A common occurrence I see in the most popular American sitcoms is a strong, obvious emotional core, or a thematic tapping of nostalgia or political and real life insecurities. There’s usually something about these shows that endears them to their audience, capturing a friendlier version of their views or how they interpret the world. But the near adult youth of 2009 were in a strange spot. Things were bad, but mainly in aftermath, and most of them lacked a context for it. If they did understand the mortgage bubble and the USA’s normalization of constant war, they were just now going to college and didn’t really know how to deal with it. So what sort of TV would they watch? The answer ended up being shows that engaged with meta humor, like The Office toying with story telling techniques, or the absurdist segways of 30 Rock.
There was a detached, uncaring quality to these shows, existing in their own little world, but capturing something real to the audience. They reflected not insecurity, but the almost comical ridiculous status of things by refusing to meaningfully engage and instead poke holes in. The king of those shows ended up becoming Dan Harmon’s Community, and today, I’d like to point out what it’s true core strength was. Community is remembered for its meta nature, but it’s real power was absolutely refusing to make its characters actual people. Community is a show powered by tropes and conventions. It’s time to examine why.