Note: This post may contain some not very important spoilers to the show Community.
What prompted me to write about Community and The Big Bang Theory is the recent posts by Donald Glover (Troy, from Community) on Instagram talking about his reduced role in Community, and how he might not be making an appearance in Season 5 of Community at all. I am yet to come to terms with how I will take that, as personal as it is for me to admit something like that. For someone who sobbed while watching the finale of Breaking Bad, it is slightly shameful to admit that most TV shows (or just literature in general) is extremely influential, in terms of emotions and perceptions. Community has only been one such show.
Analyzing the circumstance a little better, I would like to ask a very important question. What is a culture reference? Comedy is induced by a culture reference because a group of individuals relate to it better than people who have not been a part of the reference. This may be because of reminiscence and nostalgia (or even just thinking about that reference). That is why a culture reference joke works with only a set group of people, and whoever has been culturally exposed will understand it.
I try not to be a negative person. And I do not try to trash things that I do not like or appreciate. Which is why I could never really explain to people why I stopped watching TBBT. I mainly told people I had no time, and was even faced with comments like, “You are not a nerd, and you won’t get it anyway.” It took me a while to point out exactly why I was uncomfortable with watching a show that only celebrates “nerd” culture. But the truth of the matter is, that it doesn’t. When we watch the show, we are supposed to relate to Penny, and not the four brilliant scientists who are apparently the protagonists of the show. We are supposed to laugh when Howard mentions playing “Dungeons and Dragons” or when Leonard is excited about dressing up as “Hobbit” or “Thor” when Penny invites him to a Halloween party. The joke is not about D&D, it is the mere fact that a nerd currently wants to genuinely and obsessively play D&D. We are supposed to find it funny that Leonard is more excited about dressing up as his favourite fictional character as opposed to want to look “cool” because that is what we are supposed to relate to. And of course, I know this because the laughter track tells me it is supposed to be funny. And watching TBBT only made me realize that at the end of the day, they were laughing at the social misfits that the four men are (and eventually women); and they were essentially laughing at me.
Sheldon is the annoying inconvenience that everyone has laughed at. Even the other three men who understand that Sheldon has trouble understanding human emotions and culture. He is distressed by changes in structure that he has formed in his mind, and is oblivious to sarcasm and other forms of non-literal language. I hate to draw parallels; but Abed is a similar character. He is unemotional to a certain extent, and is easily confused by a blatant show of emotions by other people. He also causes annoyance to the rest of the characters most of the time. Abed is also obsessed with television and movies (albeit different kind), but I think the essential nature of these characters is the idea that they are pleased by literature that most people do no relate to. While TBBT makes us believe that the “nerd” culture is to be ridiculed, Community has celebrated it.
I do not wish to say one show is better and the other isn’t. It is a matter of choice, and that has always been the case with any sort of criticism against any form of literature. That said, Community has celebrated so much more than TBBT could ever hope for. When TBBT makes a pop culture reference, it mentions D&D and you are expected to laugh at it. But when Community makes a pop culture reference, it bases an entire episode on that trope or genre. TBBT laughs at “nerds” playing Paintball, Community makes a season finale, takes Paintball as seriously as it can, and eventually makes people feel like whatever they have been obsessed about all this time, is worth it, and definitely not ridiculous at all. Community has celebrated being me.
But my agenda of this article was not to insult TBBT and glorify Community. These words a tribute to a show that has been kept so many of us going for a while now, and we are finally not ashamed to admit that we love characters that we have never met. That is what Community has taught me. Community gave me a set of seven people who were nothing like each other and told me that I do not have to like them. I do not even have to understand them. This is much like who we encounter people in real life, with no ultimate goal of being comrades. There are certain parallels that need to be drawn between a show with complex characters and one with none. Unlike Sheldon, Abed has been confirmed to have some sort of mental disorder (most likely Asperger’s disorder), and yet unlike Sheldon, Abed is a hero. When you ask for bread, Abed gives you soup. Because soup is better. Abed is better.
We are, no matter what kind of people, supposed to relate to Abed. We are the group of individuals who are knowledgeable about the things that we have loved and will pursue it madly, because that is what makes us happy. It does not make us ridiculous or funny. It makes us human beings.
Donald Glover possibly leaving the show hit me hard, and it hit hard most people who watch Community. His posts made it worse. Here was a man who had made us laugh, whose friendship with Abed has been effortlessly perfect. I can only think of the episode about the Inspector Spacetime convention, where Troy was the only one who ever came to Abed when he was screaming for help. A run through majorly impressive episodes of Community made me realize that Glover leaving was not going to sit well with any of us who have loved Community like one loves a person in one’s life. It may not mean a lot to people who do not understand how much literature (even a TV show) can genuinely help someone. It began with Abed telling us,
“Britta, I got self-esteem flowing out of my butt. That’s why I was willing to change for you guys. When you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people is not such a big deal.”
… Continued with Pierce telling me,
“Jeffrey, when I was born, I got my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, both arms and one of my ankles. Mom told me there came a point when the doctors stopped delivering me and just started laughing. I mean, if I ever let being bad at something stop me, then I wouldn’t be born. That thing some men call failure, I call living. Breakfast. And I am not stopping until I’ve cleared out the buffet.”
… and practically gets very dark when Todd tells us,
“What is wrong with you people?! Huh?! I thought you were supposed to be friends! I thought you were supposed to love each other! Your love is weird! And toxic! And it destroys everything it touches! I no longer care about grades! Or Biology, or finally graduating from college like I promised my dying father. I’m going home. I’m going to hold my wife and my newborn child close and I’m going to finally take my insulin shot! Offense taken! Offense taken.”
When I read the notes that Glover had posted, I cannot help but admit that it became an emotional roller coaster ride that I barely disclosed to anyone, for the simple reason that not many people might understand how obsessively important the show was for me. And it wasn’t just about the show. It was about Glover and how he had, without any inhibitions, admitted to his fans what he was going through. It was private, and it was liberating. It almost made up for the fact that there will be no Troy and Abed soon, and that we will be left with a told story that we can only repeat again and again, until we finally realise that the only remorse we, as fans, deserve is the fact that these people will remain immortal. It may mean nothing to some people when I say that Community has changed pieces of us that will never be the same, and Glover was a part of all of that.
And Glover, you will always be allowed to be better. You are always allowed to grow up. If you want. I believe you.