Community's Homage to Star Wars
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
It may or not come as a surprise to know that I love a good, re-watchable sitcom. It started with Friends, but now I also love Superstore, The Office and I'm currently making my way through 30 Rock. But easily my favorite sitcom is Community. If you're not familiar, Community (2009-2015) is Dan Harmon's show about a study group at a community college and the various antics they get up to throughout six seasons (and a movie?). It's funny, interesting, emotional, and is filled with a million pop culture references- though anyone who has seen the show knows that all of that still hardly covers it. It's really hard to explain exactly how great and unique Community is to someone who hasn't watched it, or at least explain within a reasonable time frame. So I'm not going to do that.
No, what I'm going to do is talk about one particular episode, "For a Few Paintballs More." Directed by Joe Russo (before he moved on to Marvel movies), "For a Few Paintballs More" is the season 2 finale of the show, and acts brilliantly as a Star Wars homage. While Star Wars is pervasive enough in our culture that every other sitcom I've listed has referenced it at least once, Community, like it does with everything, goes above and beyond with an entire Star Wars homage episode. I'd really like to encourage anyone who hasn't seen Community to watch the show themselves and experience this episode before I break down this episode and what makes it so great- you can find Community on Netflix.
Regardless, we're moving forward, so spoilers ahead for Community if you're still reading without having watched the show (hopefully this article will convince you).
First, I want to address a few points for those who haven't seen the show, just to help you out. You should know that Community infamously uses school-wide paintball games as finales or at least episodes close to the finale in most seasons, as an opportunity for some wacky fun and for homages to popular movie genres.
I use the word "homage" very deliberately. "For a Few Paintballs More" is not a Star Wars "parody" like it often gets called. Parody requires some level of irony or satire- better examples of Star Wars parody include Spaceballs or the Star Wars episodes of Robot Chicken. In Community, Star Wars along with Westerns, post-apocalyptic movies, spy movies, Ken Burns documentaries and more are not really made fun of in any of the ways we typically consider parody to make fun of the things (even if lovingly). No, "For a Few Paintballs More" is an homage, because it's taking very direct inspiration from Star Wars to create scenarios for its own characters as a way to develop their arcs and its own story- while throwing in some fun, geeky references too. Still don't believe me that it's not parody? Then take Abed's line from season 5's "Modern Espionage" - "Occasionally, our campus erupts into a flawless, post modern homage to action adventure mythology, mischaracterized by the ignorant as parody."
(Community is an extremely self aware show in the best way possible, if you haven't noticed.)
Regardless, "For a Few Paintballs More" definitely sounds like it should be an homage to the Western genre, as the title is a play on For a Few Dollars More. However, "For a Few Paintballs More" is the second of a pair of episodes for the finale. The prior episode is called "A Fistful of Paintballs," an obvious play on A Fistful of Dollars, and that actually is a Western homage, and a really great one. That, in my opinion, is the first thing Community did right for Star Wars, was leading into their Star Wars episode with a Western episode. It's no secret that George Lucas was heavily influenced by Westerns (as well as samurai movies) when creating Star Wars, so it's not a super difficult transition for Community to make into their finale.
Where Community really shines in this episode is the clever, not-so-subtle recreations of some iconic Star Wars scenes and sets. There is of course, the above pictured scene at the start of the episode where the white-clad, paintball-wielding storm- er, City College students shoot all of the Greendale students, as well as Dean Pelton (Jim Rash, who plays Flix in Star Wars Resistance) in a scene very much like the hallway battle between stormtroopers and rebels in A New Hope. After the shooting, the stormtroopers flank the entrance of their leader- who is dressed in a giant ice cream costume wearing a pink cowboy hat, mirroring Darth Vader's iconic entrance. Very Community.
But Community doesn't just limit itself to that opening scene. They also replace the typical paper fortune-teller opening with a Star Wars-style opening crawl (with a copyright free version of the music- I definitely know how using that feels), and have a scene where the heroes of our story gather around a map of campus to discuss their plan, similar to when the rebels on Yavin IV look at their holotable.
But by far, the best part of the episode is Abed (Danny Pudi). Actually, for me, the best part of most episodes is Abed, because he's my favorite character, tied with Troy (Donald Glover, Solo's Lando Calrissian). While the other characters more just... exist within what's happening, Abed, as the show's most fourth-wall breaking character, explicitly says many times that this is a Star Wars homage. He deliberately makes the decision to act like Han Solo ("before Jeff slouches into the role"), changing his demeanor to be more Han Solo-esque, and taking a vest from Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos) and becoming flirtatious with Annie (Alison Brie), which was new for his character. However Abed roleplaying as Han Solo until he "dies" in the game was perfectly in-character for him, as Abed is a character who loves to take on characters and play the part, and he's also a big geek.
"For a Few Paintballs More" isn't only a great Star Wars homage, though. Yes, Annie makes an attempt at Leia iconic "nerfherder" line ("Jabba-scoundrel" is pretty fun though), but as the finale of the show, the episode also provides character arc development, especially to Troy and Pierce, and continues the ongoing Greendale versus City College rivalry storyline. That's what makes it work so well as an episode- it's more than just a Star Wars homage shoe-horned in, it's actually constructive to the show as a whole. It's this ability to make such a great, well-rounded episode that makes me love Community so much.
Also, while not parts of the Star Wars homage, I'd be remiss to talk about this episode and not mention the two jokes that make me laugh every time I watch this episode (and that's a lot of times, ask my dad). The first is this one from the climax of the episode:
(It's a lot funnier in the episode, you just have to watch it.)
And the second is from the very end of the episode, where Abed tells the janitor about all the fun they had playing paintball... surrounded by the huge mess they made, that the janitor has to clean up. It's just hilarious to me every time I watch the episode.
Hopefully, my discussion of the episode was enough to pique your interest in watching Community if you haven't already. It's probably one of the most unique shows I've watched, and it's full of fun homage episodes like this one that make me love it so much.