Archive for December, 2012

Analysis: “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

December 15, 2012

Larry David (LD), creator of HBO’s enormously popular eight-season television series: Curb Your Enthusiasm, has said that his “Larry David” character (TVLD) is more his true self than the act he plays in real life. TVLD is authentic; loyal; generous; outspoken but not uncaring; impulsive but apologetic when inadvertently hurtful due to his innate inclination to question social convention. Yet some constipated critics perceive the show to be a warning of the consequences of “uncivil” and “immorally suspect behavior.” TVLD is not ignorant, malicious, self-loathing, intolerant, or criminally-inspired; he just insists on following no drummer while his one-man parade meanders in tennis shoes across tabooed terrain playing a kazoo. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist,” would have loved LD and TVLD. 

Our Emerson corollary: “No one can simultaneously conform and be creative.” And the world has always relied on the fruits of creativity for survival and advancement however uncomfortable new ideas and new things may be when first introduced. So, creative people are the true leaders although they often work their magic behind the scenes or in ways that elude recognition by those who take their works for granted. Nikola Tesla, for example, was far more creative as a scientist than Thomas Edison, yet Edison is known to everyone and Tesla has been—at least until recent years—almost unknown, and there are Teslas today making important contributions in every field. Every ad-libbing member of Curb is a creative contributor to the success of that show. The importance of Jason Alexander, for example, is underscored in the “Seinfeld” episode (Season Seven) when Larry steps in to try and play Jason’s iconic role—the failure is genuine. 

Some Curb analysts say that its viewers find TVLD funny because his perceived social ineptitude makes them feel superior to him, and that this is what LD aims to achieve: people laughing at TVLD. We disagree. Larry has taken the opportunity that few can ever have: to hold up a mirror to self-stifling, joyless, sheep-like people—some of whom watch the show—and make a difference (and a fortune) doing it. We see the meaning of the show’s moniker as facetious, as something other than a command or serious suggestion. At one meta-level, “curb your enthusiasm” means: Be careful how loudly you laugh because the idiot you are laughing at is probably you. Co-star, Jeff Garlin, has said the show is for intelligent people, not the masses. Yes—and those viewers are laughing with Larry David, even as Larry must sometimes laugh at himself. 

Overall, TVLD seems an admirable individual, a child-like comedic genius who, like God and Jesus, is no respecter of persons (Holy Bible, Acts 10:34) and even less so of social convention. Larry respects all kinds of wood (a product of plant life) but disrespects stereotypes and poverty (products of human life). Does that wisdom make him unfeeling, unloving, uncaring, or uncharitable? When he plays nursemaid to his live-in girlfriend who has cancer, the condemnatory voices of his critics hear only TVLD’s lament of having less time for golf. But who of sound mind honestly wants to martyr themselves in service to a continually demanding sick person for whom they have no legal or moral obligation? Any rational person who physically and financially supports a needy non-family-member 24/7 is likely to feel some antipathy. What kind of person, wealthy or otherwise, blindly adopts an entire homeless family in the first place? Uncaring? 

At another meta-level, “curb your enthusiasm” means: Take care to not envy either TVLD or LD because living the self-directed affluent life of Larry is not as easy as it looks. The key to survival of social-auditor Larry’s sanity is his ability to pull his world in close around him and see the crazy-making world that lies beyond as not quite real—not real enough to take it as seriously as others who think they have the right to expect him to conform. Who are the blatantly dysfunctional to make such demands anyhow? Why should TVLD not confront the HBO executive for purloining shrimp from his Chinese take-out? Of course it helps to have a couple hundred-million in the bank and not need the work, but TVLD would do it even if he needed the money. It is a matter of principle, and in any civilization principles govern societal regulations, not the other way around. 

Throughout all eighty episodes, we infer evidence of a meta-agenda—on the part of Larry, or Larry’s muse—to catalyze a reformation of society to bring about a worldwide democracy where people can be self-accepting and accepting of others, speak their minds, and be free to pursue their unique desires no matter what their race, creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual preference, marital status, handicapping condition, or financial position. Some people try to save the world through military force. Some try to rescue it through legislation. Some try by attempting to lead a spiritual revolution or religious revival. Larry, as an accidental “social theorist,” has sparked a zero-based cultural transformation by presenting TVLD as a model for personal empowerment, for the natural flowering of the whole human being—hemorrhoids and all. Without examples of uncompromising, unembarrassed, risk-taking nonconformity, how will humanity ever muster the long-balls to achieve widespread celebration of abundant living? 

Enthusiasm, derived from the Greek en theos, means “God within.” A suppressive or repressive society literally demands curbing enthusiasm, wearing uniforms, embracing groupthink, deploying mind-controlled intolerance of individuality and self-expression. The phrase: “curb your enthusiasm,” taken seriously, only makes sense as a decree from Orwell’s Big Brother or TVLD’s trashcan-police neighbor. So, when Larry makes off-screen remarks seeming to promote self-suppression, he can only be joking, feigning thickheadedness, because he never curbs his own enthusiasm on or off screen, nor that of his circle of cohorts. In fact, the whole show rages against social pressure to squelch the God within and fly in formation. As every episode presents TVLD’s “politically incorrect” behavior and its problematic fallout, it reveals a drive to remove impediments to happiness, using humor as a lubricant to smooth the process. 

Whatever Larry’s intentions may be beyond making people laugh, satisfying his creative urges, and gaining capital for his Curb tribe, PluribusOne™ urges Curb viewers to make use of our humanitarian interpretation of his work because the world needs to be nonviolently unshackled from the unrelenting fascistic mentality that has been gaining ground in recent decades. In support of the goal of societal transformation through radical tolerance, please display this bumper-sticker: “I Brake for Larry David.” Our message to Larry: One more season, Lar; that’s all we’re asking…