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The Upsetting George Costanza Moment On Seinfeld That Didn't Age Well

"Seinfeld" is retrospectively regarded as one of the most influential sitcoms of all time, but that doesn't mean it was perfect. Hindsight cuts both ways, and it is possible to recognize the innovations in comedy made by the "show about nothing" while also recognizing that a lot of it feels dated by today's cultural standards.

The main cast of "Seinfeld" are all awful people when you look at them objectively. Partially, that's what made the show so uproariously funny. Jerry's (Jerry Seinfeld) shallowness in relationships, Elaine's (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) petulant arrogance, and Kramer's (Michael Richards) penchant for grandiosity render them as unrestrained versions of ourselves; people who do and say the things we're too polite to act out ourselves. As media critic Chuck Klosterman wrote in his book, "I Wear the Black Hat" (via BuzzFeed), the cast of "Seinfeld" "made audiences feel like they were watching the most sinister (and the most authentic) versions of themselves."

This brings us to George Costanza, played to impish perfection by Jason Alexander. Hopelessly neurotic, endlessly unlucky in love, and the perpetual punching bag of the friend group, George wanders through life in an embittered, impotent haze. Over the show's nine seasons, Alexander mined his contemptible character for pure comedy gold. But among all of George's innumerable blunders and transgressions, one moment stands out as particularly reprehensible, not because of George's action but because the show doesn't seem to regard that action as wrong in the first place.

George creeps on a 15-year-old girl

Of all the questionable and unethical things George did throughout "Seinfeld," perhaps none have aged worse than the time he leered at an underaged girl in the Season 4 episode, "The Shoes." The moment takes place when Jerry and George meet with a network executive to pitch a TV show. At the start of the meeting, the executive mentions that his daughter, who he makes clear is 15, will be arriving shortly.

When the daughter, played by Denise Richards, arrives, she removes her jacket, at which point George stares at her cleavage and is reprimanded by the network executive. Jerry, too, chews George out afterward, not for sexually objectifying a teenager but for being too obvious about it. Elaine later scolds him mildly for staring at a minor but Jerry pushes back.

What makes this moment particularly distasteful is not merely George's behavior or Jerry's sanctioning of it, but the way the camera holds on a close-up of Richards' blouse as she bends over. In this way, the camera implicates viewers of the episode in George's grotesque behavior, suggesting through cinematic language that viewers share in the crude moment alongside him. While Richards was in her early 20s when "The Shoes" was filmed, the entire idea of the scene is unequivocally gross. Unlike Richards, who went on to enjoy a successful career, it's a moment that has not aged well.