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Dean Pelton's Entire Backstory From Community Explained

Not all Community fans may realize this, but the first voice heard on the show isn't from the study group's reluctant leader, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), nor is it from the group's unofficial meta-historian, Abed (Danny Pudi). Instead, the first character that fans see in a speaking role is Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), the earnest but often incompetent administrator who delivers an unintentionally insulting speech to the student body after losing a portion of his prepared statement.

Despite his prime spot in the show's first moments, Dean Pelton was a relatively minor character at the show's outset, although his role on Community grew with every episode. Perhaps due to this, the show ultimately spent less time exploring his backstory than many other prominent cast members. However, it did dedicate some major plot lines to examining his intentionally ambiguous sexual orientation.

As such, while specific details about Dean Pelton's history are few and far between over Community's six seasons, there is still a lot to glean about his past from the hints the show does drop. Here is Dean Pelton's entire backstory — and his biggest mystery — explained.

The few available details about Dean Pelton's backstory point to an educational background

One of the difficult things about pinning down the details of Dean Pelton's backstory is that Community has proven more than willing to offer up specifics about him and then contradict them. As such, it is hard to say for sure what happened to Dean Pelton before the show started.

For instance, in the season 2 episode "Intro to Political Science," Dean Pelton explains that the female Uncle Sam outfit he's wearing belongs to his sister. However, Jeff quickly accuses him of not having a sister at all. The show never revisits the issue. Likewise, in the first episode of Community, the dean is shown wearing a wedding ring, implying he might be or have been married. That wedding ring is not seen again until the season 5 episode "Basic Story," where Dean Pelton explains that it belonged to his mother, as fans on Reddit noted.

Another Redditor, however, was able to grab at least one solid detail about Dean Pelton's past. In the episode "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," the dean proclaims that he was a university graduate before destroying his Bachelors of Education from Appomattox University. Beyond that, his scholastics career is not described in much detail beyond an off-handed mention that many of his previous places of employment are no longer operational.

The only other detail out there about Dean Pelton's past is his implied previous relationship with his nemesis Dean Spreck of City College. According to a Twitter conversation preserved on Reddit, Community writer Andy Bobrow confirmed that an extended backstory existed for the two deans, but the show never explored their dynamic before it ended after season 6.

Community's exploration of Dean Pelton's complex sexuality offers insight into his character

From an early point in the show, Dean Pelton's sexuality was ambiguous. In the episode "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples," Leonard (Richard Erdman) implies that Dean Pelton is gay, to which he responds, "Unacceptable and none of your business and barely the whole truth." In an even earlier reference to his sexuality, during the season 1 episode "Debate 109," Dean Pelton states, "And I go both ways. Let's strike that. I am impartial." These clues may seem indicative of a bisexual identity, as Vice Dean Robert Laybourne (John Goodman) applies to him in the opening episode of season 3, "Biology 101," but they are never definitive.

At no point does Community ever have Dean Pelton state his true sexual identity. Furthermore, as his affinity for dressing in drag, attraction to performers in Dalmation costumes, and unrequited love for Jeff take center stage, Dean Pelton's sexuality becomes only more complex. The show finally addresses this issue, but does not resolve it, in the season 6 episode "Queer Studies & Advanced Waxing." In that episode, Dean Pelton is given an opportunity to join the school board if he is willing to publicly identify as gay, which he briefly does. However, he ultimately decides he does not want to be defined by his sexual preferences, whatever they may be, and resigns.

Community's lack of closure regarding Dean Pelton's past or preferences may be disappointing for some, but it also seems to imply that while he may have issues in his professional life, he is comfortable with his complex personal life. Considering that show creator Dan Harmon once said that Dean Pelton was "a celebration of the enigma," via NewNowNext, that may be the most that fans can hope for.