These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
The characters themselves go back-and-forth over whether Pierce is an inherent, fundamental and completely irredeemable Jerkass or whether he's just a lonely but socially inept old man who just wants to make friends but has no clue how, and merely ends up lashing out whenever his overtures are rejected.
Abed; Lovable NerdWoobie with numerous psychological and emotional problems who uses pop culture as a way of trying to connect to people, or Manipulative Bastard who enjoys pulling strings to get people into trouble that resembles his favourite movies and TV shows?
In Season 3, is Evil Abed really trying to crossover into the Prime Timeline, or just a figment of Abed's imagination?
Badass Decay: In the first paintball episode, Chang is The Dragon and brings his own weapons. In the second, he's an incompetent moron who continually betrays the groups he latches on to. Of course, the entire second season was largely dedicated to giving Chang a near-constant Humiliation Conga, so this is perhaps understandable.
Also, he was unarmed the entire time, and spent most of that time (that we see) tied up and blindfolded.
It's worth bearing in mind that, in spite of having the only automatic weapon in the game and a paint bomb strap to his chest, he only took out one person that we know of, and got hit doing it. It's a little overblown to call him badass in the first place.
Broken Base: The biggest split is on the Harmon-less season 4 (which was either pretty good or the worst thing on television, depending on who you ask), but many smaller ones exist among the fandom, ranging from whether or not season 3's second half was too bizarre, if season 1 was the best or worst of the Harmon years, if Harmon's return in season 5 has revitalized the show back to its glory days or if things are simply too little too late, and whether Troy is being utilized well in his final season or if his character is being utterly wasted especially with Donald Glover's departure coming so soon.
Crazy Awesome: Digital Estate Planning has Abed deciding to stay with Hilda and finding out he can have children with her, who he can command to do anything. Hilarity Ensues. And then there's the final battle with Pierce's father, which involves shooting Abed's children at a giant rock monster's legs so they can pickaxe it to death, Troy and Abed shooting lava at it out of golden mechs, Shirley piloting a helicopter against it, and Pierce riding an atomic bomb.
The Study Group's treatment of Chang during season two can be seen as the reasons behind his descent into madness & outright villainy during season three.
As lampshaded several times throughout the season, Pierce becoming more & more antagonistic to the Study Group over the course of season two was in large part prompted by the Study Group's poor treatment of him, which was in turn prompted by Pierce's jerkassery in the first place.
Critical Dissonance: Somewhat. While critical reviews have all been extremely positive for season 5 thus far, fandom reaction has been slightly more mixed, ranging from season 5 being the best since the the first two seasons to feeling that by this point the show has run out of steam even with Dan Harmon back as showrunner.
An excerpt from "Environmental Science" that was used standalone to promote the show. It's too long to present in its entirety here: see the Quotes page.
When Pierce is playing 'Pictionary' and draws a swastika to convey a windmill, saying that Rabbi Chang should know what it is.
"This isn't going to stop until Pictionary bans the word 'Windmill.'"
Pierce in "Geography of Global Conflict":
Pierce: You be careful. They are ruthless.
*study group gasps*
Pierce: What? Not Asians. Women!
And again later.
Pierce: Sneak attack! That's just like-
*study group stares at him*
Pierce: Not women, Asians.
Cult Classic: It's hardly mainstream, but the fanbase is dedicated enough and big enough to campaign for its renewal and succeed.
Designated Villain: In "Geographies of Global Conflict", while she steals Annie Edison's idea for a model UN and passes it off as her own and is generally less friendly and more arrogant and snide, Annie Kim's behaviour in general is much better than her main-cast counterpart. This is arguably part of the point, however, since while she might be better behaved than the Annie we know and love, she also lacks the humanizing qualities that enable us to sympathise with Annie despite her faults. In short, being well behaved doesn't by itself make you the good guy.
Double Standard: Shirley gets a lot less flak from the group for her racism and judgemental attitude than Pierce. On the other hand, Pierce is general a lot more blatant and extreme and he is prejudiced against a far wider range of groups compared to Shirley, who tends towards being a lot more subtle (to the point where her one-liners and passing comments can easily go unnoticed) and tends towards prejudice towards specific groups while being far more tolerant of others. Pierce is also a lot more stubborn and defensive about being challenged and tends to get confrontational in if someone calls him out, whereas Shirley will generally accept being called out more gracefully and at least attempts to modify her behaviour and correct her prejudices. Ultimately, however, neither are malicious, and it's suggested that their less admirable views stem from limited and sheltered viewpoints (cloistering herself within her religious practices in Shirley's case, the toxic influence of his quite-malicious father in Pierce's) that they're only just beginning to break out of.
This is in large part due to the Law Of Fan Jackassery- the fandom is essentially right at the middle. The show is far too popular for the Vocal Minority to just be kicked out, but doesn't have nearly enough mainstream recognition for them to just be ignored.
Fanon: Given his nicer-than-nice attitude concealing an apparently very fucked-up mindset resulting from maternal abuse, a common fan-interpretation is that Rich is secretly some kind of Serial Killer.
Fanon Discontinuity: Season 4 (the first without Dan Harmon and most of the writers of seasons 1-3) has been declared this by some fans, with some even hoping one of Harmon's first orders of business following his return for season 5 is to erase the season from canon by having Abed walk out of the Dreamatorium shortly after the end of season 3 & reveal it was all just him running simulations. Since his return was announced, however, Harmon said a few times he wouldn't be following that course, and the airing of "Repilot" ultimately confirmed it.
Although there have been one or two references to 'the gas leak last year' and the hallucinations it caused: the writers seem to be intentionally leaving enough ambiguity for the fans to decide whether to treat season 4 as canon or not.
Fans found Abed's freakout over Cougartown being benched in the third season premiere a LOT less funny once NBC's Spring 2012 lineup was revealed.
Jeff saying "This is the year we all die" in "Biology 101". By the time "Basic Lupine Urology" rolls around, Starburns has died.
That same line is also a bit more bitter with the announcement that Dan Harmon will not return to be showrunner for season four and the fandom's subsequent collective meltdown, as that season is the end of Harmon's run on the show.
Abed cutting himself off from both the Study Group & the outside world, before succumbing to the Darkest Timeline's influence after Troy was forced into the A/C Repair School in "Introduction to Finality" & only returning to normal after Troy's return becomes worse when you realize Donald Glover will only be in 5 episodes of season 5.
The Running Gag about Greendale being a Sucky School with a generally inept faculty who repeatedly run completely idiotic classes (such as an analysis of who the titular boss was in Whos The Boss) becomes this after "Repilot" showed the ramifications of attending such a school.
Genius Bonus: In one episode, a German man says, "I wish there were a word to describe the pleasure I feel in viewing misfortune!" In fact, German notably does have a word to describe this feeling: schadenfreude.
Growing the Beard: The show became a lot less predictable midway through the first season (around Investigative Journalism, which featured Jack Black as Buddy), when they stopped putting so much focus on Jeff trying to seduce Britta and Annie's crush on Troy, and instead started focusing more on meta-humor.
In the episode Paradigms of Human Memory, there is a flashback to Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas; however, it is seen through the eyes of the other characters. Puts a much darker light on the former (with the other characters lampshading that it wasn't as fun as Jeff and Britta seemed to be remembering), and really makes you think about snowman Chang's bottom button...
In the Season 1 Finale, Abed is using a banana to do impressions: (Banana on forehead- Banana Rhino. Banana over top lip- Banana Sam Elliot. Banana over eyes- Banana Levar Burton.) What makes it perfect is Troy being the only person who laughs at the last one.
"We're Gonna Finally Be Fine," the opening musical number from "Biology 101" with the Study Group singing about how much better life's going to be without Pierce, became this after Chevy Chase's departure at the end of season 4 & Dan Harmon returning as Show Runner for season 5 following his departure a year earlier.
The jokes about Britta smoking pot as well as her hatred of the government makes the fact that in Colorado (the state the show is set in), marijuana is now legal and government regulated.
Then there's the episode where Shirley talks about being the only married woman in a group full of googly-eyed teens. Then Jeff and Annie look at each other, then Jeff and Britta, then Troy and Britta, then Troy and Abed.
Pierce's friendly advances on Jeff, right after his each failure to manipulate Britta into a date.
The heated pool duel between Jeff and his coach, escalating into nudism and ending with the coach kissing him on the lips with admiration.
Jeff running in the rain, ringing into an apartment, making a confession to Rich.
Abed persuades Jeff to flirt with a roleplay character elf maid (impersonated by himself). Annie takes over the task. In detail.
Dean Spreck of City College, whispering into Dean Pelton's ear.
Hype Backlash: The first few episodes of the fourth season, coming after Harmon was fired from the show and the premiere being delayed for 4 months, was criticized fairly harshly by both fans and critics as signalling the downfall of the show. Others pointed out that even with Harmon every season took some time to get into the right rhythm.
It's the Same, Now It Sucks: Played with, in that it overlaps to some degree with They Changed It, Now It Sucks; a sections of critics have emerged arguing that Season 4 spends so much time and effort trying to reassure fans that the show hasn't changed and absolutely nothing is different and that it's the same as it ever was while Dan Harmon was around, calling upon old Running Gags and Call Backs in the process, that the show begins to feel like it's trying to replicate itself rather than allowing the writers room to breathe and get a feel for the show themselves. There's also been a few accusations that the characters seem to have regressed to earlier, broader versions of themselves and Character Development has slipped backwards a bit.
The eldery gang of hooligans, the Hipsters, from "Messanic Myths and Filmaking". After the car stealing incident, no one's family was willing to bail them out of holding. Simply put, no one wants to be near them because they're assholes but they're assholes because no one wants to be around them.
"Intro To Felt Surrogacy" is either one of the highlights of season 4; comes up short for trying too hard to emulate the feel of the Dan Harmon era; or one of the worst episodes of Community to ever be produced.
"Basic Intergluteal Numismatics" is either considered proof that the show is back to it's glory days or not; with the general rule seeming to be that the less familiar you are with the subject of the parody (David Fincher serial killer movies such as Se7en and Zodiac), the less you like the episode.
After Dan Harmon was fired as the showrunner, the mantra "Dan Harmon is a genius and I will die protecting his vision◊" sprung up around the place in support, often accompanied with a .gif or image of Annie saying the same thing about the Dean in "Documentary Making Redux". To which a few interesting and (probably) unintentional layers are added when you remember that the clip being used is, in context, the result of Annie experiencing a stress-related nervous breakdown as a result of the Dean's increasingly tyrannical and out-of-control behaviour as his creative baby spirals rapidly out of control; while people have tended to be more inclined to support Harmon than not (particularly in regard to things like his feud with Chevy Chase and his being fired from the show) some reports have suggested that this isn't an entirely unfair summary from how Harmon would conduct himself on set.
"Pop pop, Magnitude."
The scene in "Remedial Chaos Theory" where Troy walks into the fire-ridden apartment has been put to popular use at Tumblr. The best usage of it is when someone finds that their particular fandom has gone haywire.
You just created [X] new timelines!
Sure I/they did, [Insert Name Here].
Dammit, [Insert Name Here], there are no other timelines!
Abed most likely wasn't an intentional example, but his generally gentle and adorkable disposition (along with the increasing number of woobie moments he's been getting lately) can evoke this.
Nightmare Fuel: There's something deeply unsettling about "Greendale Babies", the Imagine Spot "happy place within a happy place" TV series Abed creates inside his head in season 4. It's all cheery and bright, but it takes place in a confined room, and the premise seems to be that all our beloved characters are stuck in some sort of infinite childhood. Plus, you know, there's a stuffed Human Being plush.
Abed: Greendale Babies will be right back. Forever!
Don't forget about the "Human being" costume. Brrr...
No Yay: The episode "Physical Education" has a scene where Jeff has a pool match with his aging, overweight new billiards instructor. It features both of them getting naked and the instructor walking up to Jeff while both are still naked and then kissing him on the lips.
Dan Harmon, the creator of the show, apparently reads a lot online about the show and adjusts it based on feedback. Abed's Meta Guy status and the lampshade hanging on it in season two includes references to the paintball episode that suggests he's read the Crowning Pages.
Portmanteau Couple Name: "Trobed" for Troy/Abed seems to be catching up after "Remedial Chaos Theory," though it's used just as much for shipping them as it is for referring to them in a friendship kind of way.
Relationship Writing Fumble: Troy and Britta's relationship at the end of the third season was left very ambiguous to some. What was pretty clear was that Troy was moving into the Dreamatorium, but some people interpreted Britta holding a bag as her moving in as well (despite the fact they weren't even necessarily a couple yet). The beginning of the next season reveals they had started dating at some point.
Season 3 was considered by some fans to be weaker than the previous two. By this point most of the regular writers for the first two seasons had long since departed, the increased darkness wound up dividing the fans on its overall quality, and the show's trademark meta episodes focused entirely on whatever the episode was currently parodying at the cost of flanderizing every single character on the show (such as Jeff's smugness, Shirley's Holier Than Thou tendencies, Troy's diminishing intelligence, Britta's Butt Monkey status, etc.), something the first two seasons had taken steps to avoid. Related to that, the same season also introduced the Inspector SpacetimeRunning Gag which was fairly controversial, so much that season 4 would later only feature it in one episode and season 5 would drop it entirely. There's also a faction that believes it's the best of all four seasons, leaving a bit of a broken base as far as it's concerned.
To make things more complicated, it's generally agreed to have some the best episodes of the show's entire run ("Remedial Chaos Theory", "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux", "Pillows and Blankets", "Basic Lupine Urology," and "Curriculum Unavailable") even though many believe it's the weakest season overall.
Season 4 plays this straighter, having lost showrunner Dan Harmon & writer Chris McKenna, who wrote some of the most acclaimed episodes of the show; neither the Changnesia plot or the romance between Troy and Britta are handled well; several running gags from earlier seasons are overused or overplayed (notably, the season ends with a Paintball Finale despite this being an acknowledged Overused Running Gag); the characters in general are regressed back to earlier stages of their Character Development; and Chevy Chase, due to his displeasure with Pierce becoming more bigoted than before, outright quit the show towards the end of production & had to be hastily written out of the episodes he was yet to shoot.
Community fans get along well generally, but there is some Britta vs. Annie sparring when it comes to who will end up with Jeff. If you root for Jeff/Britta as your OTP, Jeff/Annie shippers will have a field day ranting about how unlikable Britta is or how the duo lacks romantic chemistry. If you openly advocate Jeff/Annie, the BP&J shippers will declare their disgust with the age gap and claim that their massive differences could never be reconcilable in a relationship. Shippers of all other pairings seem to be much more civil.
Many Troy/Britta shippers are at least a little bitter that their ship is getting the stereotype of being a side-dish that people only ship because they want to clear the way for Jeff/Annie.
Fans of Jeff/Annie will often ship Troy/Britta, who in Season 1 were romantically linked to Annie and Jeff respectively in canon. On the flip-side, Jeff/Britta shippers will often ship Troy/Annie (and increasingly commonly, Annie/Abed), in order to keep Annie away from Jeff.
Annie/Abed fans have a slight problem doing this in a way that hinders their ship. If they ship Troy/Britta it leaves the Jeff/Annie ship open. If they ship Jeff/Britta it leaves the earlier Annie/Troy ship open. With Troy/Britta being sunk & Troy's departure in the fifth season, it makes Jeff/Britta the obvious choice of ship mate pairing.
Shipping Bed Death: More than a few fans of Britta/Troy ended up being disappointed when they actually got together because the writers seemed unable to do anything interesting with them.
Ship Sinking: The interminable Britta/Troy pairing is sunk without much fanfare toward the end of Season 4.
Subverted. At first it appears that Pierce is going to have slightly changed Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is", for the new school song (the intro notes are indeed slightly different from the original). Subverted when it turns out the rest of the song is exactly the same.
Abed: Can they sue us? Jeff: Don't know. (Pierce sings the line "Greendale's the way it goes") Yeah, they got us.
Played straight during the first Valentine's Episode, where Troy and Pierce dance with Chang to a song very similar to The Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow."
Squick: Jeff and Annie's relationship has become very big brother\little sister, but now that she's getting older it's getting creepy.
Jeff: But now you're becoming this mature, self possessed, intelligent young woman, and I can't keep patting you on the head or talking down to you.
Annie: But I like how close we are; I don't wanna grow up if it means losing what we have. Jeff: Well, tough, Annie. You have to grow up because the world needs more women like you. Can't keep doin' this forever, kiddo. [He takes her gently by the chin.] Annie: Can't we? [Beat] Jeff: Nope. I can't. No. No. Annie: [simultaneously] No, that's gross. I feel gross.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: The general consensus regarding the Dan Harmon-less Season 4. It should be noted, this was also the cast's reaction to the season, with Joel McHale leading them in getting Harmon rehired as showrunner for the fifth season.
The earlier episodes of the third season seem to hint at/foreshadow Jeff suffering from some sort of mental breakdown or depression, but it really doesn't go anywhere. The rest of season three is still good, of course.
Britta & Troy's relationship in the fourth season - After the first few episodes of the season, it's barely mentioned before they break-up towards the end of the season, which arguably comes out of nowhere because the writers seemingly forgot they were dating for most of the season.
The stop-motion figures in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas." Britta's is especially bad. Hilariously, the normally expressionless Abed looked the most human. Possible Fridge Brilliance as we see all the events through Abed's perspective, and he's experiencing a mental breakdown throughout the episode.
In "English as a Second Language", people are convincing Troy to be a plumber instead of staying in school. Played for laughs as usual.
In-universe, almost everything Pierce says and does. He (probably) didn't even realize how much that windmill looked like a swastika...
However, if at least part of his faux Buddhist religion is accurate, the swastika would be perfectly fine for him. It wouldn't carry the same sort of meaning for him; it would be a sun symbol.
Though Pierce uses the term Buddha, the religion is really more of a parody of Scientology. Considering the amount of flak said religion can rain down, it's perhaps understandable that the show tried to cover it up with something so absurdly inaccurate that most people would know it's wrong.
The portrayal of the homosexual community in "Advanced Gay" has been met with some criticism. Dan Harmonadmitted that a few of the concerns were actually pretty valid and apologized, promising to be more aware of the issue in the future.
Pierce and Chang. Both are often barely tolerated by the rest of the group, but they're popular characters with the fans.
Britta. Although not exactly disliked by the other characters, they frequently call her a killjoy. Evidently her colleagues at work don't like her much either. And she's apparently not too popular with the rest of the Greendale student body either:
Vicki: You're the worst. Britta: She's just saying that to fit in!
Annie was apparently so unpopular in high school that a crossing guard tried to lure her into traffic.
The study group in general appears to be this to some degree; they're very close-knit with each other and are, of course, very popular with the fans of the show, but there's some evidence to suggest that they're not that well liked among the student body at large in Greendale.
Given the facts that they are very judgmental regarding who they socialize with, it ain't that hard to believe.
Abed, unusually, appears to subvert this. He's in many ways the show's breakout character, being very popular with viewers — however, of all the study group, he appears to be the one who has the most friends outside the study group, or at least is on reasonably friendly terms with more people. Which is particularly interesting given how a frequent subplot is how he finds it difficult to connect with people.
Though it does make sense if you consider Abed's analytical abilities — it's not a stretch to believe that he could use them to determine what other people might respond well to, ŗ la playing Don Draper or Han Solo for Annie.
The Dean is popular enough for Jim Rash to be Promoted to Opening Titles in season 3, but in-universe he's clearly not respected by his staff & the Study Group finds him irritating more often than not. It's made explicitly clear in "Introduction to Teaching" when the Save Greendale Committee (Consisting of the Study Group & Buzz Hickey) make their first order of business barring him from their meetings & the entire group are seen celebrating this.
What an Idiot: Jeff insults Cornwallis (albeit unaware he was in earshot at the time) at their Christmas party despite knowing that he could change their grade (and in fact began the night HOPING to do so). Naturally, Cornwallis decides to drop their grade.
Oddly enough, Chang in season 2. All he wants is to join the group and he just gets shot down. Although he did spend most of the first season tormenting them, so it makes sense.
According to Word of God, Britta was designed to become this over the course of the series, especially in the Season 1 finale. Her self-esteem issues are certainly often referred to.
Abed also becomes this, particularly in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas".
Then the second half of Season 3 hits, exploring more of Abed we never knew. Virtual Systems Analysis has major insight to his issues.
Britta also becomes this in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" after Abed expels her from his Christmas fantasy because she tricked him into a therapy session; she protests that she was genuinely concerned about him and was trying to help him, and is clearly quite hurt by his rebuttal song that she's basically a broken robot with no faith in anything.
All of the main characters, and more than a few of the minor ones, have had their moment of Woobie-dom; no matter how big a Jerkass they might be at times, it's also quite clear that they're all broken and vulnerable people to some extent.