Why Dan Harmon Refuses To Shut The F*ck Up About 'Community'
Do you remember all the controversy from a few months back about some remarks Dan Harmon made about Community? Of course you do. There was a rape analogy, hackles were raised and everyone on both sides of the argument threw a good old fashioned snit fit. The inflammatory rape quote was pulled, out of context, from the Harmontown podcast. And without hearing any of the context I landed firmly on the non-Harmon side of the snit. “Jesus Christ,” I thought, “just shut the f*ck up and be grateful they hired you back, man. No need to pile on Season Four, just keep your head down, stop fighting with Chevy Chase, stop comparing ANYTHING to rape and do the work you were hired to do.”
That was before I drank the Harmontown Kool-Aid.
And oh, friends, I have drunk deeply. A friend of mine, a Harmontown acolyte, urged me to give the show a listen. At the very least, he said, give the “Rape Analogy Episode”* a try to get some context. I wasn’t swayed at first. Harmon is an eloquent, brilliant, hilarious, inventive but sometimes abrasive figure. “Not as bad as I thought,” I said after listening, “but I’m not exactly Team Harmon yet.” But I tried a few more episodes and fellas, ladies, I was smitten. It’s not that the eloquent, brilliant, inventive hilarity drowned out the abrasiveness it’s that, like with any great love affair, I fell in love with the bad qualities along with the good. The off-putting sides of Dan Harmon, the (not unwarranted) arrogance and the occasional misanthropy, are all part of a refreshing honesty, an unflinching dedication to being genuine, genuinely weird and genuinely a misfit.
And kids, that is, of course, what Community is all about. Celebrating a safe space for misfits. (Extremely telegenic misfits, but that’s okay.) In this week’s episode of Harmontown, Dan invited to two women up onto the stage with him, one of whom, a huge advocate for Community and a large presence in its online fandom, recently told Dan Harmon he should “stop talking.” (Basically, echoing my initial sentiment. “For the sake of the show, Dan, stop talking.”) On the episode of Harmontown, this woman, who goes by Maegwen, said the following. “I thought that you were hurting yourself and you were hurting the fans.” And here is the most salient point Harmon made in response:
Somebody says to me “Hey Dan what does it feel like to write that show?” and I go “You know, sometimes it feels like a penguin fucking a moose.” And only recently…like it’s worth money to print a headline that says, like, “Community Creator Says Penguins Fuck Mooses.”…It’s a bummer for me but here’s how I handle it. I say “aw fuck that sucks” but I don’t say to anybody, to Vulture, Defamer or anybody, “somebody’s got to stop doing something that they’ve been doing”…and I experience pain because of it just like I did on the playground just like all the characters on Community are constantly being punished for who they are. The outside world closes in on you as you express your humanity. It’s an important theme of the show and it’s run by a psychopath…and I’m bummed out, I’m a baby about the idea of being told to shut up and told what I should and shouldn’t do. It’s like a big issue with me.And that’s the point (or a point), Community fans, when you tear apart Dan Harmon for expressing himself or try to muzzle him, that’s like telling Abed to stop acting out or telling the Dean to stop dressing so oddly. Yes, they’re fiction and he’s fact, but the point is, you’re losing the thread when you stomp on someone’s right to express themselves. The further point that Harmon makes (and one he makes frequently) as that our online culture’s tendency to rip quotes out of context and sensationalize statements for the sake of page views is encouraging an environment of dishonesty. Why speak your mind when your mind is going to be willfully misrepresented? I’m not saying that Dan Harmon never says things that give me pause or put me off. Despite having chugged a gallon of Harmontown Kool-Aid, I’m still quite capable of not liking something he says. But I like that he says it. I like that he’s built this funky little community (yes, community) of misfits where every week he can hold court and generate interesting discussions and yes, yes, play a game of D&D. They play D&D.
Am I guilty of ripping things out of context? Almost certainly. Will I try not to do so in future. I will try. And even though I’m on Team Harmon here, those quotes above are still out of context. I urge you to listen to them in context. That would be the Study Group thing to do.
*Shockingly, not its actual name.