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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Community: “Herstory Of Dance”

Illustration for article titled Community: “Herstory Of Dance”
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As of tonight, Community is technically past the halfway point of its fourth (and likely last) season. This realization caught me off guard earlier, not only because I’d forgotten that it only had a thirteen-episode order but also because I felt like I had yet to see anything actually happen this season. This isn’t true, of course, considering that we’ve seen a peek into Pierce’s odd mansion, the quiet introduction of Troy and Britta’s relationship, and, perhaps most importantly, Jeff meeting his father but for some reason, this all slipped my mind. This isn’t to say that I’ve disliked this season—in fact, I’ve spent an awful lot of time defending it—but it’s somehow failed to stick with me. It’s strange because Community is usually a show that I can’t stop thinking about. For the most part, I think the season four episodes have been funny and clever and, yes, just plain good but once each one is over, I tend to forget the show exists until the next one. But there are exceptions, most notably “Cooperative Escapism In Familiar Relations” and tonight’s “Herstory Of Dance” an episode that reminded me that, despite any misgivings I’ve had recently, I’m still really going to miss this show when it ends.

“Herstory Of Dance” is an episode that I assumed I’d love as soon as I read the description. At some point during one of my many, many re-watches of the first three seasons, Britta became my favorite character (or at least tied with Abed). She’s the wild card of the show. Depending on the episode, she’s either the absolute worst or she’s the heart of the study group; she’s a total buzzkill or she’s the reason why the gang enjoys a “Roxanne” sing-a-long. Mostly, she’s this mixture of a well-meaning yet sometimes clueless pseudo-riot grrrl anarchist hippie—right down to the denim vest and the flowered Doc Marten boots. And I love her for it. Britta works because even when she’s not exactly the smartest person in the room, she’s still written in a way where we can simultaneously laugh at her and with her. “Herstory Of Dance” is very much a Britta story from the beginning.

When the Dean pops in to announce a Sadie Hawkins dance (and can I just say that I loved this particular costume gag? They’ve been hit-or-miss lately but this one really knocked it out of the park), Britta immediately challenges the dance’s “oppressive gender norms” and decides to start her own rival dance named after Sophie B. Hawkins. Even upon learning she mixed up the name with Susan B. Anthony, stubborn Britta refuses to back down and just goes with it. (Later she even confuses Sophie B. Hawkins with Sarah McLachlan.) She faces a handful of problems, such as trying to get Hawkins to attend to the dance, that are only exacerbated by Jeff doubting her at every turn.

Meanwhile the B-story centers around my other favorite, Abed, who has recently decided to swear off hijinks (your drinking game for the week: one drink every time someone says “hijinks” or “trope”) to become more of a person and less of a television funnel. He agrees to let Annie and Shirley each compete to find him the better date for the dance and then later agrees to go with both of the dates. But because it’s Abed, before we can even groan about the overdone sitcom trope, Abed brings it up himself. It is, as he puts it, a comically implausible situation and how can you resist that?

There are plenty of people who believe Abed is often a little too, well, Abed and I understand that complaint completely. After a while, the television obsession and meta-humor can feel a little stale (personally, I never tired of it) but I truly enjoyed this storyline, mostly because of the attention to details. Annie’s choice, Kat, is such a perfect take on the quirky girl (I don’t want to say Manic Pixie Dream Girl but, well, you know) right down to the fact that she tries to pay for lunch with a song. All of her quirks just about killed me: the pink scooter, playing saw in an all-girl kazoo band, easily distracted by bubbles, etc. But neither Kat, nor the church girl that Shirley brings, are for Abed. Instead, he immediately clicks with the coat check, Rachel, and it’s clear she’s the one he’s supposed to be with—the episode doesn’t dance around that at all. It’s not a surprise when he screws it up nor is it a surprise when he does a sort-of public romantic gesture to win her over but I found myself smiling at it throughout. It helped that Rachel was played by Brie Larson (her hair color threw me off for a bit) who stole my heart in The United States Of Tara and I’ve been missing her ever since. They make a sweet couple; she both understands and shares his love for television. When they agree to go on a date Abed opts to try it out the normal way, free of any sitcom tropes. Personal growth!

As for Britta’s dance, an unlikely Pierce helps her saves the day and then, even more uncharacteristically, informs Jeff that he needs to cut her some slack. Maybe it’s because Jeff and Britta are often my favoring pairing (and I mean this in a platonic way) but his apology to her even though it was via text message—or especially because it was via text message—felt sweeter, less forced, and more “Jeff” than the majority of his speeches this season. Britta’s not one of those characters who is in constant need of redemption—it’s clear that the study group and the writers love her, even if they sometimes express this in odd ways—but it’s nice to see her truly enjoying herself and basking in her little success.


Stray observations:

  • Honestly, the only Britta thing I’m iffy about at this point is her relationship with Troy. I secretly rooted for them last season but it was so quietly thrown in—which I suppose may have been the point—and exists mostly in the background so it’s hard to see if they have any actual chemistry now that they’re dating.
  • Admission: I did not know who Sophie B. Hawkins was (and thought she was a fictional musician) until I heard “As I Lay Me Down.”
  • Britta forgetting Susan B. Anthony’s name despite having a cat named after Susan B. Anthony is one of the billion reasons why I love Britta.
  • Abed: “I’ve always thought of myself as kind of an acquired taste.”
  • Jeff’s “Oh, it’s me” realization to the Dean was probably my biggest laugh of the night. While the entire cast is great, I often think Joel McHale doesn’t get as much recognition as he should.
  • A “toddler with a growing disease” is such an accurate way to describe the overly quirky girls like Kat.
  • There are very few times when the old-person-doesn’t-understand-technology joke works for me but I laughed at Pierce’s “I need to get to my email. The post office is about to close.”
  • +10 points for the Awake reference.
  • Many thanks to Todd for letting me step in this week and cover a show that has, during the last few years, caused me to run the gamut of emotions ranging from laughing so hard during “Epidemiology” that I had an asthma attack and having such a surprising gut reaction to “Virtual Systems Analysis” that I once cried about it to a bartender. Television!