NBC's Community is one of the most unique shows in the history of television, willing to take risks other shows might not, and create characters which you aren't likely to see anywhere else. For instance Troy Barnes, played by Donald Glover, is the first openly Jehovah's Witness character on television. In the past that's been a problem when it came time to celebrate his birthday, since JW's aren't allowed to celebrate them. This week on the show it'll become an issue again, when the gang tries to celebrate Christmas and Troy can't, because Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden from celebrating the holiday.
But the truth is, if Troy were actually one of Jehovah's Witnesses, Christmases and birthdays aren't the only things on the show he'd have a problem with. Most serious JW's would refuse to participate in a lot of the things Troy does on Community. Wondering what those might be? Here's a list of just some of the things Troy wouldn't be able to do if he were actually one of the world's 7.5 million Jehovah's Witnesses.
Be Friends With Abed
The friendship between Troy and Abed is one of the best things about Community, but if Troy were actually a Jehovah's Witness he wouldn't be allowed to hang out with Abed, much less befriend him. JW's are strongly discouraged from associating with anyone outside their religion. Contact with outsiders is limited to necessary interactions at work or at school, and anything beyond that is looked down upon. Outsiders are referred to by Witnesses as "worldly" and are to be avoided unless you're attempting to convert them.
Play High School Football
Part of Troy's backstory is that he used to play High School football. Most JW's forbid their children from participating in organized sports or for that matter any after school activities. They believe that this distracts them from focusing on their religious duties and that extra, unnecessary association with those outside their religion is damaging.
Hang Out With The Study Group Outside School
The study group on Community often ends up doing things together outside of school, but in real life if Troy were a JW he wouldn't be able to participate. Interaction with classmates is ok for JW's, because it's necessary, but any association with non-believers ends there. A serious Jehovah's Witness would go to school and then head straight home after class, probably to engage in Bible study.
Play Dungeons & Dragons
In the season 2 episode "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" Troy joins the study group in trying to help cheer up Fat Neil by playing a game of "Dungeons & Dragons" with him. Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to play D&D since the game involves the use of pretend occult magic, and Witnesses are strictly forbidden from becoming involved with or even pretending to become involved with anything using magic, spiritism, or otherworldly powers. That includes board games like D&D.
Spend Time With The Dean
Community's Dean Pelton is a flamboyantly gay character with an obsessive attraction to Jeff Winger. Troy and the Dean don't spend a lot of time together, but they interact once in awhile and Troy seems pretty cool with it. In real life Jehovah's Witnesses consider homosexuality to be one of the worst sins imaginable and would never associate with a gay man whenever it could be avoided.
Attend Annie's Dia de los Muertos Party
In the season 1 episode "Introduction to Statistics" Annie throws a Dia de los Muertos party. It's a celebration of the Spanish Day of the Dead, but Troy wouldn't be able to attend since Jehovah's Witnesses not only don't believe that the spirit lives on after death, they are forbidden from participating in, watching, or being around anything which promotes this ideal.
Spend Time With Britta
On Community one of the study group members, Britta Perry, is an openly atheist character who Troy spends a lot of time with, and at one point was even romantically attracted to. JW's, like a lot of religions, view becoming an atheist as the worst thing anyone can do. JW's avoid and shun atheists, out of fear that their anti-God views may in some way poison their minds.
Fake Valentine's Day Presents
In the season 1 episode "Communication Studies", Pierce and Troy send each other Valentine's Day presents. Jehovah's Witnesses are strictly forbidden from celebrating any holiday, in any way, particularly those with religious connections (like Valentine's Day), even if they're only faking it.
Watch Most Of The Movies In His Collection
Troy is a huge movie fan, and together with his friend Abed they obsess endlessly over all sorts of movies. They're particularly a fan of violent films like the Kick Puncher series, but if Troy were actually a JW most of the movies he loves would be off limits. Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden from watching films containing any profanity, violence, or sexual content. In particular, as a general rule, they're not allowed to watch rated-R movies and many PG-13 movies are also off limits.
Attend A Halloween Party Dressed As The Power Loader From Aliens
In the season 2 episode "Epidemiology", Troy attends a Halloween party dressed as the Power Loader from Aliens. Not only are Jehovah's Witnesses forbidden from celebrating holidays, you might say Halloween is the one they're most forbidden from celebrating since it involves magic and the occult (also a JW no no). Additionally, Alien is an extremely violent R-rated movie, of the type JW's are not allowed to watch. A real JW would never have seen it, and if he had seen it, he'd never admit it for fear that he'd get in trouble with fellow Witnesses.
Date Girls From School
In the season 2 episode "Competitive Wine Tasting" Troy pretends to be a molestation victim in order to kiss Britta. Several times throughout the course of other episodes too, he dates and attempts to date girls he goes to school with. But Jehovah's Witnesses are strictly forbidden from developing romantic relationships of any kind with anyone outside their religion.
Compete In A Paintball Tournament
In the season 1 episode "Modern Warfare" and then again in the season 2 episodes "A Fistfull of Paintballs" and "For A Few Paintballs More", Greendale holds a paintball tournament. Troy like everyone else participates. A real Jehovah's Witness would be forced to leave the school premises since Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden from participating in any form of violence, simulated or otherwise. JW parents, for instance, often refuse to buy their children toys with guns. A JW parent who buys their kid a Transformer will remove all the guns and throw them out, before giving their kid the toy. This of course results in a lot of fantasy robot punching, when those parents aren't looking.
Maybe this explains why there haven't been many JW characters on television before Troy. They're kind of boring and if you're looking for sitcom situations to put your sitcom characters in, a JW would have to bow out of most of them. The good news here is that not all JW's strictly adhere to every one the religion's many rules. Some secretly fudge a little and you may from time to time encounter a Witness willing enough to risk punishment at his or her Kingdom Hall (their name for their church) and even shunning from family and friends (they call it disfellowshipping) in order to secretly play paintball, or watch The Matrix.
Donald Glover, who plays Troy on the show, was actually raised as a Jehovah's Witness. When asked why Troy does some of the above even though he's a JW, Glover had this to say: "I think he's not as Jehovah's Witness as he wants to be, 'Am I Jehovah's Witness or are my parents Jehovah's Witness?' I think everybody kind of hits that point where they say, 'Okay, am I doing this out of tradition? Do I actually believe this?'" Troy is that kind of Witness, trying to find a way to live in the real world as much as possible and perhaps secretly question what he's being told.
Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.
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