Sunday, February 3, 2013

#7DaysofCommunity - Day 4

What I love about Community is that it is an ensemble-driven comedy. Sure, Jeff Winger is the head of the study group, but this show isn’t about one person. Not really, anyway. This show, much like Friends, is – at its core – about a group relationship between seven individuals. But what’s great about ensemble shows is this: you are left with a plethora of possible pairings that can be explored throughout the series. As I’ve mentioned before, Community has a number of go-to pairings (Troy/Abed, Britta/Shirley, etc.), as many ensemble shows do.

But what I love more than anything is when Community explores pairings that aren’t typically given screen time throughout the series. Even though I love the ensemble aspect (and my first and forever OTP will Study Group x Study Group) of this show, today’s question focuses on an individual pairing within the comedy.

So what pairing have I written about? Click below the cut for today’s question and answer! :)

Anonymous asked: Favorite non-Troy/Abed duo

Answer: Jeff and Shirley

Those of you who know me probably anticipated a Jeff/Annie or Troy/Britta answer to this question (and never fear, because there was a Jeff and Annie-related question that will be answered later on in the week), but when I paused to think about it, Jeff and Shirley are my favorite non-Troy/Abed duo.

(And thank you, Anonymous, for not letting me take the easy way out and choosing Troy/Abed!)

When I think about all of the possible combinations that Community plays around with when it comes to storylines and duos, one of the most underrated (but comedically genius and fundamentally interesting) pairs is Jeff Winger and Shirley Bennett. Back in season one, the two had minimal interaction, save for gossiping about Britta’s then-boyfriend Vaughn. The most significant Jeff/Shirley interaction came in “Comparative Religion” – an episode centering around Shirley’s desire to make the study group’s first Christmas together perfect. That, unfortunately, conflicted with a) everyone else’s religious preferences, and b) Jeff’s plan to fight the school bully, Mike, who picked on Abed earlier in the episode.

There was a tension that existed between Jeff and Shirley throughout the episode, stemming from religious differences but ultimately due to Shirley’s controlling nature when it came to the holiday. She lost her family for Christmas and was, as Britta confirms later on, trying so hard to force the study group into a familial role that she lost sight of the fact that they were individuals with their own beliefs and preferences. At the end of the episode, just as Shirley realizes she should support Jeff Winger because she cares about him and that’s what family does, Jeff refrains from fighting with Mike. He stops thinking about himself and his motivations for a moment, and acknowledges that even though HE sees nothing special about Christmas or its meaning, his friend Shirley does. And that? Well, that means something because she means something to him.

(And even as Mike kicks and hits Jeff, the former lawyer still defends Shirley… well, until she gives him permission to fight back. Then the entire study group goes to war!)

The two had the opportunity to bond further in “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism,” which is just a fantastic episode all around. In this episode, I think we really get a chance to see who Jeff and Shirley are at their cores – why they are both insecure, and how (inadvertently) they made each other that way. But it’s more than that. The two realize that they cannot BLAME each other for the way their lives turned out. Jeff finds it easier to be mad at Shirley for ruining his life as a child and causing him to be insecure than face his actual problems. And they realize that their relationship as bully-bullied when they were children does not negate everything that has happened during their relationship at Greendale.

(And the final shot of Jeff and Shirley linking arms and walking away to “Greendale is Where I Belong,” only to turn into little!Jeff and little!Shirley? Well, that just made me full-out cry.)

As season three wrapped up, Jeff and Shirley had another episode together (“Origins of Vampire Mythology”), and in the season finale, SHIRLEY was the reason that Jeff delivered that epic Winger speech I mentioned yesterday. The bottom line is this – Shirley told Jeff: “I want you to have what you want.” And, in that moment, Jeff realized exactly how much Shirley cared about him as a person and as a friend. She was willing to let Pierce win, to sacrifice her dream of owning her own sandwich shop, so that Jeff could have what HE wanted. Jeff spent three years griping and complaining about being at Greendale. Even at the beginning of “Introduction to Finality,” he insisted that he was only at the college to replace his fake Bachelor’s degree. Then, he declared, he could go back to the way things used to be.

But in that moment, Jeff realized that the way things used to be? Well, they were awful. Sure, he had a lot of money and prestige and was a lawyer. But he didn’t have people like Shirley in his life – true, honest, wonderful and self-sacrificing friends. And he realized, when she made that statement, that maybe this was what he had been missing. Maybe he had been so focused toward the end of the summer, on returning to a life he saw through rose-colored glasses. Jeff didn’t realize, until Shirley was about to sacrifice her dreams for him, exactly what lengths his friends were willing to go for HIM. Sure, he had been willing to do some pretty insane things for them… but these people, these six other individuals, loved him. And they wanted him to be happy.

And that was enough to catapult Jeff into a very heartfelt and moving speech – a speech where he admitted that he was wrong; that he had been wrong on that very first day at Greendale. The beauty of the study group is that every relationship means something different. Every duo, trio, and… whatever comes after that is purposeful. The relationships are intentional. Even though Pierce and Britta rarely have a story together, when they do (like in “Debate 109”) both end up learning and growing from the other. Similarly, even though Abed and Shirley rarely have storylines together, “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples” is one of the best glimpses we get into the importance of humility that both characters struggle with sometimes.

For Jeff and Shirley, the resonating theme is this: acceptance. And, ultimately, respect. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better non-Troy/Abed duo than that.

Thanks to everyone who is interested in #7DaysofCommunity! Keep an eye out for my daily tweets, because we still have a few days left until the show premieres. And that means I have a few more days to answer your questions! And feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below: who is YOUR favorite duo on Community?

As always, thank you guys for being invested in this show and blog. Have a great week! :)


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