11.06.2010

Blasian Love on Community

L to R top:  Ben, Abed and Jeff 
L to R bottom:  Britta, Shirley, Annie,
Troy and Pierce
This little gem is from the Halloween episode ("Epidemiology") of the comedy sitcom Community.

Former Spanish instructor, Señor Ben Chang (the hilarious Ken Jeong), was dressed as figure-skater Peggy Fleming (who is white), but was assumed to be either Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan by the white characters.  Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) was dressed as Glenda the Good Witch, but everyone thought she was supposed to be Miss Piggy.  When the two of them were trapped in the bathroom to escape a horde of zombiefied classmates, they each immediately recognized their costumes for what they really were and thus saw each other through new eyes.




I wonder how many non-POC actually got that scene.  I mean really got it.

When I first saw Chang's costume, I wondered why he was dressed-up as a figure-skater, but before he was even done asking Britta and Jeff who they thought he was supposed to be (in an earlier scene), I knew exactly what the writers were so cleverly pointing out:  privilege has a funny way of making some white folks feel like they have the "right" to make race, ethnicity or gender-based assumptions about POC because their world view is supposed to be the only world view.  Through Britta and Jeff's own biases (biases they are blissfully unaware of, btw), neither of them could even imagine that Shirley or Chang could be dressed up as white people.  It would just never occur to them.  (And Chang called them on it too.) 

Peggy Fleming
(The funny thing is, when I first saw him dressed as a figure-skater, it didn't even dawn on me to think of him as Yamaguchi or Kwan.  He was simply Chang dressed up as a figure-skater.  And the funnier thing is...that particular realization just occured to me as I was writing this post.) 

I really enjoy Community because the writing is clever, it's totally irreverent, unapologetically politically incorrect (in a good way), and through humor, holds a gigantic mirror up in front of our biases and prejudices and forces us to take a long, hard look at ourselves.  Unlike some shows I can name (*cough* Heroes/FlashForward *cough*), the writers and showrunners give the POC in this very multi-cultural cast equal face time and important and interesting storylines.  For once, the POC characters aren't just window dressing and weren't thrown aside once the novelty wore off.  And although the show still more or less revolves around the white leads (of course), the writers humble both Jeff Winger and Britta Perry (and Chevy Chase's Pierce Hawthorne) in a way that is rarely seen on TV.  Or in other words, they constantly get slapped in the face with their own ignorance-is-bliss privilege and end up looking like idiots in the process.

Every single character has a very obvious personality flaw...no one is spared.  (Think narcissism, perfectionism, recovering drug addict, extreme escapism through movies/TV, wannabe feminist, religious goody-goody...but not really, etc.)  And I also love the fact that by the end of each episode, everyone learns something important about themselves, but the writers don't drop an anvil on our heads with it.  We go on the journey with the characters, and I often have an "aha!" moment right along with them.  Good stuff.

Here's video of the best of Chang from season one.  The very first scene is the reason that I fell in love with Ken Jeong.  He's absolutely frakkin' brilliant.





6 comments:

  1. *blink* How come I didn't know about this show?

    Awesome post, btw!

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  2. How come I didn't know about this show?

    Don't feel bad. I just recently watched Season One on DVD, before I caught up on Season 2 online. I'll admit that I was wary when I first started watching it, but was pleasantly surprised by what I saw, and now I want to buy it. The only other TV shows I own are The Big Bang Theory and Eureka, so Community would be in rarified air in my house. I mean, I don't even own ST: TNG, so that's saying something! (Which, btw, I plan on rectifying soon.)

    The biggest draw for me is that the show has an always there, multi-cultural cast, kick ass writing and is utterly hilarious. Can't go wrong with that trifecta.

    Awesome post, btw!

    Thanks! I figured if I just slapped the video up there without putting it in some kind of context, y'all would be like, WTF?!?!

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  3. LMFAO! " I am a man who can never die." turns on boombox.

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  4. My first thought is why is he dressed as a female figure skater?

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  5. I love Community. Its always hilarious and full of "cookies" for those who pay attention. I think this is amazingly awesome. I was afraid this actor was becoming a little type casted but this is nice. This happens in the cosplay community sometimes... very annoying.

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  6. Ken Jeong is hilarious! And intelligent! I always tell my fiance that he's got a Ph-something or other in a field of science that I can't pronounce that would make him big bucks if he actually cared to pursue it. Instead, he likes acting and I love him for that!

    He tripped me out in The Hangover (was irritated that he popped out of that van naked, but...um...yeah). Cool!

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