Parks and Rec has been around for a while now, but as a small city girl living a simple life in England, I didn’t get the chance to enjoy this iconic show until just a few weeks ago (it really is amazing how many episodes of something you can consume when you don’t want to do university work). In case you are like I was back then – wide eyed and oblivious to the goodness of Parks and Rec – I’ve helpfully compiled a list of all the life lessons I gathered from the show, as well as a few comments on Parks as a production.
You don’t always have to be a Chris, sometimes you can be an April. This is an important one because Chris is the person all of us have wanted to be at some point – he eats healthily, exercises regularly, constantly works hard, and above all he is unceasingly happy and optimistic. But being Chris doesn’t even work out for Chris himself until he too learns to embrace the negatives of life along with the positives. This is why it’s imperative to balance out your Chris-ambitions with some April-realism. April tells it as it is, avoids the majority of human interaction, and prioritises enjoyment over the stress of responsibilities and work. In between these two extremes, there’s a healthy balance somewhere in the middle which allows you to get work done, whilst still giving yourself breaks to do fun things like pretending to be a very rich widow with a terrible secret.
Let people choose their own path. Although government work was not destined for everyone in the show, and Burt Macklin (FBI) never got to join the force, the characters managed to achieve happiness through their own failings and discoveries. It isn’t worth trying to force people into careers they don’t enjoy and lifestyles that don’t work for them, even if the pressure is from “good intentions”. Parks and Rec did a great job of showing that people will eventually find what’s right for them in their own time.
Hard work doesn’t always pay off, and good people don’t always get everything they deserve, but you should never stop trying because one day your motivation will achieve something great and you’ll be glad you never gave up. Now that might sound pretty deep considering it came from an American sit-com, but it’s true. Near enough every character in Parks and Rec got the great future they deserved after working hard and facing many embarrassments and set-backs. Garry (Jerry? Larry? Terry?) Gergich continued to be kind hearted and tried his best day after day, through any situation, and his eerily perfect family and perfectly perfect life optimistically show the good that can come from doing the best you can.
Waffles are delicious. Seriously. Watching Leslie eat all of those breakfast waffles over the course of the show has taught me that England is severely lacking in restaurants and cafes that provide breakfast waffles. This needs to be remedied immediately.
Friendship and loyalty are important. One of the best features of the show is being able to watch how the relationships between characters develop and grow. Leslie and her love for Anne are the best examples of how loyal friendships can change a person’s life, and bring people from different walks of life together. It’s a wonderful and cheesy message, but the bond between everyone in the Parks and Recreation department is something everyone should aspire for.
America seems to believe that the root of happiness is marriage and babies. This was probably a message that the writers and producers put across rather than the show itself, but American television definitely seems to have this weird obsession where the ‘end goal’ of life and ultimate happiness is to get married and have babies. It’s unsettling. The entire final series of Parks and Rec was like some kind of bizarre fan fiction that nobody asked for (but we all watched it anyway) where the tags would have been “Family AU” and “Fluff”. It was an interesting direction for a show to take, and it was certainly enjoyable to watch (and to get the satisfaction of knowing what happened to all the characters) but there was an unnerving undertone of American nuclear family propaganda creeping into the plotlines. Whilst watching this show at an advanced speed compared to the original release dates, the family plot lines even come across as almost rapidly forced, as if the show was eager to wrap everything up neatly in a conventional American Way™. If I had to flaw the show in any way, it would be this one feature.
And finally: Treat Yo’ Self. This is probably the most important message of the show and a date that everyone should take up into their calendar. Donna and Tom demonstrate perfectly why it’s important to give yourself a little self-care time; let yourself have good food without looking at the calories, buy something you really want even if it’s more than what you’d normally spend on yourself, pamper yourself in whatever way you need to, and if on your ‘Treat Yo Self’ day you want to walk around dressed as Batman then you should definitely do that too. It’s perfectly okay and even healthy to spoil yourself every now and then.
So there you have it, a sample of some of the life messages that can be found in Parks and Recreation. If you have yet to see it, the upcoming Christmas break would be the perfect chance to take on my binging challenge (it took me about two weeks, one of you out there can surely beat it). If you have already seen it then you too should take this chance to watch all of the episodes through again. The real question now is: what is there out there that is worth binge-watching next?
Words by Charlie Ginger Jones