How these bizarre television shows have helped me understand today’s reality


Emily Varker is a english major in the class of 2023 and the copy editor for the Ionian.

Emily Varker, Copy Editor

Having been staying at home for a year now, I (like many other people) used the opportunity to clear out my watchlist on streaming platforms. TV is popularly known as a form of escapism, which still offers commentary on situations that are very real to us today. After all, isn’t it easier to watch a deadly disease take hold of glamorous aristocrats in the 1910s than think about the one transpiring outside your door? Due to this pandemic, I have watched many things from the aforementioned period dramas to nostalgic Disney Channel shows. However, the ones that sit the most with me are the ones that are more bizarre. 

Recently, I watched the cult classic NBC show Community for the first time. For anyone unfamiliar with the show, it centers around a single study group at a poorly rated community college. The characters are all wild caricatures of people we could very easily meet in real life: the ex-lawyer, the activist, the one who’s a little too obsessed with movies and so on and so forth. The setting in which we find these characters seems to be ridiculously mundane. And the main group of characters themselves are all failures at what they have attempted to do in the past, such as a failed marriage, crushed sports dreams and exposed fraud.  The characters believe that this is why they have ended up at community college. They could very easily wallow in their failures, but they do not. Instead, they become sucked up in all the truly bizarre goings on happening at Greendale- reluctantly at first but eventually by enthusiastic choice. 

Though none of the characters are explicitly good people, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit inspired by them. I’ve been stuck at home for a year now and I most definitely have not gotten into anything as exciting as the Greendale crew. Somehow, they reluctantly start off at Greendale but eventually, by allowing themselves to be sucked up in it, they manage to make good friends and understand themselves more. Maybe this is what I should be doing during my time at home. Instead of just bemoaning and begrudgingly accepting my situation, I should let the weirdness of this situation take over so that I can come to understand myself more and better accept my life as it is now. I’m not saying an all-out paintball war will break out in my house, but maybe I can find the bizarre in the mundane. 

This is the power that media, like Community, which delve into the truly weird can hold– it inspires us to look for the absurd in everyday situations. If the rag-tag group of more than unlikely heroes can face the strange in their own dull circumstances, so can we. These shows point to the weirdness that goes on in our real world and helps us recognize it. In this crushingly mundane world of quarantining and Zoom calls, we should all try to find the bizarre and live our life as if we are on TV.