Is it possible to ascertain character power levels in terms of social status or otherwise in a bizarre post-modern narrative like Seinfeld? None of them act according to the rules of storytelling — there are no heroes or villains, there is no odyssey, no third arc, no climax. All of them are as sweet and selfish and as violent and anxious as any human can be.
At the same time, given each character’s personal arc, it can be argued that they do go on various journeys throughout their lives, even though it’s mostly in a loop, trapped inside their own insecurities. Some of them, however, are more in control than others and they know how to play the game to their advantage.
10 George Costanza
It is absolutely no surprise that George Costanza, by his own admission half the time, wields zero power within the Seinfeld narrative. Well, maybe not zero, but he is so terrible at everything he does that doing the exact opposite grants him success beyond his wildest imaginations.
This means that George, in his normal neurotic state, has no hope for himself, for the future, or for anything, really. He just meekly allows the universe to take what it wants from him, blaming himself for his life, rather than doing something about it.
9 Babu Bhatt
Jerry genuinely wants to help his new friend, Babu Bhatt, by promoting his restaurant, asking him to serve only Pakistani dishes to enhance his selling point. This piece of advice results in utter failure, culminating in the poor man having to shut down his eatery (as well as his dreams).
It only gets worse for Babu when Elaine mistakenly stashes a bunch of Jerry’s mail, which accidentally contained the would-be restaurateur’s visa renewal forms. Although deported, he has his revenge in “The Finale,” begging the judge to throw the fab four in prison.
8 Jackie Chiles
Jackie Chiles is a high-flying attorney, being a direct reference to the real-life Johnnie Cochran (best known for his defense of O.J. Simpson in 1995). Unfortunately, he gets stuck with Kramer, whose ridiculous ideas for making money are only surpassed by the utter inanity of his lawsuits.
Chiles refuses to give up on his clients, and, more importantly, he hates admitting when a case is unwinnable. As such, he accepts Kramer every single time, only to be humiliated and shamed, each time in a different manner.
7 Frank & Estelle Costanza
Frank and Estelle Costanza are quite the power-couple, except that the only person they can successfully manipulate, berate, or otherwise torment, is their son.
Their quiet suburban life in Queens is often painfully punctuated by George’s many eccentricities, but they still don’t seriously consider the possibility of retiring somewhere balmier than NYC, like Florida, for example, although they tried. Besides, the fact that George’s personality isn’t improved with all their screaming is evidence of their inability to parent properly and their powerlessness.
6 Susan Ross
Susan Ross dates, then dumps, then agrees to marry the only man capable of accidentally killing her through his cheapness, a clear sign that she doesn’t think enough for herself.
What self-respecting character would consistently fall for George’s promises, especially after seeing him behave in the most craven ways possible? Susan loses her job because of him, not to mention a beloved family cabin, and, probably her parents’ trust. Finally, she loses her life. In most scenarios, she exhibits very little influence.
5 Elaine Benes
On the surface, it seems that Elaine might really have her act together — that is until one of her numerous misadventures makes it painfully clear that being the most mature member of the group is a title that doesn’t really mean anything.
Her life is a blend of comfortable stability and horrifying disarray, rarely treading the line between the two extremes. She desires a lot of things, for which she half-willingly forgoes her personal convictions, proving that she doesn’t exactly know how to make the world work in her favor.
4 Uncle Leo
Uncle Leo may appear only infrequently, but every single time he does come on screen it is a treat (for the audience and most other characters, but certainly not for Jerry).
In several respects, his staunch, unchanging behavioral traits, like annoying his nephew with the same two-word greeting each time, or extolling the virtues of his unseen son, Jeffrey, imply that the man is unruffled by those who can’t abide him. The influence that Uncle Leo holds over others on the show is based on his ability to induce a cringe, which is extremely effective when used correctly.
In terms of raw power, specifically over Jerry’s life, Newman stands out as one of the greatest in the series. Playing the role of a neighbor-turned-nemesis, he seeks to topple the comedian’s existence however he can.
For a man who spends most of his time simultaneously complaining about his job and the people he’s expected to serve, Newman can be surprisingly sharp and in sync with his emotions. He helps Kramer by narrating his own poetry so the latter can impress someone else, not to mention the effort required to be a permanent thorn in Jerry’s side.
2 Jerry Seinfeld
The interesting thing about Jerry is that he really doesn’t seem to mind being involved in his friends’ antics, as unethical as they are, on occasion. Instead, he is content to sit by and watch events unfold, often using them as material for his comedy.
Jerry is rarely bothered by most things, which is why he’s called an “Even Steven.” All of his bad luck is, sooner or later, balanced out by good fortune. On the flip side, there is his unfortunate romantic history.
1 Cosmo Kramer
Kramer is vivacious, to say the least — his very presence electrifies each scene he is present in, and he basically does whatever he wants without having to experience any form of blowback.
There are many ways to describe Kramer in the show, but nothing encapsulates his overwhelming character better than George’s envious statement — “His whole life is a fantasy camp. People should plunk down $2,000 to live like him for a week: do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors, and have sex without dating. That’s a fantasy camp.”