Thursday, March 3, 2011

Things I've Learned from NBC's 'Community'...

It is no secret that I believe all you need to know in life, you can learn from TV. But to take that even farther, I believe that all you really need to know in life, you can actually learn from Community-- which is quite fitting considering its a show about higher education (even if it's a bit unorthodox kind of higher education). Or at least, I feel I have learned some very important, if somewhat specific, things from the cult comedy series. Here are just a few of my faves:

You get as much out of your education as you're willing to put into it. Senor Chang was stripped of his accreditation at the end of season one, but somehow his students still managed to learn enough remedial Spanish to hold simple conversations and pass final exams. So clearly the quality of a teacher can't define the success of a student; the study group put in the work they needed to do well, regardless of what randomness they were "taught" in the classroom.

We all need one friend who challenges us to be a better person and one whose actions consistently make us look good; it's how friendships balance out. In the case of Community, both Annie and Abed are the genuine, pure souls who are always trying to do good in their own ways. Annie is a little more "in your face" about her do-gooding, trying to bring people together, but Abed's actions end up causing more people to stop, think, and reflect. Take his bromance with Troy, which caused Troy to actually learn what being a friend truly means in the first place. And then of course there was the time he delivered another student's baby in the parking lot... Meanwhile Pierce pretty much can stand next to anyone and make them look like a better option. Unless the "anyone" is, you know, Hitler or Osama Bin Laden or something. He's crass; he's selfish; he's a little bit racist-- and lately, he's becoming malicious. But even Annie manages to soften him a little bit, proving our former point.

Drugs are bad. Even if you didn't get that from Annie's play, the surprisingly dark detour Pierce's painkiller storyline took should be more than enough to drive this point home. Anything that makes Andy Dick pop up in your life is a big no-no. And you know, ending up in the hospital isn't good either.

Fros before ros. This is just a non-gender specific attempt to say friends always come before romantic relationships. Yes, I am coining it, and no, I don't think it will catch on. But the point is that no good can come of you putting a fleeting physical attraction in front of a longer-term, legitimate connection. Jeff Winger is proof positive that it never works out, when he blows off Annie's Halloween party, hits on Pierce's step-daughter, and or even begins hanging with Chang in exchange for a better grade on his Spanish assignments. Okay that last one wasn't about physical attraction (or at least not that was explored on the surface of the episode...) but the point still remains the same: he was attempting to find a base gratification.

"Everyone's religion is weird, and we just shouldn't talk about it." I think this one is pretty explanatory, no? I have literally never sat with a group of people and heard as many different, and often times combative, religious affiliations get rattled off as with this Greendale study group. When we really stop and think about religions, we often get confused, upset, angry, and even at times antagonistic. So when we love someone, we probably shouldn't start religious-- or even political-- debates with them. We should just smile and nod and move onto the next subject. Especially if that next subject is pop culture.

And on that note, I cannot ignore the fact that dropping pop culture references into everyday conversation is the easiest way to relate to someone, even a stranger. Abed may be the king of the reference-- so many that those around him probably miss altogether-- but he is not the only one who gets to have fun with these anymore, which proves that pop culture is the true equalizer of the world. You know you've met a kindred spirit when you quote your favorite B-movie or canceled-after-only-one-season sitcom and then hear someone laugh or better yet, offer the follow up line of dialogue!

No one will respect you if you're all talk and no actions. Look at Britta: she is a huge humanitarian in name; she loves to shame and guilt others into feeling bad for doing common, every day things like eating meat, but she has trouble putting her money with her mouth is. And quite literally when Pierce offers her a check for her favorite charity; being a broke college kid, she just barely manages to write in a cause on the "To" line rather than turning it over to her own bank account. Shirley and Annie organize bake sales and STD fairs for causes, which sure, may be a bit misguided, but it's doing something. It's no wonder no one wanted to give Britta money for the oil spill or clap for her primary student government election speech!

Even a monkey knows how to use Twitter. That should really say something about the current state of the importance of such technology...

But the number one most important lesson from Community has to be to never judge someone based on their appearance or stereotype because we might miss out on some of the best relationships of our lives. Within the first few minutes of the pilot episode, we see the so-called typical students of a community college as the faces of our main cast. We don't get to know who they are, let alone even what their names are, and already we have a label for them. But as even the first two episodes go on, we get to see just how much more there is to each of them. Abed, for example, isn't simply "weird" or "socially awkward"; he is an observer, a kid who is still a bit damaged from deep-seated emotional issues stemming from the way his parents treat him. And in that, we learn that not only should we not judge them, but they have a specific and unique perspective to offer and enrich our own lives.

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