Community is one of those subversive shows that you have to see to believe, but with subversion comes controversy. In the case of what many fans of the series consider to be the best episode ever aired, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” was an episode that was so controversial that it was removed from streaming in 2020 for its use of blackface.
Show creator Dan Harmon recognizes why the episode is problematic, but also maintains that it’s one of Community’s best episodes.
Considered by fans as one of the best Community episodes, Season 2’s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was removed from streaming platforms because of blackface controversy.
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was inspired by Dan Harmon’s own enthusiasm for the tabletop game, which can be further explored by viewing Harmontown, in which Harmon takes his podcast of the same name on the road after being fired from Community in 2012.
The documentary follows Harmon’s tour, which involves extensive Dungeons & Dragons gameplay as he broadcasts each episode in front of a live audience. The writers for the pulled episode had to study the game, as well as consult Harmon for his knowledge and experience growing up playing the game.
The premise for Community’s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was a simple one. After falling into a depressive episode, Neil is invited to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons to pull him out of his funk. Jeff sets up the game, but doesn’t invite Chevy Chase’s Pierce to play because he feels that he will antagonize Neil. But when Pierce finds out he’s being left out, he shows up anyway and tries to sabotage the game.
In a classic portrayal of nerding out, the gang teams up against Pierce to kick him out of their campaign, but Pierce gets the upper hand when he finds a copy of the adventure they’re playing, and uses it to get the upper hand. In classic Pierce fashion, he antagonizes the rest of the Community cast with his actions, but the rest of the players ultimately come out on top, and Pierce learns nothing from the experience.
When the Community episode was originally broadcast, it was watched by 4.37 million viewers, and garnered a 91 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics and fans alike praise the ensemble cast for their chemistry. The episode, which was filmed in four days, relied heavily on dialogue and storytelling rather than using multiple sets and multiple effects to get its point across.
The Blackface Controversy
But as popular as the episode was upon its release, it has since been pulled from streaming because Chang’s character (Ken Jeong) played a dark elf, a costume that resembles blackface. The Community episode was pulled shortly after episodes of Scrubs and 30 Rock were pulled for similar reasons.
But in the case of Community, some fans of the show state that Chang’s makeup was too ambiguous to be considered blackface, as Dungeons & Dragons boasts many different fantastical elf races of varying shapes and color.
Though Sony felt justified in pulling the Community episode from streaming, critics of this decision still think that it’s the best episode in the series’ canon, suggesting that the episode’s main focus was on the effects of bullying.
Fans of Dungeons & Dragons also maintain that Chang’s over-commitment to role playing games makes it obvious that he’s portraying a dark elf, not a person of color. In other words, though the alleged blackface may be seen as problematic, the overall theme of the episode highlights the negative effects of bullying, and shows viewers how a group of friends can rally together to make the best out of a bad situation.
How To Watch Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Though you can’t watch “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” for free on streaming, the episode is still available through physical media, and you can still purchase the Community episode on Amazon Prime.