Community: “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing” Season 6 Episode 4 Review

Photo Credit: http://www.ew.com/recap/community-season-6-episode-4

Now that’s more like it.

This week’s Community accomplished two incredible feats. It tackled the complex subject of fluid sexuality AND found a suitable plotline for Chang. The ladder feat is especially impressive, but what really made “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing” so special is that it reminded me of the Community I first fell in love with. I don’t think this will be hailed as a classic a la the paintball or bottle episodes, but it’s still proof that this show has some tricks up its sleeve. For a series that’s in its 6th season, that’s very exciting.

Dean Pelton’s sexuality has always been enigmatic. It’s clear that he’s far from a guy’s guy, but stereotypes are stereotypes and, like Tobias Fünke before him, there’s a level of ambiguity that makes his orientation hard to define.

Really, though, why should we define it? Community might mine The Dean’s mysterious preferences for all the comedic gold it can find, but in real life there’s a great number of people with fluid sexuality that don’t make it a defining staple of who they are. What really makes The Dean a great character is his love for a school that’s slowly crumbling to the ground—and for Jeff Winger, of course. Everything else is just great for laughs.

The fact that The Dean’s orientation is never explicitly stated only adds to the humor. When the school board bros convince him to come out as openly gay so he can gain a new position with them, he decides to come out as “two sevenths” of what he actually is (and what he actually is “makes gayness look like Mormonism.”) The less details we know about this aspect of his life, the funnier it becomes. And, truthfully, there’s power behind the comedy. People like to think of human sexuality as a black-and-white subject, but there’s a whole grey area that exists and is often underrepresented in the media. I doubt this episode will cause major waves in Hollywood, but it’s certainly a start.

Speaking of Hollywood, public figures identifying with a certain sexuality has become a double-edged sword. In a recent interview with OUT Magazine, How to Get Away with Murder star Jack Falahee kept his own orientation under wraps by saying, “I don’t think answering who I’m sleeping with accomplishes anything other than quenching the thirst of curiosity.”

He’s right, it’s nobody’s business but his own, but at the same time, having a famous face admit that he or she part of a certain group of people can be empowering. The main conflict The Dean faces is whether he should risk his sexuality becoming his sole defining trait in order to make a real change.

There’s an excellent scene in which he bounces the idea off both Jeff and Frankie, and they each take an opposing side. Frankie doesn’t think he should make his sexuality an aspect of his role in society. She certainly doesn’t, and I laughed out loud as she continued to give solid advice while Jeff and The Dean mouthed to each other behind her back about where exactly she fell on the spectrum. Yep, you can’t always help being curious.

Jeff ends up winning him over by convincing him of the good this will do for Greendale. Honestly, though, it’s always hard to make a professional decision that will also affect your personal life. When The Dean comes out he becomes somewhat of a small-town hero, inspiring other gay students at the school. Still, he also becomes known as “Gay Dean,” and every decision he makes is looked at through that lens.

Community is a smart show, and though this plotline’s resolution is a little abrupt, it works. The Dean gets kicked off the school board by coming out as a politician because, as Jeff says, “we like our politicians in the closet because we’re afraid, deep down, that we’re all a little political.” This episode dealt with a lot of hot-button issues going on in the LGBTQ community today, and yet it never felt like Dan Harmon was standing on a soapbox. It felt like an episode of Community, which is all we’d ever really want anyway.

Now that the show has moved to Yahoo! Screen, the episodes have a longer running time, so “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing” had room for two fully-fledged subplots as well. The first dealt with Chang and Annie getting cast in a stage adaptation of The Karate Kid, with Annie as Danny and Chang as Mr. Miagi. The most amazing part about this narrative is that it’s the first one in a while that actually works in Chang’s favor.

The secret, I think, to its success is that it humanizes him. Chang’s crazy tirades were fun when he would just briefly pop into a scene or two, but they became a nuisance once he gained a larger role in the series. Now, we’re seeing a different side of him. It’s a side that enjoys acting and showing vulnerability, and it’s something I’m certainly game to see more of. With so many cast shake-ups this season, I’m glad the show seems to be handling its restructuring in this way.

Less convincing are Abed and Elroy, who spend almost the entire half hour watching over—and then mourning—some birds that are blocking the school’s wifi capabilities. Dani Pudi and Keith David play well off each other, but I just don’t think the plot gave them enough to do. In the beginning of the episode, The Dean decides that these two are now friends, and if Abed is going to gain a new partner in crime, I’d like to see them go on some bigger adventures.

Community is a show about a group of weirdos, but the magic trick it pulls off is that the more time you spend with them, the less weird they seem. This is the first episode of the new season that recaptured this feeling, and I have high hopes for what’s to come. Whether this show is normalizing fluid sexuality, psychotic deviants-turned-method actors, or something else entirely, I know it’ll be great. Grade: A-

 

Some Other Notes:

– The Donkey Kong joke in the cold open was hysterical. Keith Davis is great! They just need to figure out what to do with them.

– There were a lot of Karate Kid jokes in the episode, but I think my favorite bit of reference humor was Annie’s line: “Like Sidney Poitier or Meg Ryan before you, you were cast for race.”

– When the school board bro Richie gives The Dean a noogie while aggressively shouting “it gets better!” I died. Seriously hit the nail on the head.

– Also, any of The Dean’s moments with Domingo were excellent.

– Annie getting replaced by Annie Kim in the play was a nice throwback moment. Poor Annie…

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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