pleasure. He says we give kids too much please and too much praise. Instead of letting children solve their own problems, parents step in and solve their kids problems for them, thus taking away vital life lessons. Fine. Valid observations. But when I read his thoughts about his reasoning, i had to do a Scooby Doo-like "Zoinks"! He said he thinks that we have taken away our children's innocence and that parents are trying to make up for that.

I loved "Seinfeld" when it was on television. But I felt very conflicted about it. I wrote the show to state my offense on more than one occasion. "The Contest" episode, Elaine questioning if a guy is "sponge worthy", Kramer "getting one past the goalie", and a couple of other times the show really offended me as a Catholic Christian.

I was a parish youth minister during these years, the years of "Friends" and "Seinfeld". I would go round and round with the teens at our parish about the content of these programs. They would say, "But Robert, just turn it off if you're offended!" I would counter with this.

I might very well turn it off at my house, but I can't turn it off at everyone else's house. By broadcasting content that would have been very clearly objectionable to past generations, it says to the culture that these things are, in fact, not objectionable. To put it simply, it lowers our standards as a culture and because of that, it will show up in a place where I have no remote control to turn it off. I began to notice t-shirts with the F-bomb on them in the grocery line. I would hear people using profanity in public more. Now, my 8 year-old came home from school last week and talked about a weird song from Lil Wayne about a lollipop. If you don't know the song, Google the lyrics. I can't change that station. I have not taken away my children's innocence. It is being taken away by societal standards.

Yes, there has been a loss of innocence among our children. In the name of artistic license and freedom, we have lowered our standards and those lower standards show up places without remotes. I am not laying our current culture's comfort with objectionable content at the feet of Jerry Seinfeld, but he is not immune from criticism.

I am not advocating for naivete, but I am advocating for a holy innocence, as Chris Muglia talks about in his song "Innocence".

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