Thursday, February 02, 2012

Grow up, Leslie

I think Amanda Marcotte is right that NBC show Parks and Recreation is being set up as a sexist cliche, but I think her analysis of Leslie as a perfectly competent administrator and sane person are totally wrong.  Leslie's wanted to be a public servant to her town for all her life, and it's nice to see her follow her dream.  But she's not ten years old anymore.

As someone who followed her somewhat impractical dream all the way through college, I can tell you that a goal that stays static your entire life is kind of a limitation.  I was so focused on being a scientist when I grew up that I ignored pretty much all other areas of learning (and never noticed a talent and passion for writing)to focus on what I needed to catch up on to competently work in my field of choice.  Luckily, it turned out that an aptitude for these things can be developed if you don't already have it in you.

Having that uncomplicated route to a career derailed has allowed me to see that there's a lot more to me than liking science and tech.  I have to play to my strengths now, and that means some modification to my goals.

You can see Leslie slowly realizing this stuff, too.  She's a terrible campaigner, partially due to being clingy and unable to read people.  She's ignored serious romantic relationships in favor of her career (which is generally a false choice in fiction, but she's so set in her desire to stick with Pawnee, she's had to watch some potential happiness leave her there) and if she's going to be in the business of making life work better for people, she needs to understand what the lives of people who aren't so goal-oriented are like.  This stubborn streak is what she has in common with Ben.  He wanted something absurd for the town he bankrupted, and getting it was a disaster.  He's had to adjust his ambitions to fit his personality, and is trying to give Leslie the benefit of his experience.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I didn't agree too much with Amanda's analysis. I think the beauty of Knope's character is that she's flawed, tunnel-visioned and a total weirdo. What makes it a feminist show for me is that she's a dynamic female character that's both smart, a greatd leader and c'mon, a little nutty.

I don't think it has to be anti-feminist for her to want her relationship with Ben, and be negotiating that line between career & love life. He doesn't save her all the time, and I loved how to she acted in her trial - she admitted that she had broken a rule, but also argued her case and stoof her ground.

I do agree that Ben punching the guy who called her a bitch was a shining moment of the show. But it didn't bug me too much as it felt kind of real. I don't know, maybe I'm blinded by my love for the show, but I still stand by Leslie Knope as a great, wonky, smart, weird, stubborn, goofy and exciting feminist character!