Recap / Community S1 E12: Comparative Religion
Shirley is organizing a Christmas party — her first since her husband walked out on her — and is eager to celebrate the season with the study group, her new family. However, her eagerness is sorely compromised by the fact that the religious beliefs of the other members of the group do not mesh with hers. Jeff, meanwhile, finds himself dealing with a local bully, Mike, who eventually gets him so riled that he challenges him to a fight, which causes problems; not only is it Jeff's first fight, but Shirley makes it clear that if he fights on what she considers a special day, he's no longer invited to her party.
The Community episode "Comparative Religion" features examples of:
- Acceptable Religious Targets: In-Universe. Jeff gets more flak for being an agnostic than Britta does for being atheist.
Pierce: Agnostic! The lazy man's atheist.
- Actor Allusion: Mike (played by Anthony Michael Hall) is described by Pierce as "used to be a nerd, now he's a meathead."
- Actor-Shared Background: Although many thought they were just assigning Annie a religion arbitrarily, Alison Brie actually is Jewish. And Donald Glover was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
- An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Specifically, Mike's group get their asses handed to them.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Chang when revealing that everyone has passed the Spanish test ... except for Jeff.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Annie holding a flocking machine like a BFG. That is all.
- Big "NO!": Annie, when she thinks Jeff has flunked Spanish 101.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Mike.
Mike: Oh, you're funny. You're a funny man. Wanna hear somethin' funny, funny man? Knock-knock — My fist up your balls!
Jeff: ... Who's there?
- The Cast Showoff: Yvette Nicole Brown gets to show off her singing voice. Also, Donald Glover displays some pretty nice harmonizing skills in the skit running over the end credits.
- Christmas Episode: Even though, as everyone notes, "It's December tenth."
- Combat Pragmatist/Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Parodied; Pierce claims to be using this to try and help teach Jeff fighting, but actually he just wanted an excuse to kick Jeff (and Troy) in the shin without them hitting back.
- Covert Pervert: Abed seems really excited about getting 72 virgins in Heaven.
- Dance Battler: Mike and his crew are apparently dancers.
- The Danza: Anthony Michael Hall as Mike.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Chang explaining his Bait-and-Switch Comment at the end just to make sure everyone gets his word play.
- Do They Know It's Christmas Time?/You Mean "Xmas": Subverted, averted, and played straight all throughout.
- Dean Pelton's announcement managed to avoid using any 'denominational' terms to describe the holidays.
Dean: Ha ha ha! Merry Happy!
- They do refer to Christmas several times.
Shirley: The true meaning of the holidays is Christmas.
Shirley: Joy to the world / The Lord is come / The Lord, the Lord, the Lord!
- After Shirley discovers everyone is of a different religion, she tries to incorporate something from every religion into her planned Christmas party, though (very) reluctantly.
- In the end, Shirley keeps Jeff from saying "Merry Christmas" to say "Merry Holiday" instead. But it turns out Jeff was going to say:
Merry Semester and a Happy New One.
- Double Entendre/Heh Heh, You Said "X": Jeff commends Pierce on not reacting to Shirley commenting on the Dean "shoving his PC-ness down my throat." Turns out the only reason was that Pierce didn't get it until Jeff pointed it out.
- Dramatic Pause: Lampshaded by Señor Chang:
Chang: [Everybody passed] Except... pause for dramatic effect...
- Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: The climactic fight scene.
- Foe Yay/Ho Yay: Parodied; Britta is utterly obsessed with the homoerotic tensions in the fight between Jeff and Mike... which only she can see.
- Shirley needling everyone as a way of bullying them into wearing the "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets she got them for Christmas is an early indicator of her increasingly unreasonable and obnoxious attitude towards the faiths of others over the course of the episode.
- The excerpt we see of the Spanish 101 final clearly makes no sense. Of course, considering we later learn that Chang speaks only a few phrases of Spanish and feigned his teaching qualifications, this makes sense.
- Hollywood Atheist: Averted. We learn that Britta is an atheist and Jeff's agnostic, but neither is particularly bitter or obnoxious about it. Both go out of their way politely to accommodate Shirley's overtly Christian holiday plans, and Shirley's actually the most obnoxious when it comes to other people's beliefs here.
- Hollywood Jehovah's Witness: Averted. Troy is revealed to be a Jehovah's Witness and as such doesn't celebrate Christmas. However, you couldn't tell that he was a Jehovah's Witness if he didn't say so.
Troy: Yeah, but we don't celebrate birthdays or Christmas and we can't drink. But it helps.
- Hypocrite: Shirley demands that everyone bend over backwards to accommodate her religious beliefs and lifestyle while simultaneously demonstrating dismissive and intolerant attitudes towards everyone else's religious beliefs and lifestyles.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Following the Dean's "Mr. Winter" announcement, Shirley expresses irritation at the Dean "jamming his PC-ness down my throat." Shirley proceeds to spend pretty much the rest of the episode forcing her beliefs on everyone.
- The Last-Second Word Swap example; Jeff's not impressed when Troy can't think of another word to replace 'fight' ("Idiot.") but then, when he tries, can't think of a replacement word either.
- Britta spends the episode insisting that fighting is just a way for men to release their pent-up gayness, before gleefully going after the only girl in the fight scene.
- Insistent Terminology: Annie takes offense whenever someone says "a Jew" instead of "a Jewish [person]". Of course, anyone saying "Jew" is doing so in a vaguely offensive context...
- Ironic Echo: Shirley is frequently rebuked for taking her Christmas party too seriously, with everyone reminding her that it's only December 10th. When she finally joins in the fight, one of Mike's buddies tries to escape an ass-whooping from her by pleading that it's Christmas. Her response? "It's December tenth!"
- I've Heard of That — What Is It?: Troy goes along with Pierce's joke about Billy Joel but then turns around to the others mouthing "Who is that?". Annie signals that she doesn't know either.
- Jerk Jock: Mike.
Jeff: Are you perpetually on your way to the gym?
Mike: Dude, my life is a gym!
- Last-Second Word Swap: Hilariously subverted and lampshaded:
Shirley: What is going on?
Troy: We're trying to get Jeff ready for the fi-iiiiiii.... iiiighhhh... t. (whispers) I couldn't think of another word.
Jeff: Idiot. He meant we were figh— ...ting. It is hard to think of another word.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Jeff seemingly calls out Troy and Abed on The Tag, during the tag.
- Look Behind You: Pierce uses this trick on Jeff and Troy in the Teach Me How To Fight scene. He kicks them in the leg while they are looking away.
- Motionless Makeover: Oh Christmas Troy! Oh Christmas Troy!
- Not So Above It All: Jeff joins in with "Christmas Troy" after Troy and Abed casually point out that they do silly things like that because it's fun.
- Pass the Popcorn: Chang when Mike walks into the Spanish final to menace Jeff.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad:
- This can be the only explanation behind the creation of "nondenominational Mr. Winter", who spouts seasonal greetings such as "Merry Happy!".
- Another example is "Sensitive Night", which is, as its own lyrics state, is a "tolerant rewrite" of "Silent Night".
- Popcultural Osmosis Failure: Both Annie and Shirley show a startling lack of basic knowledge of each other's faiths. Definitely Rule of Funny taking place here.
- Shirley when presented with a menorah refers to it as a "Hanukkah Holder." When Abed brings a Muslim dish to the party, Shirley asks if she's allowed to eat it, since she's a woman and all. Given her notable reluctance to embrace the faiths of the other members of the group in the episode, she's also using this as an excuse not to have to engage with it.
- Annie when handed the baby Jesus and asked to complete the setup of a Nativity Scene, instead places it in a nearby Christmas tree. Although considering that the first thing Shirley did when handed Annie's menorah was insensitively stuff it into the Christmas tree where no one could see it, Annie's possibly doing this deliberately in spite.
- Rite of Passage: According to Pierce, being punched in the face is one for men.
- Running Gag: "It's December tenth."
- Sentimental Music Cue: Starts playing near the end of the episode when Britta delivers a speech to Shirley about her heavy-handed use of her religious guilt on the group. Lampshaded by Yvette Nicole Brown, Shirley's actor, in the episode's commentary. "Doesn't it make you feel?"
- Serious Business: The Christmas party for Shirley, which she treats as if it were actually Christmas day when, as she is frequently reminded by everyone, "It's December tenth."
- Shirtless Scene: Mike's gang in the climax:
Mike: Shirts off, boys!
Britta: I'm being Punk'd, right?
- Shout-Out: The dean saying "Merry Happy" is a satirical example of Political Correctness Gone Mad, but it might also be a reference to Kate Nash, whose song "Merry Happy" was used in near the end of "Interpretive Dance" later in the season.
- Significant Reference Date: The episode was aired on December 10.
- Sleeves Are for Wimps: Mike.
- The Smurfette Principle: Mike has one girl on his gang, just because.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Troy and Pierce get the 'PC-ness' Double Entendre at the exact same time.
- Take That!:
- Being agnostic, as opposed to actually having religious beliefs.
- Downplayed when Jeff compares religion to Paul Rudd. He can see the appeal and would never take it away from anyone, but nor would he ever stand in line for it.
- Teach Me How To Fight: Troy and Pierce have to teach Jeff how to fight a bully.
- Team Mom: Deconstructed; Shirley usually fulfills the role in a more benevolent fashion, but here she explicitly does so in a passive-aggressive and emotionally manipulative manner designed to guilt trip and browbeat her friends into doing what she wants to do how she wants to with little consideration for their thoughts on the subject. It's also pointed out that she's not actually their mother, no matter how much she acts like it, and so has no right to do this sort of thing.
Jeff: Oh, come on, Shirley, don't be mad.
Shirley: I'm not mad, I'm disappointed.
Jeff: That's "mom" for "mad"!
- To the Tune of...: "Comparative Religion" ends with the group performing an inclusive, secularized rewrite of "Silent Night". (Sensible night, appropriate night / Snow on ground, left and right...)
- Turn the Other Cheek: Jeff attempts this ("what would Shirley do?"), but it turns out that Shirley would rather Jeff "kick his ass!" Time to have An Ass-Kicking Christmas!
- True Meaning of Christmas: The study group learns that the true meaning of Christmas is their being together as a surrogate family.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: "I'm gonna put this in the pocket closest to my heart!"
- What the Hell, Hero?: The team eventually call Shirley out for her guilt-tripping ("You're a guilt machine!") and her insensitive, obnoxious and hypocritical attitude towards both their religious beliefs and Jeff's fight.
- What Would Shirley Do?: Jeff eventually asks himself this when confronting Mike. He initially reasons that she'd seek a peaceful resolution. However, when Mike throws this peaceful approach back in his face, he receives confirmation of what Shirley would actually do from the source herself:
- Would Hit a Girl: Jeff can be spotted breaking a prop over the one girl in Mike's gang.
- Yaoi Fangirl: Britta. She encourages Jeff to work out his issues with Mike without fighting. (Though it's less active encouragement than relentless mockery of both the incident and her perception of fighting itself as homoerotic.)