Overanalyzing the Community Title Sequence
Watch the Titles has a nice article up about the title sequence for NBC's Community, and since I've been watching the show voraciously since I discovered it (way late) a few weeks ago, I was inspired to do a breakdown of the sketched designs in the cootie catcher and what they say about the characters they represent. Community is extraordinarily well written (in my opinion) by Dan Harmon, with complex characters and rapidly paced referential humor. It was no surprise to me that the images in the titles weren't just random scribbles, but tell us about the characters, their personalities, their histories, and their flaws.
These anaylses, brief and in no particular order, may be way off base or complete misjudgments. They're just like, my opinion, man. If you don't like when people read too much into their art and entertainment, I would refer you to Moff's law and suggest you skip this post.
Jeff charitably called Britta the heart of the group. She has a tendency to seek out drama and conflict, whether it's an affected passion for fringe politics or getting her heart broken by a braindamaged carnie. Her character has gotten weak because her storylines are often hollow and meaningless to everyone but her (the Model UN episode is a good example). But she is open and has plenty of room for her own mistakes, signified by a dozen arrows through a big, otherwise intact heart.
Abed, unable to connect to other people the "normal" way, sees social interaction as a puzzle: a guessing game, and one with consequences. Like in hangman, he has a limited number of tries to get his reaction right in certain situations before people become impatient and antagonize him. With the study group, he's found a clique that he can survive in -- even it if requires charts and data to understand -- which is why his "answer" is correctly filled in.
Shirley & Annie
Shirley, the group's mother hen, is sweet, but with a sharp edge. Her "happy threatening" (sassy) side cuts through the cloying exterior like the knife through the cake, revealing layers of childhood misery, marital issues, and devout Christianity.
Annie is the innocent child, represented by a girly, kindergarten-level drawing. She's a perfectionist who holds up naive ideals of sunshine and flowers, but is rooted in a sketchy past -- maybe suggested by the layers beneath the flowers.
Troy evolved quite a bit as the show went on, but in season one he was still firmly two-sided. Dim-witted, jocky, arrogant — but also sensitive, weird, and emotional. As he developed (and bonded with Abed), he moved away from the former and towards the latter, truer side, but there was conflict before he arrived there. In his title, he's represented by bees, the evil wasp's misunderstood cousin. He adds vicious teeth to the insects to make them look more threatening, the same way he props up his jocky facade in Interpretive Dance (S1E14), but underneath it all probably just thinks bees are cool. There are two bees (attacking each other?), and his name is split into two boxes, underlining the duality.
Like the man himself, Pierce's title can be seen as deceptively simple. His name, and a crude drawing of a female body — and is the S in Chase a pair of sperm cells? The name is boxed in, like Pierce is socially, and is given (fake) depth by a three-dimentional left side. But what are those floating shapes? Lips? Clouds? It's an ambiguous drawing, maybe an unfinished collection of fading thoughts and memories of sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom. Pierce has spent the most time at Greendale, and seems to have spent the most time doodling his piece of the cootie catcher.
Finally, my favorite. Jeff's title features a pair of Kilroys, spelling out the L's in Joel McHale. "Kilroy Was Here" was/is a ubiquitous cultural meme probably going back to the second World War. The image's dubious origin is reminiscent of Jeff's own. Also like Jeff, Kilroy is inherently meaningless.
Jeff constructs his own personal boundaries, hiding (like Kilroy) behind a wall of pop culture references, nice clothes, and good looks. He builds his identity with shared trends and experiences (pop culture in particular), which is why it's so fitting that McHale's name is literally constructed with help from Kilroy's nose. He leans on those experiences in social interactions, but also uses them as a sheild against real connection.
Jeff relies on self-mutability because he's not sure who he is and doesn't want to find out. He changed his life and personality after Shirley shamed him in a game of YMCA foosball. He created fake credentials because he admired the lawyer life, a cosmetic, materialistic crowd into which he could fit passably. He's good at it, too -- he convinces Britta that he may be "one of those rare people with nothing underneath the surface." At Greendale, he's forced to face uncomfortable reality, surrounded by people — one in particular — who have figured themselves out.
Abed: When you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn't such a big deal.
Jeff: Abed, you're a god.
Jeff and Abed have a great relationship based on their mutual reliance on pop culture, but where Abed looks through movies and TV to connect with people, Jeff hides behind them, afraid someone might drill down to his murky essence. Abed is confident and self assured -- Jeff is guarded and self conscious.
Kilroy isn't culturally subversive or "statement" graffiti. Its only purpose to exist, to declare the artist "was here," which is all Jeff really wants for himself in the end: to leave an impact, a record of his time here — unlike his father, "a two-bit con man of so little substance he couldn't leave a trail if he wanted to." Jeff can't escape his father's biology — he's a con man himself, and deals with his own lack of substance — but won't let anyone see that it bothers him.