Harmonic Sentimentality Part 4: Quick Examples of H.S.
Now let’s look at specific examples of Harmonic Sentimentality. To start with, I’ll introduce a fairly simple instance seen in the pilot episode. Here, I will break it down in very simple terms leaving the more in depth explanation for the Episodic Index. So here we go:
Ep. 100: Pilot Episode
1. Jeff manipulates the group in such a way that they are at each other’s throat all in order to satisfy his self-interests of getting into Britta’s pants.
2. The group kicks Jeff out, and Duncan shows him that he won’t be able to con his way through Greendale. Jeff wallows in self-pity, and the group kindly let’s him back in so he can study with them.
3. Jeff realizes that he’s not alone, and there are kind people in the world who will always be kind to him no matter how cruel and misguided his manipulations are. He realizes that these people shouldn’t be manipulated.
Pretty simple, right? Jeff initially acts cynical. He is then subjected to two acts of sentimentality: Duncan not helping him cheat and the Study Group forgiving him. He then realizes that he shouldn’t be manipulating people, and that he’s not alone. Now let’s look at a more complicated example of H.S.
Ep. 116: Physical Education
1. “Vanity, thy name is…his name. His first name I didn’t catch.” Coach Bogner sums up Jeff’s cynicism by pointing out that Jeff cares more about how he looks than anything else. Jeff simply doesn’t think he looks cool in shorts.
2. Preach Abed, preach!
BRITTA: Abed, you know we just want you to be happy, right?
ABED: Yeah, I know. Everyone wants me to be happy. Everyone wants to help me. But usually when they find out they can’t, they get frustrated and stop talking to me. Or, they trick me into buying them ice cream and shove me into a clothes dryer. Which I didn’t want to happen with you guys, so I wanted to make you feel like you could help me. The truth is, lots of girls like me cause let’s face it, I’m pretty adorable, and my aloofness unconsciously reminds them of their father. So. I’m more used to them approaching me.
BRITTA: So, we didn’t damage your self-esteem or anything?
ABED: Britta, I got self-esteem falling out of my butt. That’s why I was willing to change for you guys, because when you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn’t such a big deal.
3. Jeff realizes, via Abed, that his inability to wear shorts to play pool is because he doesn’t know what he likes about himself. All he knows is how to make himself think he likes himself. He does this by dressing stylishly and being vain. He now realizes that his clothes aren’t what’s important to him. He should just like himself for who he is, shorts or no shorts.
Study Group’s Arc
1. The Study Group (minus Jeff) thinks it is important for Abed to date people. In order to do this, however, they feel that he needs to change his personality. They exercise two cynicisms simultaneously: (1) forcing Abed to do something he may not want to do because it’s what they think he is supposed to do, and (2) wanting to change who Abed is.
2. Preach Abed, preach!…supra.
3. They realize that Abed isn’t the one who needs changing. It’s obvious that the Study Group has fairly low self-esteem in general, and by way of Abed, they were trying to raise it in themselves. They learned that they need to figure out what about themselves needs to change so they don’t go about interfering in other people’s lives just to make themselves feel better about themselves. The tricky part of this is deciding what is important enough to change. Britta gives an example of something that she doesn’t need to change or stress about because it’s not important, that being her pronunciation of the word “bagel.”
NOTE: For both character arcs, the sentimentality that changes the characters from being cynical to being sentimental is the same thing: Abed’s speech about his self-esteem. This is an example of dovetailing two stories into one and then having them go their separate ways in the end to conclude. It can be described in an X-digram:
Jeff’s (1) Study Group’s (1)
Abed’s Speech (2)
Jeff’s (3) Study Group’s (3)
Clearly this episode has a lot more layers of H.S. which allows Harmon et al more chances to experiment with the characters they’ve created. It is an example of a use of H.S. that reoccurs throughout the first three seasons of Community. In the pilot episode there is only one example of H.S. Through the run of the show, some episodes will continue to only focus on one H.S. while others will pack in an inconceivable amount of examples.