Friday, December 23, 2011

1x06 "Football, Feminism and You" ("It's in Your Blood!")

"Football, Feminism and You"
Original Airdate: October 22, 2009

Every fan has a moment where they fall in love with the television show they're watching. It's usually so insignificant that if I were to ask most of you exactly when a television show became your favorite, the majority of you wouldn't be able to pinpoint an episode or a scene. Most of you. Some of you can recall, though, the moment a show went from being just a show to something special. And I begin with this because when I started to stream Community, I enjoyed the first several episodes of season 1. It was a great show, full of wit and humor and heart. But I was still warming up to it - testing out the waters, if I may use that trite phrase. But the moment that I absolutely knew this show was something special was during the conversation on the football field between Jeff and Troy in "Football, Feminism and You." It was literally the first moment in the entire series where I laughed out loud. I remember, quite vividly, because I had recalled that my friend Jaime mentioned how hilarious the show was. And there was no doubt that it was a funny show - while watching on my computer with my earbuds in, I had definitely chuckled and giggled a bit. But that scene, that moment, was the first time that I literally laughed out loud. And I have never looked back since then.

In addition to holding a special place in my television-watching heart for that, "Football, Feminism and You" is ranked in my top 3 episodes of the entire series (falling behind "Remedial Chaos Theory" [#1] and "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" [#2]). The reason that this episode is such a stand-out to me is because it is the first episode of the series where I felt cohesion among the characters and their respective storylines. Nothing in the episode felt overwhelming, even though there were technically five different plots occurring simultaneously (Jeff/Dean, Annie/Troy, Jeff/Annie/Troy, Britta/Shirley, Pierce/Dean). There is something so natural and organic about the way that the characters interact with one another. Additionally, the character growth and development of Jeff, Annie, Troy, and Britta add to my love of the episode. We learn a lot about each of their characters throughout their stories, and those revelations set in motion the development and themes we'll see come up later on in the series. For instance, we learn that Jeff and Annie are selfish characters, but each for different reasons (which I'll explore later on, don't worry). For now, mull over this: Jeff is selfish because he can control things and people, and Annie is selfish because she cannot. Like I said, I will come back to this, but just keep that idea fermenting in the back of your minds until then.

So let's briefly discuss the plot for this episode, in case you  need a refresher. The Dean is developing a new mascot for Greendale - one that is as unoffensive and all-inclusive as possible - and Pierce volunteers to assist him with this. Meanwhile, the Dean has an ulterior motive in visiting the study group one afternoon - he wants Troy to play football for Greendale, which the young athlete is evidently against, given Greendale'e less-than-adequate athletics department. Annie too is against Troy playing football - she spends the first half of the episode studying for an Astronomy test, and is enjoying all of the attention that she never received from Troy back in high school. She insists that Troy losing his scholarship to play football was the best thing that ever happened to him. 

I'll pause because I took some notes regarding the beginning of the episode, and will mention them now so that we don't have to jump around later on in the review. It's amusing to watch this episode (which is a pretty early episode - the sixth of the first season) and remember that Troy and Pierce were supposed to be the original "best friend" pairing. Pierce actually references this in "Pascal's Triangle Revisited," when he asks Troy: "What happened to us?" Like I mentioned last week, I really love that they played off the natural chemistry between Donald and Danny because at this point in the series, the focus is still Troy/Pierce. And I think that Troy/Pierce works a lot in the way that Jeff/Britta does, in that the relationship highlights each individual's maturity and similarities. Both pairs are alike in ways, and that is why I think they're drawn to one another - they're attracted (whether romantically or platonically) to a person who reminds them of themselves. (Additionally, I think that's why Pierce takes to Jeff so much and strives for his acceptance - Pierce does say in the pilot that Jeff reminds him of a younger version of himself). It is interesting then, to shift the balance - to put Troy/Abed and Jeff/Annie or Troy/Britta and Abed/Shirley together for stories. These are characters we typically think are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of beliefs, morals, emotional maturity, etc. But what's great about this show (again) is that when you  have stories with these characters together, you realize they're fundamentally similar. And that is what we get our first taste of in "Football, Feminism and You" - the similarities between Jeff and Annie. But again, more on that later!

Also, this is one of my favorite Britta stories, perhaps in the entire series. It really demonstrates her as a character - how she's hard but it's because she's usually isolated from other women. And I love that when she thinks she's screwed up, she really ends up helping Annie. The irony is that in the later seasons, usually when Britta thinks that she helps, she ends up screwing up. And she's just completely oblivious in both cases to what she's really doing versus what she THINKS she's doing. Also, I love the Britta/Shirley friendship throughout this episode, but I also like that it gives us a glimpse into the Britta/Annie side of the story. As much as I love Jeff/Annie, I feel like Jeff (or perhaps the drama that occurred because of him) messed up the entire second season for Britta and Annie in terms of their friendship. And it's not like the two were ever close to begin with (Annie always seemed to be closer to the boys, in my opinion, while Shirley and Britta usually stuck together - see "Competitive Ecology" for example), but they seemed to have a wedge of animosity between them later on. And I think that perhaps people assume that Britta is harsh and abrasive to Shirley in this episode on purpose, but that's simply not the case at all. She's the kind of woman who has never been asked to be a part of traditional feminine things. She's the kind of person whose filter is relatively low when it comes to things she's passionate about. And let's face it - Britta is passionate about feminism. She likes to rant for the sake of ranting. She carries one-sided debates with herself in the bathroom mirror. And honestly, Shirley's face when she turns on the hand dryer? Hilarious.

And I love that the real reason Britta joined Shirley was to feel included and needed. I think that she did kind of feel excluded once she learned that women went to the bathroom in groups - and especially when Shirley didn't ask her. Annie is more feminine than Britta, and Britta has been left out her entire adult life from "mainstream, feminine things." Now, she finally has the chance to bond with women, and she doesn't know how to properly respond. Her story about why she always went to the bathroom alone is endearing, adorable (and funny) and it only makes Britta more likable to me. Her biggest fear in the group is being the one to bring everyone down - she feels like no one needs her around. And it's sad because we sometimes forget that even the "hard" characters get their feelings hurt sometimes. They too, want to feel needed.

Back to our plot, now that you've gotten a diatribe regarding characterization - Jeff learns that the Dean has posters and flyers around the school with his image on them. Dean Pelton agrees to not send out the flyers to the public so long as Jeff does him a favor. Namely, he wants him to recruit Troy to join Greendale's football team so that the community college will not be seen as a laughingstock. Jeff agrees, and successfully manipulates Troy into believing that joining the football team is the best thing for him. This evidently upsets and angers Annie, who (unlike Jeff) knew what football did to Troy back in high school. It caused him to become self-absorbed and egotistical to the point of delusion, and she doesn't like that. And she will have a bone to pick later on with Jeff because of it. It's nice in this scene to see Annie not completely smitten over Troy - there are lines. When he shows up in the cafeteria, acting like a jerk, she doesn't dismiss his behavior. She's genuinely upset. And this is also the first time that Annie makes her formidable face. And it's not her pretend-to-be-formidable face (like in the next episode). It's the face we see re-emerge in "Intro to Political Science." In both cases, she is legitimately upset with Jeff, and this rarely happens.

It's then that we approach one of my favorite early Jeff/Annie scenes. Remember how I said earlier that Jeff and Annie are selfish for different reasons? Jeff is selfish because of the things he can control. He's self-centered because he has power - he controls the group, he manipulates people, and he used to get paid to do it. He has leverage and very rarely finds himself at a loss for control over anything (and when he does, i.e. "Contemporary American Poultry," "Biology 101," etc. he can't deal with it). And that's why he's selfish - because when YOU can control anything, who is the one person that needs to be looked out for the most? You. Jeff is right about Annie though. She is selfish. But here's the difference - Annie is selfish because she cannot control things, people, and circumstances. We never really learn the full extent of Annie's Adderall addiction, but I assume from what we do know (we've learned about her being chubby and having acne and being unpopular and taking Adderall to help her "focus"), she took the pills as a way to try and maintain control over her life. And that's what addictions are - a lack of control. When you feel powerless, you want to grasp onto something that gives you the illusion of power. Annie is selfish because she can't control Troy, but wants to (as she admits later). She can't make life turn out the way that she planned it would in the beginning. And that frustrates her and drives her to the point of doing the things that she does in this episode. So Jeff's speech, while harsh, is accurate. But Annie is also correct - she does care about people. She wants what's best for them, but she also wants it to be what she wants. She hopes that the two will coincide (which they often do not).

(Additionally, I love that Annie causes Jeff to feel guilty. It's awesome character development from the pilot, where he virtually has no remorse for turning the group on one another.)

Britta then is sent into the bathroom by Shirley in order to console Annie (who is crying over Jeff's harsh spiel). The result is hilarious because Britta initially attempts to help someone by acting like Shirley. But she can't be. She's not the sweetie-pie-Oh-that's-nice kind of woman. She's the take-no-crap kind, and THAT is what ends up helping Annie in the end. Britta just had to be herself the entire time. 

At the end of the episode, Jeff attempts to dissuade Troy from joining the football team, but he's interrupted from his speech by Troy. It's nice that Troy teaches Jeff a lesson (and it's the beginning of a very long line of lessons he'll be taught in the future). I think that this episode is the one to make Jeff realize that he needs to move forward from where he is at, not where he used to be. Both Jeff and Annie learn to let go of control - a little bit - in this episode. And it's a nice step that they both took separately. Additionally, it's also nice to see Jeff apologize to Annie (he actually says that he's "really sorry," even though it's sort of a back-handed apology). Annie though, doesn't accept this half-apology, and I love that she waits until Jeff fully admits that he was in the wrong to forgive him. 

We end the episode with the first appearance of the Human Being (the creepiest mascot ever), and a nice Jeff/Annie moment. I love that this is the a) first sincere "Milady"/"Milord" interaction that we get, b) it becomes a running theme between the two, and c) it is the beginning of their friendship/mutual respect for one another. Jeff didn't really interact with Annie much before this, so I love that this is the episode that kick-starts their friendship.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
- "What does a star turn into when it collapses?" "A movie of the week." I like to think that Jeff walks into random rooms with zingers already prepared.
- "Did you learn nothing from stand-up comedy in the 90s?"
- This episode features Mary's favorite Greendale professor ("No one has a pen? Why would you not bring a pen to class? Idiots.") and Kerry's favorite ginger ("Is this your first pep rally?")!
- "I think if you said 'Jump,' he'd say 'How high?' If you said 'Stop,' he'd say 'Hammertime.'"
- "Are you blackmailing me?" "...I think so?"
- "You're a football player. It's in your blood." "That's racist." "Your soul?" "That's racist." "...your eyes?" "That's gay." "That's homophobic." "That's black." "That's racist."
- "I'd tell you to do the math, but math isn't important."
- There's a poster in the background of the scene in the cafeteria that says 'Pencils and Such!'
- "I think not being the new racism."
- "They deploy things in football, right? I went for rhyme over clarity."
- The tag is awesome. Also: I like that episodes such as "Intro to Political Science" are callbacks to old episodes (Troy says "Butt Soup" in the tag).

All right, folks: next week we're moving on to our first Halloween episode with Abed-as-Batman and Professor Slimcalves - "Introduction to Statistics." :) Thank you all for reading and spending the hiatus with me, and I hope that you all have a very merry Christmas!


  1. I forgot what a gem this episode is. You are right...all the stories are sync and it is Community firing on all cylinders. I think this episode is where I STARTED to fall for the show, and Debate 109 is where the love was solidified. Great review as always!

  2. I was having a bout of Christmas anxiety, but then I read your review and now I feel better :)
    This is such a great episode, and you wrote another wonderful review of it. It's hard for me to pinpoint when I fell in love with the series since I started watching them out of order (and then proceeded to a marathon viewing of the entire series over about a month), but this one definitely stood out to me early on. I think the moment I first saw the Human Being I was like, "Ok, this show is different. It's subversive and edgy and really funny."
    Can't wait for next week's review! Merry Christmas!

  3. I believe this was actually the third episode recorded. It's amazing how quickly the show started to come together.

    Looking forward to Intro to Statistics! I'd been watching from the first episode, but Intro is what really solidified my love for the show. (The full-on obsession came later.)