July 23, 2013

Parks & Rec Politics

A few days ago I got all caught up on Parks & Rec. We watched all five seasons over the course of a month. It is such a fun show. It has great characters and great writing, but as the seasons progressed there was one thing that started bothering me.

Parks & Rec is 99.9% harmless fun. However, there were several times through the series where I hesitated to laugh at a joke because I wasn’t sure who they were making fun of. The people of Pawnee are fat, and they are portrayed as idiots. Maybe the show is making fun of people from Indiana. Maybe it is making fun of the Midwest in general. I don’t know, maybe it is making fun of all Americans. Early on this “joke” was mildly funny, but they continually returned to that well. By the fifth season the joke was barely above the level of pointing and saying, “Look, these people are fat and dumb. Let’s laugh at them.”

The fat jokes in-and-of themselves were unfunny, but were still mostly harmless. But I think the show writers got themselves into a weird spot when they had Leslie Knope evaluate her first year as a city council woman. I’m not sure if their rhetoric is supposed to be satirical, but the show was basically saying…

These people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves so it is the duty of the government to make the correct decision for them, even if it goes against their will.

That is how I took it, and if that is what the writers were conveying, then that is territory a sitcom usually wouldn’t touch. It might be about “Paunch Burger” and over-sized soft drinks, but they are still saying it. I’m interested to see what they do with it next season.