What Is The Deal?

Situational comedy’s influence


Demetria Slyt, Opinion Editor

Sitcom’s or situational comedies have been around for more than a few decades, introducing audiences all over the globe to series like Friends, Frasier, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld, and many more. Within the past few years sitcoms have evolved past laugh tracks, into subdivisions of comedy and adult animation. Sitcoms often portray exaggerated or unorthodox situations involving multiple characters and storylines. This still holds true with the modern sitcom even in shows that are more dramatic tonally. Do sitcoms have any influence over our everyday behavior and interactions? How do the situations portrayed within these shows translate to real life? 

I have been binge watching Seinfeld lately and it is safe to say that this is a great show with a solid structure, catchy music, a strong cast… but I just.. kept waiting for the characters to get better or essentially become better people. After watching so many episodes I have  made observations about fundamental flaws each character has and issues which continuously ruin the characters relationships or career opportunities. Obviously this is exactly what situational comedies deal with and these behaviors are portrayed over the top for the laughs factor. So why shouldn’t I like that? I think that because the characters do not develop further than these personality niches and tropes,  I feel like there isn’t much payoff. BUT I keep watching anyway. Why? 

Let’s consider these instances portrayed in sitcoms in a real life setting. These exaggerated habits or actions would immediately be construed as intensely inappropriate. In fact, given today’s standards you might as well #cancel most of the cast of Friends. I think that we watch sitcoms because they provide a certain safe space in which we can all relate to each character differently. By that I mean that we project our own experiences onto a character, and the way that character is able to act out in some exaggerated way might provide some release for behavior that we cannot act out ourselves. I think another reason these shows connect so well with audiences and why people continue watching is to escape harsh realities. 

Do these shows influence our behavior in the real world? Or more specifically, do they convince us that the behavior within the show is acceptable? I have never noticed my behavior being influenced by these shows in the slightest and the most I will do is reference a scene or catchphrase a character might be known for. I do not think that I dismiss negative or inappropriate behavior of mine in any way due to sitcoms normalization of these things. In some regard, I believe it may influence others. However, that seems to be the same thing as saying that violent video games influence bad behavior. Which is not necessarily true. There is one example I know of that might make this idea true, but the individual I would be referencing is a fictional character in his own sort of animated sitcom.  


Demetria Slyt is a Dakota Student opinion editor. She can be reached at [email protected].