Episode 315: Origins of Vampire Mythology
“Origins of Vampire Mythology”
OVM is one of those episodes that many would cite as easily forgettable, “pizza”, or lost in a series of high concept episodes. However I think one of the main things that I find appealing about this piece of television is the level of pathos that it is built on, understandable seeing as it’s credited as written by Dan Harmon, who evidently enjoys making light of his characters’ flaws and insecurities (which is probably also deeply psychological). OVM is certainly not a perfect episode of television, but it is one that I find so interesting not only because of it’s moments that I love, butbecause of it’s flaws – Harmon famously said that he wrote this while he was drunk, and the self-loathing associated with inebriation can certainly be seen here (although it’s clearly been lightened up by the writers room and the studio).
Before I go into this I will mention there is the Air Con School plot in this episode, consisting of Laybourne making the Dean convince Troy to enroll, and the Dea failing. It goes nowhere, it’s bad crowbar-ing in of a plot that probably needed more fleshing out, it’s a waste of John Goodman. I probably won’t mention it because it definitely sours my taste of this episode.
The main focus here is Britta, scared of her own addiction to her ex-boyfriend Blade, a lowlife carnie. At first, the study group mock her for what they see as a very Britta-esque thing, demonstrating once again some of the spitefulness and nastiness that revealed itself within the characters during season 3. Eventually, however, Annie, Troy and Abed agree to help her (with the latter two only helping due to the fact that they’re going to watch Blade). The selfishness on display here is perhaps more a reinforcing of the bond between Troy and Abed and their perceived impenetrability – which at the end of the episode is brought down somewhat by Troy’s actions.
Jeff and Shirley, meanwhile, attend the previously mentioned carnival, eager to find Blade and laugh at the entire situation. Interestingly, they run across Pierce and Chang, or “plot C” – their relationship, built on a truly earnest need to connect to somebody, is heartbreaking in it’s own way. Both are more outcasts than Abed who struggle to keep up with the modern world – Pierce being ignorant of modern culture and Chang simply being too bizarre to truly fit in. So bizarre that their friendship is ended prematurely (played for laughs, of course, but it mostly works).
Jeff and Shirley’s once again spitefully treacherous attempt to find Blade in order to laugh at him and/or Britta are cut short when they learn that Blade lost the ability to feel shame due to a head injury. This speaks back once again to some of the psychology behind the episode. Through centering on Britta’s shame of being ‘addicted’ to Blade, stemming from feeling ashamed at herself (seen when the first nice thing that ‘Blade’ texts her turns her completely off). parallels are created between her and Jeff, who feels constantly ashamed of his past and himself. Of course, this is probably a very emotionally manipulative plot point, a heavy-handed way to allow Jeff to confront his own shame (something, perhaps, a drunk person might write, wink wink), but it does lead to a moment of realisation for Jeff, that to live one’s life without regret, we must live it without relying on others to boost our self-image or further our own ideas of ourself; we must live for ourselves and ourselves only. This is communicated through an intentionally disjointed and somewhat confusing “Winger Speech” – although it makes Britta not want to run off with Blade, it also does not seem to affect anybody else in the room. What follows is one of the best pieces of acting on Community ever, Britta’s realisation that Troy was the one texting her – Gillian Jacob’s facial movements convey every change in her thought process and emotions. Perfect.
Ultimately, “Origins of Vampire Mythology” lives up to it’s title in the literal, ha-ha sense, but also in the sense that it is about the vampiric nature of people, their need for constant reassurance or constant attention, or in Britta’s case, the need for Blade to treat her badly. Ultimately this all stems from how we view ourselves – usually through some variety of shame, but through Blade, Jeff seems to begin to understand the importance of self-reliance when it comes to self-image, as the only person who knows you best will always be yourself. If you feel shame at every little thing that you do, at every word you say or act you make to look cool, then you will always be in need of other people.
This may seem cynical to some, and it probably is. Harmon’s obsession with sentimentality is in harsh contrast to his sometimes vitriolic nature which seems to have turned some people off him as a human being. Although some aspects of the episode mentioned – mainly the Air Con plot – feel very much like group written, diluted content, Harmon’s interesting take on self-reliance does shine through, and although I may not necessarily agree with him, I find it very interesting indeed.
- The theme of self-awareness and self-image comes up in this episode. How far do you think it arises in other episodes, and is it perhaps a part of some overarching theme?
- What is our opinion on the Dean in this episode? I found him to be an annoyance here, but most of the time during season 3 I enjoy his presence.
- How much of this episode was Harmon's original script and how much was changed? I reckon it's about 70% changed stuff.
- What if classic sitcom, "senfield", was still on television modern day?