I love Leslie Knope.
I could sing her praises from the rooftops, the mountain tops, across desert lands, or on top of a slide in a local park. I love her, plain as day, simple as rice. She is an inspiration, a beam of sunshine that radiates from my television screen and fills my life with more hope than any Obama campaign could. But most of all, Leslie Knope is important.
Leslie Knope (played by the amazing Amy Poehler), a civil servant, government worker from NBC’s Parks and Recreation, grew in front of all of us. Season to season, she has grown from a dedicated, joyful, optimistic deputy director of a ‘non essential’ branch of city government, into a strong, fierce, powerful woman who now is the regional director of the National Parks service. She has been a city councilor, she has been recalled from that position, has led a two city merger, has almost been fired, has survived a government shut down, has taken snails out of a citizen’s lawn, and has run numerous public forums. And that’s only the credits to her career.
Last Thursday, Parks and Recreation aired their season six finale, and it was a whirlwind of emotions and moments of pride and happiness. This last season has seen its many ups and downs. Leslie was recently recalled from her city council position, the evil bordering city Eagleton reached out for financial assistance and ultimately merged with Pawnee, and Leslie was not only blessed with the news of being pregnant with triplets, but also was offered a job with the National Parks. Did that seem like a lot to read? Because it was hell of a lot to watch.
But she took everything well, she grieved for her recall and saddled up to make her last days in office the best ones she could with the help of her Parks department friends and her husband, Ben. She got over her issues with Eagleton to help the town in need, and embraced the challenge of triplets (“If we do this right we could be parents of 1/3 of the Supreme Court!”). The new job offer was just the icing on the cake.
Thursday’s episode took some giant leaps. First, Leslie took the National Parks service job (DUH) which threatened to move her out of her hometown, Pawnee, the basis of the entire show and cast of characters. But, Leslie dodges a bullet by proposing her office be in Pawnee’s newly renovated third floor of City Hall, giving her the chance to help with the Pawnee/Eagleton merger while tackling her new job. Oh, and triplets, don’t forget she is having triplets.
The biggest leap of all, after a flawless execution of sight seeing in San Francisco, Ben’s heartfelt plea to get her to take the leap and accept her new job, and the Parks department coming together for a Unity Concert to benefit the Pawnee/Eagleton merger, the show fast forwards three years later.
You read that right.
Parks and Recreation is a mockumentary style comedy, much like NBC’s The Office. Fast forwarding can shake up everything. It makes us all wonder what happened to that three year gap of footage we are missing in the “documentary” and also forces us into a new normal instead of easing us into it. And the fast forward in time is in no way slow. The last 3 minutes or so of the episode is in 2017, and Leslie is in her busy office dealing with a National Parks crisis while her husband is there in a tuxedo getting ready for his big day. Her kids, cute and draped in plaid (one has glasses!), even stop by for a moment to be whisked away while mommy and daddy go do whatever it is they have to do that day.
And that’s what we know. We know nothing. All we know is that we are in the future, and Leslie is a boss now and runs an office like a well oiled machine, doesn’t tolerate mistakes because she’s got a branch of the National Parks branch to run, damnit. She smiles at her children and her eyes light up when they enter a room but in the same breath she’s running to the elevator with her husband to see what some people have to say in his office. Yes, it’s all that vague. And yes, it’s all that exciting to see what is going on when the series picks back up in the fall.
Parks took a huge risk. I’m a big fan of the show and a bigger fan of Leslie’s success. Someone that dedicated and that optimistic and that kind deserves everything she gets. Leslie may not be ready for whatever is happening three years in the future on a very busy day in her office, and the viewers of the show may not be ready for this shift in focus, in pace, in location, in people, but we should hop on board.
Because Leslie is important. She is a woman, a small, boisterous woman who feels a lot of feelings, who argues like she is the sun, who dedicates herself 110% to anything she takes on. Leslie advocates for herself, she builds a committee to build a park on an abandoned lot, she fights for her government’s budget during a shut down, she runs for office even when her campaign managers drop her, she picks herself back up after the town she loves completely disregards her. She has support, she has friends, mentors, and a husband. But everything they give her, she’s given them; without her, they wouldn’t have the courage and hope to fight for Leslie. Leslie is important because she embraces motherhood even when her plate is overflowing. Leslie is important because her career builds who she is, along with her support system of friends and her love of parks and government, and her family.
She is important because she has it all.
And we can, too.