Harmontown Extended Cut
March 31, 2024 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Look, Dan Harmon is a complicated person. Between Community and Rick And Morty he's done a lot. He's also incredibly self-destructive and willing to be open about that. His podcast was popular enough that he went out on a tour, and Harmontown [2014] is the film that documents that tour. This extended version runs 2h40m.
posted by hippybear (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
He's also incredibly self-destructive and willing to be open about that.

I have not in fairness watched the thing, but I have the strong feeling with him that his openness about his flaws is at least to some extent performative, with the goal of taking the heat off while not actually addressing them and repairing the harm he has done.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:26 PM on March 31 [23 favorites]

I can see that: Harmon's sharp and knows how to shape a story - especially a story he tells about himself. He seems to think a lot about whether an action he takes is "charismatic" rather than whether it's kind - or even if it's appropriate.

That said, he did use the podcast as an avenue to publicly apologize to Community writer Megan Ganz for his sexual harassment:
and more locally:

I dig leotrotsky's sentiment in the MetaFilter thread: "It moves him from 'really shitty' to 'less shitty'."

As for the documentary, as I recall Harmon is more of a supporting character: Dungeon Master Spencer Crittenden seems to better fit the hero role.
posted by Nekosoft at 5:50 PM on March 31 [6 favorites]

The entire Harmontown podcast tells the story of how Dan Harmon decided to stop being such a piece of shit and get help.
posted by interogative mood at 6:10 PM on March 31 [16 favorites]

His apology caught me off-guard given all of the half-assed “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” apologies we were all subjected to during me-too.

As someone who went through a very similar period of growth and de-toxification in college, it rang true to the work I (and some amazing women in my life — thanks Moira, Maura, and Victoria!) did to get past my young asshole phase.
posted by turbowombat at 6:46 PM on March 31 [12 favorites]

get past my young asshole phase.

Harmon was quite a few years older and much more powerful than a college kid. It's a different level of harm from a very different perch. I think it sets an incredibly low bar that we celebrate and platform 40-something cis white dudes finally developing emotional maturity commensurate with most women twenty years their junior - the only way to go lower is to visibly not feel bad or try to change yourself at all for being an exploitative boss who commits sexual harassment ie continuing to be an outright abuser.

Perhaps there are takeaways in terms of who should be trusted in positions of power, who gets platformed, elevated, and held up as moral authorities. Because I also do think that Harmon has a very far ways to go - he might not have gotten along with Justin Roiland near the end but he was certainly instrumental in thrusting that POS into the limelight for a hot minute instead of, say, the legion of extremely talented artists who came out of Frederator or any of the hundreds of regularly published webcomics that exist. Maybe he'll do some kind of reparative work for the industry - or maybe he'll continue churning out R&M episodes for the legions of terrible fans without ever truly finding a way of creating something whose primary audience isn't mostly emotionally stunted manchildren.
posted by paimapi at 7:13 PM on March 31 [8 favorites]

As much as I loved Community, I just can't get over how shitty Harmon has been. And not just on that show. His big break was being co-creator of the Sarah Silverman Program only to be fired for clashing with the actual star of the show. And instead being known in town as a jerk who in his very first big network job clashed with the star so strongly that he was fired before the show even aired, NBC picked up his pitch for Community. Which, bringing it back to his emotion maturity or lack thereof, is a great example of his getting rewarded for being shitty and failing up.
posted by thecjm at 8:35 PM on March 31 [5 favorites]

As someone who's worked in the music/entertainment/nightlife industry for over half my life at this point, i can't help but view this kind of story with just derision and disdain.

It's not that i don't believe in rehabilitation, second chances, making amends etc... it's that this particular brand of man gets to do it way more often, and with way less actual change demonstrated. I've seen things less bad than any singular thing he did, with no position of power to abuse either, destroy the careers and lives of women and people of color in the industry over and over, and even if they really did change it just follows them around. It's even worse if addiction or mental health issues are involved. Just no fucking sympathy, you're shuffled off as "too hard to work with" and "unprofessional" while guys like this pass out fucked up on the job and grab ass.

i've seen men like this, especially in positions of power and authority, just fail if not upwards, perpetually latteraly. And when they finally wear out their welcome? they just move to a new city or new aspect of the industry.

It doesn't help that they're very often people i dont see give anyone else a shot at these redemption arcs either, unless they're other(often white) men. Even just being queer is often enough to kick you off the reboot redemption escalator.
posted by emptythought at 8:51 PM on March 31 [21 favorites]

As for the documentary, as I recall Harmon is more of a supporting character: Dungeon Master Spencer Crittenden seems to better fit the hero role.

Yeah, Harmon has said that it is really Spencer's story. Of course Dan is still the driving force in it.

I'm curious what the extended cut adds.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:32 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Once I was speaking at an event and met someone who I later learned was Harmon’s (now ex) wife. Well, at the time they were engaged. She was super nice and friendly, and invited me to be on her podcast. I thought that would be fun, and while recording, we took a break and she asked me if I wanted to meet Dan, who was in the middle of writing early Rick and Morty episodes. I said sure, and when I introduced myself he was very weird and cold to me. Which is fine, but a month later, my buddy tells me “you one hundred percent need to listen to the latest episode of Harmontown,” which was recorded right after his fiancée got back from the event where I spoke. On the episode, she is a guest and when she starts talking about the event he brings me up and is Just Insanely Jealous. Uses my name and everything. It made me realize maybe relationships with him at that point were probably pretty doomed. Hopefully he’s matured? He called me a “hunky astronomer” at one point though, so that was nice.
posted by RubixsQube at 10:21 PM on March 31 [42 favorites]

I enjoyed Community, but I think I got sick of Harmondrama after that. The apology to Megan was great, but has the dude improved since then?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:01 AM on April 1

Harmon is an odd one, because the stuff he did years ago still lives in the current cultural memory as now/recent.

This link, for instance, is ten years old. So are a lot of takes on what he is like.

I have kept up with him over the last few years, at least in news stories. I loved Community. While I catch some of R&M every few years and mostly enjoy it, I'm still not so much a fan, and I don't read stories on him because of that. It's more as someone who finds that stories involving him are rarely boring. And yes, he does seem to have done a lot of work to improve himself.

We went over this a lot in the recent-ish thread about Justin Roiland. In that one, there was a lot of discussion that Harmon seemed to have done a lot of work to be a better person or a non-asshole at least. Storylines on Rick & Morty reflected his changing thinking. Hiring on that show (now more than half women, one of them trans) did as well. Subsequent comments from collaborators and co-workers pretty well all seem to back that up.

The Roiland thing, of course, provoked questions. Was he enabling that guy? Was Harmon's turnaround all an act? Subsequent comments from the staff indicated Harmon knew how awful Roiland was but was contractually unable to get rid of him, so he isolated Roiland from the staff (most current R&M writers/staffers have never met him, even on a video call). But everything that has come out since then seems to back the narrative that Harmon was trying to keep the show and everyone's jobs alive while protecting the staff from Roiland.

I am, again, not an R&M/Harmon superfan or anything (I'm... two seasons behind?) and I follow Harmon only in the sense that long form pieces about him always tend to be interesting. I don't have any investment in whether people believe he is a good guy or not.

Maybe you're coming at this from ten year old info and thinking "Wow, that guy sucks." Fair enough, he sure did. If you're coming at it from the POV that he'd have had to do mountains of work on himself to become a better human, supposedly he has. Is his personal life less tumultuous now? It seems to be. If you hear that and think, well, does the stuff he writes/produces now reflect a better moral center? It pretty much does. If you hear that and think, well, is he really any better to his writers and staffers? They all seem to say he is. If you hear that and think his partnership with Roiland makes that suspect, okay. But he does seem to have shaved that relationship as thin as he could get it without tanking the show and getting everyone fired.

Do your own math, draw your own conclusions. I would say, though, that the Harmon of the last few years would probably shrug and say he has skepticism coming. He would just wear it. And that seems like more points in his favor.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:23 AM on April 1 [10 favorites]

The podcast ran from 2012-2019 and the movie was fairly early in the run (2014). Dan Harmon issued his public apology in Dec of 2018. He spoke privately with Megan Ganz (the writer he sexually harassed in 2009) in December of 2017. This wasn't in reaction to some breaking revelations in the news and it came a long period of doing work on himself. IIRC 2015 was the year he really hit bottom and started working on being less terrible. It is a bit like he put himself in some kind of Mysognists Anonymous program and finally after a couple of years of sobriety he was finally able to get to step 9 -- making amends.
posted by interogative mood at 11:02 AM on April 1

He is beloved of the general gender so it doesn't matter whether he's "done the work" or done nothing, he's fine. Besides! He's not, fuckin, Johann Sebastian Bach, he made Rick and Morty and he made Community. Do we ever get to quit pondering his life choices like he's a colossus? Whatever shit he pulled, whatever amends he made for the shit he pulled, none of it is of any consequence. He will be fine all his life and he will die fine and his tombstone will get the Jim Morrison treatment for decades after we all are dead until the merciful day finally comes when everybody finally forgets about him or we frack the planet so hard it implodes.

April Fool's Day, 2024: Day of worshipping the TV silverbacks. Let's celebrate how David Letterman won a fight with cronked Madonna in 1990-forever ago. Huzzah, Dan Harmon's 10-year-old movie about Dan Harmon Dan Harmoning everybody with his great big Dan Harmon is even more Dan Harmon, now.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:31 AM on April 1 [4 favorites]

Do we ever get to quit pondering his life choices like he's a colossus?

This is the first time in years that I've even thought about him, much less bothered to find out anything about his life choices. I'm finding them (and the documentary) moderately interesting, but I don't expect to find myself trapped in his life to any great extent going forwards.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:43 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]

I'm back and forth on whether that was an ordinary thread shit or a marvelous parody of the sophomoric thinks-finding-a-cleverly-acidic-way-to-say-everything-is-bullshit-is-super-deep nihilism of early Rick and Morty.

Although if it's the former not knowing it could pass as the latter... well, that's bordering on tragic.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:12 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]

For creating Abed Nadir on Community and what that character meant to neurodivergent and autistic people Dan Harmon is deserving of respect. The character m wasn’t some super genius Sheldon, or emotionally blocked Dr Spock or just the weird neighbor there for laughs.
posted by interogative mood at 9:48 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]

I don’t care much about Dan Harmon one way or the other; I know he used to be a pretty shit dude and I hope he’s been able to become the best version of himself more consistently, but unless he’s gone full monster it’s not my business.

What is my business:

I'm... two seasons behind?

Other than a misfire of a first episode, Season 7 is the strongest season of Rick and Morty since Season 3. I would say that there is more amazing Rick and Morty in Episodes 2-10 of Season 7 than Seasons 4-6 combined. It’s that good. I was sleeping on it - treating it like a chore and… holy shit. The spaghetti episode was just hauntingly good storytelling. Seriously take the time soon, you won’t regret it.
posted by Ryvar at 1:05 AM on April 2

I was an avid listener of the Harmontown podcast (and still listen to old episodes occasionally as a comfort thing.) From my perspective, Harmontown is a longform chronicle of a middle-aged man growing and changing, in real time, with all the messiness, falters, missteps, and embarrassments that entails. I think that's rare to see in the media, or in life. Some may find that growth or the amends he's made over the years to be performative, but I think that performance would have been difficult to maintain over the course of weekly two-hour unscripted shows. Anyway, it always rang authentic to me. And in the wake of the 2017 election and the depths of the me-too movement, I found it really refreshing and even somewhat healing, as a younger woman, to hear men grapple with their own accountability in the structures of misogyny.

But mostly I wanted to comment because OMG how fun that the hunky astronomer is a MeFite! I've also met Erin and she is indeed awesome!
posted by rabbitbookworm at 10:48 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]

I think there's a bit of a parallel between Harmon's time on his podcast that Marc Maron's podcast bits that aren't his interviews. There really is something interesting to see someone grow and change across time and have it documented in a way where you can sort of quantify it. For many of us, personal growth in ourselves or others isn't something that is being tracked, so when you do get the chance to observe it in a way that gives you the scope of time and the scope of change, it becomes quite interesting.

Linklater's film Boyhood also achieves some of this same thing.
posted by hippybear at 11:06 AM on April 2

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