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|Written by Jordyn Marcellus|
|Thursday, 31 March 2011 00:00|
Britta Perry from Community bleeds compassion. She's seen the world, been to 14 countries, and even built a school in Kenya. She's the first to get outraged at any perceived injustice. Britta cares so damn much that she'll even rage against the unfairness perpetrated against gnome workers in a Dungeons and Dragons game.
What's more, she's decidedly an anarchist. Like all of the backstory given to Community's characters, it comes out in dribs and drabs. She and a friend "from her anarchist days" meet up and drink. She firmly advocates for Julian Assange as "the next Thomas Paine." Even though she pays, she viciously disagrees with income taxation. She announces her (failed) Greendale school presidental campaign by shouting that "people need not be governed!"
Sadly, that only results in the voting public just staring straight ahead in quiet confusion because, yes, the great unwashed masses need to be governed. Just not by a leather jacket-loving vegetarian with delusions of social uprising.
Community's writers are not only having a little bit of fun at their character's expense but also offering drive-by criticism of the idealized anarchism pervasive in so many young, naïve 20-somethings. Britta's viewpoint is Black Bloc-and-white; there are "bad people" out there and those under their yoke of oppression.
Britta is the representation of when idealism hits the hard wall of reality - she's every young, loudmouthed backpacker who says, "You just don't get it until you've traveled through Europe, man" to the poor kids just scraping by on their student loans.
For all her self-righteousness, for all the compassion, Britta is just as narcissistic as series protagonist uber-selfish Jeff Winger, the quintessential charming self-involved rogue. The two of them are the worst for each other, bringing out each other's most shallow, ego-driven side. They've even been labelled the "two with the most easily-shattered egos" by their study group friends. At one point, the two get so incredibly rattled by a group of immature teenagers cries of "uh, duh" that they end up getting into a childish tête-à-tête with them in their school's cafeteria.
In the context of the show, Jeff and Britta start off as a typical will-they-won't-they pairing until they sleep together during the course of an adrenaline-fuelled game of paintball ("Modern Warfare"). Britta declares her love for Jeff at the end of season one. The declaration, though, isn't done in earnest - instead, it's just to compete with Jeff's statistics teacher paramour. As she describes herself in an earlier episode to her friend Annie when Annie starts dating one of Britta's exes, she's really "a girly girl . . . who likes boys and gets jealous."
Ironically, after a summer spent dreading the public humiliation over her declaration, Britta manages to come back more popular than ever. She uses her newfound popularity to make Jeff's life a living hell, taking every shot to publicly humiliate him. By declaring their mutual love for one another - a transparently ego-driven proxy war between the two - we see the two of them end up in mutually assured emotional destruction. Jeff and Britta constantly fight and bicker over who loves them more all in an effort to "win" a battle that isn't healthy for anyone, even those in the study group -- especially for Annie, who kissed Jeff at the end of the semester.
While everything manages to work itself out in the end, this brinkmanship shows the depths of cruelty that Britta can get up to after her ego takes a hit. And that's what truly brings out Britta's meanness, her hypocrisy and contravention of her political ideals: when her self-confidence or ego takes a tumble, her selfishness amps right up.
Britta's actions, not her words, prove who she is. Words are paltry and easily offered, but actions determine one's true character. And for her, when she's not traveling the world and doing good, she can be a selfish oaf. Just like anyone else.
Britta's attempts at being open-minded have shown her to be just as hypocritical as most anti-gay politicians. She befriends a "cool lesbian" Paige. It turns out that Paige isn't a lesbian -- she thinks Britta is down with Sappho. Ruh roh, Raggy.
One amazingly awkward dirty dance-turned-almost-kiss later (they are trying to stick it to the people watching), Britta and Paige's hypocrisy is revealed at the Valentine's Day dance when they figure out that both are straight. But when the naïve, confused Annie purses her lips and moves in to kiss Britta, Britta can only respond with a dismissive "ew, gross." Likewise in "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking," the 16th episode of season two, Pierce recruits wannabe filmmaker Abed into creating a documentary about his "last bequeathals" to his friends in the study group. The real reason for this is simple: the cameras mean that people will have to be face their transparent hypocrisy.
For Britta, "good friend" Pierce has a $10,000 cheque meant for charity with a blank "pay to" field. Her bequeqthual puts her into an ethical debate that would send anyone into a tizzy: pay off the debt saddling her with desperate poverty, or give the money to a truly needy cause. Pierce appeals to her sense of charity but offers this flippant comment as she's almost out the door: "No one would know if you wrote your name on that cheque."
While she equivocates on what needy charity should get the cash ("You gotta be careful, some take a lot of money off the top," she muses to the camera), the ten grand calls out to her piddling bank account, massive debts, and parking tickets just as Pierce meant it to. He saw into the depths of her character and knew she was, at the core, a hypocrite.
Only with the help of Lavarr Burton Britta learns two wildly different lessons: one, she's bad with moneyand two, she would have stolen that money from the mouths of orphans if it wasn't for the documentary crew following her around. While she gives the cash to the Red Cross in the end, it's with a heavy heart that knows her latent hypocrisy.
In "The Psychology of Letting Go" Britta goes green with envy when her study group buddy Annie starts raising money for a Gulf coast oil cleaning initiative. Britta's wild, confrontational fundraising style drives away men from donating money, while Annie's chipper concern over the poor oil-covered waterfowl makes Britta seethe with rage.
Not all political idealists are as honest with themselves as they would like to believe. Britta Perry, the anarchist with a heart of gold and an ego of glass, is a prime example. Whether she's hanging out with someone because she thinks the other's a lesbian, telling young women that they are betraying the cause, or even trying out a war of brinkmanship, there is a mismatch between their words and deeds. And deeds almost always contradict lofty words.
Tags: actions speak louder than words, anarchy, britta is a b, community, furthering the cause, selfish people deserve each other, tv