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Reference Humor: Community Season 1 Episode 23 “Modern Warfare”

Today is the day. Everything we have done here at Reference Humor has led to this. Breaking down one of the most reference loaded live-action half-hours of entertainment ever to be aired on network television. Today we dive deep into Dan Harmon’s classic post-modern homage to the action genre; the paintball episode that started it all: Community Season 1 Episode 23 “Modern Warfare”. As always bold numbers represent the time at which the reference happened and Spoilers abound for a wide variety of films. Scroll down at your own risk. Okay, let’s get started.

0:47– Abed compares Jeff and Britta’s “will they-won’t they” relationship to that of Ross and Rachel on the highly successful TV show Friends which ran on NBC from 1994-2004.

0:58– After Jeff and Britta object to the above Friends comparison, Shirley compares them instead to Sam and Diane from Cheers, another hit sitcom that aired on NBC. This time from 1982-1993. (Though the character of Diane was only part of the main cast for the first five seasons.)

1:12– Jeff cracks a joke about how in Pierce’s day they put hydrogen in blimps. This is a reference to the Hindenburg disaster of 1937, where an airship caught fire while trying to dock after an international flight. The airship was destroyed and 36 people were killed.

2:33– “1 HOUR LATER” Jeff wakes up in his car to find an empty paint covered Greendale campus. This is a reference to the British horror film 28 Days Later (2002). There, after the words “28 Days Later” flash on the screen, the film’s main character awakens in a hospital only to find all of London deserted and in shambles.

3:13- Garret explains how the paintball game got out of hand one the Dean announced “The Prize” it is unclear if this is a direct reference to the 1986 film Highlander, in which immortals battle each other for “The Prize” or if it is simply a subversion of the common “last man standing wins the prize” trope that appears in so many action/adventure stories.

3:45 – Abed jump hops off the wall shooting Leonard and saving Jeff. This mimic’s a similar scene in the 1999 Sci-fi film The Matrix where Trinity runs along a wall while firing her guns at various armed assailants.

3:59 Abed says to Jeff, “Come with me if you don’t want to get paint on your clothes.” This is a reference to the Terminator franchise which often repeats the line “Come with me if you want to live.” Also, Abed is wearing goggles similar to those worn by Riddick in the 2000 film Pitch Black.

4:13– Troy greets Jeff first with a “Jeff Winger, you son of a bitch!” which is a direct reference to the Dutch-Dillion epic handshake towards the beginning of 1987’s Predator. Then he says “I thought you were dead, man.” Which is frequently said to Snake Plisken in the post-apocalyptic film Escape from New York (1981) Troy is wearing shoulder pads here for no apparent reason an homage to a similar fashion phenomenon know as scavenger punk that appeared in a variety of dystopian 80’s movies such as Mad Max 2.

5:20– Troy mentions how the Glee club is luring people in using cheery renditions of hit songs, which leads Jeff to disparage cheap gimmicks. A not so subtle shot at the Fox television show Glee which premiered the same year as Community but on the rival Fox Network.

5:30– Still dissing Glee, Jeff complains about “cheap ploys” while taking off his shirt. This is a self-referential bit to the show exploiting Jeff’s own rock hard abs. Now dressed in a wife-beater Jeff’s outfit is the same as John McClane’s in Die Hard (1988).

7:02 Green slime drips down the wall as Abed urinates. This occurs frequently in the Alien franchise.

7:18-Annie pops out wearing a trash can lid on her head that is reminiscent of the hat worn by the thug who attempts to rob Corbyn Dallas toward the start of The Fifth Element (1997).

7:20-Mexican standoff in the bathroom. This is a classic action movie trope that was popularized by Sergio Leone in old spaghetti western films such as Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Britta’s outfit here resembles Alice’s from Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004).

7:28 Abed says, “Everybody be cool” during the Mexican standoff. This is a frequent refrain of characters in Quentin Tarantino films (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, etc.) who find themselves in situations like these.

8:20-Troy is the first member of the study group to get shot. This is a reference to the film trope that the black guy always dies first which happens in way too many movies for me to list them all here.

8:45 The Glee club sings an a cappella version of Pat Benatar’s 1980 hit song “Hit me with your best shot”. Annie says, “That is so uninspired!”before being shot. While Jeff shouts, “Write some original songs!” Again these are meta insults to competing show Glee.

9:09– Pierce shout for a medic when he gets hit. This is a common occurrence in war films.

9:30 Gathered around an oil drum fire the remaining members of the group discuss what they will do if they win the prize. This is another common trope in action/horror/dystopian films.

10:21 “Study grouuup..come out to plaaaaay.” This is a play on the famous quote”Warriorrrrs…come out to plaaaaaay.” from the 1979 movie The Warriors.

10:24: The group is attacked by a gang on roller-skates this is also from The Warriors.

10:26 Jeff refers to the lead roller-skater as Disco Stu. This is a reference to a long-running character of the same name who appears on The Simpsons (1989.

10:41 Shirley quotes bible verses while shooting at the the roller-skate gang evoking The Boondock Saints (1999).

12:03 “Its blood, not paint” This is an inversion of a general movie/tv trope where it looks like someone’s covered in blood but its actually paint, ketchup, or some other reddish substance.

12:25 Chang insists the Dean put him in the game similar to a scene in The Running Man (1987) where Captain Freedom asks to come out of retirement to finish off Ben Richards.

13:00 Britta tends to Jeff’s wounds creating a sexually charged atmosphere. This happens in a great many action genre films but this scene most closely resembles the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) where Marion tends to Indy.

14:55 Britta tries to shoot Jeff using his own gun. Its empty. Jeff says, “Uh-oh…no paintballs? Hanz What, do you think I’m stupid?” Directly quoting John Mclaine from Die Hard. (Well almost directly. Replace paintballs with bullets obviously)

15:07 Chang’s outfit is an homage to Chow Yun-Fat’s character in The Killer (1989).

15:09 Chang whips out a gun with red tiger camouflage. This is a nod to the “Modern Warfare” video game which has a similar gun.

15:12 Chang shoots up the study room one-handed holding his gun like Tony Montana from the closing scene of Scarface (1983).

16:08 Chang pulls out two golden pistols. These are a reference to Castor Troy’s pistols in Face/Off (1997)

16:13 Chang and Britta shoot at each other while running in opposing directions in slow-motion. This is a general reference to the Gun-Fu movies popularized by John Woo and the Matrix films.

16:20 The shootout culminates in their bullets colliding in mid-air mimicking a scene in 2008’s Wanted.

16:53 Chang cackles as he activates a self-destruct device. Jeff dives in slow-mo to escape the explosion. This mimics a scene in Predator where the predator activates a self-destruct device and Dutch is forced to dive for safety.

17:29– Jeff enter the dean’s office limping, without shoes and carrying a machine gun. This is how John Mclaine arrives for his final showdown with Hanz in Die Hard.

17:45 Jeff talks about people shooting each other while the dean sits in his ivory tower

17:50 Jeff shoots up the Dean’s office. This mirrors the ending scene of Rambo: First Blood Part II(1985) where Rambo shoots up the office of his commanding officer.

18:26 Jeff drops his paintball machine gun and shares a laugh with the Dean before reaching behind his back and pulling out a gun he has taped there and shooting the Dean in the head. This is how the final showdown of Die Hard goes down (minus a henchman).

00:00 The overall plot is an homage to the Japanese film Battle Royal(2000) which follows a class of students forced to fight by a former teacher. The film also introduces a ringer from outside and features the last person standing tracking down and killing the teacher who set it all up.

That should just about cover it right? If you know a reference I missed feel free to leave it in the comments section. That’s it for this volume of Reference Humor. Until next time, keep your pop-culture references dated and your in-jokes meta.

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