Published on April 2nd, 2015 | by Vyctoria Hart0
Community Season 6 Episode 4 “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing” Review
Things take a theatrical turn in the committee room this week when Chang decides to try for a part in Greendale’s stage adaptation of the 1984 classic movie The Karate Kid, specifically for the role of Daniel LaRusso (“Got a problem with that, racist?”). Annie goes with him to the audition for moral support and ends up being cast in the role instead, which Chang puts down to her being “so talented she got cast outside her gender”, whilst he is cast as Mr Miyagi, which he assumes only is “because of eye shape”. The director (Jason Mantzoukas – The Dictator, Parks and Recreation) is soon revealed to be a sadist, relentlessly bullying Ben over every single line of the script and even going as far as pouring coffee over his head. However Annie can seemingly do no wrong as she strolls through every scene with praise, despite doing a very strange, manly New Jersey accent throughout. As the title character and therefore the star of the show she feels bad about Chang’s treatment but doesn’t want to take any action that might threaten her position.
Meanwhile the school board has approached Dean Pelton with a proposition- since the backlash over them replacing the Pride Parade with a School Board Parade they need to appear more inclusive and diverse, as such they would like the Dean to join them as their first openly gay member. The Dean is initially torn since he’s “not openly anything, and ‘gay’ doesn’t begin to cover it” so he doesn’t want to misrepresent himself or his sexuality for the sake of a more powerful role. After a conversation with Frankie and Jeff on the nature of truth, publicity and privacy, including the wonderful description – “if coming out is a magic show and gayness is a rabbit out of the hat, [then] I’m one of those never-ending handkerchiefs” – he becomes convinced that politics isn’t necessarily about the truth and some representation is better than none, even if he’s only presenting two-sevenths of himself. The School Board then hold a press conference to introduce the Dean and his fake romantic partner Domingo. A montage follows of sappy press cuttings, heart felt thanks from gay students and an earworm rewrite of Dolly Parton’s Jolene to “Gay Dean” which will probably stay in my head for days. Can the Dean keep up this charade?
Elroy gets some more character development in a mini plot when he is given the role of “IT Lady” and gets tasked with fixing a wi-fi outage. When Abed discovers that the outage has been caused by a nest full of baby birds on the router he refuses to let Elroy move the nest and risk orphaning or killing the birds. Keith David proves his classic sci-fi acting chops with a Baby Bird Murder Monologue, leading a horrified Abed to ask “did Clive Barker write you?!” thus shaming him into relenting and agreeing to help guard the nest.
Annie finally gives into her guilt and takes a stand against the mean director when he drives Chang to tears. This backfires on her when he points out that she was only cast as the title character because she fit into last years costume. She has received praise because he knows she can’t do any better as an actor, but that doesn’t matter since The Karate Kid isn’t about the student, it’s about the tragic teacher Kesuke Miyagi and the struggles he went through in his past. The director points out that Noriyuki Morita was nominated for an Oscar for the role and he believes that Chang has the sadness and talent to do the role justice, but it has to be dragged out of him. Although Ben is grateful for her support Annie is dismissed and easily replaced with her more talented academic rival Annie Kim.
The Dean’s brief run as the token homosexual member of the School Board comes to an end when they find out about the baby birds and the conservative members declare that it’s “too gay” a justification for the wi-fi outage. He is pressured into getting rid of the birds or risk everyone thinking he can’t do as good a job as a ‘normal’. After he opts to remove the nest Abed tries to hand-rear the birds, but two die and the last is just holding on, apparently symbolising Abed’s innocence. In the face of this the Dean calls another press conference and admits that he hasn’t been honest, he is in fact an member of the most marginalised and least honest groups in America – a politician – and since nothing he says or does can be trusted, he is removed from his position and normality is restored.
This episode covers a lot of serious issues – politics, sexual identity, real and perceived racism, and the dangers of egotism. Of course like all Community episodes it does so in a very silly way but I found this episode to be especially effective. The use of Craig Pelton as the character pretending to be gay for the sake of power, is an interesting spin on a classical political plot. Rather than a gay character pretending to be straight he is hiding a wide variety of (mostly unspecified) kinks and sexual identities, none of which should be relevant to his relationship with the public, as Frankie herself points out, but the lie very quickly becomes the cornerstone of his interactions with the students and the board for very different reasons. Changing how he labels himself does nothing to improve his atrocious management style and only leaves him feeling uncomfortable and harassed. However, the real stand out performance this week was Ken Jeong as Ben Chang as Kesuke Miyagi. As a character Chang hasn’t been used to much effect so far this season, mostly just wandering into scenes for repetitive jokes and to quote Britta “it’s nice to support him out of something other than fear” for once. Theres a wonderful progress;from depressed despondence when he believes he has been cast for only racial reasons; to his comic torture at the hands of the vicious director and finally his surprisingly heartbreaking performance in the stage version of The Karate Kid; that I really wasn’t expecting after last weeks cat bite sequence. It really shows that Jeong has an awful lot of talent as an actor given the right material, and hopefully this will give the character a chance to move on from the Changnesia.