Elaine Benes

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Elaine Marie Benes
Elaine-benes-3707.jpg
First appearance"Male Unbonding" (1990)
Last appearance"The Finale, Part II" (1998)
Created byJerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Portrayed byJulia Louis-Dreyfus
Information
GenderFemale
OccupationEditor, Personal Assistant to Mr. Pitt, Copy Writer for J. Peterman
FamilyAlton (father)
Unnamed mother
Gail (sister)
Grandma Mema (grandmother)
RelativesHolly (cousin), Pete (uncle), unnamed nephew
 
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Elaine Marie Benes
Elaine-benes-3707.jpg
First appearance"Male Unbonding" (1990)
Last appearance"The Finale, Part II" (1998)
Created byJerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Portrayed byJulia Louis-Dreyfus
Information
GenderFemale
OccupationEditor, Personal Assistant to Mr. Pitt, Copy Writer for J. Peterman
FamilyAlton (father)
Unnamed mother
Gail (sister)
Grandma Mema (grandmother)
RelativesHolly (cousin), Pete (uncle), unnamed nephew

Elaine Marie Benes /ˈbɛnɨs/ is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld (1989–1998), played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Elaine's best friend is her ex-boyfriend Jerry Seinfeld, and she is also good friends with George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer. Julia Louis-Dreyfus received critical acclaim for her performance as Elaine, winning an Emmy, a Golden Globe and five SAG Awards.

Elaine's debut[edit]

Unlike her three close friends, Elaine is absent from the pilot episode. Previously the female role was supposed to be Claire, the waitress at Pete's Luncheonette played by Lee Garlington, but the luncheonette was replaced by Monk's Restaurant and Garlington was dropped from the role. Elaine first appears in the second episode, "The Stake Out," but in production order she appeared in a final scene eating M&Ms in "Male Unbonding." NBC executives felt the show was too male-centric, and demanded that creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David add a woman to the cast as a condition for commissioning the show, as revealed in the commentary on the Season 1 and 2 DVD. In addition to the first episode, Elaine did not appear in a two-part episode ("The Trip") and thus appears in fewer episodes than Jerry and George.

Real-life inspiration[edit]

After it was discovered that Jerry Seinfeld once dated writer and comedian Carol Leifer, speculation grew that Elaine was based upon Leifer, though that was later largely denied. Leifer, who wrote or co-wrote a number of episodes for the show, has said only some elements of the backstory of the character—that she and Seinfeld had dated and have remained good friends since the relationship ended—relate to her. She says some elements of the character of Elaine, especially her assertiveness, intelligence and sense of humor, are drawn from the off-screen personality of Julia Louis-Dreyfus herself. According to Seinfeld's biography (written by Jerry Oppenheimer), Elaine was based in part on Susan McNabb (who was dating Seinfeld when the character was created), though eventually named after friend and fellow comic Elayne Boosler. Also, the character was partially based on Monica Yates, the daughter of novelist Richard Yates. Larry David once dated Monica Yates, and the two remained good friends after they broke up.[1]

Personality[edit]

Elaine is normally intelligent and assertive, but also quite superficial. She is one of the boys, and despite the troubles they go through as a group, she remains the closest female friend to the main male cast throughout the entire series. Her traits are usually edgy and neurotic and she has a tendency to easily get angry with almost everyone. She has ruined her friends' ambitions, like throwing George's toupee out the window after trying to explain the irony behind it in "The Beard" or revealing what Jerry said in "The Cheever Letters" about the "panties her mother laid out for her".

Elaine is a serial dater, a trait lampooned in Season 7's "The Sponge", where she is desperate to buy a cache of discontinued contraceptive sponges before they are all bought up. She coins the word "spongeworthy" debating her then-boyfriend's prospects of intimacy at the expense of her inventory.[2] Her neuroses often interfere with her relationships, leading to the premature end of a blossoming relationship. For example, in "The Stall", Elaine is dating Tony, a very good-looking athletic type. After a rock climbing accident mangles Tony's face, Elaine admits to Jerry that she can't date someone who isn't attractive and wonders how long she is obligated to stay with him post-accident. Later, in "The Couch" after proclaiming her love for new boyfriend Carl, she immediately ends the relationship upon learning that he does not share her opinions on abortion. Elaine also is attracted to men with lucrative jobs, particularly doctors.

Generally, her hair was long with curls or waves, but underwent changes since Season 4. By Season 7, her hairstyle had matured and had a more modern look for the rest of the series. It was shoulder length again by "The Little Kicks", and straightened once more from Season 8's "The Summer of George" to Season 9's "The Betrayal". There were a few episodes in which her hair had an effect on mostly her boyfriends. In Season 9's "The Strike", it was damaged when affected by steam. In "The Smelly Car" a valet made Jerry's car and Elaine's hair smell like body odor. In "The Movie" George describes Elaine as having "a big wall o' hair".[3]

Her clothing is normally quite conservative. She usually wears formal dresses and whenever she's not at work, she'll wear her usual casual clothes. It is revealed by Peter Mehlman on audio commentary in "The Sponge" and "The Betrayal" that female fans favor the brown leather jacket that she wears from Season 7 onward. Occasionally she is entirely out of her usual attire, as in "The Betrayal" (when she wears an Indian outfit and hairstyle) and "The Millennium" (in which she dons Mayan dress). Elaine also wears glasses at times, usually during work hours.

Although she is friends with George, Elaine tends to be combative with him. Still, Elaine does see him as a good friend: in "The Wife", he argues with Elaine over her love interest, who is threatening to kick him out of the health club. The depiction of Elaine as smarter and more successful than George was occasionally reversed for comic effect: In "The Opposite", George finds success and happiness doing the opposite of whatever his instincts tell him, while the normally successful Elaine falls on hard times. In "The Abstinence", George becomes smarter while not having sex, but Elaine gets dumber. In a few episodes Elaine and George work together, most notably in "The Revenge" and "The Cadillac".

She does sometimes go to Kramer for help. She asks him and Newman to help her get rid of a neighbor's dog in "The Engagement". In "The Slicer", she asks him first to lose power at her neighbors' house and also to feed the cat with meat. In "The Watch" she asks him to pose as her boyfriend so she can dump Dr. Reston, her controlling psychiatrist boyfriend. In "The Soup Nazi", she asks him to watch an armoire for her on the street until she can move it in the following day. The only conflict is in "The Seven" over a girl's bike in which Newman is the judge over the dispute.

Elaine is the only main character who does not own a car. In "The Busboy" (off camera) and "The Pothole" she borrows Jerry's, and in "The Wait Out" she borrows her friend Elise's car. In "The Burning" she borrows then-boyfriend David Puddy's. Also, it's revealed that she is a horrible driver who slams on the brakes and wildly steers the car.

Elaine also has a very refined taste in film, citing many movies, plays, and characters throughout the series. She has a particular affection for the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire, revealed first in "The Fusilli Jerry" the episode where Elaine first begins to see David Puddy and an utter dislike for The English Patient. She remarks sarcastically to Jerry (after he expresses surprise that she would date Puddy, who is a mechanic) that it's "such a huge turn off" for her when Puddy comes home "dripping with animal sexuality like Stanley Kowalski". In "The Pen", Elaine shows her love for the movie when she becomes unintentionally high on muscle relaxers and repeatedly screams "Stella" at a fancy awards dinner for Morty Seinfeld in Florida. (See also: Vincent's Picks and Sack Lunch)

In "The Boyfriend", Elaine reveals her disgust for smokers, which helps lead to a breakup with Keith Hernandez. Her dislike of smoking also leads to an argument with a fortune-teller in "The Suicide". However, in "The Calzone" and "The Foundation" she is seen smoking with a Cuban cigar. She is also seen smoking a cigar in "The Blood", but only to make herself look bad in front of the mother of the child she's babysitting.

Family[edit]

Elaine is the only main character whose mother never appears. Benes' father, a gruff novelist named Alton Benes (portrayed by Lawrence Tierney), a character based on the novelist Richard Yates, was featured in the episode "The Jacket". He is an alcoholic and a war veteran, and is very well respected in the literary community. In the same episode, Elaine's father asks how her mother is; later, in "The Wait Out", Elaine reveals to David Lookner that her father left her and the rest of her family when she was nine years old.

Elaine has a sister, Gail, and a nephew who are first mentioned in "The Pick". In "The Wait Out", it is revealed that Gail lives in St. Louis. She also makes reference to a brother-in-law in "The Phone Message".

Elaine has a cousin, Holly, who appears in "The Wink". In this episode, reference is made to Elaine's Grandma Mema, from whom Holly inherited a set of cloth napkins.

In the first season episode "The Stock Tip", Elaine mentions she has an Uncle Pete. In "The Secret Code", she mentions another uncle who worked in the Texas School Book Depository with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Background and education[edit]

Unlike Jerry, Kramer, and George, Elaine is not a native of New York, having grown up in the affluent Baltimore suburb of Towson, Maryland, and is shown in the series to be a fan of the Baltimore Orioles. She attended finishing school, and completed her undergraduate education at Tufts University, revealed to be her safety school in "The Puerto Rican Day Parade", as a French Literature major. In "The Dog", she tells George she moved to New York in 1986, which by coincidence, is the year Jerry moved into his apartment across the hall from Kramer (as seen in "The Betrayal"). She began dating Jerry later that same year.

Elaine's religious beliefs are never confirmed, and she appears to have no interest in religion. She expressed shock when her boyfriend David Puddy, is revealed as a devout Christian. She views saying "God bless you" as a "silly superstition" in "The Good Samaritan". On the other hand, she is seen making the sign of the cross before entering Jerry's apartment to retrieve a manuscript while it is being fumigated in "The Doodle", and crosses herself again in "The Betrayal" after turning her back on a Hindu altar. This may suggest that Elaine was raised Catholic. In multiple episodes, including "The Strong Box" and "The Wizard", she can be seen wearing a crucifix. In "The Pick", Elaine is horrified when she realizes she sent a Christmas card (which features her nipple) to "Sister Mary Catherine. Father Chelios."

Elaine is confirmed to be a gentile in "The Postponement", when she talked to a rabbi about not being herself after finding out George got engaged before she did. She tells him she is not of his Jewish faith. Elaine also states that she is not Jewish in "The Fatigues." Though her ethnicity is never made clear, the name Beneš (anglicized as Benes) is a common Czech surname. Her ethnicity is incorrectly assumed to be Hispanic in "The Wizard". In "The Wink", her cousin Holly repeatedly mentions a "Grandma Memma" who apparently shared a mutual dislike with Elaine's side of the family. Elaine claims to have an IQ of 145 (although her scores range from 85 to 151).

Residence[edit]

Early in the series, Elaine lives with a roommate Tina. Later on, she lives on her own at 16 West 75th Street, Apartment 2G and 78 West 86th Street, Apartment 3E.

Employment[edit]

Elaine works several steady jobs throughout the show's entire run, mostly as a writer or editor.

Romantic relationships[edit]

Elaine has a string of boyfriends, most of whom appeared for only an episode or two.

Jerry[edit]

In the reunion episode featured in the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, it is revealed in the years since the finale Jerry has donated sperm to Elaine that results in her having a daughter. The daughter has taken to calling Jerry "Uncle Jerry", but by the episode's end, it is said she now refers to him as "daddy" - to the clear discomfort of Elaine and Jerry.

David Puddy[edit]

Men attracted to Elaine[edit]

Other notable boyfriends[edit]

Enemies[edit]

Elaine's quick temper makes her several enemies and gets her into several confrontations over the years:

Sue Ellen Mischke[edit]

Other enemies[edit]

Insecurities[edit]

Influence/effect on others[edit]

Elaine's charm and confidence contribute to her ability to influence others, often with disastrous consequences.

Physical moments[edit]

Notes[edit]

Elaine's hairstyle changed in Season 7. It remained like that for the rest of the series.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bailey, Blake. A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates. Picador, 2003.
  2. ^ "Seinfeld - NOW PLAYING - The Sponge". Sonypictures.com. Retrieved 2011-09-11. 
  3. ^ "The Movie". Seinfeld Scripts. 1993-01-06. Retrieved 2011-09-11. 
  4. ^ "Seinfeld - Cast and Characters". Sonypictures.com. Retrieved 2011-09-11. 
  5. ^ How it Began (a making-of-the-show documentary)

External links[edit]