Female Characters on Parks and Recreation S03 E04

"I know Tammy seems scary, but really she's just a manipulative, psychotic, library-book peddling, sex-crazed she-demon."

TAMMY’S BACK! Ron Swanson’s insane ex-wife that everyone loves to hate (played by great comedic actress Megan Mullally) reappears in this relationship-heavy episode of Parks and Recreation. Leslie’s succinct summary of Tammy provides all the background viewers need if they’re just joining the Parks and Rec party. I know it’s trendy right now to hate on the first season of Parks and Rec and claim that you never bothered to watch it until the supposedly better second season, but that’s not entirely true. Although Tammy doesn’t appear until the beginning of season two, we’ve been seeing excellent female characters in Parks and Rec since its inception.

In the pilot episode, Leslie explains that her goal is to become the first female president of the United States. Her office isn’t decorated with family snapshots; it’s covered with photos of women in politics, like Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright. Leslie defies the television tropes we’ve come to accept as realistic: she is a fairly powerful force in small town government, she’s aggressive when pursuing her goals, she has a close female friend in Ann Perkins (since Ann began dating Chris, I just can’t think of her without using  her full name), and she’s a beloved gay rights icon after she married two male penguins at the local zoo. Did I mention that Leslie’s a feminist too?

When you think about it, there are really no meek female characters on Parks and Rec. Even the stock crazy ex-wife has an expressive and distinct personality. Tammy’s rightly called a “she-demon,” but she goes after Ron with total flair. Ann is compassionate and generous (especially with ex-boyfriend Andy during the early episodes involving The Pit), but she’s no wallflower. Neither is April, the sardonic intern whose prickly exterior belies the sort of smart, ironic girl I’d want to be friends with. We don’t usually see much of Donna, but when we do, she’s opinionated and usually right. In this episode, Donna delivers a scathing lecture to Ron, after he’s fallen back in love with Tammy.

Donna and a corn-rowed Ron Swanson

Donna tells Ron:

I would like to address the goofy-looking, dirty-kimono-wearing, corn-rowed clown in the room. If you see Ron Swanson, can you give him this message? You used to be a man. You need to get your house in order. Look, I love you like a brother, but right now I hate you. Like my actual brother, Lavandrius. Who I hate.

How often do we get to see a woman telling a man what he needs to do to fix his life on network TV? (And no, those inane shows with the morbidly obese husband and the hot young wife don’t count) Even though Ron is Donna’s boss, Donna is allowed a platform from which to air her concerns about his behavior. And when she’s done, no one tells her she’s wrong or implicitly questions her thoughts. Even on 30 Rock, the writers constantly criticize Liz Lemon’s advice and her behavior. I’ll watch Parks and Recreation as long as it airs just because it’s refreshing to see a show where female characters don’t feel like they have to offer some self-deprecating platitudes in exchange for the chance to fully articulate their thoughts. Will my love for Amy Poehler ever wane? Unlikely, but stay tuned!


2 Responses to Female Characters on Parks and Recreation S03 E04

  1. Kathleen says:

    I loooove P&R for this exact reason. Amy Poehler is wonderful.

    Of course, Adam Scott is pretty delightful as well… And Rob Lowe! Who knew?

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