He also relayed a story about how he called Bill Murray afterwards (Murray, famously, doesn’t have an agent; he has a 1-800 number where people leave their pitches). Harmon basically just called to say, “I just watched season four. Call me back.” Harmon had wanted Murray to play Jeff Winger’s Dad. (He named Jeff Winger after Murray’s character in Stripes), and he was disappointed that the opportunity had been taken away from him.
It’s like “being held down and watching your family be raped at a beach. It’s liberating! It makes you focus on what’s important.”
Harmon has since expressed regret for the comment.
This is no new tale to tell in the Hollywood pantheon, of course. Daniel Tosh is a recent, inflammatory example; Chris Brown and Sean Penn briefly came under scrutiny for far worse. What continues to boggle my mind, however, is the lack of recrimination for their misdeeds. All three of these men have continued and will continue to enjoy careers of considerable richness, as Dan Harmon surely will now that Sony’s plans for a fifth season of Community are firmly rooted. The entertainment industry is singular in that you can be as foul a person as you want and, short of murder or actual rape, you’ll usually be able to keep your job as long as your work remains profitable and/or quality.
For most audiences, moving past matters like this is a question of separating the art from the artist, a fraught but generally easy process. Likewise, this quote will probably be viewed by the majority as a typical case of verbal runoff from a notorious showbiz grouch. Harmon bleeds inextricably into his work, however, and Community has soured further with each report of behind-the-scenes drama. Can anyone enjoy Chevy Chase in the show’s recent seasons, aware of the tension between him and Harmon during shooting? When a creative project is so informed by the demeanor and nature of its creator, incidents like this only become harder to ignore.
Community‘s fourth season was awful, by and large, but it doesn’t merit a lighthearted treatment of rape to describe something as silly as a bad season of television. Likewise, Harmon has the right to say whatever he pleases in the confines of a personal podcast (as does Tosh, to the chagrin of any parties with good taste). In doing so, he should also recognize that as a public figure, his words and actions reflect upon both himself and, if only for a time, the work he produces. There is a way for him to draw his point against the soulless Sony machine without dragging a traumatic issue into a comedic forum. A melodramatic, off-base proclamation is not the way, and it is unfortunate that such comments will continue to be roundly ignored by Harmon’s fanbase. Unstable artists will be unstable artists, no matter who they hurt.
Drew Byrd-Smith – drewbyrd.blogspot.com