Community 1.04: Social Psychology

© Copyright Sony Pictures
© Copyright Sony Pictures

Duncan: “You have destroyed the Duncan Principle!”

Ah, yes, the Duncan Principle, in which test subjects are made to wait indefinitely while the observer mocks them from a secret room, eagerly waiting for their id to take over the higher brain functions, leading to a “good old-fashioned tantrum, yeehaw!” I’ve got much to say about the psychological experiment, its methods and ethics, its hilarity, and the way it relates to my experience dating a girl not unlike Bella from Twilight (2008), but first I want to discuss Britta’s new boyfriend, Vaughn.

I love Vaughn. I wouldn’t want him to join the cast or anything, but he strikes me as a perfect representation of the sort of naive soul one can only find on a college campus. The hippie man-child wouldn’t survive a day outside the protective shell of undergrad academia, which makes dating a member of our favourite study group a risky endeavour. Britta in particular can’t help bringing the big bad world with her, not that she’s entirely to blame for his lost innocence.

As she herself confesses, Shirley likes to stir the pot, and not the kind tiny-nippled Vaughn likes. I was wondering what self-destructive habits the single mom might be hiding, though I get the feeling gossip may prove the tip of the iceberg. Her sharing the poem crosses so many lines. Of course, Jeff shouldn’t have taken the photo in the first place, but I see his point about needing “a spot on the friendship spectrum between total stranger and having to hear about the guys you date”. I like that he calls Britta on it.

Gentlemen, in real life, if the object of your affection starts chewing your ear off about her boy troubles mere days after you asked her out, please leave her behind. She’s not interested in being your friend. If she were, she’d care enough to spare your feelings for a bit. Instead, the girl is trying to suck all the support she can out of you without having to give anything back, including respect. There’s an expression for this, you know. It involves sex with a cow and free dairy.

By the same token, I’m uncomfortable with Jeff trying to prove himself Britta’s friend just to get in her pants. Doesn’t that make him an awful friend? I mention all this not to criticise but to demonstrate how Community stands out from other sitcoms. Unlike, say, The Big Bang Theory, Dan Harmon’s show calls dysfunctional behaviour for what it is without dismissing its integral part in human nature. Consider how readily Annie sells out her friends for extra credits or how effortlessly Abed puts the overachiever in her place.

This, I suppose, leads us to the Duncan Principle… Oh, wait. I almost forgot Pierce’s Earnoculars! Truth be told, the subplot, in which the old man assumes his friends are talking behind his back, left me indifferent, but I dig how it pays off. It seems Pierce is at his wisest when he’s given a chance to realise his own fallacies. His pulling an Obi-Wan on Jeff comprises my second favourite exchange in “Social Psychology” (check the quotes for my first favourite):

“You see, Jeff, there are certain things man was not meant to hear. We were designed by whatever entity you choose to hear what’s in this range and really this range alone. ‘Cause you know who’s talking to us in this range? The people we love.”

© Copyright Sony Pictures
© Copyright Sony Pictures

Crib Sheet

  • I admit to missing the better half of the episode because my mind automatically tunes out gossip. I’m not kidding. Scratchpad in hand, I would rewind each bonding session between Jeff and Shirley and then proceed not to take any notes again, forgetting every catty remark before the scene was over.
  • In his frustration, Duncan calls Abed “Rain Man”. I was hoping the writers would avoid that particular reference. I’m tired of it.
  • Gillian Jacobs gives an adorable performance when Britta talks to Jeff by the vending machines. I love the way she wiggles her nose.
  • Don’t worry. I can address the Duncan Principle in the quotes section.


Vaughn: “This is the least tight thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Jeff: “Oh, my God, my life is Degrassi High.

It’s a little known fact that whenever Canadians hear the words “Degrassi High”, this song pops into their noggin: “Wake up in the morning, feeling shy and lonely, gee, I’ve got to go to school…”

Abed: “I didn’t realise we were really good friends. I figured we were more like Chandler and Phoebe. They never had stories together… Sure, I’ll do it, Chandler.”

Britta: I’m going to get dessert. Want anything?”
Vaughn: “Carrots.”

Abed: “I was livid.”
Annie: “Then why didn’t you leave?”
Abed: “Because you asked me to stay, and you said we were friends.”

The man was livid: a nice reminder that while he may sometimes act like an alien robot, Abed is very much a human being.

Troy: “Do you get paid more if they do stuff to your butt?”

Stoner Friend: “No worries, man.”
Vaughn: “There are some worries, man. There are some worries.”

I think this may be my favourite line in the entire series.

Thank you for your patience. We’ll get to the Duncan Principle in just a few.

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Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."