Community’s episode “Advanced Gay” had a very simple, fast moving story about fathers and sons - particularly the relationship between Pierce Hawthorne, established homophobe, and his father, whom, it turns out, is all the more homophobic.
A conflict arises between the two that is not acknowledged by the son until the end of the episode, when it’s too late, and is, prior to that, tampered with by Jeff Winger, himself a son of a Dad with whom he has unacknowledged issues.
In telling this story, we used the notion of a “gay community” as a tool. When you saw gay characters in the story, you weren’t seeing much of them. The two gay characters with lines were clearly gay, from the moment they spoke. The entire time they spoke, they were parts of setups and punchlines about gayness, and the surface never got scratched beyond that.
The rest of the gay characters that we saw were “background” at a big, gay party, jumping around in gay outfits having a great time being super, duper gay. They functioned as a single entity, cheering when someone liked gay people, booing when someone didn’t, and as soon as they had fulfilled their usefulness to the story, they were gone, and nobody ever atoned with them, and they were never revealed to be made up of dimensional individuals with fears and desires transcending a big gay throng.
I apologize for an unintentional effect that seems to have had on some of you. I got two or three tweets that didn’t seem to be from crazy people- I can usually tell the difference between someone that just enjoys the opportunity to be outraged and a real fan expressing human confusion, concern, etc. “How do you defend this,” one of you asked, linking to an IMDB post indicting the episode’s depictions.
I took the question seriously. The answer is, I have no defense. Had I predicted I’d need one, I would have done things differently, because Community isn’t in the offending or defending business. Unless you’re Jim Belushi.
For all its apolitical, joyful, empty headed zaniness and experimentation, Community is a passionately humanitarian show. Its only religious and political point of view is that all people are good people, and while we often play the roles of villains and stereotypes to each other, it is always an illusion, shattered quickly by the briefest moment of honest connection.
We all need a hug. God knows I do or I wouldn’t be doing this show, so if someone experiences the opposite of a hug while watching my show, then, by virtue of the golden rule, I am regretful, and I am compelled to promise you it was an accident, and that it’ll come up in my head the next time we’re in a similar situation. That’s unavoidable.
This blog entry is a sort of “receipt” I’m giving you, proof that I’m conscious of the fact that some of you might have been abraded, because if I spent this long typing about this, you know it’s left a mark on my circuit board. I’m bound to offend you again but it won’t be in the same way, and it will be an accident then, too. This time, it was because I was focused on a story that had nothing to do with the “issue” we’re discussing. I cut corners. There was probably a way to do the same episode while somehow quickly and efficiently reminding the audience that gay people are just people that are gay and come in all kinds of flavors other than gay in addition to their gayness.
If you weren’t offended, don’t bother being offended by the people being offended. They’re not doing anything wrong. I don’t think anyone that “complained” was asking for Community to be censored or for it to become a schmaltzy PC pile of shit. I think they were asking me to stick a post-it note on my brain regarding the situation, which I can do without making the show any less brilliant or funny. It will be all the moreso the more I continue to care about the audience’s experience.
See you on Thursday.
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