Monday, May 14, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 4, Episode 10 - The Virgin

“The Virgin”

First Script Read: October 14, 1992
Filmed: October 20, 1992
Aired: 9:00 pm, Wednesday, November 11, 1992
Nielsen rating: 11.6
Audience share: 17 (16 million viewers)
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Peter Mehlman, Peter Farrelly, and Bobby Farrelly (Yup. Those Farrelly brothers. This is their only Seinfeld episode – in fact, their only sitcom episode.)

The attitude of the Seinfeld gang towards Marla the virgin is rather reserved. They are surprised when they learn she is a virgin, but not utterly floored. "Well, it's not like spotting a toupée!" Jerry points out. They don't mock or look down on Marla, even behind her back. George, gazing down on her as a voyeur from Jerry's window, is amazed that such a beautiful woman would still be a virgin. Marla's sexual history and hesitance to have sex is important to Jerry only as far as it is an impediment towards his desire to sleep with her. After accidentally making Marla uncomfortable with a story about her birth control diaphragm flying out of her purse, Elaine insists on her own feelings on the subject to Jerry:

ELAINE: Well you think I should say something? Should I say something? Should I apologize? Was I being anti-virgin?
JERRY: No, no, I mean...
ELAINE: 'Cause I'm not anti-virgin. I'll be right back.

She chases Marla down. Elaine does come off as patronizing as she talks to wide-eyed Marla about sex and its discontents, but her intentions are good. She is seeking to take any edge off of Marla's anticipation for sex.

ELAINE: Look, Marla. This whole sex thing is totally overrated. Now, the one thing you've got to be ready for is how the man changes into a completely different person five seconds after it's over. I mean, something happens to their personality. It's really quite astounding. It's like they committed a crime and they want to flee the scene before the police get there.
MARLA: So they just leave?
ELAINE: Yeah, pretty much, yeah. Well, the smart ones start working on their getaway stories during dinner. How, you know, they gotta get up early tomorrow. What is about being up early? They all turn into farmers suddenly.
MARLA: Wow. It must be pretty good to put up with all that.

It's a funny rant, typical of Seinfeld's observational humor, but Marla accepts everything Elaine says unquestioningly. She comes off as innocent and naïve, but in a charming and not ridiculous way. Marla's virginity is rare, but it is not unacceptable or deserving of scorn or mockery.

Would it be different if Marla was a man? Absolutely. Sexual behavior defines the male characters in Seinfeld

I'm reminded of a Family Matters episode from January 14, 1994. In "Like a Virgin," the socially inept Steve Urkel responds to the sexual boasting of classmates in the high school locker room that he is waiting until marriage to have sex. He goes on vouch that his neighbor and friend, Eddy Winslow, has made a similar decision. The mortified Eddy initially denies Urkel's claims to preserve his social status. Ultimately Eddy admits to his concerned father that he is still a virgin, and is further consoled by his sister's assurance that his classmates are greatly exaggerating their own sexual experience. Eddy eventually proclaims his virginity, while his classmates' lies are revealed.

How would Jerry and George counsel Eddy, the high schooler? How would they counsel Eddy if, about fifteen years older, he was dating Elaine? They would look at him with raised eyebrows, as a novelty. They would probably make fun of him to Elaine, though more out of a desire to tease Elaine rather than out of any animosity towards Eddy. And they probably wouldn't counsel him at all.

Back in season two's "The Pony Remark" George blurts out this proclamation in front of Jerry and Elaine at the restaurant:

GEORGE: You know, I've been thinking. I cannot envision any circumstances in which I'll ever have the opportunity to have sex again. How's it gonna happen? I just don't see how it could occur.

Elaine and Jerry don't mock George. They don't counsel him. They glance at George for a moment and then proceed with their conversation as if George hadn't said anything at all. George lets it drop.

Which is the better world? Eddy's, where his peers mock him but his family and friends go out of their way to support and encourage him? Or Marla and George's, where people are mostly left alone but can only expect counsel if they insist on getting it or if someone else has a personal interest at stake?

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