Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently posed naked on the cover of Rolling Stone with the Constitution printed on her back (no nipples were exposed, though).
From all accounts, the interview she gave to Rolling Stone was apparently pretty awesome. When asked about sexism in Hollywood, she responded by saying, ‘There is sexism…I’m not denying its existence. But I’m saying that I will deny its effort against me. I just pay it no nevermind and say, ‘Get out of my way’’. Right there is yet another reason why you gotta looooooooooove the Dreyfus!
It is this same gusto that she brought to the iconic role of Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes, a character that epitomises what we mean when we talk about strong, independent women of the ‘90s… and today, in fact. In 2014, we can still hold Elaine up as an – admittedly dubious in some aspects – role model.
I mean, sure, she wasn’t really all about the sisterhood, preferring coffee shop lunches with the boys to Sex and the City-like brunches (at which she probably wouldn’t be caught dead), and trying to one-up Sue Ellen Mischke. And she wasn’t always the nicest person in the world, becoming more hardened, jaded and apathetic as the series progressed. However, there were plenty of other qualities that, to this day, make her the queen of the castle.
1. Is She Sexual? Ye-ah!
Sorry, I couldn’t resist randomly using another ‘90s quote here (that’s Backstreet Boys, in case you didn’t get it). However, if you want to be a Seinfeld purist, this quote by Jerry from the episode ‘The Sponge’ would suffice here: ‘No depravity! I can’t even imagine she has sex’. [Elaine enters]. ‘On the other hand…’
Elaine was responsible for the term ‘sponge-worthy’ which, while arguably limiting, put her sex life firmly on her terms. What’s more, who could forget that she was second to cave during ‘the contest’? Basically, it never occurred to Elaine to make any apologies about her sex life. In fact, she’d rub your keyboard against her backside if you questioned it.
2. She Had a Signature Style
‘Why are my shoes a topic of conversation?’ she might protest, but we’re about to dive in. Unlike Carrie Bradshaw and Samantha Jones, who were unrealistically primed for the catwalk 24/7 – I mean, who has the money and energy for that? – Elaine rocked an everyday woman’s wardrobe that, at the same time, was all her own.
During the earlier seasons of Seinfeld, it was all about the floral skirts, brogues and that backpack she always carried around. But above all, it was about her jackets. As Anna’s awesome ModCloth fashion blog points out, ‘Two-toned, embroidered, vintage-inspired, or sporty, Laney’s jackets are as varied and eye-catching as Cosby’s sweaters’.
And despite her conservative style and excessive layering, Elaine – like almost every woman – still had a low-cut little black dress in her closet to bust out when the occasion called for it.
In the later seasons, Elaine became a fashion copywriter for J. Peterman, and her style evolved to be cool, functional and minimal. However, through every season, Elaine’s fashion choices never overshadowed her personality. She wore the clothes; the clothes didn’t wear her. Well, the urban sombrero was one notable exception.
3. She Was Assertive
This was a trait of Elaine’s that grew over time. In the early seasons, Elaine was more timid, a case in point being how she was forced to throw a baby shower for her Regina George-like queen bee friend Lesley. When asked why she agreed to it, she explained, ‘Lesley – I have a problem saying no to. For some reason, I seem to want her approval’.
Now, can you imagine season 7 Elaine – the same Elaine who demanded to be an usher at George’s wedding by saying, ‘You don’t ask, you tell’ – being intimidated by Lesley? No, you can’t.
4. She Was Independent
Elaine usually never really cared whether she was single or attached – apart from her temporary jealousy over George’s engagement. Basically, her relationship status generally had no bearing on her happiness, unlike that neurotic Ally McBeal, who was a ’90s pop culture feminist conundrum if ever there was one. You wouldn’t find Elaine singing ‘Goodnight My Someone’ to herself – it’d be more like ‘Witchy Woman’, with some little kicks thrown in.
5. She Was Intelligent
With a long career in publishing and copywriting – with the exception of her rough patch working as Mr. Pitt’s PA – there’s no denying that Elaine was a smart person. She may have had no hesitation in calling George an ‘idiot’, but there’s no way George would have had enough ammo to so confidently and casually say it back to her.