Two summers ago, I took a trip to Seattle, Washington with my dad. We made a detour to Orca's Island, a teeny-tiny, Stars Hallow-type town inches away from Canada and filled with, you guessed it, orca whales. We rented the bedroom and bathroom set of a secluded yellow house the two days we were there. As grounds for a horror story, the worst thing that could possibly happen happened: the TV set didn't work.
We resorted to the ancient art of Netflix to satiate our entertainment needs. I watched some indie flicks while my dad snored on the other side of my headphones and the surf of the sea echoed just beyond my reach. I couldn't sleep for some reason; because I was in an unknown place, because I was sharing a bedroom with my dad or perhaps, in the most logical instance, an Amy Poehler God was looking over me and telling me exactly what I needed that night.
This was the moment I began watching Parks and Recreation. Upon reflection, this background story sounds like some indie pop recollection of how I met my soulmate, and that's exactly what I was going for.
Parks and Rec has always and will always give me a hometown feel and a craving for waffles and child-sized soft drinks. It will also always remind me of the coolness, calmness and contentment of a warm and windy summer night under foreign comforters that became my own when I realized what it means to have a favorite TV show.
Leslie Knope blossomed to be a character that I identified with more than any other woman of my time. She stayed up at all hours of the night to finish a political paper, make an iMovie montage about her new boyfriend, construct a gingerbread house for a friend or maybe just have a prayer circle for Madeline Albright. She knew how every emotion felt and could describe it all in a way that was undeniably complete and a fill-in-the-blank for the audience at the same time. She was the personified drummer beat within myself and I rooted for her happiness and her animation in all plot lines and campaign hurdles. She taught me first hand, how to be a strong woman: whether directly to my viewing eyes or in a thought at the back of my mind when I needed her most.
All the other characters were so integral to the series, as well. Literally. I still don't know Jerry/Larry/Gary's real name, Ann Perkins kept everyone alive, Ron Swanson built his life in a sleek canoe, Tom Haverford depicted how to make the proper banger playlist, April Ludgate taught us to question the positives, Andy Dwyer taught us to question the negatives, Chris Traeger practiced perfection, Ben Wyatt made all the calzones sizzle and the ladies swoon and Donna Meagle gave meaning to the hashtag and to the Treat Yo Self philosophy. Intermediate characters like Perd Hapley and Tammys One and Two (and so many more to search on a Wikipedia page) created a depth to the midwestern satire that goes unmatched in the television industry.
The series just ended, and I feel like I've graduated from some type of college where you can learn everything about life and politics. I know to value nature, local businesses, three-legged dogs and strong women (as if I didn't already hold the last two in the highest regard). Amy Poehler taught me the power of a guest star as well as the tenacity of aim; both in career and personal aspects.
I love the intricate details of this show, which is usually how the best ones get remembered. I liked how not one cast member ever got divorced, or how the harshest tragedy was the death of a miniature horse (Bye, Bye, Lil' Sebastian). Yeah, it was a comedy genre production, but it fought for so much more than laughs and giggles. Equality on all fronts, satirical knowledge on present-day America, striving for diversity in character that still united the script in a way that the 50 stars on the flag aim to accomplish everyday.
Within the seven seasons of Parks and Rec's reign, we saw the elegance and eccentricity of small-town, typical America. Encased in a setting where public service and local government curb the atmosphere, the audience is unexpectedly enraptured in a whole new plan to make lifelong friends, adventures, memories and swing sets. It turns the idea of government into something applicable to people at home while simultaneously making fun of them, which is exactly my life method for any type of success.
This show validated what I already knew to be true and understood me enough to smack me in the face when I needed it. You never knew if Michelle Obama would walk in a room, or if JJ's Diner would close in an economic pinch. The Pawnee world is simplistic and ordinary, but within that ordinary world is an authentic bellyful of ideas, concerns and community to balance out any hint of the mundane.
To my dearest Leslie Knope and all of Parks and Recreation: I love you and I like you.
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