Community launched Donald Glover’s amazing career. The nomadic sitcom tended to be run opposite juggernaut series The Big Bang Theory, and its networks just sort of let the show do whatever it wanted. The result is one of the funniest, most experimental, and subversive TV series of the past several decades.
Donald Glover, aka rapper Childish Gambino, aka the scene-stealing Lando Calrissian in Solo, aka the creator of the hit show Atlanta, got his big media start on Community playing Troy Barnes alongside Alison Brie, Ken Jeong, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, Chevy Chase, and Joel McHale.
Producers probably couldn’t make Community today. It was far too experimental, with an entire series of episodes across multiple seasons devoted to campus-wide paintball combat, and the Ken Jeong character starting the show’s run with cultural appropriation. He was a Chinese professor teaching Spanish, calling himself “Señor Chang.” He didn’t even speak Spanish.
Yeah, that wouldn’t fly today. Neither would this explicit clap-back at so-called “anti-racism” years before it dominated our entire lives.
A few years later, the NFL franchise in the nation’s capital is pretty much the Greendale Human Beings. Yeah, they’re still better than the Dallas Cowboys on the actual field of play.
Donald Glover left the series and became the multitalented star we know today. He’s famously reclusive on social media, but published a series of tweets this week in which he called out cancel culture.
“Saw people on here havin a discussion about how tired they were of reviewing boring stuff (tv & film),” he began in a series of three singular tweets — the only ones that currently appear on his Twitter feed.
“We’re getting boring stuff and not even experimental mistakes(?) because people are afraid of getting cancelled,” Glover continued in a follow-up tweet with the support of nearly 55,000 likes so far.
“So they feel like they can only experiment w/ aesthetic. (also because some of em know theyre not that good),” he concluded.
Coming from Glover, who has never been afraid to take risks and experiment creatively, this is significant.
It’s possible he’s talking about shows and music failing to find an audience and then getting canceled by their platforms, but in the current context, he seems to be discussing cancel culture. The multitude of streaming platforms available now encourages some experimentation. But Community would surely get canceled today over the clip above and any number of the storylines it pursued. In fact, one of its episodes has been canceled from a streaming service. That episode, titled “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” features Jeong in makeup as a dark elf. Going by today’s standards, he would be in blackface. Unless he’s the Democrat governor of Virginia, he would never get away with that. One of the other characters, Shirley, calls him out as a “hate crime.” This episode is no longer available on Netflix but it is still available on Amazon Prime. There’s no way it would even make it past first reading around the table now.