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ROBIN ABCARIAN

OK, Gal Pals, Let's Cop to Our Real Anatomical Obsession

May 19, 1996|ROBIN ABCARIAN

I've been watching television lately trying to prove a theory I have about the country's No. 1 comedy, "Seinfeld." While "Seinfeld" poses as a show about the dysfunctional friendships of a blabby bunch of quasi-losers in New York City, it is, in fact, a show about breasts.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, "Seinfeld" is the most explicitly breast-obsessed show on the tube. You could argue that that distinction belongs to shows such as "Married . . . With Children" or "Baywatch." But while those shows are implicitly about breasts, explicitly they are about other things--the travails of marriage, lifeguards. On "Seinfeld," body parts don't get much display, but the characters never stop talking about them.

Possibly without realizing it, "Seinfeld" writers have tapped into a universal truth experienced by their huge and mostly female audience--that women are just as obsessed as men by breasts (if not more so) and that there comes a time in every woman's life when breasts and friendship collide.

Their vehicle is, understandably, the show's beautiful but prickly female lead, Elaine, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who with her lack of female friends and willingness to do the sexist bidding of her male buddies is TV's reigning Anti-Gal Pal. As such, Elaine is free to act out the anxiety and conflict so many women feel about breasts.

And, of course, about each other.

*

The collision between breasts and sisterhood occurs so regularly on "Seinfeld" that after watching only a few recent episodes I can offer these examples:

* Kramer steers a car into a lamppost because he is distracted by a woman who is walking down the street wearing only a lacy bra under an open jacket. The woman, Sue Ellen, turns out to be a "friend" of Elaine's, although Elaine has hated her since high school, when Sue Ellen stole Elaine's boyfriend. How did Sue Ellen steal the guy? By going bra-less. And she still does! So in a fit of pointed but veiled nastiness Elaine gives Sue Ellen a bra as a birthday gift and is flummoxed when Sue Ellen starts a fashion trend--not to mention causes Kramer's accident--by wearing it without a blouse under her blazer.

* Jerry breaks off a relationship with the shapely and buxom Sidra after Elaine, who knows Sidra from the gym, tells him that she has implants, that "this chick's playing with Confederate money." Jerry is stunned and disappointed. "That's like finding out Mickey Mantle played with a corked bat," he whines. Later, Elaine trips in the sauna of her gym and falls against Sidra's chest. "I think they're real," she later reports, "and if they are, I must say, they're spec-tac-ular." Jerry now must figure out a way to win Sidra back.

Earlier episodes turn on the unwitting exposure of Elaine's breasts--in a photograph for her Christmas card, by water spilling on her shirt, by her blouse coming unbuttoned.

Is it any wonder this show is No. 1?

*

Fashion trends come and fashion trends go, the curves of a Cindy Crawford give way to the angles of a Kate Moss, but the honest truth, folks, is that there's a reason Angelyne has been around longer than any of them.

Earlier this week, a TV tabloid show was trumpeting "The Comeback of Cleavage!"

As if it ever went anywhere.

Especially in this town. (In the episode about the suspected implants, Kramer tells Elaine and Jerry he knows what fake ones feel like. "You do?" they chorus. "I lived in Los Angeles for three months," he explains.)

"It's definitely a regional thing," said a friend, who claimed she never paid attention to other women's breasts until she moved to Southern California from Upstate New York. Now, like almost every woman I know, this friend makes a habit of commenting "real" or "fake" to her husband when they spend time at the beach.

It's no accident that Elaine is the one to raise suspicions about Sidra's breasts. ("Whoa, doctah!" she thinks when she sees her in the sauna.)

Men, oddly enough, don't seem too concerned about the origin of certain female attributes. They don't care if the blond hair is from a bottle or the bust line is bought. Or if they do, they get over it.

Understanding this intellectually is no consolation.

Last week my best friend revealed that she anguished to the point of tears about her lack of development in high school.

"But then I was saved," she said. "I got boobs at 17 and men have gawked at them ever since."

Funny.

I always thought they were staring because she's a blond.

* Robin Abcarian's column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Readers may write to her at the Los Angeles Times, Life & Style, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.

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