New job! New job almost began in total disaster! Running half a mile in the rain! Cycling two and a half more miles, in the rain! Nearly actually honestly crying with happiness on platform 7 of Cambridge station because the 8.15 was two minutes late! Steaming gently all the way into King's Cross! Panic woe fail panic and then the air, fresh and promising, between the main line station and the Underground, and Sufjian Stevens' "Chicago" coming up on shuffle.
(I'm exhausted. It was nothing like what I was used to. I have a three-stage epic commute in either direction, I was so tired I just slipped down the wall at KX and hid behind a newspaper rack while waiting for the train (having missed the 5.45 - I touched it, dammit). But - they were kind. They wanted me there. They made me pick my menu choices for the Christmas party. And the work can be done by hand, on paper, on the floor, everything bright and clear and perfect. More on this when I am not half-dead.)thingswithwings
asked me many interesting things, and I might just answer all of them at some point, but today, all i can do is feelings, so: Leslie Knope feelings! Or any other ParksnRec feelings really.
Leslie Knope. Leslie Knope is just, she is my hero. I haven't ever sat down and made this post before because, ah, well, I'm supposed to be writing something for The F-Word on the same topic (shhhhh), and writing that has been a problem, because it degenerates into flkgldkfgldxfg so quickly. LESLIE KNOPE. Please excuse everything that comes next for its basic total incoherency.
Okay. Leslie Knope. Here is why I love Leslie Knope. Leslie is a committed feminist, socialist and public servant. She's ambitious, she's civic-minded, she works harder than any ten people you know. (I love the sequence of episodes where for whatever reason, she can't work, and Ron, April, Andy, Mark and Tom are all required, all at once, to do her job.) She's loving, she's dedicated to her friendships and her relationships in the same way that she's dedicated to her job, and Leslie is, straight-up, brave as all hell. She'll do a filibuster on rollerskates, dying of thirst, dying for the bathroom, making an idiot of herself and missing her partner's birthday party, to keep the vote for a bunch of citizens who are out to destroy her, because enfranchisement is more important than any of those things.
She's also totally ridiculous. She falls over a lot. She fills people's offices with balloons, she has a devoted crush on Joe Biden, and she eats more waffles than anyone else in Pawnee and possibly the world. And sometimes, she isn't cute: she's involved with not one, but two government bribery incidents; she uses Ann to get at Ben and Chris; she tries to destroy April's political ambitions; she can be, as Ann puts it, a human steamroller. But - she's Leslie Knope. She apologises, she calls a hearing, she serves out a suspension, she apologises some more, she gets up and tries again. It's like women can have terrible first dates, failed work projects, bizarre food cravings, be nasty to their friends and then redeem themselves with grace, and then get up and make truly beautiful, powerful, moving speeches in front of hundreds of people, all in the same week, because it's almost as though women are human
, my god.
Other things about Parks and Recreation that I love beyond the telling:
-April. I adore April. I love that in the show, she is so weird and awkward and malevolent and basically every apathetic-goth teenage stereotype - and yet. And yet, April has character development and a clear emotional arc. April learns to love Andy and she learns to respect Leslie (and don't even get me started on how Leslie looks after April: Leslie mentors a younger woman in her field because for Leslie, that's the only right thing to do) and she's respectful of (and kind to!) Ron and she and Ben are constantly at war but when she goes too far she apologises to him by threatening his interns
, oh my god, and it's amazing. (I would so so happily watch the Ben-and-April-take-on-the-world show.) And what I love about that incident is that it's part of April's whole thing where she's learning that yeah, Leslie can be a role model for her but there are all sorts of forms of power: she can be April and be awesome. I adore her. (In "Both Hands
", I had a lot of fun writing her taking responsibility for Ben - not that she'll ever admit she's doing it because she likes him even a little, but because Ben is running a rebel alliance but he's doing it wrong
, urgh, Ben, shut up.)
-Ben Wyatt, congratulations on your face. (I relate to Ben - adorable socially-awkward slash-fic-writing Ben - faaaar more than I ought.) And that whole bit where Ben is crying over Leslie through a Batman mask
, omg. Firstly it's absurd and it's hilarious and it's kind of heartbreaking too; I sort of feel like there's something there about kink and anonymity and vulnerability, and fannishness, too, which I can't unpack right now but just want to admire, from a distance, as a beautiful thing; secondly there's something kind of beautiful about how kind Donna and Tom are to Ben crying through a Batman mask, and also just idfjgdfkjgldkg. I mean. Parks and Rec is so, so often just about people being kind to one another, and I am just fine with that.
-Oh, and. And. April, Tom, Donna and Ann. All brown people. I mean. I never knew how happy that could make me on television until I saw it.
-Also, Ben and Leslie. Urgh. Okay. I adore them, they are adorable together, I ship them a LOT. Which is weird? Because, okay, remember Buffy and Angel and Janeway and Chakotay and Ross and Rachel and all the other TV couples I didn't give a damn about? Yeah. Even Niles and Daphne out of Frasier - that was the build-up, more than anything, it wasn't so much about the substance of it.
But Ben and Leslie - urrgh. They are the closest thing I've ever seen to my own marriage on television, seriously, though - and quite apart from the fact I am also married to a calzone-fixated trivia nerd - because... okay, you know how het romance on television is so often so deadly dull? And I feel that that's because TV likes patriarchy. It thinks it's super. Take a woman, and a man, and slip them into the groove of every heteronormative narrative ever. Boy meets girl. Flowers. Candy. Something. (And it's meant to be aspirational? One day, you too can grow up to have a relationship just like this! Blergh.) And Leslie and Ben eat a lot of waffles, and have stupid jokes and secret handshakes, and giggle and have sex in government buildings and do Eleanor Roosevelt roleplay and giggle some more, and they're adorable and quietly super-kinky, it's ridiculous and it's believably the real thing, the kind of love that sustains over a lifetime, and it's also ice-cream and Game of Thrones and domesticity. And - this is adulthood. Leslie runs for City Council and Ben runs a congressional campaign. Sometimes ambition and vocation are greater than love, sometimes sacrifice is necessary, sometimes long-distance sucks. I have this weird feeling that their lovely, cracky, kinky, silly relationship is more grown-up, and more about what matters, than TV ever seems to give me.
(Oh and. The episodes where Ben and Leslie are doing the long-distance thing and, it's okay but it's also really not, and I... well. Back in 2010, I remember I was doing pretty badly; just before I left the UK, I sat down and wrote here one night: "All I am not doing is sitting down and explaining, this is what is more important than you."
And of course I went home after a year, and in the end Shim and I got married, and everything turned out fine
, because what was more important to me than my partner was more important for a reason, and sometimes you make those sorts of horrible decisions, but I didn't know any of that back then and I wish this show had been made then. I really do. One of my favourite memories of that whole time is when Shim came to visit and Tobermory asked, casually, "What are you guys going to do this weekend?"
The Siren gave her this withering glare and said, "She hasn't seen him in four months, what do you think
they're doing this weekend" - and, to me - "honey, try not to do it in your carrel.")
-I feel like I've got distracted. Er, Parks and Recreation. Er, municipal land use and planning! I love that I love land use and planning and so does Leslie! I love they've got these running plots about what to do with Lot 48 and zoning errors and city budgets. Because, you know what? Those things matter. Parks and Recreation isn't The West Wing, but it makes those things matter. And it makes me chew over all the basic notions of political science in my head - all that first-year institutional politics stuff, but also the define-your-terms stuff which is basic but also not basic at all, things like, what is a government? If it's how you organise resources and a collective rule of recognition for, like, twelve people, is it still a government? Can there be ideologically-neutral government even at that level? Should we privatise pothole repair? Should we do so because our form of government is constitutive of our metaethics? When Ron yells at Leslie, that's what he's yelling about! I love that. I love this show. (Again, I had a lot of fun dealing with that for "Both Hands", but what I want to know is why this 22-minute sitcom has more to say on this topic than, you know. Serious political drama.)
Wow that was a lot of feelings. Okay! Clear eyes, full hearts
, on to day two!