Thursday, November 17, 2011

Defend Community!

This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.

I write about a lot of super deep topics around here. Rape. Homophobia. Eating disorders. Body shaming. Abortion. Street harassment...the list goes on. However, as it reads in my column intro, I write about both news AND pop culture. I'd like to take a moment to focus on and defend a beautiful peice of pop culture, NBC's Community.

Earlier this week, I heard that Community, one of my all time favorite TV shows, is in peril. It has been suspended indefinitely so the winter Thursday night line up doesn't include it. However, as Leah Rocketto wrote on TVology:
The show has not been cancelled. . . yet. According to New York Times television reporter Brian Stelter, the show is simply taking a break when 30 Rock returns on January 12. Stelter did his best to dispel the rumors on Twitter, also mentioning that Community has a slim chance of returning for a fourth season.
This has sparked tons of backlash from Community's small but loyal fan base. #sixseasonsandamovie as well as #savegreendale campaigns are all over Twitter at the moment. There are no shortage of voices explaining why Community rocks, just shortages of people watching it, apparently. Nevertheless, I'd like to add myself to the chorus making the case why we're not ready to let Community go.

When I first heard the news, part of me became deeply cynical. I see Community as an outlier of sorts--the cast is diverse both in terms of socioeconomics and race, so I got to thinking that of course a show of this nature gets cancelled. Meanwhile, 2 Broke Girls, Whitney, and Big Bang Theory are all still alive and kicking, but have virtually no brown characters and the ones they do have are tokens. Then yesterday Dodai Stewart over at Jezebel wrote a wonderful piece much more articulately detailing the importance of Community. She said:
But in terms of what it brings to the table, Community is a rare beast: Wry, witty, nuanced, hyper-kinetic, thoroughly current. And diverse. There are white guys, sure. But also women, black people, actors of Asian descent and a range of ages. On Community, along with Parks And RecreationThe Office, and, to some extent, 30 Rock, men, women, people of color work and white folks all work alongside each other, without a hint of tokenism or pandering. It's all about sharply drawn characters who bring the funny — a quality that knows no race or gender. In the 1970s, shows likeWhat's Happening!! and Good Times reflected an underrepresented group in society: Working poor black Americans. Community speaks of a different, more current America, one in which it's less about where you come from and more about where you're going. The very premise of the show — that a motley crew of individuals band together as a group in the name of education — touches on an aspect of the American dream. Community's strength lies in its utter unpredictability, wackiness and in-jokes; by being so inclusive, racially and gender-wise, it transcends color and sex and becomes about people. And how weird they are. And how we can be thrown together with folks we have absolutely nothing in common with, yet form (dare I say it?) a community.

The name Community isn't just about the fact that the characters are students at a community college. It's also a nod to the fact that they are an extremely random crew who have very little in common at first glance. However, throughout their various adventures together, they realize time and time again that they are family of sorts. They are the community. It's a joke on the show that the school's slogan is "you're already accepted" but it could be said that this is the very approach the students take to one another.

The show doesn't just represent a diverse cast. It has a lot of other really progressive things going on--women who have bodies we don't typically see in the media, students dealing with drug addiction recovery, religious tolerance, learning to ask for help when you need it, unplanned pregnancies, what it means to be a nontraditional student, as well as sexism, ageism, racism, and every other -ism. Their dealing with these topics is not always perfect. Just like real people, they are trying to figure it out as they go. But above all else, it's funny. I don't know how else to put it. It's just genuinely hilarious and so well written. The creator, Dan Harmon, didn't just think of a fun little TV idea and write a show. Conversely, he puts so much time, thought, and work into the show that it's really remarkable. If you are someone who loves geeky things or pop culture, you will be rewarded through references to spaghetti westerns, zombie flicks, animated Christmas specials, and much more.

I don't know how people who love stuff of this nature--like Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Arrested Development, and Party Down--haven't learned yet that we have to tune in faithfully and get our friends to do so as well, or what we love will keep being canceled. At the end of the day, that's what TV is; a business intent on making money through advertising revenue. And if there are no viewers, there is no money.  So until executives learn more sophisticated measurements than Nielsen ratings, we're going to have to play the game or accept that what we love is going to be axed.

But HOLY CRAP do I ever hope Community isn't axed. Because when you write about really serious stuff, it's nice to be able to tune into something fun and lighthearted that can make you really laugh. If you aren't already, I implore you to tune into Community this week and check it out. Catch up on the series through Hulu or Netflicks and join the twitter campaigns. We have enough of the other stuff. Don't let Community slip away!

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