After watching the first episode of Community, the 2009 American sitcom, I feel that I have learned a lot about the media’s representation of diversity within higher education. Community tells the story of Jeff Winger and his Spanish study group. Backstory: Jeff Winger is a young adult white male who just recently got his law degree revoked after it was exposed as a scam. Winger has now decided to go back to school and has ended up at Greendale Community College. In order to win over a younger female student, he creates a study group for their Spanish class, except he has no experience speaking fluent Spanish. The group appeals to many different classmates, and the show tells their stories as they try to excel in community college.
First of all, when I think of community college, a diverse cultural immersion is not the first thought that comes to my mind. I think of Gadsden State Community College which does not host the same student body shown in Community. This proves that my viewpoint is skewed. I take what I know and assume that all community colleges must also look the same way, but this is incorrect. Just in the first episode, Community shows a wide variety of people from all walks of life coming together for a common purpose- to learn. However, the show almost pokes fun at the people attending Greendale. It depicts the characters as the misfits of society whose previous plans did not work out, so now here they are. In the very beginning of the episode, the Dean of Greendale defines community college as a “loser college for remedial teens, twenty-something dropouts, middle aged divorcees, or old people trying to keep their brains active.” This single quote sums up the media’s definition of community college. Instead of a place to further learning no matter who you are or where you come from, the media defines community college as a place for failed individuals. This is very disappointing and can cause many people to have a negative view on this very important branch of higher ed. However, I have never been to community college, so it is biased for me to have an opinion on this subject, but it is also biased for popular media to depict this type of schooling in such a derogatory manner. Hopefully, the remainder of this show will begin to lift up this branch of higher education, so that viewers can gain a holistic, unbiased view of what community college actually looks like.
The show redeems itself through its uplifting message regarding the importance of diversity. At the end of the first Spanish study group meeting, Jeff Winger tells the group, You are all better than you think you are. You are designed not to believe it when you hear it from yourself…Look at the person sitting next to you. I want you to extend to that person the same compassion you extend to sharks, pencils and Ben Affleck. I want you to say to that person, “I forgive you.” You’ve just stopped being a study group. You have become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you a Community.” Through a colorful cast of characters, Community shows that one of the most important ways to learn is through those around us. If you surround yourself with people that are just like you, you will never learn or grow. This show sheds a light on the current America: people from all different backgrounds working to better their future. The varied group of genders, ages, races, and ethnicities cast in the show provides an insight on how many different kinds of people actually attend community college. By taking pride in differences, Community makes a statement on the importance of diversity from a higher ed standpoint. It teaches of acceptance and working together to become better individuals. Although I only watched the pilot, I applaud Community for celebrating people from all groups and am looking forward to watching how the rest of the season plays out.