Britta Perry Deserved Better Than Community’s Later Seasons
She wasn't the worst.
Community, a show with the highest of highs and lowest of lows, had a great ensemble of characters, but none were torpedoed quite as badly as Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs). Britta began the show as a snarky, earnest feminist and ended it as the butt of nearly every joke. To coin one of the many in jokes from the show, they Britta’d Britta.
Every character on Community got goofier as the show reached new comedic heights. That’s partially the point, after all. As Jeff (Joel McHale) gets less and less cynical and grows with his classmates, they all become weirder and more wonderful. But Britta’s evolution from deadpan snarker to the gang’s personal punching bag isn’t cute like Troy and Abed’s adventures or Annie letting loose. Instead, it feels meanspirited.
In season one, the gang tells Britta she’s a killjoy, to which she responds by trying to pull an April Fools Day prank that backfires. As the mayhem escalates, she delivers a heartfelt monologue about feeling like she’s unwanted, with the killer line: “Knock knock, who’s there? Cancer! Good, come on in, I thought it was Britta!” And yes, Britta’s self-righteousness can be off putting, but if we learned to love womanizing jerk Jeff, we can sympathize with try hard Britta.
By mid-season two, the joke seems to be that Britta is naive to a disbelieving point, and she lacks the wit and intelligence that made her shine in season one. She’s easy to trick, makes simple mistakes, and her name becomes slang for making a mistake. Take the pillow fight episode, a parody of Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Britta’s only role in the episode is to be bad at photography, while the other characters get actual comedic beats. While we’re laughing with Troy, Abed, and the others, we’re supposed to laugh at Britta.
While the other characters develop positively, Britta regresses. A more natural change would be her loosening up and becoming more accepting, not whatever she turned out to be in the later seasons, no matter how hard they tried to play her off as being less than the butt of a joke.
But let’s face it, while Community featured great female characters, it never was quite as interested in them as it was interested in the male characters. Jeff, Abed, and Troy all got to grow and develop and get actual arcs, while Britta regressed and Shirley remained static. Annie got the most development, but usually when she was off causing mayhem with Abed and Troy, rather than serving as Jeff’s love interest.
This is not an attack on Community, which is a show I adored for the first three seasons. I think those early seasons are among some of the funniest, sharpest episodes I’ve seen on television, and I still watch “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” every year like clockwork. But I get sad during later episodes thinking about Britta’s treatment. There had to have been a better way to allow her to grow without making her into the permanent punchline she became.
Community had ups and downs. I still rewatch my favorite episodes regularly, and think the paintball episodes are some of the funniest parodies I’ve ever seen. Even in the later seasons, Troy’s goodbye episode still brings a tear to my eye. But whenever I watch season one and early season two, I get a twinge for the Britta that could have been. So, today, let’s raise a toast to Greendale, and the Britta we deserved.
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