Monday, September 24, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 7, Episode 9 - The Sponge

“The Sponge”

First Script Read: Thursday, October 26, 1995
Filmed: October 31(?), 1995
Aired: December 7, 1995
Nielsen rating: 21.9
Audience share: 34
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writers: Peter Mehlman
Award: Nominated for a Writers Guild award for this episode

Seinfeld is a show about sex. It's entire run overlaps the escalating AIDS epidemic in the United States. AIDS is the elephant in Jerry's apartment. This episode marks the series' first mention of the disease. Kramer participates in an AIDS walk and asks his friends to help support his fund raising, an effort that goes well until, absurdly, he is beaten up for choosing not to wear an AIDS walk ribbon. Jerry gets the phone number of a woman he is interested in off the AIDS walk list and frets about what she will think if she finds out. It's nice that, through Kramer, the characters are helping fund AIDS research, but it might be better if they actually used contraceptives to prevent the spread of STDs.

Elaine and Susan both have a strong preference for the "Sponge," a female birth control product. George, too, is happy with Susan's choice because it means he doesn't have to wear a condom. His problem, at least as far as he claims in the episode, is purely with getting it out of the wrapper. Unfortunately, the sponge and other birth control products aren't as good at preventing the spread of STDs as a condom. Ironically, in the first episode to mention AIDS the use of condoms is put down. 

I don't think it is a scripted television show's responsibility to educate its viewers on health and sex, but Seinfeld WAS a source of sex education for its viewers whether it wanted it to be or not. I had never heard of the sponge much less thought much about female birth control products before I saw this episode when I was 14-years old. My mother worked in sex education and teen pregnancy prevention, so I had more contextual understanding than the average 14-year-old viewer, but I'm still not exactly sure what the sponge is.

Once she gets her hands on some boxes of sponges, Elaine begins to question whether her current boyfriend is "sponge worthy." I love what her grilling of Billy reveals about her interests in a man:

ELAINE: So, you think you're sponge-worthy?
BILLY: Yes, I think I'm sponge-worthy. I think I'm very sponge-worthy.
ELAINE: Run down your case for me again.
BILLY: Well, we've gone out several times. We obviously have a good rapport. I own a very profitable electronics distributing firm. I eat well. I exercise. Blood tests - immaculate. And if I can speak frankly, I'm actually quite good at it.
ELAINE: You going to do something about your sideburns?
BILLY: Yeah, I told you. I'm going to trim my sideburns.
ELAINE: And the bathroom in your apartment?
BILLY: Cleaned it this morning.
ELAINE: The sink, the tub, everything got cleaned?
BILLY: Everything, yeah. It's spotless.
ELAINE: Alright, let's go.

This is a good chance to run back the old "xGbDI" I invented in my post on "The Fix Up." Here are the criteria Elaine is interested in:
Looks - 35%
Ability to commit - 20%
Personality - 20%
Occupation - 10%
Health - 10%
Sexual prowess (claimed) - 5%

Elaine's xGbDI is a little more spread across the board than it was at last check in "The Junior Mint." I discounted the sexual prowess claim because Elaine seems uninterested in the point when Billy makes it, and more preoccupied with his sideburns and bathroom, but aesthetic qualities. It is interesting that Billy notes his blood tests are clean, so even though they aren't using a condom, Elaine has taken a step to protect herself (though we can't say the same for Billy). Ultimately, she is convinced by Billy's willingness to clean both himself and his bathroom. With her new found power, she declares Billy "sponge worthy," although only for one sponge. She denies his attempt at initiating further sex.

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