The "Gears Are Turning" on a 'Community' Movie, at the Potential Cost of Dan Harmon's Sanity
Alternately a meme, a rallying cry, and simply a fun running gag in Community, the promise of “Six Seasons and a Movie” has hovered in front of every fan’s eyes ever since the high-concept comedy show came to an end in 2015. Like the proverbial carrot on a stick, we seem to always be moving closer to an actual confirmation without ever making any real progress. Well, take a deep breath because series creator Dan Harmon’s latest quotes are giving us the most hope we’ve had in a while… even if it’s also sending him into a bit of a tailspin.
To Be or Not to Be?
In an appearance on Vulture’s Good One podcast (via Syfy Wire), Harmon runs the gamut of every possible Community-related topic under the sun (including his admitted mistreatment and sexual harassment of his writing staff). Inevitably, the discussion turns toward a frank assessment of just how likely a Community movie really is and Harmon lets some intriguing clues slip:
“…I am, at least once a week, thinking about it, because the gears are turning. There is, like … a thing is happening. Logistically, the locks are coming away. And the only problems are becoming the creative ones, which is great, because I love those problems. I love having these conversations, and they’re being had.”
We’ve heard words like this before, but something tells me this instance might be a little different. Harmon’s obviously been agonizing over this project, which ironically makes me feel better that the final product wouldn’t end up being a cautionary tale. We’ll see what may come of this.
Who’s This For Anyway?
But in classic Harmon fashion, things start to get very existential the longer the Community creator talked about this mythic movie. When asked specifically about what potential issues stand in the way of making it a reality, Harmon answers:
“Here’s the biggest philosophical question [for a reunion movie]: Are you supposed to service a mythical new viewer? The obvious, dogmatic, practical, off-the-street answer is like, No, you don’t. It’s fan service. Why would there be a ‘Community’ movie? Who do you think is going to walk in off the street and buy popcorn and sit and watch a ‘Community’ movie like that? They deserve to be punished. Why are they doing that?”
Personally I’m glad to see this train of thought verbalized, since this has actually been one of my few reservations about seeing a movie get made. During its 110-episode run, Community simply never caught on to mainstream viewers in any tangible way. Its recent move to Netflix and Hulu helped turn the cult classic into something more widely accessible, but trying to balance catering to original hardcore fans vs potentially opening things up to a newer audience is a quandary worth wrestling with.
The Rick and Morty co-creator continues, with a rather cogent comparison point:
“Saying that that person doesn’t exist is a lot different from asking yourself structurally if you’re supposed to design the movie for them, because there’s a new viewer inside of all of us. If every Marvel movie started with inside references to all 90 other Marvel movies, even if you had seen all of them — even if on one level you’d be like, ‘This is the greatest Marvel movie ever because all of the movies are in here’ — I think that a part of your brain would be going, ‘Yeah, but it’s kind of not a good movie for this reason. It’s just speaking in gibberish. What does this mean? I exist in that camp like you?’
Formalistically, you owe a movie that I think the fans can not only enjoy, but they can stand back and go, You know, the crazy thing about this ‘Community’ movie is that if you didn’t know there was a show, this is an insanely good movie. There’s a reason to watch it and then definitely watch the series because now you’re like, ‘Holy crap. I don’t know if that’s arrogance, pretentiousness, responsibility, self-deprecation, torture. I can’t get myself out of that camp.’ “
Whew that’s a lot, but there’s also a lot to love about these quotes. Community was always built on an ever-escalating series of in-jokes and running gags, but it’s tricky to translate those particular sensibilities to an actual feature-length film. Making art can’t exist inside a bubble, Harmon seems to be arguing, not when there are so many broader implications that must factor in.
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