Saying Goodbye to Curb: Why Larry David Was the Social Justice Knight We Needed

Saying Goodbye to Curb: Why Larry David Was the Social Justice Knight We Needed
By: TV Fanatic Posted On: April 15, 2024 View: 26

"Because he's the hero Los Angeles deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll laugh at him because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a likable antihero, an outspoken curmudgeon. He is a social justice knight."

After 12 seasons and 24 years, Larry David has finished kvetching.

Whereas most people can only see Larry David as the real-life George Constanza, the antisocial miscreant who creates conflict wherever he goes, I will always see Larry David as the penultimate social justice warrior.

Things Come Full Circle - Curb Your Enthusiasm

A man who not only stands up for conversational injustice (trick or treating teenagers without a costume, a parent shaming their kid for wanting a sewing machine?) but a man who also foresees the future of American civil liberties in ways we're just not supposed to foresee yet.

It's easy to see how Larry is influenced by history and law. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in History from the University of Maryland and, against all logic, worked his observations of Magellan and de Soto into a situation comedy - references very few got but were forced to contemplate nonetheless. 

Seinfeld Finale Scene

One has only to casually glance at Seinfeld to see the showrunner's obsession with courtroom drama and, best of all, the circuses and lawyer shenanigans.

From the famous O.J. Simpson "Big Salad" Seinfeld episode to not one but two courtroom-based series finales, in which the protagonist(s) gets sent directly to jail. 

In the series finale of Seinfeld, Larry piques our minds about the minimum degree of empathy we're required to have for each other as civilized creatures, as his quartet of self-absorbed friends are judged for their lack of character.

In the series finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry asks another invasive question: What if you are morally inclined and a good, law-abiding citizen but still have to defend your character in front of a jury of your peers?

Who among us can stand when you pick apart the minutia of daily decisions we are required to make with no moral guidance and still hold your head up high when your sins are announced out of context by people who will only remember your bald head and glasses?

Larry David and Richard Lewis

If only people understood the "writer" Larry instead of the performer Larry, we might finally appreciate that "Larry David," the character, or the guy, whatever, speaks on behalf of us.

Yes, on behalf of us, the people who have no idea what we're doing but still love to make ridiculous laws explaining what we should not be doing. 

Larry David's ultimate goal in creating his universes of absurdism is to remind us that social justice is as much an individual experience as it is a collective of shared living space.

We are all entitled to unlimited freedom, but only on the condition that it doesn't vex someone who is living next door, who's just trying to enjoy their tepid coffee. 

I'm Wearin a Suit Here - Curb Your Enthusiasm

For years, we will continue to hear about the worst things Larry David has done, including: 

  • Defaming someone's obituary with a typo
  • Accidentally murdering various fowl
  • Lying to a survivor's group to save face
  • Destroying relationships after a single conversation
The Ex Looks Confused - Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Faking entire relationships just for litigious pursuits
  • Stealing holocaust museum shoes
  • Opening a spite store and then burning down the competition
  • Shrugging off someone's death because, after all, there is still pizza
  • Corrupting the youth and bragging about how you've never learned a lesson, ever
The Elevator Pose - Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Being too stingy with his kidneys
  • Assaulting Elmo for being too obnoxiously happy 

I prefer to remember Larry's social justice wins rather than his losses.

At various times in his show, he reminded his viewers that sometimes being antisocial is the best form of self-preservation. 

Showing your dying friend that you're a terrible person just to avoid the responsibility of becoming someone's "big brother" is not just a selfish act. It's just as much a protection to that innocent young mind who could and should have better heroes. 

J.B. Smoove on Curb - Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry's tendency to give people unsolicited advice eclipses the fact that his solicited advice is usually very insightful.

He's done everything from improving a gangsta rapper's song to giving a call girl fashion tips to boosting his roommate's self-confidence about eating what he wants, regardless of what people think. 

Though a lot of people are quick to curse Larry out, Larry usually uses his profane mouth for the betterment of humanity -- like saving the career of a chef who had an unfortunate episode of Tourette syndrome at the worst time. 

And who could forget Larry's assertive egalitarian stance that no one should ever tell you to smile when you're just not feeling it?

Larry David is the social justice warrior we all aspire to be but somehow fall short of because of our pride, tact, or at least the fear of being dreadfully embarrassed.

Larry Plays Pirate - Curb Your Enthusiasm

But none of these human follies seem to affect the Larry David Persona, which is an evolutionary step forward -- the ubermensch who feels zero awkwardness himself but poisons everyone around him with social anxiety and civil unrest.

The Social Assassin! The one that takes a nice, normal conversation and explodes it, holding everyone hostage until the comedy bit plays out. 

He's not easily offended by questions, but he's adamant when someone is invading his private space. When he told off CNN's Chris Wallace for obsessing over the size of his "pant's tent," he demonstrated the eloquence of saying no in a million different ways.

In this case, he's not creating conflict but asserting his right to be a cranky old man enjoying his retirement. How many debates do you want to have when you're 76 and are tired of telling the same old stories? 

Larry and Susie

Somehow, I feel Larry's stilted "character" will only be further appreciated in future generations to come the more we start to ponder the overrated social fabric of our species. 

He's a contemporary of boomers but a hero to GenXers and millennials who have always had problems submitting to the natural order of society.

If our 2020 shush culture will someday be regarded as cringeworthy, then Larry will have already been cringe-reacting to our virtue signaling for over 20 years. 

The guy's so "woke" he never sleeps!

Ideally, the pursuit of social justice is to imagine a world where everyone deserves equal social rights and opportunities. The essence of Curb Your Enthusiasm has always been to remember thine self and not lose your freedom in an effort to acquiesce to society's continuous demands. 

Jeff and Larry Golfing - Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry may be a liberal activist in "real life," but on his show, he exaggerates our social consciousness in an effort to understand where this is all going.

"Is he autistic or just a jerk? I dated your dead name, not your authentic self! How do you two decide whose last name you take?"

If Seinfeld was Larry dissecting the gossamer of nothing, then Curb was Larry's uncovering the nipply nothingness of our souls, playing with colloquial verbiage and sacred cow constructs like Socrates on a caffeine high. 

Perhaps it's fitting that Curb Your Enthusiasm ends with Larry David going to jail, paying for his crimes against good taste, but then in the last inning, he is "saved" by fellow social assassin Jerry Seinfeld.

Larry Goes to Jail - Curb Your Enthusiasm

Jerry gets "Chuckles" out of jail because of a technicality involving a jury member breaking the court's sequestering rule.

In the finale, Larry finally lived out his lifelong fantasy: to be #canceled by humankind and to be ordered to pay restitution to the millions of people he offended over the years -- including but not limited to the Seinfeld finale, which rubbed his own fandom the wrong way. 

He also got to live happily ever after, in a bizarre plot twist. The silver lining was that, in the end, the hostile audience Larry feared so much decided to let it go and let the old man get away.

After all, being a social justice warrior isn't illegal. It's just a sure way to get kicked out of a country club or to clear a table at your friends' poker night. 

One can assume that if you're an aging celebrity right now, confronted with crimes of your past and facing jail time for terrible misdeeds uncovered, you WISH you had Larry David's life.

Larry's Signature Pose - Curb Your Enthusiasm

Yes, that Larry David!

The quirky bald man, the man-child in a mansion, and the guy who can't keep a wife or a housecleaner because of eradicating all social cues.

The guy who fights muppets and mocks serious journalists and posts Donald Trump Arrest memes as part of a troll storyline, only to troll the audience again by rewriting the same ending he was criticized for 26 years ago. 

This is the guy who is, as it turns out, aging gracefully. Can you believe that? 

The man may obnoxiously tell the truth, but he's only an offender in thought and a shrinking violet in deed. An affable curmudgeon who's surprisingly found happiness in his golden years, content to laugh at the same humanity he loathes. 

Michael Arangua is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow him on X.

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