Welcome to this week’s installment of Geek Girl Authority Crush of the Week, wherein we shine a spotlight on strong women who inspire us. Now, this not only includes fictional female characters in geeky media but creators as well. These ladies are a prime example of female empowerment and how crucial it is for youth to have said example to follow.
DISCLAIMER: The following contains spoilers galore for Community. If you’re not streets ahead, then you’re streets behind. It happens to the best of us.
Shirley Anne Bennett was born on August 12, 1971. Not much is known about her life prior to Greendale. We do know that her husband Andre’s (Malcolm Jamal-Warner) infidelity catalyzed her enrollment into community college. Once at Greendale, Shirley was invited to join a Spanish study group courtesy of Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi). Annie Edison (Alison Brie), Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) and Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) also joined said group.
Of course, we later learned that Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), the primary orchestrator of the gathering, organized it under false pretenses. Initially, he wanted to get closer to Britta. However, Shirley and the others stayed on and formulated a legitimate study group for Spanish class.
Throughout her tenure at Greendale, Shirley formed a close bond with Britta. On the flip side of that, she incessantly butted heads with Pierce over his highly inappropriate remarks and behavior. In Season Two of Community, Shirley had a one-night tryst with Ben Chang (Ken Jeong).
This is right around the time she rekindled her relationship with Andre. While there was some confusion as to the identity of the biological father, we learned through Shirley’s labor at the end of the season that it was Andre. Shirley eventually remarried him.
Later, Shirley became the proprietor of the campus eatery “Shirley’s Sandwiches.” Surprisingly, Pierce signed on as her business partner. After four years at Greendale, Shirley graduated with honors and a business degree. After some time passed, Shirley re-enrolled at Greendale, which was prompted by a string of bad financial decisions and a subsequent split from Andre.
Next, Shirley formed the “Save Greendale Committee” along with her fellow study group buddies. The objective of the committee was to improve campus life for students. Additionally, she successfully reopened her sandwich shop.
When Season Six rolled around, we learned that Shirley had to drop out of Greendale and relocate to Atlanta to care for her ailing father. While there, she accepted a new job as a personal chef for a private investigator named Mr. Butcher.
The Real Deal:
Shirley is the real deal. She’s immensely loyal to her friends. In addition, she’s the “mother hen” of the group. While she tends to offer unsolicited advice at times, it’s still sound wisdom that’s worth following. Shirley’s empathetic and kind. She has keen business acumen. She’s not without flaws, and it’s refreshing to see someone actively working to correct those flaws.
Not to mention, Shirley is tenacious, strong-willed and doesn’t suffer fools. Despite her good-natured appearance, Shirley doesn’t let people walk all over her. She’s also confident in herself and comfortable with who she is.
Why She Matters:
Why does she matter? Shirley is a strong, multifaceted Black woman in a sitcom setting. She’s also a business owner, and you seldom see women of color as proprietors on TV. Shirley’s dedication to broadening her education is extremely admirable as is her commitment to being a better human. We’re all human beings. The growth never stops. Isn’t that nice?
So, be like Shirley Bennett. Pursue what you want with abandon. Stand up for what you believe in. Don’t be afraid to put people in their place. Be a beacon of love and kindness. Oh, and cool it with the baking. People will like you regardless of your baked goods.