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TV Snapshot: Respect in 'Community'

NBC (via Hulu)
In “Anthropology 101,” the Greendale Community College gang has come back together after the summer for the new semester—but finds their group unraveling. At the beginning of the episode, they were given an assignment by Anthropology Professor June Bauer (guest star Betty White) to figure out which tool in a box of rudimentary implements was the most important to humanity’s survival. Jeff Winger—who’s finally been confronted with his own role in the group’s current disarray—answers the professor’s question:
Jeff Winger: The tool most important to humanity’s survival wasn’t one of the nine in the box.
Professor Bauer: Go on.
Jeff: The most important tool is respect.
Chang laughs, but Jeff ignores him.
Jeff: And the reason I know that respect is a tool is because it is clearly not a natural thing and we forget to use it all the time. And then we start competing with each other, and exploiting each other, and humilitating each other, and controlling each other—and we lose each other. And without each other, we’ll go extinct. And that’s a fact.
The humor of NBC’s Community definitely pushes the limits at times, but it is one of the smarter comedies on television—and the way it gets at the heart of some important aspects of what it means to be a part of a community has brought God-talk into these open spaces on more than one occasion. And I appreciated how this episode, in its meta-referencing off-beat way, gets at the ways we harm the relationships we’ve formed as groups—and the truth that we do need each other, not simply to survive as a species but to experience and live life as we were created and enabled to.

Of course, Professor Bauer has her own take on Jeff’s answer. But that’s, um, another story.