‘Seinfeld’ is the biggest pop-cultural phenomenon to have come out of the 20th century TV. It, however, has been a part of a few hush-hush talks. One certain ‘Seinfeld’ episode had to be banned as it entered the show into a controversy. What’s the story around? Let’s find out!
‘Seinfeld’, “the show about nothing”, made it big during the nine years of its screen-time and has had a huge impact on 20th-century pop-culture. The show followed around four friends doing their daily stuff or just nothing, and often landing up at hilarious situations. However, as ‘Seinfeld’ entered its final season, one of the episodes drove the show into controversy and finally resulted in the episode being banned.
- Banned ‘Seinfeld’ episode that fired the controversy
- NBC prompted for an apology
- The episode that never aired
Banned ‘Seinfeld’ episode that fired the controversy
Decades after ‘Seinfeld’ broke grounds on the screen, the show still maintains its iconic status in the American pop-culture. It starred stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld as the fictional version of himself. The show followed around Seinfeld and his three friends – George, Elaine, and Kramer. The characters were not without their own faults, but thanks to the brilliant writers, they came across as extremely funny, relatable, and likeable. However, one of the episodes from season 9 of ‘Seinfeld’ brewed so much controversy that it had to be banned. The episode, “The Puerto Rican Day“, crossed the line with the content resulting in it being pulled off the ‘Seinfeld’ syndication.
“The Puerto Rican Day” follows around the ‘Seinfeld’ gang as they round up getting stuck in the traffic because of the Puerto Rican Day parade held every year in New York. Consequently, the characters end up in hilarious misadventures and, like always, Kramer takes it a bit too far. Kramer, who never really intends to be inappropriate but accidentally puts himself in such situations, does something similar in this episode as well. He dives into the cultural celebrations of the parade, but a sparkler that has been irresponsibly disposed off leads him into lighting the Puerto Rican flag on fire. Kramer acts on reflex and stomps on the flag to extinguish the fire. The next he knows, an angry mob of Puerto Ricans is chasing him down the street. Kramer manages to get past the mob, but they attack Jerry’s car instead, which the gang abandons in fear. At this moment, Kramer cries out, “You know, it’s like this every day in Puerto Rico“.
NBC prompted for an apology
The ‘Seinfeld’ episode created a storm as the show and the team faced severe backlash for the insensitive and negative representation of the Puerto Ricans. Although this was just one of the many episodes that made inappropriate remarks on ‘Seinfeld’, for some reason it blew up into a controversy leading it to being banned. The Puerto Rican community, including many influential people of the time, had taken serious offense over the episode’s content. Manual Mirabal, the National Puerto Rican Coalition’s president at the time, criticized the show’s lack of judgment in using the Puerto Rican flag, which should not have been made into a stage prop. The president of Bronx Borough at the time, Fernando Ferrer, who is also a Puerto Rican was offended at the negative image, created by the episode, of Puerto Ricans being prone to violence and vandalism. He strongly remarked that the episode had “crossed the line between humor and bigotry”.
“We do not feel that the show lends itself to damaging ethnic stereotypes because the audience for ‘Seinfeld’ knows the humor is derived from watching the core group of characters get themselves into difficult situations”.
Robert Wright, the then president of NBC added,
“Our appreciation of the broad comedy of ‘Seinfeld’ does not in any way take away from the respect we have for the Puerto Rican flag”.
Although the episode was taken off syndication after the backlash and was not included in the reruns, it resumed playing on-screen uncut in 2002.
The episode that never aired
Besides the ‘Seinfeld’ episode that was banned, other episodes could have dragged the show into another controversy. One such episode that never saw the light of the day because of its potentially controversial content was recently discovered. Named “The Bet”, the episode had multiple subplots, but one of them dealt with a bet among the guys on whether Elaine would purchase a gun. The episode allegedly showed Elaine holding a gun to her head while making a joke about Kennedy’s assassination.
It goes without saying that the episode would not have flown and had the potential of being judged as insensitive and offensive more so because of the daytime shootings that were still very much a part of America then. Former ‘Seinfeld’ director, Tom Cherones, commented on the unaired episode saying,
“As I recall, there was some reference to make a joke called ‘a Kennedy’. And that offended me. And I guess it offended the cast as well. I was told to go back to the stage and work on the episode, which is what normally happens. I went back to the stage and the actors looked at me and said, ‘We don’t want to do this episode.’ I said, ‘I agree with you. Guns are not funny, no matter what you say.’ I walked back before the network guys left and I said, ‘We don’t want to do this episode. That cast and I do not want to do this’”.
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