Off Air Comments
Tuesday
Apr102012

In Defense of Britta

Have you met Britta Perry from Community? She's the worst.

Community started off with a totally generic sitcom conceit. Self-involved narcissist Jeff (Joel Mchale) pretends to be a Spanish tutor in order to cozy up to Britta (Gillian Jacobs), the blonde bombshell, which to his dismay results in the formation of a ragtag study group. That's, like, a breath away from the premise of Joey, and we all know how well that went (hint: it took Matt LeBlanc 6 years to bounce back).

Snooooooooze.

And then something awesome happened: at the same time that the study group bonded as a weird little family unit, Britta turned out to be absolutely insufferable. It is a Community-universally accepted truth that proves itself each and every episode as the series blossoms from the weird alien baby that it is into…a snotty, smug alien teenager?

Britta is an absurd, self-absorbed hypocritical crazy face who has railed against various Big Issues like intolerance, conformity, and, most recently, marriage and stereotypic gender roles (“Weddings are like little girls’ tea parties except the women are the stuffed animals, the men are making them talk and they’re not drinking tea, they’re drinking antiquated gender roles”). And goddamn it, she’s the MVP of Season 3.

Britta being the worst has become one of the show’s best running jokes. If I’m not mistaken, the first outward expression is her mispronunciation of the word bagel (she pronounces it “baggle”) to which Professor Chang says “You’re the worst.” Her worstness ostensibly ruined the Christmas pageant, where the only thing that breaks the group out of a episode-long cheery Glee-like trance is when Britta sings a bizarre “Me so Christmas, me so merry” while making awkward pelvic gestures.

What's brilliant about the Britta character is that the way in which she acts as a microcosm of the genius that is Community: the show takes your perceived notions of a stereotype/archetype/genre and turns it inside out and on its head. Who would have pegged the pretty blonde girl to have a life track record like this: dropped out of high school because she thought it would impress Radiohead; joined an anarchist group that vandalized billboards but was kicked out for not being anarchist enough; got tear-gassed at the World Trade Center; befriended a lesbian to show how tolerant she is, only to discover the girl is straight and thinks that Britta’s gay. And one of my favourites: Britta, a psych major, name-drops the Oedipal complex, but pronounces it as “Edible,” doesn’t know what Oedipus did to his father because she didn’t finish reading the chapter, and is told by the priest at a funeral that she is the worst.

At this point in the series, no one really wants Britta and Jeff to end up together. But they bring out the worst in each other, through a shared deep-seated cynicism, to hilarious effect, which was on full display in the show’s midseason premiere, when the pair almost got married in an escalating argument that recalled GOB marrying a dealer of trained seals through a series of escalating dares on Arrested Development.

Troy (Donald Glover), the best to Britta’s worst, pretty much summed it up perfectly: “You are human tennis elbow. You are a pizza burn on the roof of the world’s mouth. You are the opposite of Batman.”

Britta may be the worst, but she’s the best worst there is.

-Ariel Vered

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