Opinion: The Lasting Influence of Parks and Recreation

By Caroline Meister

Parks and Recreation is a television comedy loved by many, myself included. Although the show, headlined by comic Amy Poehler, went off the air in February of 2015, the show is on Netflix, which is where I stumbled upon it after finishing The Office for the hundredth time. Not soon after that, I noticed quotes from the show, and even blatant references to its characters appearing all over my social media, and even appearing in real-life conversation. Almost always, these references were in conjunction with something political participation, whether it was voting or simply jury duty (a chore hated by almost everyone).

However, with the attachment of “Leslie Knope,” these dull, democratic chores suddenly seemed fun, exciting, and important! Parks and Recreation is not only a funny comedy with great talent; it also is a motivator for young people. Politics, especially currently, often wears a dark mask of corruption, greed, and overall disappointment. However, with the character of Leslie Knope, a dedicated, caring, and intelligent woman (!!), younger generations harbor a hope for government, and may even become inspired to become a part of government, to initiate change. Leslie Knope is not just a waffle-eating, sleep-deprived workaholic. She is a role model who just loves her life. Leslie Knope makes voting fun while smiling in the faces of greedy, corrupt politicians (I’m talking about you, Jeremy Jam).

The show does not portray the government as perfect. In fact, a lot of times, it shows how corrupt and broken down it is. But, the bad never outweighs the good for long. Even when Leslie is wrongly impeached from city council, she gets right back up. She doesn’t even leave government, although she doesn’t feel a lot of love coming from it at the time. She keeps her head down and keeps working, and soon enough, she moves up in the world of politics. Parks and Recreation is important because it gives politics a human face, a face that is flawed but not ugly. It erases the stigma that working hard is stupid, and that all people who work hard are nerds or dorks. As Leslie Knope once said: “I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.”