|laurashapiro (laurashapiro) wrote,|
@ 2012-03-11 09:29 am UTC
I mentioned yesterday that I love Community. And I do. But not unreservedly. If you want to live in the happy place, my squee post is the place for you. This place is not that place.
First of all, there's the Pierce Problem. As P. said as we watched S2 for the first time, "Why do we like Pierce, again?" So much of the time, what he says is just plain awful, and for a while there a lot of what he did was just plain awful, and it's not really balanced by much kindness, let alone learning or growth. The Pierce who is generous to his friends kinda turns into a monster, and we're left with a guy that I don't want to hang out with, pretty much ever. I love a lot of "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons", but that episode is kind of excruciating to watch.
But as much as I have trouble liking Pierce the character, the Pierce Problem is actually deeper than that. It's part of my overall biggest complaint about the show, which is its post-modern "hip" treatment of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other issues of social justice: we embody one individual with all of these bigotries, and then we get to say the offensive stuff (that everyone thinks, supposedly). But we have the other characters call him on it, so everyone knows we know it's not okay. The show is trying to have it both ways. Worst of all, it's propagating the mythology that these problems are about bigoted individuals rather than systemic oppressions.
This DRIVES ME CRAZY. It would be enough to make me not watch the show, if the structure of the show didn't make sure that all the characters get sufficient screentime and character development, regardless of their race or sex.
But even with its diverse cast, the show does centralize the obligatory straight white 35-year-old male, and I roll my eyes at this a fair bit -- especially when all the other characters treat Jeff as the hero and hang on his every word. I get that the show also makes fun of this, but that's another instance of having it both ways, and it does grate.
Another thing that grates is the Britta Problem. I am really bothered by the show's treatment of Britta. I am reminded of my bitterest days in X-Files fandom. Britta is like Scully: her purpose in the narrative is to be wrong all the time. And, let's not forget, a buzzkill. Britta cares about injustice, and is aware of systemic injustice happening in the world, but it's portrayed as useless white guilt that's all about how she feels -- she cares but she doesn't do anything. But we know she was in the Peace Corps and we know she was at the Seattle WTO protests, and those things do actually achieve something. But it's all played as Britta's pathetic need to take care of the world, not as if there are actual problems that need solving.
Britta has only been right twice in two and a half seasons: helping Abed take film classes, and being freaked out by Luka's genocidal glee ("Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy"). That whole episode was about how Britta ruins everything, and even being right about Luka and re-establishing her friendship with Troy and Abed hasn't killed that particular meme.
Women being buzzkills while men are adorable man-children is a big trend in popular media at the moment, and I would really like to stab that trend to death with a rusty knife. I love Troy and Abed and they are adorable man-children, but I think the show is handling that in a way that is mostly appealing and not problematic. I appreciated, for example, Annie's speech on this topic ("Studies in Modern Movement") -- that was one of my favorite moments in the entire show so far, in fact. But the way Britta is positioned in the narrative and, especially, with respect to the other characters really bugs me. They all groan and roll their eyes at her so much, I wonder why she continues to hang out with them. I love Britta. I want her to be more than this, and I want the others to appreciate her.
I also have really conflicted feelings about Dean Pelton. On the one hand I love that we get to see a canonically queer (I think bisexual), kinky character, but OTOH he's always the buffoon. And an outsider. He's not part of the group (there are no queers in the group! so much for diversity!), and the show plays the classic man-in-a-dress gag for laughs all the time. Really? are we still there? Men in drag are just HILARIOUS, dontchaknow! ::sigh::
I mean, yay, canonically genderqueer character on primetime TV! But it's embarrassing. The Dean is so ineffectual. He's there for the straight people to laugh at. It makes me sad.
And then there's Ben Chang, with the funny paranoid schizophrenia. ::cringe:: I go back and forth about Chang: is he a racial stereotype? He's a goofy little Asian dude with no sex life. OTOH, he's so freakin' out there, he's like nothing I've ever seen on TV before. And he rejects and mocks Asian stereotypes himself. I find his character puzzling, fascinating, disturbing, sometimes offensive, often embarrassing, and mostly hilarious. Ambivalence, I has it!
Despite my criticism, I am actually not ambivalent about Community. I love the show. I think it has some problems, but that's what fanworks are for, right? This summer, I'll be working on a Britta vid that will address the Britta Problem, and I expect to have a blast doing it. Meanwhile, I have one more Community post coming up, which will return to the squee place.