I started this blog because I’m always trying to find a balance between the two dominant parts of my personality: the part that loves gallows humor and making jokes about inappropriate subjects, and the part that believes sensitive subjects deserve to be treated with seriousness and empathy.
I recently wrote about a disappointing episode of Community that included a storyline about a character that lied about being molested as a child in order to impress a woman and the people in his acting class. A poster left this comment in response:
“…I found Troy’s plot stupid and standard sitcom, though not actively offensive. I never really connected to it to the doubts thrown up at real-life rape survivors, and thinking about it now, I don’t feel that it. Even what I consider a funny version of the same joke (a throwaway bit in The Office a few years ago) doesn’t make me feel that rape is anything but underreported and that the system makes it very difficult for victims for to be believed, let alone get justice. And I feel uncomfortable with the argument that other people will feel persuaded, or that it’ll give aid and comfort to those who enjoy and benefit from that difficulty.”
To which I say: Yes. And No.
There are plenty of ignorant fuckwits in this world that will misinterpret an author’s intent or misappropriate a text for their own nefarious purposes. There’s no arguing that. At the same time, I do think writers have a moral responsibility to consider how their work contributes to the culture and social consciousness.
To explain further, I’m going to do a little compare and contrast exercise using the latest episode of Community and an episode of a different television show that included a similar plot, but one that I did not find offensive. This was an episode of South Park.
Yes, South Park. Bear with me. Continue reading
I have a low tolerance for rape jokes. Even as someone who believes that comedy should take no prisoners, and that everyone and everything should be fair game for humor, I mostly find rape and molestation jokes abhorrent and not funny. Why? Because of incidents like these.
That’s why I really hate it when sitcoms have characters lying about being raped or molested for the sake of gaining sympathy. Incidents like the above happen all the time. Rape victims of both sexes are constantly accused of lying about what happened to them. I’m very disappointed in Community for having a story where Troy lies about being molested in an acting class in order to a) gain sympathy from his fellow students, and b) get into Britta’s pants.
This show is better than that. It’s also funnier than that. Community is a show that keeps the viewers on their toes, with plot twists and clever jokes coming out of nowhere. As soon as Troy lied, I rolled my eyes and groaned because I knew exactly how the rest of the episode would go: Britta would be attracted, Troy would continue with the lie, Britta would tell others, Troy would confess the truth, and the acting teacher would applaud him for tapping into real emotion. And that’s exactly what happened. This show is too good to rely on cheap, tired sitcom tropes like that. Not even Kevin Corrigan’s return as Professor Professorson, or Troy describing his emotions as “My heart is at war with my kidneys!” could save it.
I did enjoy the show’s two other plots, with Pierce finding a soulmate in a woman just as offensive and horrible as he. I also laughed for about five minutes in the hilarious conclusion to Abed’s “Who’s the Boss” subplot: Stephen Tobolowsky, upon realizing that his life’s work is discredited, opens the drawer to his desk and we see a gun…until he pulls it out further to find a copy of What WAS Happening? and starts reading it. THAT was a delightful fakeout worth this show.
The Troy subplot, however, was offensive, not funny, and a waste of Donald Glover. This episode was disappointing.
Dan Harmon and the Community writing staff (and the actors as well, I’m sure) definitely love their themed episodes. In the past two seasons, we’ve seen spoofs of specific genres (the war/post-apocalyptic movie episode, the zombie movie episode, the mockumentary, the conspiracy theory episode, the bottle episode, the Christmas episode, the space adventure episode) as well as the spoofs of particular movies and games (Goodfellas, Dungeons and Dragons, Pulp Fiction/My Dinner with Andre).
But what’s next for these writers? What other genres and films can this wildly inventive show pay tribute to?
I had a few ideas. Continue reading
Last week on my favorite sitcom, Community fans tuned in to watch the Pulp Fiction-themed episode that NBC had been heavily promoting. At the end of the half hour, the fans cried foul that they had been denied a real Pulp Fiction-themed episode while simultaneously adding My Dinner with Andre to their Netflix queues.
After NBC released a slew of promotional photographs with the gang as various Pulp Fiction characters, fans were likely expecting a campy, heavily referential episode along the lines of “Contemporary American Poultry” (the Goodfellas episode) and “Modern Warfare” (the action movie episode). Instead, this was a more serious character study like “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” and I think the episode was stronger for it.
I feel like I could write an entire paper on the conversation Abed had with Jeff about movie references, and the amount of time people spend talking about fictional characters. As a literary/television/movie nerd, I sometimes think that I would lose 90% of my conversation if I never made references to texts, and that thought scares me a little bit. There’s a lot of meta genius in “Critical Film Studies” that I will have to talk about later.
For now, though, I want to talk about Jeff’s Halloween story. Continue reading
This week, Community was renewed for a third season on NBC, and there was much rejoicing. Also, Britta ruined a friend for Troy and Abed, and Jeff tried to get rid of Chang by convincing him to try to impress Shirley.
Summary: Britta began dating a new friend of Troy and Abed’s, Luka (Dollhouse’s Enver Gjojak), and then found out he committed genocide in the Balkans (ruh roh!) She struggled to find a way to tell them without making them hate her for wrecking their friendship. Shirley tried to get Jeff to serve Chang with papers forfeiting any custody rights if the baby turns out to be his. Instead, Jeff tries to encourage Chang to act like a real, responsible father, all with the ulterior motive of getting Chang off of his sofa. Continue reading
On last night’s Community, Jeff and Annie went head-to-head in a political election and continued to refuse to acknowledge the searing hot sexual tension between them, while a Secret Service agent showed a romantic interest in Abed.
The Feminist in Me Says… As much as I enjoyed the episode, I wanted to throw things at the TV when Jeff commented on being adult that was ruining the dream of an “idealistic kid” (referring to Annie). He needs to stop infantilizing her and he needs to do it now, regardless of whether or not they get together. They’re friends in the same study group and he should consider her his equal even if there is an age disparity. I’m convinced he keeps mentioning her age because he’s insanely attracted to her but really wishes he wasn’t, and I will believe that until the show explicitly denies it (and maybe not even then). It doesn’t help that Joel McHale is looking increasingly hotter with each episode, and that he and Alison Brie snap, crackle, and pop in their scenes together. There is so much comic potential to be mined from a Jeff/Annie romance and the slow burn is killing me. Continue reading
In this week’s episode of Community, Pierce continues to be a jerk of massive proportions, Jeff unleashes his rage after years of father issues, and Donald Glover continues to be one of the best comedians on television.
Summary: Pierce is in the hospital after overdosing on painkillers the week before. Angry with the rest of the group for missing the signals of his downward spiral, he tells them all he’s dying. He plays mind games with each one of them by bequeathing them gifts that are both a curse and a blessing. He gives Britta a $10,000 check to give to the charity of her choice, Annie a tiara that was a family heirloom “because you’re my favorite,” Shirley a CD with a recording of the study group members talking behind her back, Troy a visit from actor LeVar Burton, and Jeff a visit from his long-lost father. Abed, meanwhile, acts as the narrator and films his friends to make a documentary. As such, the episode is presented in “mockumentary” format, a la The Office and Modern Family. Continue reading
In this week’s Community, Jeff takes a break from the group after an angry disagreement about the Barenaked Ladies, Britta becomes friends with a woman she thinks is a lesbian and rubs it in the face of everyone who is less open-minded than she, Troy and Abed like the same woman, and Pierce hallucinates about Andy Dick.
The Feminist in Me Thinks… The writers continue to use Britta perfectly. She hasn’t had a prominent storyline in her own in a long time and usually just exists to comment on the other characters, but here, she was so delightfully smug on her hipster pedestal, announcing to the entire study group that she had a lesbian friend. The twist that her friend Paige was not, in fact, gay, but hanging out with Britta to further her own hipster credentials, was the icing on the cake, and I enjoyed watching Annie and Paige’s “Annie” friend looking on with horror and amusement. Of course, the writers had to throw in a little fan-service there when Annie looked like she would have kissed Britta – not that that’s the first time they’ve dipped into that well (that’s what she said). Continue reading
In this week’s Community, we have another bottle episode. This time, instead of getting stuck in the library because they’re searching for Annie’s pen, they’re in the library all episode because they’re playing Dungeons and Dragons with their suicidal classmate, “Fat” Neil, trying to break him out of his depression and extend an olive branch of friendship.
This is the exact kind of premise that makes me love this show so, so hard. One of the best things about Community is the way it will take a serious issue or a character’s internal dilemma and turn it into an incredibly silly episode without sacrificing the heart.
Was this episode successful on that front? Yes and No. Continue reading
All the female characters I’ve honored so far have endeared themselves to me the first moment I met them. The one I’m honoring today was an acquired taste, and deserves some kind of Most Improved Award. Since I’m still high on the joy of having Community on my screen every week, I’m selecting Britta Perry as my Female Character of the Week. Continue reading