Community 1x03: Introduction to Film
“Yes, I’m new, but I’ll be old too soon. Carpe diem, sir, carpe diem!”
Jeff has just regurgitated what the professor has said and has begun to fake his way through the class that is supposed to be a cakewalk. He is still wearing facades to attempt to get what he wants easily. He joins the rest of the group and gives us our first film reference in describing Professor Whitman* “he thinks he’s in Dead Poets society, there’s no tests, no work, just day seizing.” Everyone agrees to join the class except Abed who says his father already has his life planned out for him. This enrages Britta, who takes it upon herself to help Abed follow his dream and take a film class. Troy sneezes in a non-masculine way, and Shirley defends him backhandedly. He yells at her that she is not his mother, this is symbolically significant for the next scene.
In their first class together as a group (sans Abed who is off following his dream in film class), Shirley is told that she has an A in the class if she can explain why she is at Greendale. Shirley gives a practiced response of wanting to sell her baked goods and whatnot on the internet. She gives this response twice before Professor Whitman breaks her down and she divulges: “because I wasted 15 years of my life on a man who left me with nothing but stretch marks and a foggy memory of two bland orgasms and now it’s time to get what’s mine.” Shirley has implied that she most likely was or is married with at least one child and that she has not felt fulfilled for the 15 years of that relationship. She is coming into the second phase of marriage (having been symbolically set free from children by Troy in the previous scene). Joseph Campbell described in The Power of Myth the two phases of marriage which he said are completely different from one another. The first stage he calls youthful marriage, in which you follow biological sexual urges to produce children. He calls the second stage the alchemical stage in which the child has left the nest and the two must assess how to move on as one in this new light. He recounts “I’ve been amazed at the number of my friends who in their forties of fifties go apart. They have had a perfectly decent life together with the child, but they interpreted their union in terms of their relationship through the child. They did not interpret it in terms of their own personal relationship to each other…. It’s not simply one’s own thing, you see. It is, in a sense, doing one’s own thing, but the one isn’t just you, it’s the two together as one.” Shirley can not find that oneness, she has the desire to now find her own thing. We will return to this examination of marriage with other characters later. Going back to our pop culture point of reference, Professor Whitman makes every one stand up on their desks. In Dead Poets Society, the students were made to stand on their professor’s desk in order to see other people’s material from their own point of view, and in the end of the film they stood on their own desks in order to pay homage to his exciting new way of teaching which was being cast out and to disobey the stodgy old way of teaching which was replacing him. At Greendale, the students are standing on their desks to “rise above the programming.” One student falls to the ground, and none of the other students necessarily learn anything. At the end of class, Professor Whitman tells Jeff that he is not seizing the day, just posturing and that he will fail if he does not seize the day.
Abed has begun his film with Britta as his mother. His father comes and demonstrates a controlling influence, arguing with Britta (remember in Dead Poets Society, Neil was controlled and pulled away from his dreams by his father and driven to suicide as a result). Jeff represents a freer influence and wants to let Abed stay and pursue his dream. The real father leaves and Abed places the role of the father onto Jeff (who does not want it) and we can explore a different path than that of control, perhaps the path from before the control started.
Jeff tries to seize the day by dressing outlandishly. Professor Whitman sees through the disguise and tells him that “these won’t cut it.” If Whitman is Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, Jeff is Robin Williams in Mork and Mindy with his suspenders and his dialogue (shazbat). He is attempting to don the younger persona of Whitman in hopes that Whitman will see his freer, younger self in Jeff and let him pass. Jeff is pursuing someone else’s dream though not his own and as a result fails. In this scene we also learn that Abed has rented a new camera for his project that is “more expensive but it let’s me adjust really specific settings that most people don’t notice or think about.” Abed has just described the camera as the psychoanalysis sessions that it is.
Jeff again attempts to seize the day in a put on production, this time through youth. Professor Whitman sees through it and rebukes Jeff “What do you mean, Jeff? What does your life mean? How long does it take you in the morning to make it look like you have bed head? How many sweatpants/sport jacket combos did you try before you found the one that said ‘I don’t care’? Seize the day, Jeff, for real…. Or you won’t just fail my class, you’ll fail life.” Professor Whitman’s imperative to Jeff is that of an examined life, to find one’s bliss and follow it so that every day counts, and Jeff so far has done nothing but copy and regress.
“I think you are really weird, Abed. And I think the wrong person just left.” We learn when the video is finished that Abed’s mother left him and his father, and that Abed blames himself for her leaving. When Abed drives Britta away and gets this scolding from Jeff he says “perfect, that’s a wrap,” because he has reached the end of his therapy. He has been manipulating Jeff and Britta throughout his film to play out the roles of his parents as he remembers them, to relive his past and analyze it, just as he would in therapy. Looking at it from the other side, Jeff and Britta’s marriage in the film has been completely centered around and defined by Abed, they are still in the youthful stage.
“I think the lesson we can all take away from this, is that everyone should always do whatever they want and leave each other out of it.” Jeff finally starts to understand what it would take for him to follow his dream and seize the day, but he had to live through his child and come out of the first phase of his marriage to do so. He has still not acted upon it either. Abed finally leaves the nest after he has worked through his past and resolved his issues with his father and dissolved his strict controlling influence.
This entire episode, Jeff has not been acting towards acquiring Britta, which was his goal in the last two episodes. When he finally does kiss her, Professor Whitman says that he has finally seized the day and that he has passed because it was a “life changing kiss.” The kiss does seem to have changed Jeff for the few seconds we are left with him. Dan Harmon speaks in the commentary regarding the kiss “I don’t know if everyone understands what I was doing in the first season by now or not, but the idea is to take all this stuff away from us. The ‘will they wont they.’ The purpose is let’s have these two make out in the second episode [the pilot is not an episode] for false reasons…. the end of the season, suffice to say we’ve gone everywhere a show can go in the entire run of a show, so what the hell are we gonna do second season? That’s the point, the show is a mockingbird, it masters the art of proving to you that it’s a television show because it’s a cynical time.” I should also bring up the same question I had at the end of “Spanish 101,” how competent are these teachers? For all of his wacky antics and jumping about, Professor Whitman never once imparted any knowledge of accounting (the class he was teaching the whole time), so how accurate are we supposed to view his assessment of Jeff’s day seizing at the end?
*Walt Whitman wrote “Oh Captain, My Captain.” Robin Williams asked his class to call him Oh Captain and when he was driven out at the end of the film, they recited the title from atop their desks.
Episode 1 Analysis
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Episode 3 Analysis
Episode 4 Analysis
Episode 5 Analysis
Episode 6 Analysis
Episode 7 Analysis