Popular culture - Essay Example

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[Teacher name] [Class name] 27 March 2011 Community: A Complex Show for a Changing Culture The television show Community is an example of the growing complexity in the way that we understand and relate to our culture. Community is a TV sit-com that on the surface appears to be like any other ensemble comedy, but is actually extremely complicated and witty…
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Download file to see previous pages The main character is ostensibly Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale), a handsome, conniving lawyer who has to go to a community college when he is revealed to have a fake degree. However, the key character is actually Abed Nadir, a young Arab-American who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. This plays on the audience’s assumption that the handsome white man is always the hero and the most important character. For the first few episodes, the audience is led to believe that the show is about Jeff and his pursuit of the beautiful blonde Britta while a group of co-stars provide comic relief; later we see that the show is actually about Abed and his attempts to understand other people. Because of his Asperger’s syndrome, Abed is fixated on television and movies, and comparing everything in his life to TV and movies is his only way to relate to the people around him. Every episode either references the plot of specific movies and shows, or parodies a particular genre of movies. As the viewer watches for several episodes, it becomes apparent that the entire show is filtered through Abed’s perspective. This is different from other shows. With nearly all other TV shows, there is an unspoken agreement between the makers of the show and the audience that the audience will suspend their disbelief and pretend for an hour or a half an hour each week that the events in the show are true. Community betrays this agreement by subtly suggesting to the audience that the events in the show might not be real. Of course the audience knows this, but everyone is supposed to pretend that that’s not the case. It then makes the audience unsure of what is real within the world of the show. Is Abed real? Is he imagining everything, or just modifying reality a little bit? If we could see the show from outside of Abed’s perspective, would the characters even really be Abed’s friends, and would any of the events we’ve seen them enact have actually happened? The humor in the show requires the audience to have a base of knowledge about pop-culture in order to get the jokes. The show doesn’t assume that the audience is stupid and needs everything to be simple or have everything explained to them, but instead assumes a certain amount of shared cultural experience. The assumption is that enough people have seen The Breakfast Club, for example, or perhaps Pulp Fiction, that when an episode references one of those movies, most of the audience will get it. According to Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You, this is a recent phenomenon in television. TV used to be much simpler and did not require the same amount of memory or mental work to understand. This points to an increase in the demand by audiences for more intelligent and challenging humor (85-87). Community also does not give the same clear-cut moral messages that other TV shows did in the past. Most television shows from previous eras held to the same moral and political values. They preached against racism and in favor of diversity, paid lip-service to feminism while still mostly showing women in traditional roles, and spoke in favor of traditional “family values.” Community portrays a world where things are not that simple. For example, it shows rather than tells us that race and diversity is a confusing topic and that things do not fit perfectly into a “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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