Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SEINFELD - Season 9, Episode 15 - The Wizard

“The Wizard”

First Script Read: January 24, 1998
Filmed: January 28, 1998
Aired: February 26, 1998
Nielsen rating: 20.7
Audience share: 31
Directed: Andy Ackerman
Writer: Steve Lookner (This is his only Seinfeld script.)

In contrast to the previous episode, "The Strongbox," "The Wizard" feels more like a Mature Period Seinfeld script. To a large extent this is because it returns to classic Seinfeld themes: aging parents, lying, relationships, and social dynamics. For the final time, the series delves into the oddities of retirement community living in Florida. It also follows George as he spins a web of lies that ultimately collapses on him. And it examines the perceptions of interracial dating.

Outside of George's attempts in "The Diplomat's Club" to find black friends and demonstrate to his black boss that he is not racist, this episode delves as far into American race relations as Seinfeld would go. Elaine introduces Darryl, her new boyfriend (Puddy's answering machine is broken), to George and Jerry. After Darryl leaves, Elaine asks her friends what they think about her new boyfriend. Jerry thinks Darryl looks black, and Elaine realizes she's not sure what race Darryl is. The conversation is utterly harmless...except for the weight that centuries of oppression bring to any conversation about race in the late 20th century. The three characters feel this weight and it bothers them:

ELAINE: Well, what do you think?
JERRY: What? About you dating a black guy? What's the big deal?
ELAINE: What black guy?
JERRY: Darryl. He's black, isn't he?
ELAINE: He is?
GEORGE: No, he isn't.
JERRY: Isn't he Elaine?
ELAINE: You think?
GEORGE: I thought he looked Irish.
JERRY: What's his last name?
ELAINE: Nelson.
GEORGE: That's not Irish.
JERRY: I think he's black.
GEORGE: Should we be talking about this?
ELAINE: I think it's OK.
GEORGE: No, it isn't.
JERRY: Why not?
GEORGE: Well, it would be OK if Darryl was here.
JERRY: If he's black.
ELAINE: Is he black?
JERRY: Does it matter?
ELAINE: No, course not. I mean, I'd just like to know.
JERRY: Oh, so you need to know?
ELAINE: No, I don't need to know. I just think it would be nice if I knew.

At that moment their waitress, a dark-skinned person, comes over and asks if she should take their bill. The trio hurriedly reach into their pockets to give her a generous tip. Elaine spends most of the episode trying to get to the bottom of Darryl's race. Finally, Darryl refers to them as an interracial couple. Elaine is delighted. However, as she later discovers, Darryl incorrectly thinks she is Hispanic. It's not true. "So, we're just a couple of white people?" Darryl sighs. The two are very disappointed.

In her book White Guilt, Shelby Steele describes white guilt as self-congratulatory behavior intended to prove the white person's innocence of racism. That seems to pretty much sum up Elaine's and Darryls' behavior here. They both are excited at the possibility of being an interracial couple solely because of what being in an interracial relationship says about who they are. 

In a way, it's a more extreme version of George's efforts to find a black friend. As noted in my post on "The Diplomat's Club," that episode was a tongue in cheek response to critics of the show who accused Seinfeld of not having enough black characters. This episode further demonstrates that the number of black characters on Seinfeld is appropriate given the characters and the community they inhabit. When they do interact with black characters, its clear none of them are racists. They're jut a bunch of white people.

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