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Community: Social Psychology

“So, who wants to be in a psych experiment?”

Community starts to mess with itself this early on: although Abed and Annie are like Chandler and Phoebe (they never really have stories together), now’s the time to find out exactly what happens when wildly different people start to form unlikely bonds.

The Duncan Principle is simple: the more the ego is frustrated, the more the id emerges. (Apparently community college students don’t have superegos.) The waiting is the experiment, and the experiment boils each person down to their simplest, most toddlerish selves.

This wouldn’t be Community if there weren’t a twist, though. Abed the trickster creates chaos by being unchaotic. He waits. And waits. And waits. He does it for his uncomplicated version of friendship: “You asked me to stay and you said we were friends.” Is his view of friendship so simple because he sees the world differently? Because he hasn’t had many friends before? Because his low self-confidence is setting him up for a pattern of co-dependency and unhealthy abnegation? Does it matter? Abed has defined who his friends are and how to treat them. The end.

And this wouldn’t be Community if there weren’t a meta-joke. Duncan, Annie, and the other experimenters are unable to deal with the “outlying piece of datum” and become victims of the Duncan Principle themselves. The joke is on the watchers, and Abed is never more comfortable than when he inhabits a character being filmed and watched. So is Abed performing friendship, or just being a friend? For Abed, is there a difference? For television, there is no difference: Danny Pudi is performing Abed performing friendship for an audience of Annie and Duncan. And Annie and Duncan are performing the crazed audience for us, the non-crazed (I hope) audience.

Abed’s simple version of friendship contrasts with Pierce’s paranoid ear-nocular listening. Notice the theme of observation again: Pierce listens and misunderstands, but his misunderstanding leads to an even worse understanding (by Britta) of how cruelly Jeff and Shirley have been gossiping about the relationship that they are observing and laughing at.

But there’s a heartfelt message buried in the midst of this postmodern wackiness. After everyone watches and listens to everyone else, they get it over. Pierce isn’t wrong: we’re sometimes not mean to hear or watch what other people are saying, because the people physically closest to us are the people who love us and whom we love in return, the ones that we would wait 26 hours and 13 minutes for without knowing the reason. And we, the viewers, get to occupy the privileged position of being in that proximity to this complicated, funny, and really weird study group.

Mark Says…

It's great to see the writers finally starting to shake up the group dynamics. Community is now feeling more like an ensemble piece and less like The Wacky Adventures of Jeff Winger and Greendale Six (not that that show doesn't sound awesome, because it totally does and I would watch the hell out of it). I really do like Jeff and Shirley as a duo and wish the show would make team them up more often. Jeff needs a friend in the group who isn't too young (Annie), Too immature (Troy), too old (Pierce), too weird (Abed) or too much of potential love interest (Britta).

Cool Cool Cool:

• Britta: “Aren’t you supposed to have an Olympic gold medal in jibber-jabber?”

• Annie: “I’m only here because of a brief addition to pills which I was told would make me... focus, but which lead to me losing my scholarship and my virginity.”

• Duncan: “You’re an eight, which is a Britain ten!”

• Shirley: “Two cute white people going to school together, it just seems right.”
Jeff: “Shirley, we’re not pandas in the zoo.”
Shirley: “Mm-hm.”

• Jeff: “Oh my God, my life is Degrassi High.”

• Shirley: “I have a gossip problem. I stir the pot. I’m a pot-stirrer.”

• Jeff: “Is there a spot on the friendship spectrum between total stranger and having to hear about the guys you date? And ideally just a notch underneath driving you to the airport and painting your kitchen?”

Three out of four tiny nipples.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

2 comments:

  1. I have a massive crush on Deeks, I mean on Eric Christian Olsen so have no trouble understanding why Britta would fall for him. Vaughn is an interesting contrast to the group and I thought the "no worries" becoming "some worries" was cleverly done.

    I must admit, however, that my favorite part of these first few episodes have been the codas at the end. Abed and Troy together, no matter what they are up to, are just hysterical. "Pretend you're asleep." LOL

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  2. Troy and Abed are the best part of this show, especially in the beginning. :) I forgot how much Jeff/Britta stuff there was in the first season. YAWN. The show got much better when it stopped pretending to be a normal sitcom and just went insane (in a good way).

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