A Farewell to Parks and Recreation
By Hannah Smith
Today marks the end of the incredibly underrated comedy show Parks and Recreation. Let us not dwell on the imminent despair sweeping the country at the thought that Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope won’t be teaching new lessons and exemplifying a positive role model across our television screens week after week.
This article is constructed to remember the good times we’ve shared, not grieve or mourn the loss of an inspirational show that brilliantly incorporated feminism without overwhelming the audience. Seeing a female character so full of determination, encouragement, and who is unashamed to say what she wants provides comfort to those who desire to do the same, even if it is just in the form of a fictional character. Sheila Moeschen, Huffington Post blog contributor, writes “…for Leslie/Poehler, feminism simply makes sense and is ultimately good for all; it’s not a posture, it’s not a fad, it’s not a set of politics that is only as fashionable as its last cool defender.”
One of the most important themes of the show is promoting individuality.
It’s uncommon for a show to have so many characters viewers can easily distinguish between, but it’s made possible by the complex personalities each one possesses. Poehler not only encourages her peers, but also celebrates them for who they are. Because each character has their own sense of individuality, she doesn’t attempt to change them to better coincide with her own personality.
Poehler encourages each character to be their own person, which is a lesson we can all take away with. Nicole Froio of Feministing writes “The point is, these characters have depth that most TV writers have failed to accomplish when writing female characters. They aren’t over shadowed by their middle aged partners whose ‘happy’ marriage is measured on a sex-for-a-treat basis. No, these are real women, with real personalities and real problems.”
Even though Leslie Knope is married to Ben Wyatt, the strongest relationship on the show is shared between Knope and her best friend Ann Perkins. This example of a positive female relationship sets a precedent for viewers everywhere. In a society where women constantly judge or put down other women, it’s refreshing to see such a strong bond between two women that fails to waver each time a man is thrown into the mix.
She genuinely loves and encourages each and every woman that comes into her life. Having this reinforced through the show makes it seem ridiculous to treat a fellow woman any other way. Let’s stop picking apart each other for our differences and acknowledge we’re all women just the same.
Ask yourself WWLD (What Would Leslie Do?).
Can we all just agree Amy Poehler should be the next president? Her character has reinforced this goal of achieving her dream career ever since the show began. When she gets married, does she give up her dreams? What about when she has children? Of course not, she’s Leslie Knope. Nothing stands between her and the goals she’s established for herself. Come on, she added her own picture to her “wall of inspirational women.”
She knows what she’s doing, she knows what she wants, and will stop at nothing to achieve it. And no one would dare try to stop her. How often do you hear an adult continuously reinforcing their dream to become president?
Sexism is an issue still rampant in our society (hello, it’s 2015, it should have been taken care of by now). Many people accept it’s a part of life. But Knope goes out of her way to address it. Let’s recall the episode where it was understood that women couldn’t partake in a hunting trip and Leslie brought her entire girl clan along for the ride. How about when she was told women weren’t capable of handling the physical labor that “the average woman can’t handle” and challenged the sanitation department, which resulted in women getting hired? She collected trash in the name of feminism and it really doesn’t get much better than that.
Froio writes “There are no ‘manly’ things, and we should not be limited by that label. Nonetheless, Poehler shows us that stereotypically manly activities and jobs can also be done by women. We can do it; physically and mentally!”
Parks and Recreation isn’t a show that can only be appreciated by feminists. It doesn’t go out of its way to specifically promote feminism. Jennifer Berger of About-Face writes “And the best part is that the show doesn’t even advertise itself as a feminist show, or try to market to women—it simply treats feminism and feminist values as something normal.”
This is why the show is so important and will continue to be a positive example of feminism even when it goes off the air. The show perfectly encapsulates various lessons of feminism and highlights sexism with the presence of humor to draw in viewers of all kinds. The basis of feminism is equality for everyone and that is exactly what the show stands for.