Shannon WELLS-LASSAGNE

January 30, 2011 Comments Off on Shannon WELLS-LASSAGNE

 

Biography

Shannon Wells-Lassagne est maître de conférences à l’Université de Bretagne Sud, ou elle a co-organisé deux colloques sur l’adaptation filmique avec Ariane Hudelet. Elle est co-auteur de l’ouvrage Etudier l’adaptation filmique (avec Laurent Mellet) et co-éditrice de De la page blanche aux salles obscures (avec Ariane Hudelet, sous presse), aux Presses Universitaires de Rennes. Elle travaille également sur la littérature britannique du 20ème siècle, notamment l’oeuvre d’Elizabeth Bowen.

 

Abstract

“Transforming the traditional sitcom: the postmodern reflexivity of Abed in Community”

At first glance, NBC’s freshman comedy “Community” appears to be the perfect example of a high-concept sitcom: the main character Jeff Winger is a lawyer who has been disbarred for fake diplomas, and who therefore has to go back to school at a community college in order to regain his job. He is surrounded by fellow students, the stereotypical misfits that people sitcoms: the matronly single black mother, the uptight overachiever, the dumb and arrogant jock, the attractive hippy (and love interest), and the retiree going back to school, whose cluelessness is butt of the majority of the jokes. However, a final character, Abed, seems almost extraneous to the proceedings: he is a half Polish, half Palestinian film student, who suffers from Asperger’s and therefore has a difficult time understanding the relationships around him. Like Pierce, Abed would seem to be the odd man out, the source of much of the humor for the series; but in fact he serves an entirely different purpose. As a film student who was “raised by television”, Abed is constantly comparing events in the episodes to films and television series, thus immediately identifying the group as “The Breakfast Club” in the pilot episode, or proving capable of flirting with the opposite sex only when channeling Don Draper of “Mad Men” fame. This could be seen as a simple nod to the formulaic nature of the sitcom, an ironic wink to the viewer, but as the series progresses, Abed and his pop culture references take on increasing importance. His knowledge of genre rules becomes an almost divinatory power: once he begins taking film classes, his shorts about the group of friends actually predicts the future of the series (to the disbelief of the other characters), foregrounding the predictable nature of the sitcom action and taking it to task. Abed’s love of popular culture slowly becomes the raison d’être of the series, as each episode seems to become one of his renditions of film genres: a paintball game on campus becomes an episode-long homage to the action genre, while a fight for the cafeteria’s remaining chicken fingers becomes (bafflingly) a spoof on gangster films. In so doing, the character points out  the artifices of the sitcom genre, while at the same time transforming the mundane (chicken fingers!) into the spectacular, insisting on the elements of fiction that appear in our everyday lives: through Abed, “Community” both reifies sitcom conventions and links them back to the spectator’s own lives – making it one of the most original series in recent memory.


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