Community S4E08 – Herstory of Dance

“Herstory of Dance” uses a TV classic to provide the basis for both central conflicts: a school dance. When Dean Pelton announces Greendale’s first Sadie Hawkins Dance — a dance tradition which encourages women to ask out the men — Britta is offended, as women should be able to ask out men whenever they want, without a specially sanctioned dance. In protest she decides to organize her own dance, the Susan B. Anthony Dance.

Of course she Brittas that, and accidentally calls it the “Sophie B. Hawkins Dance,” after American sing-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins. Unwilling to admit her mistake and face the mockery of the study group, she commits, renting space in the school cafeteria (next to the Sadie Hawkins dance) and going so far as to promise Sophie B. Hawkins herself will appear.

Abed, meanwhile, tells the group that in an effort to show character growth he’s attempting to reference television less… but when both Shirley and Annie offer to find him a date to the dance, he’s unable to resist the opportunity to act out the classic two-dates scenario. He accepts both Shirley and Annie’s proposals, planning to have one at each dance and skip between them for increasingly ridiculous reasons. When the coat-check girl recognizes what trope he’s enacting, she agrees to help him.

Community takes on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl with Jessica, Annie's date for Abed.

Community takes on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl with Jessica, Annie’s date for Abed.

Rachel the coat-check girl, played by guest star Brie Lawson, is one of those instances where a character seems entirely crafted as the perfect mate for an existing character, and yet somehow as the audience I was willing to buy into it. Like Holly Flax mimicking Yoda with Michael Scott, Rachel discussing tropes with Abed is a little too perfect but nonetheless sweet. It’s helped along by the self-awareness of Community — Abed’s evening pursuing one trope leads him to another, one he doesn’t immediately recognize.

What pulls the episode together and really makes it work is the ending. We see Abed realize and admit that in real life people can be hurt by television shenanigans, and he apologizes to Shirley and Annie for using their friends that way. We see the growth he’s discussed all episode when he pursues Rachel but turns down her offer for a roleplaying first date, saying instead they should try it for real. What’s nice about this is that it allows Abed to retain his interest in and passion for film and television, while also showing that he’s becoming better at connecting with people without that filter.

Community S4E8 Jeff & BrittaMeanwhile, Sophie B. Hawkins makes an unexpected appearance at Britta’s dance, and we get an unusual moment of wisdom from Pierce. He tells Jeff that he hired Sophie Hawkins to help Britta, because he admired her commitment and, more importantly, thought Jeff was being unfairly harsh to Britta. It’s a scene that feels like a long time coming. Well-intentioned but misguided, Britta has been the butt of the show’s jokes for well over a season, and it’s nice to see Jeff finally give her some credit. It’s also nice to see Pierce in a helpful, kind role, one that doesn’t amount to making gay jokes at a barber shop.

“Herstory of Dance” was neither groundbreaking nor gut-bustingly funny. But it was enjoyable, believable, and sweet, making for a solid Greendale-based episode.

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