Offering a fair critique for Frank might prove to be difficult. One’s opinion of Mr. Constanza is, for the most part, heavily determined by his son George, who speaks of his dad in a manner that one might speak of a boss or landlord. George Costanza does not like his dad. This we’re sure of.
We’re not convinced his wife, Estelle, cares for him either. The two are nearing the cusp of a bitter, impossibly loud marriage. So we’ll try our best to shake the anti-Frank bias instilled in us by his overbearing wife and whiny, neurotic son. So strap on that Manssiere and say those serenity nows, this is the Dad Grades for Frank Costanza from Seinfeld.
If there’s one quality of Frank Costanza’s parenting worth spotlighting, it’s his blunt demeanor. He’s very outspoken and forthright, almost to a fault. This is a man who outright refuses to sugarcoat the inanities of life for his son. Tactics aside, toughening up a youngster for the real world is of the utmost importance. Preparing that kid to navigate the brutal, indifferent sidewalks of New York City? You better believe that’s gonna take some, well, frankness.
In addition to his staunch effort to normalize man-boobs, Frank also invented a holiday: Festivus. December 23rd of each year, a bare aluminum pole is erected in the Costanza living room. Festivus dinner is served, as Frank initiates The Airing Of Grievances and The Feats Of Strength, which amount to shouting and wrestling, respectively.
“Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon, I realized there had to be another way.”
We think inventing a holiday is, at face value, one of the coolest things a dad can do, especially when it’s invented with the goal of liberating his family from more barbaric, consumerist holiday traditions. But more on Festivus later.
From his irrepressible temper to his bewildering value system, Frank’s shortcomings as a parent are some of the funniest things about him. Frank is volatile, quick to anger, eager to shout down the ineptitude of his slow-witted son. Frank’s anger issues are explored in the season 9 classic “The Serenity Now,” in which Frank uses the episode’s titular phrase as a relaxation mantra to keep his blood pressure low. He yells it.
Funny? Absolutely. Frank’s contemptuous relationship with his son has brought about some of the funniest, albeit loudest dialogue ever committed to television. That said, this all makes him a pretty terrible father.We spoke earlier about Festivus, and how Frank invented it with the intention of giving his family a less chaotic, excessive holiday season. What we’ve failed to mention is that George had no say in his participation. The holiday, as cool and anti-corporate as it may sound, appears to be the bane of George Costanza’s existence. He doesn’t want to celebrate it. He doesn’t care that it undermines the commercialization of Christmas. He doesn’t want to see the aluminum pole.
Frank is surely off the mark here. Never force your children to celebrate a fake holiday. Especially when those children are well into their thirties.
Other instances where it’s clear that he cares very little for his son include season 7’s “The Caddy,” in which George’s boss and Yankees owner Mr. Steinbrenner breaks the news to Frank and Estelle that their boy is missing and presumed dead. Frank processes this grief by asking him why the Yankees traded Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps.
Still not convinced? In the hotly debated series finale, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer are found guilty of historically anti-social behavior and are sentenced to one year of jail time. Upon learning their kid is going to prison, would be distraught. Estelle faints. Frank comforts her by shaking her and insisting they can still beat traffic.
Frank Costanza is a vet of the Korean War, so it doesn’t surprise us that he grew into an explosive, no-nonsense old man, quick to reprimand his idiot son in a fashion one can only assume was picked up from a drill sergeant. So we get it. He’s tired. However, this does not excuse his bizarre, borderline hateful approach to parenting, no matter how laugh-out-loud funny it may be.
FINAL GRADE: D+
And just for fun, here’s the funniest TV blooper of all time.
Check out our previous edition where we graded Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles.