The Link Between 'Community' and 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' That Went Unnoticed
Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off Angel premiered in 1999, fans have been scrambling to figure out just how expansive the Joss Whedonverse really is. Did the events of Cabin in the Woods cause Firefly? Where does Dollhouse fit in? But there's one piece of connective tissue everyone seems to have missed: the link between Buffy and Dan Harmon's Community.
This seems bonkers, I know -- one's a genre-redefining show about students bickering and sexing one another and cracking wise, and the other is Community -- but hear me out. I have, in the parlance, brought receipts.
Exhibit A: Zombies and Shadowy Government Agencies
The crux of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that all monsters are real and shadowy agencies are constantly seeking to control and/or destroy them. And, y'know, that a tiny blonde woman can punch like Dolph Lundgren. A full list of every supernatural occurrence during the show's seven seasons would take hours to document, so hopefully we can all just take it on faith (and the Buffy Wiki) that zombies are a part of that.
They are also a part of Community's season two Halloween episode, "Epidemiology." After eating tainted taco meat at a dance, a vast swath of Greendale Community College's students are turned into zombies -- and not, like, sort of, either. The word "zombie" is used repeatedly.
While this appears to be a one-off fluke to the viewer, zombies are real enough within Community's universe that there's an entire government task force set up to deal with them. One that, by their own admission, has had lots of practice and isn't above murdering a hundred or so civilians to keep it quiet. Sounds an awful lot like Buffy's Initiative -- or the Facility from Cabin in the Woods -- if you ask me.
Also, just gonna throw this out there, but ghosts are real in both shows, too.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer's second season episode, "I Only Have Eyes for You," is perhaps the most notable for the Whedonverse, while the existence of spectral spirits is essentially confirmed twice in Community. The first time is during "Paradigms of Human Memory," the second season clip show -- a ghostly figure appears next to Pierce for a single shot as Jeff Winger speechifies -- and then again during the fifth season's "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality," when Chang either delivers a monologue to a room full of ghosts and/or talks to a long-dead janitor, depending on which party you believe.
Speaking of speaking ...
Exhibit B: Silence Speaks Volumes
This next bit of evidence is a bit more circumstantial, I'll admit, but this is a comedy website, not a criminal trial, so here we go: no one ever mentions Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Community.
That just ... seems weird, right? The show relentlessly fits pop-culture references into everything -- and we're talking deep cuts like My Dinner With Andre and the Traveling Wilburys -- but, somehow, over six seasons, no one ever said anything about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even when, again, they were literally students literally fighting the supernatural.
You know what the show almost never mentions, though? Current events. If Buffy was a TV show in Community's universe, Abed surely would have said something about it. But if all the crazy that went down in Sunnydale was real-life to them, they'd almost certainly ignore it outright -- which, y'know, they do.
And, yes, OK, Troy does mention that Firefly exists, and Officer Cackowski, the recurring cop character, mentions Joss Whedon by name in reference to the Avengers movies ... but those clearly aren't the same Firefly and Joss Whedon that exist in our world. All the proof you need is Nathan Fillion.
Chang mentions Nathan Fillion -- star of our world's Firefly, and guest star on Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- by name in season five's "Geothermal Escapism." In the very next episode, Nathan Fillion plays a character who is, notably, not Nathan Fillion. Nobody comments on the similarities, or questions why Nathan Fillion is a janitor at Greendale. Therefore the Nathan Fillion that exists in Community's reality is not the same Nathan Fillion that exists in our reality.
That also explains how Mad Men -- which featured Alison Brie -- can exist even as Alison Brie plays Annie Edison on Community. The same goes for The Wire and Michael K. Williams, Breaking Bad (and Gremlins) and Jonathan Banks, The Cape and Keith David, and, obviously, Cougar Town, which exists as a fictional show within Community, even as two actors from our reality's version of that show were actual Greendale students in their reality ...
And if that doesn't make sense, let's just do what DC and Marvel are doing to explain away all their plot holes and call it a deus ex multiverse theory.
Anyway, it has to be one of those two, because ...
Exhibit C: This Screengrab from "Basic Rocket Science"
Look. Look at this book with Sunnydale clearly written on the side.
Where did that book come from? Not the "real world," that's for damn sure. Google tells us that the only real-life Sunnydale is an unincorporated section of Washington State that borrowed its name from a nearby poultry farm. Why would a super-rural parcel of nowhere have a college textbook and/or spaceship-simulator handbook there, and why would Greendale have it now?
Clearly, the perpetually cash-strapped Greendale Community College purchased the book used from a fire sale after (spoilers!) Buffy's adopted hometown of Sunnydale fell into a Hellmouth. THAT IS THE ONLY EXPLANATION. No furths, your honor.
Eirik Gumeny is fine, completely fine. How are you? He's the author of The End of Everything Forever, a five novel omnibus that's a lot more fun than the title might suggest. He's also on Twitter, where he will absolutely listen to all of your pop-culture conspiracy theories.
Top image: 20th Television, Sony Pictures Television