Symbolic Interaction on Seinfeld
Tags: goffman, psychology/social psychology, theory, backstage, corrective practice, defensive practice, definition of the situation, dramaturgical discipline, front stage, impression management, interaction repair, protective practice, roles, symbolic interactionism, working consensus, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Clips from Seinfeld seem to be full of interesting insights about human interaction. Economists have been using Seinfeld clips to illustrate insights from rational choice theory, and here at last is a clip that demonstrates concepts from the symbolic interactionist perspective in sociology. In this clip from season 5, episode 10, "The Cigar Store Indian," Elaine and some other women are playing poker when Jerry shows up. He enters from the "outside," and it quickly becomes apparent he does not completely share the women's definition of the situation. The role he tries to enact (i.e., friend, comedian, potential lover) is completely bungled once he unwraps his gift of a cigar store Indian for Winona, who is Native American. Elaine tries to protect Jerry to no avail and attempts an interaction repair with her friend, Winona, but Jerry's errors are too great to overcome. The scene is a vivid illustration of what Goffman called a break down in his essay, "Embarrassment and Social Organization." Other useful scenes come from the episodes, "The Barber," "The Raincoats," and "The Lip Reader," all of which feature examples of disruption, embarrassment, and break down.
Submitted By: Caitlin Cross-Barnet
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