Abed The Undiagnosable: Exploring The Theory That The ‘Community’ Character Has Asperger’s Syndrome (2023)

by: Abed The Undiagnosable: Exploring The Theory That The ‘Community’ Character Has Asperger’s Syndrome (2)John Hugar

In the very first episode of Community — during the very first meeting of the study group — Abed Nadir makes a quip to Jeff Winger, who has just been shot down by Britta Perry after asking her to dinner. Jeff’s response? “Yeah, well you have Aspergers.” Jeff was speaking out of anger, but the possibility that Abed may be on the autism spectrum has been mentioned throughout the show. But does it actually make sense? Let’s look at it a little bit closer.

This would be a good time to issue a disclaimer that I have Asperger’s myself. I’m well aware of the problems that can occur when making blanket statements about people with Asperger’s, and I hope nothing in this article comes across that way. I’m simply looking at one of my favorite characters, and wondering if he could have the same thing as me, as many people have speculated over the years.

One of the most commonly known things about people with Asperger’s is an inability to pick up on social cues. This can manifest itself in many ways, but there’s a general idea that the little hints and indications people give that everyone else picks up on easily can be lost on us. This is certainly true with Abed. On one episode, a man hits on him in a bar, and he’s none the wiser. And even when he starts to pick up on it, he ignores it, because he just wants to talk about Farscape:

That entire scene is excellent, but the part that cracks me up is when Paul F. Tompkins’ character flat-out asks “would you like to have gay sex with me?” to which Abed calmly replies “no, thank you.” Even if Abed did eventually figure out that the man was hitting on him, it took him longer than usual, and his reaction to it was certainly atypical. Although, I might ask, is it wrong to react the way Abed did? Rather than have some latently homophobic freak out about a guy being into him, Abed turns him down as politely as possible. And for his troubles, he gets a drink thrown in his face.

(Video) Abed Community Aspergers Symptoms (TOP 5 Autism Traits)

In a later episode, Abed seems a bit more aware of his tendency to react to things in an atypical fashion. When the Dean shows up at his door with chips and soda, and enthusiastically says “boys night!” Abed looks and Troy and Annie and says “I need help reacting to something.” From this we can tell that Abed seems to understand that he doesn’t react the appropriate way, and openly asks his friends for help. Also, the scene is just really funny.

One recurring theme throughout the show is Abed’s tendency to understand social interaction based on what he observes in television and film. This was exemplified during the classic My Dinner With Andre episode where Abed wants to re-enact the film with Jeff. We also see it in the surreal “Abed’s Uncomfortable Christmas” episode, where Abed’s only means of dealing with his loneliness on Christmas is to visualize everyone in stop-motion. This phenomenon could be explained by multiple factors, though. Not only is Abed socially awkward, he’s also the son of an immigrant. TV and film were his ways of communicating with and understanding Western culture. That he learned a fair amount of his social skills (or lack thereof) from these areas isn’t exactly a surprise.

But what’s always been striking about Abed is how often he acts as though he’s literally in a TV show. In “Cooperative Calligraphy” (the one about the pen), he offers meta-commentary on the show, reminding us that the events are taking place constitute a “bottle episode” (an episode that takes place in one area for its entirety). There are two possibilities here: the first is that Abed looks at his life as a TV show in order to understand it. The second is that Abed actually knows he’s a character in a TV show. Frankly, I wouldn’t put either one of these options past Dan Harmon.

The aforementioned “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” episode is the ultimate example of Abed’s usage of fantasy not just to escape reality, but also to place it in a context that he can understand. Near the episode’s end, he has an intense confrontation with Professor Duncan, in which Duncan exclaims “it’s just you against reality, and reality always wins.”

That episode would have a rather sad ending, as Abed finds a note from his mother right before she left. We find out that she had trouble dealing with Abed’s strange behavior, and Abed has often blamed himself for her leaving. This would seem to have pushed Abed farther away from the real world. On Christmas — the anniversary of her departure — he’s unable to confront a depressing reality, so he gets around it by creating a stop-motion universe that only he and his friends live in.

Of course, the stop-motion universe of that episode wasn’t Abed’s only means of escapism. There’s also his countless adventures in the Dreamatorium. In one episode, he attempts to simulate how everyone’s life will play out. This naturally causes some hurt feelings, so Annie makes a little modification to the Dreamatorium engine:

She adds empathy to the machine, and Abed immediately collapses, to which he responds “oh no, I broke Abed.” The question is why does Abed react this way? Is it because he is literally incapable of empathy? Is it because he is in fact very capable of it and the realization that he’s hurt his friend’s feelings causes him to breakdown? Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle. Abed has always been capable of empathy, but due to his insularity, he just never thought of it. With the possible exception of Troy, he’s never really let any of his friends into his world, always keeping them at a safe distance. Annie wanting Abed to have empathy is an example of how much she genuinely cares about him. That realization — that he is important to the outside world — seems to be what causes him to collapse. His entire world view has just been turned on its head.

So, with all of this evidence to look at, does Abed have Asperger’s? Is he on the Autism spectrum? Well, if you’re looking for a hard answer, you won’t find it here, although I will say that many of his characteristics point that way. In one of his famous raps with Troy, he says “On the spectrum?/none of your business,” so this seems like something that will remain a mystery forever. In a way, it’s a good thing that Abed’s condition is never fully explained. He’s not confined by the traits of any given condition, which has allowed for more opportunities to flesh his character out in unconventional fashions. On a personal note, I’ve been able to relate to Abed dozens of times, and I don’t think I’m alone in that regard. Asperger’s or not, one thing’s for sure: Abed is a character for the ages.

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Does Abed have Aspergers in Community? ›

While he is never mentioned to be on the autism spectrum, since the show's start he has certainly been a hot topic and even hero amongst the autism community. In the show Abed exhibits some classic Asperger's Syndrome signs.

What is Abed's condition in Community? ›

In the show Abed exhibits some classic Asperger's Syndrome signs. He is unaware of many social cues, doesn't exhibit many emotions or recognize them in others, and tends to relate more directly to movies and fiction than other people.

Is Abed from Community Neurodivergent? ›

Although his autism isn't outright spoken about, we have lines like 'on the spectrum, none of your business' in Troy and Abed's christmas rap, and Abed also refers to his friends as 'neurotypical' at comic-con, implying that he is neurodivergent.

What was Aspergers theory? ›

The pattern included “a lack of empathy, little ability to form friendships, one-sided conversation, intense absorption in a special interest, and clumsy movements.” Asperger called children with AS “little professors,” because of their ability to talk about their favourite subject in great detail.

How smart is Abed in Community? ›

Abed is quite intelligent, fluent in three languages (English, Polish and Arabic) and possesses keen observational skills.

Is Abed the best character in Community? ›

Of course, we reach one of the most loved characters in the series– Abed. Abed is an extremely interesting and charming character, and most fans of the show fell in love with him within the first couple of episodes. He's an adorable and awkward character with a passion for film and storytelling.

Is Abed The main character of Community? ›

Looking back, there was a distinct moment in Community when the viewpoint shifted from protagonist Jeff to misfit Abed.

Is Community all in Abed's head? ›

Community literally revolves around Abed. But the most revealing moment that shows how Community is Abed's show is again in Season 6. As the series draws to a close in its final season, Abed seems to rely on his gimmick more heavily, especially in the RV episode.

Who is Abed from Community based on? ›

Abed Nadir from Community, based on Abed Gheith

Gheith, a friend of Community showrunner Dan Harmon, has worked on many series for Channel 101, a monthly film festival in Los Angeles that puts out serialized five-minute television shows.

Who is in the Neurodivergent Community? ›

The term “neurodivergent” describes people whose brain differences affect how their brain works. That means they have different strengths and challenges from people whose brains don't have those differences. The possible differences include medical disorders, learning disabilities and other conditions.

What episode of Community does Abed become Batman? ›

"Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" is the ninth episode of the third season of the U.S. television sitcom Community. It originally aired on December 1, 2011, on NBC.

What episode of Community is white Abed? ›

"Community" Physical Education (TV Episode 2010) - Danny Pudi as Abed Nadir, Joey the White Abed - IMDb.

What is Asperger syndrome in simple terms? ›

Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a developmental disorder. Young people with Asperger's Syndrome have a difficult time relating to others socially and their behavior and thinking patterns can be rigid and repetitive.

What is the main theory of autism? ›

Theory of Mind Deficit (ToM) One of the most common and most researched theories of autism is the Theory of Mind (ToM), hypothesis developed by Simon Baron-Cohen. ToM was originally developed when researchers were examining characteristics that may or may not be unique to the human species.

What causes aspergers syndrome? ›

The Likely Answer: There's No Single Cause

While the exact cause of Asperger's isn't known, many experts believe the disorder is probably triggered by a variety of factors. A combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental issues might work together to cause the syndrome.

Who is the least liked character in Community? ›

9 'Community' Characters Who Are Just The Worst, Ranked
  • 8) Troy Barnes. While Community found its footing, Troy (Donald Glover) was initially a kind of dumb, jock bully. ...
  • 7) Abed Nadir. ...
  • 6) Shirley Bennett. ...
  • 5) Dean Craig Pelton. ...
  • 4) Ben Chang. ...
  • 3) Annie Edison. ...
  • 2) Jeff Winger. ...
  • 1) Pierce Hawthorne.
Mar 31, 2022

What happens to Abed at the end of Community? ›

Community ended with Annie and Abed leaving Greendale to pursue their dream careers, while Jeff chose to stay at Greendale as a professor.

Who are the smartest characters in Community? ›

Abed Nadir

Abed (Danny Pudi) is the most intelligent character on Community. He's someone who enjoys observing and watching others since he likes to live his life according to his favorite popular culture references.

What is Abed's favorite show? ›

Abed's favorite show is Inspector Spacetime, which is a long running reference to Doctor Who throughout the series.

Who is the main character Community? ›


What is a Community character? ›

Community character refers to the "flavor" of a place and includes diverse elements such as local architecture, landscape, community activities, and the demographic mix of people.

How many main characters are in Community? ›

The show revolves around the on-and-off campus exploits of seven students connected through their study group at Greendale Community College.

Do Troy and Abed get together in Community? ›

School year synopsis In their third year at Greendale, Troy and Abed finally moved in together.

What is the darkest episode of Community? ›

"Remedial Chaos Theory" is a concept episode, with each timeline showing how the group is affected by the absence of one of its members. "The Darkest Timeline" ensues when Troy leaves, causing Pierce to be shot and a fire to break out.

What episode of Community was removed? ›

In June 2020, the episode was removed from Netflix and Hulu due to scenes with Chang (Ken Jeong) in makeup resembling blackface.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Community)
"Advanced Dungeons & Dragons"
Original air dateFebruary 3, 2011
Guest appearances
10 more rows

What are the theories on Community? ›

There are three main theories regarding community development: structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. The social worker community practices and their efforts to influence social policy creation are affected by all three of these theories.

Who is Abed impersonating? ›

In the Season Two episode "Asian Population Studies", Jeff calls Abed "Brown Jamie Lee Curtis". In this episode, he is impersonating that actress.

Did Abed know he was in a TV show? ›

Abed knows he's in a TV show. During the second time the camera finds abed around the corner and then Abed has a nervous breakdown saying "Saying everything is a story!" Jesus Abed then shows up in the place previously uninhabited because he appears right after he has the breakdown.

Did Abed have autism? ›

Abed's unusual social behavior and special interests insinuate that he is on the autism spectrum, as suggested by Dan Harmon and stated by other characters on the show. He is generally beloved by members of the study group and enjoys a close bond with Troy Barnes (Donald Glover).

Why was Abed expelled? ›

Bargaining—They try to plead to the Greendale school board for leniency for their part in the riot but are expelled due to Chang's deception.

Is Abed a savant? ›

Despite Abed's in-depth knowledge of pop culture, the show doesn't portray him as a savant – an autistic person who has “extraordinary” abilities in a specific category, a trope that is present in most portrayals of autism in the media, but that represents less than ten per cent of the autistic population.

Is Abed half white? ›

Abed, like his actor, is half-Polish. Abed is half-Palestinian, however, while Danny Pudi is half-Indian.

What did Troy whisper to Abed? ›

Silent Whisper: Subverted, Abed immediately tells everyone that Troy whispered, "I know you hate when people do this in movies."

How old is Abed meant to be? ›

Abed Nadir

Based on his experiences, he was older than Troy and younger than Britta, putting him in the middle of the age pack among the study group. By the end of Community season 6, Abed was probably in his late 20s.


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