Study Group in Session!

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Cool. Cool cool cool.

Previously I have taken critical looks at Jeff and Britta. When I think of Community, these two characters come to mind first, and in the pilot, these are the two characters that the audience encounters first. Linking Jeff and Britta with Community is akin to linking pancakes and syrup.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s an Abed special.

But how often does butter chase the thought of pancakes? Rarely, yet it is still an essential ingredient. Not that I think Abed is butter in this analogy, but he is a character that I am quickly becoming to associate with Community over Jeff or Britta. In a sense, Abed has snuck up on me, and it is rather unexpected. From season one, I wasn’t overly impressed or captured by his character, and I am unashamed to admit I was caught up cheering in the Jeff v. Britta war.

However, this season, Abed has seemed to take center stage, even if it’s up center. Whether it was the documentary episode or this most recent, Abed has played key roles in more episodes this season than I ever remember him having in previous seasons. I’d like to think that I didn’t just miss his part – and traditionally, he has been more of a background character. Season three, he played a crucial role in students’ lives who were never directly addressed. That little escapade began the night of the STD awareness dance and ended when he played midwife in a birth. Not that I don’t take Abed’s character as seriously, but he has been handled by the writers as this quieter, less involved game piece.

Destining Abed to this quieter fate was a purposeful decision on the part of the writers – but why?

In Britta’s psychotherapy episode, Abed tests as the only “normal” character. While this successfully strips the Study Group of their high and mighty self-esteems, in the broader picture Abed is deemed more important. In fact, behind Jeff and Britta, Abed is the next character the audience interacts with. Again, forever hovering in the background yet just as crucial.

The Study Group constantly berates Abed for his eccentric world view, filtering everything through TV and pop culture references. In the Abed Christmas special, the Study Group gets transformed into various misfit toys because that’s how Abed chooses to cope with his letter from his mom. Most of his lines center around this quirk, and in a sense, Abed is bringing the world of TV to life through his references. He watched a lot of TV as a child, and now he watches the world – as if it is merely a continuation of TV into the real world. Yet of all the characters, he is the most mentally sound. Perhaps Abed plays into the delusions and silly goals of those around him through these references because he recognizes how scripted, yet nonsensical they are. He fills the role that he sees fit through various TV personas to better serve as that background filler.

Abed’s character has changed in the fourth season, much like everything else,  but instead of his quirks getting quirkier, he is slowly inching down center stage. If Abed is the true center of Community, then wrapping up the senior year with Abed growing into himself would be perfectly fitting.

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5 Comments

  1. nmoran700 says:

    I haven’t watched much of Community, but Abed has always struck me as being one of the most interesting characters in the show. I’ve enjoyed his references to pop culture and his goofy antics (especially when he dresses as Batman), but I’ve also seen how intuitive and insightful Abed can be and it makes me only like his character more. I really liked how you associated Abed’s referencing to television as his way of watching the world — that seems perfectly accurate for his character arc.

  2. drewhrt2 says:

    very interesting! really like the beginning of this post with the waffle metaphor! definitely gave me a good idea of some of the characters even though i’ve never seen the show. its interesting how different characters are developed more or less at different times in a show, as they rotate in and out of the focal point.

  3. Daniel Sullivan says:

    I’d like to preface this by admitting that I’ve never seen Community but I find it interesting that it appears that a lesser character (Abed) has been gradually gaining a larger role. I’m trying to think of an example of when this has happened in another show but I feel like it’s more likely for smaller roles to get cut out completely than for them to grow in importance.

  4. joefrat says:

    I never felt Abed was background material, especially by the second season when Troy and Abed’s friendship truly developed. I will completely agree though that the current season has forced a lot more Abed on us than before. My guess is that he’s the easiest to come up with ideas for stories about him, because all you need to do is spoof a movie.

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