Before Hannah Horvath, Liz Lemon, and Leslie Knope, Elaine Benes set the standard for female characters in pursuit of life, love, and career in comedy. Audiences may have rooted for Mary Tyler Moore to make it after all in the 1970s, but Elaine brought a new, somewhat harsh honesty to the portrayal of women in the modern sitcom. You can achieve the independent, exciting city lifestyle of Mary Tyler Moore, Elaine seemed to say, but your work might be soul-crushing (cutting candy bars and buying socks for Mr. Pitt, writing inane copy for J. Peterman), and your boyfriend might be psychotic (Joe Davola), a Communist (Ned Isakoff) or simply stupid (David Puddy).
In the 15 years since Seinfeld signed off, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, shaking off the so-called "Seinfeld curse," has found a niche of comedic gold in Elaine-style roles, portraying intelligent American women who want – or want to maintain – some measure of power, and control over their own lives.
The role of Vice President Selina Meyer in the HBO comedy "VEEP" epitomizes the Louis-Dreyfus niche. Intelligent yet indecisive, quick-thinking yet forever dependent, Selena rarely comes out on top – and Louis-Dreyfus plans to keep it that way.
"Are you rooting for Selina Meyer?" Louis-Dreyfus wonders. "I don’t know. I think it’s a lot of fun to play the daily humiliations that Selena Meyer must endure … I think that’s where the comedy is."
As the ultimate second-in-command, Selina lacks the power – and the respect – she feels she deserves, a situation Louis-Dreyfus describes as "the perfect set up for comedy."
"I’m playing someone who would rather be President," Louis-Dreyfus explains. "I’m playing somebody who campaigned to be President, and in the nomination process, really came in third…so she has grand aspirations, for sure. This is not an end-game for her."
Selina may have grand aspirations, but, as Louis-Dreyfus notes, "I can’t imagine a situation in which she’d ever run for President and win."
"VEEP" fans can hope for a Meyer presidential bid down the road. For now, Selina would probably be satisfied with just a presidential phone call.