Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Type 8 from the World of Seinfeld

Talking with a friend today, I was reminded of a character from the show Seinfeld who illustrates type 8 perfectly. The character is Elaine's father, Alton Benes, who appeared in a season two episode entitled "The Jacket."
Here's what happens in the episode:

Jerry buys a new suede jacket and gives his old jacket to Kramer. The new jacket has an inner lining with pink stripes, but is otherwise perfect for Jerry. Later on, Jerry, George, and Elaine are supposed to meet Elaine's father at his hotel (he is in from out of town) so they can all go to dinner together. However, Elaine is delayed helping Kramer with an errand, so George and Jerry meet Alton and are stuck alone with him for a long time before she arrives.
Jerry and George are intimidated by Elaine's father right away. Like many 8s, he is physically imposing. Early on, they try to make small talk with him, as follows:

ALTON: Looks like rain.
GEORGE: (Perks up) I know, I know, that's what they said.
ALTON: Who said?
GEORGE: The weather guy, Dr. Waldo.
ALTON: I don't need anybody to tell me it's gonna rain.
GEORGE: No, of course not. I didn't..
ALTON: All I have to do is stick my head out the window. (Waiter shows up with the drinks) Which one's suppose to be the funny guy?
GEORGE: (Pointing at Jerry) Oh, he's the comedian.
JERRY: I'm just a regular person.
GEORGE: No, no. He's just being modest.
ALTON: We had a funny guy with us in Korea. A tailgunner. They blew his brains out all over the Pacific. (Long pause) There's nothing funny about that.

In this passage of the script, an 8's characteristic bluntness and directness is established. Alton is not only physically intimidating, but verbally intimidating as well.
At this point, Elaine calls and says she will be a while. George and Jerry excuse themselves to the bathroom and discuss the possibility of leaving.

GEORGE: How could she leave us alone with this lunatic? Ten more minutes, and that's it! I'm leaving. I have to tell you, this guy scares me.
JERRY: The waiter was trembling.
GEORGE: If she doesn't show up, we can't possibly have dinner with him alone.
JERRY: How are we gonna get out of it?
GEORGE: We'll say we're frightened and we have to go home.

Eventually, Elaine joins them and the group proceeds to dinner. In typical 8 fashion, Alton makes all the decisions:

ALTON: Alright, boys. We'll go to that Pakistani restaurant on 46th Street. You're not afraid of a little spice, are you?

Even Alton's choice of restaurant is telling. 8s love "spice" and intensity.
As the group walks outside, they notice it is snowing.

JERRY: (To George) Snow.. snow, that can't be good for suede, can it?
GEORGE: I wouldn't think so.
JERRY: What should I do? (To Alton) We're taking a cab, aren't we?
ALTON: Cab? It's only five blocks.
GEORGE: (To Jerry) Why don't you just turn it inside out?
JERRY: Inside out! Great.
(Jerry turns his jacket inside out, showing of the pink striped insides. Alton stops him before Jerry can leave the hotel)
ALTON: Wait a minute. What the hell do you call this?
JERRY: Oh, I turned my jacket inside out.
ALTON: Well, you look like a damn fool!
JERRY: (Like a child) Well, it's a new suede jacket. It might get ruined.
ALTON: Well, you're not going to walk down the street with me and my daughter dressed like that! That's for damn sure!

In this moment, Alton is not only domineering, but he is also showcasing another quality of type 8; he sees telling Jerry how to wear his jacket as a way of looking out for his daughter. 8s often view those they love as extensions of themselves and go to great lengths to protect them.
In the end, Jerry's new jacket is ruined and he ends up giving it to Kramer as well. You can watch a big chunk of this episode here.


Anonymous said...

"We'll say we're frightened and have to go home." Too funny!

Cindi said...

Joe T. has a dvd of this season of Seinfeld and according to teh commentary on it, the guy who played Alton Benes is just like that in real life, too. The whole cast and crew were scared of him.