Community alum Yvette Nicole Brown has come to the defense of Season 2’s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” saying she hopes streamers will reconsider their decision to pull the fan-favorite episode from rotation.
Three years ago, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was pulled from streaming platforms due to a scene in which Ben Chang (Ken Jeong) cosplays as a drow (i.e. dark elf) being interpreted as blackface. During a recent interview with io9, Brown — who played Shirley Bennett on Community — offered her thoughts on the matter. “I can say, first of all, that I’m really sad that episode is no longer in rotation,” she said. “I think the reason that it was pulled — and this is Black person speaking — I think the reason it was pulled was an overcorrection, and I think they should fix that. Ken Jeong’s character played a drow, and they have black skin. It was not Ken Jeong in blackface. And I think that anyone that understood Dungeons & Dragons would’ve understood the distinction.”
Brown then pointed out that there is actually moment in the episode where Shirley “literally calls what Chang is doing a hate crime, because it shows that Shirley didn’t understand Dungeons & Dragons. So, it had been handled.” She concluded, “By them removing that show, we’ve lost a great episode where Charley Koontz shines. And it’s a great story about bullying and showing up for your friends, and I hope that they reconsider. So, I can tell you that.”
Directed by Joe Russo (of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame), “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” originally aired on NBC in February 2011 as the 14th episode of Community Season 2. The episode revolves around Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), Annie Edison (Alison Brie) and the aforementioned Shirley hosting a Dungeons & Dragons game for their classmate Neil (Koontz), a D&D fan struggling with depression due to being bullied for his weight. The villain of the piece is Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), who works against the rest of the study group as revenge for being excluded from the game. “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was so popular that it spawned a sequel, titled “Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” which aired as part of Season 5 in 2014.
Season 2’s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was eventually added to streaming platforms alongside the rest of Community. However, due to the aforementioned controversy, Netflix opted to remove the episode from its library in June 2020. Shortly thereafter, Hulu pulled the episode from rotation as well. (Hulu and Netflix share the streaming rights to Community.) At the time of writing, the episode is still missing from both platforms. However, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” is still available for digital purchase through outlets like Amazon, YouTube and Apple.
Community originally aired on NBC for five seasons from 2009 to 2014. Following its initial cancellation, the show moved to the now-defunct Yahoo! Screen for a sixth and final season in 2015. In September 2022, the iconic prophecy of #SixSeasonsAndAMovie finally became reality when NBCUniversal-owned streamer Peacock picked up a Community feature film, with most of the original cast returning. The Community movie is expected to start filming this summer, though a release date remains unclear.
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