Monday, December 6, 2010

TV Twin: Community's Britta Perry

Remember in the heyday of Sex and the City (or, hell, seven months ago when that abomination of a fanfic-gone-bad second movie came out) when ladies and gay guys were all, "I'm a Carrie/Charlotte/Samantha/Miranda?"  (My friend Bob swears that calling oneself or someone else a "Carrie" is the very opposite of a good thing.)  I will admit that I more or less participated, as my sister swears I'm Miranda 2.0.  Thank God my ex didn't knock me up after getting one of his balls removed.

So, okay, I'm somewhat of a Miranda.  But even more these days, I'm a Britta.

Last May, I posted a tribute to one of my favorite shows now or ever, Community.  This season, the show's  gone in some new directions (not to be confused with New Directions on Glee, which I have a love/hate relationship with, but that's a whole 'nother post): more episodes that are stand-alone, more objectification of Joel McHale (not that I'm complaining), and most of all, more of an ensemble feel.  What began in the pilot as a morality tale of a lying asshole being put in his place has evolved into a story of a group of friends, at once archetypal and multi-layered, stumbling and grappling as they search for the next stage in life.

It's been fun to watch everyone grow--even old-man Pierce has his moments, falling into the "wrong crowd" with a clique of sassy old people known and feared as the Hipsters.  However, one of my favorite character evolutions has been Gillian Jacobs' Britta, who's gone from bland everyalternagirl love interest to full-fledged human being, equally misguided and wise as she frequently knocks heads and boots with McHale's Jeff Winger.

By "favorite," I sometimes mean "painful."  Britta's blundering antics can be wincingly hard to watch.  Because at times, they are so much like my own.  Here they are, the top 5 reasons I relate to Britta more than any TV character ever:

1.  Terminally unique, for better and for worse.
When I was an obnoxious pseudo-goth-depressed law student, one of my favorite professors warned me against alienating my preppy classmates by being "terminally unique."  My dark and despairing but stubborn mind had no idea what she meant then, but now I look back and wince at what a poseur I was. Throughout my late teens and twenties, I fell right into the hipster trap of disdaining things I deemed mainstream and embracing the alternative.  There's nothing wrong with doing this, if that's genuinely what you believe.  Not me--I loved indie bands but also secretly cranked the pop music I publicly denigrated.

Even though we don't see flashbacks, Britta stands out as the girl who never quite fit in.  She's a high school dropout, she wears leather jackets, she's lived in New York and is a vegetarian.  And she's very, very vocal about all of this.  I like to think I've evolved past terminal uniqueness (and yes, I know this is an NA/AA term), and I just own it.  However, sometimes my friends tell me otherwise.  We're growing into who we are, Britta and I, and hopefully we'll get to the point where we don't need to advertise, we'll just be.

2.  "I don't think straight with nothing to prove."
Oh, how I identify with this Fun. quote.   And if she knew about it, maybe Britta would too.

It was revealed in Season One that Britta is a high school dropout, and part of the reason she's at community college is to get back at everyone who thought she was a failure.  It's unspoken that many of these people have forgotten about her, or give even less of a crap than they did ten years ago.

I did graduate high school; however, I was almost held back in kindergarten.  Not because I was behind academically, but because I was shy and physically a little behind.  Upon getting confirmation that my smarts were more than up to speed, my mom and dad (the latter of whom studied to be a teacher), basically told my teacher she was full of crap.

I found this out in seventh grade, when I ALREADY felt like a freak amidst my loud, athletic, pink around the collar classmates.  It made me even more determined not to be like them.

I graduated valedictorian (and a kickass dancer to boot).

Even now, at age 30, I often feel like I'm two steps behind everyone else.  And I need to catch up at all costs.  No matter what I accomplish, it isn't quite enough for me to prove that I'm no longer the shy little farm-town girl who walked slower and talked quieter than the rest of the class.  Ridiculous?  Yeah.  But like Britta, I constantly feel the need to "show" everyone.  Even though--surprise!--nobody cares.

3.  Likes all the wrong guys.
Even though she's a smart, tough chick, Britta's romantic judgment often leaves a lot to be desired.  In season one, she had two main hookups: professional Hacky Sack-er and hippie musician Vaughn, who eventually wrote a song declaring Britta a "gee dee bee" (figure it out), and cocky lawyer/fellow Spanish 101 survivor Jeff.  When Jeff's former girlfriend Professor Slater decided she wanted him back, Britta used her status as candidate for Transfer Queen to make a declaration of love she wasn't sure she felt.

Been there.  Oh God, have I been there.

I tend to go for the guys who are confident to the point of arrogance, smart-ass to the point of borderline disrespectful.  I like the ones who flaunt their brain cells in the face of those less astute.  And sometimes, these guys turn out to be jerks, but oh no, I keep coming back.

Vaughn is long gone, but Britta and Jeff's relationship remains interesting in its stickiness.  Do they have a genuine love connection?  Probably not.  Jeff's a preppy douche, Britta's a wannabe hipster.  But they're both cynical, darkly humorous, and enjoy a good argument.  I don't know if either is looking for romance, yet they're perfectly suited as friends with benefits.  I joked the other day to Bob that I may as well wear a T-shirt saying, "Looking for Jeff Winger."  'Cause snarky friend with hot benefits sounds pretty amazing right now.

4.  Opinionated, yet goofy.
Britta goes to protests, eschews meat and takes women's studies courses.  Yet she also does the robot, spews awkward comebacks, and once dressed as a flower for a dance recital.  Sure, the quirky not-quite-together gal has been around since Mary Richards and Diane Chambers, but rarely have I connected more with one.

I hate it when TV shows and movies manifest female quirkiness in the form of manic pixie dream girls (see also: Natalie Portman in Garden State.  I have never wanted to murder a fictional character more).  Everyone has their little weirdnesses, but it doesn't mean they're a) dumb, or b) a plot device for a sad sack whiny male to realize that life is awesome.  Britta and I both try too hard to be different sometimes, without realizing that we're strange already--just not in the ways we pretend to be.

5.  "I try to act compassionate, because I'm afraid I'm not."
This line, uttered after Britta and Jeff's paintball game tryst in the seminal "Modern Warfare" episode, hit me in the gut like a ton of bricks.  For a rare moment, these two stop posturing and sexual-tension squabbling and have an honest conversation which results in Britta's confession.  And it makes so much sense for her character, a vulnerability that feels real rather than put upon.  Britta's proud of the white liberal shell she's built around her, but deep down she's worried she's just not nice at heart.  (Jeff has similar struggles as he realizes more and more that he's not as clever as he thinks he is.)

Yeah, this hit home.  I mean, I donate to charities whose work I believe in.  I work for a nonprofit about whose mission I am passionate.  I try to be a good friend to those with whom I am close.

Yet I struggle with the fact that I'm probably not a nice person.  I'm snarky.  I'm judgmental.  I like to think I'm better than I used to be, but maybe I'm not.  And it wears on me a lot more than I'd like to admit.

That one line, so succinct and earnest, is the one that made me sit up on my couch and say, "Damn."  It put into words what I'd never been able to verbalize.

So yeah, I love Britta.  It may be weird to identify with a fictional person so deeply, but I do.  Might as well own it, right?

I think I should add Gillian Jacobs to the list of Celebrities I Never Want to Meet.  Because I'm sure I'd blather, "Omigod, I am SO Britta," and I'm sure she gets enough of that noise.

Two of my favorite Britta moments:


  1. Yes! I love Britta. I love all the characters on that show for different reasons, but I love Britta because she's the realest, the least caricature-esque, than the others. When Abed is too Aspergian, or Jeff too aloof, or Annie too crazy, Or Pierce too racist, Britta is just there being a real girl. And of COURSE she and Jeff would make out drunk in the back of his car with Abed sitting right next to them and Troy driving.

    We might be blogging twins. Four of the five of your reasons for being like Britta seem to belong to me as well. (I go for nice boring guys of above-average intelligence though. Don't tell my husband I called him boring - though he shouldn't care. It's one of the reasons I love him.)

  2. Haha, Nikki, I think we ARE blogging twins in many ways!

    Community has such strong characters--I would KILL to hang out with the study group and just shoot the shit. (And if the table reads Bob attended are any indication, the cast has a lot of fun together.) But yeah, Abed can get on my nerves, and Annie reminds me a little too much of how I was at that age (minus the former drug problem). Britta's not always in the right (far from it), but she's authentic and, to me, very relatable.

    This past week's episode was amazing. Everything from Jeff and Britta's drunken argument turned makeout to the Farscape nerd attempting to pick up Abed to the revelation of Shirley's past to Troy being the grown-up of the group, was just pitch perfect. I've watched it multiple times.

    I wish I shared your taste in men. I'd have saved myself a lot of drama in the past few years.