November 10, 2013

Wandering Bear in Curb Your Enthusiasm

For those unfamiliar with the HBO TV series Curb Your Enthusiasm, here's a description:

Curb Your EnthusiasmThe plots and subplots of the episodes are established in an outline written by David and the dialogue is largely improvised by the actors (a technique known as retroscripting). As with Seinfeld, the subject matter in Curb Your Enthusiasm often involves the minutiae of daily life, and plots often revolve around Larry David's many faux pas and his problems with certain social conventions and expectations, as well as his annoyance with other people's behavior. The character has a hard time letting such annoyances go unexpressed, which often leads him into awkward situations.Wandering Bear, an episode that first aired February 29, 2004, had a Native theme. I watched it a few years ago. Here are a couple of synopses:

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Wandering BearLarry (Larry David) and Jeff (Jeff Garlin) order a tape of "College Girls Gone Wild," and have it sent to Larry's office, so as to avoid embarrassment. Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) tells Larry about the poison oak in their backyard, and Larry decides to call Wandering Bear (Native American actor/activist Russell Means), who did some work for the Jeff and Susie (Susie Essman), for which he was never paid in full. Cheryl also complains that Larry hasn't had sex with her for a long time. She's no longer taking birth control, so Larry has to use a condom. Jeff comes to his rescue with some "Everlast" condoms, which promise that the user is "never gonna stop." Larry explains that he would prefer a condom called "Get it Over With." "How long do you think I wanna do that for?" he asks Jeff. "It gets boring." Larry somehow uses the condom incorrectly, which causes a surprising malady for Cheryl.Wandering BearWandering Bear is the eighth episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 4. It is the thirty-eighth episode overall.


Larry calls Native American plant expert Wandering Bear to get rid of the poison oak in their backyard. Cheryl stops taking her birth control so Larry needs to use condoms. As a result Larry doesn't want to have sex, but Jeff Greene gives him some condoms which have a numbing ingredient to make him last longer. Larry puts the condom on inside out and completely numbs Cheryl's vagina. Wandering Bear ends up discovering this and remedies Cheryl's problem.

Comment:  Overall, Wandering Bear's treatment of Natives was decent. Not perfect, but better than average.

True, the character's "Wandering Bear" name was phony. What, no first name such as Russell? And the drum that sounded whenever he shared his Native lore was blatantly stereotypical.

Other than that, though, he was a modern-day Indian. He spoke, dressed, and acted like a normal person. He was a landscape gardener in Beverly Hills, a job and location where you never see Indians.

His ability to produce an herbal remedy and calm a growling dog were sketchy. But they could stem from his outdoors work as a naturalist. The show veered close to implying he was a mystical medicine man, but didn't cross the line.

My grade for the show's Native bits: B or B+.

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