TV seems to be all but just wrong, wrong, wrong. Nothing I see makes me think anyone is taking women seriously as human beings (surprising, only not really). Until I saw the show Parks and Recreation starring Amy Poehler. I believe it’s the only show I’ve seen where the female lead uses the word feminist as one of her biggest traits, and actually means it. While the feminism aspect has a satirical aspect, it’s made fun of much less than other subjects. It’s one of the few subjects on the show that is actually mostly left alone as serious. It’s a running theme through the show how important strong female women, especially politicians are as evidenced by her gazillion photos of female politicians in her office. Furthermore, unlike other attempts at “feminist” movies, Poehler is not an ass-kicking bad-ass androgynous type, nor is she a sexbot 3.0 identifying as feminist while flashing her glitter covered cleavage and talking about how empowering stripping is. No. Poehler is a smart, funny, and quirky character who I don’t roll my eyes at when she says “feminist” and “strong woman” for the hundreth time.
The most important aspect of Poehler’s character that is different is how flawed she is. Frequently the female protagonist is not allowed flaws. Permitted flaws include: adorably clutzy, verbal diarrhea when nervous (but only if a man is making her nervous), taking her job too seriously (but only if it’s in the context of resisting sex to get work done), caring too much about her appearance, and other “quirky” but “cute” things permitted. The male protagonist is usually highly flawed, frequently being a player who hates women, drinking too much, starting fights with strangers, cheating, generally being an enormous ass who is just sucking up every ounce of male privilege he can etc… just to name a few. Poehler on the other hand, is portrayed as being a little intolerable in “real life,” being just a facepalm awkward person often. Frequently fucking up royally, getting things done by annoying people, losing the guy in favor of work, and having her share of EXTREMELY awkward moments. Of course all this is on top of her being awesome and fantastic at her job because she loves it and of course it’s on top of SNL type deadpan humor.
As well, her character is not referred to as getting “nailed” or “banged” or “fucked” in many contexts except to point out that someone is being a misogynistic assface. Sex is a VERY small part of the show, at least in terms of how it pertains to the protagonist. Dating, relationships, etc… are a part, but it’s about her dating. Not about her fucking. The show gives few opportunities for male viewers to fantasize about banging her. I can only think of ONE example where her sex life is even mentioned. Her femaleness is not reinforced by the fact that she is fuckable. However, she is not ugly (because in most shows when a character isn’t put in tight clothing and fucked every other show, it’s because she’s supposedly too ugly or too fat). She is blonde and pretty, but this isn’t emphasized as a fuckability point. In fact in many scenes Poehler is “allowed” to be downright unattractive (a rare thing for most female protagonists). Her occasional drunken slurring is not the “cute” drunk of most chick flicks, it’s the full on ruining shit and making terrible faces and drooling on people shit. Even the “hot” one on the show is allowed these terribly unattractive scenes and is only referred to as hot or in terms of her fuckability to make a point about how misogynistic some people are.
Another thing that is different from this show is that it doesn’t revolve around romantic interests. The work, getting things done, how colleagues interact, etc… is the main point. The show isn’t about Poehler getting the guy, it’s about her being her strong self. Romance is a side-plot to work and life and friends. In order to be happy and strong she doesn’t need the guy to “complete” her or bone her like in most shows. She doesn’t prance around the office in a gel push-up bra and ankle-breakingly high shoes sticking her ass in the air to show us why we should like her as protagonist. She wears pants most of the time and dark suits.
Subtly but possibly most importantly, she proudly wears the title feminist. She strongly believes in women’s rights and strives to be the first female president of the United States. Rather than laughing about how stupid feminism is, rather than making it a joke, her being a slightly outspoken feminist is taken more seriously than many other plots on the show. For instance when a love interest enters the scene and finds out she’s a feminist, rather than the usual “ugggg feminist bitch, I don’t want to date a feminist. But I like you enough I can ignore it/make fun of it” he gets embarrassed by how little he knows, goes out and learns all about female politicians and important points of the women’s movement to impress her. Even better is that rather than supporting Lady Gaga feminism (meaning taking patriarchy, slapping a feminist label on it and stripping) she seems to support a real women’s movement concerned with not having to dress like a sexbot, with getting more women into power, and with the pay gap. Particularly the middle one, that seems to be a real theme in the show. Pushing to get women into real leadership positions. Holy crap, it’s real feminism ON TV, without mockery or hostility! I’m won over.
In short, the show doesn’t conform to patriarchy 3.0 like most. Rather than being a quirky sexbot like most female protagonists she wins us over the way most male protagonists do. By being smart, hardworking, and just hilarious. Oh and with very little cleavage. I really, really like this show. On top of being very feminist forward-thinking it is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS. Just to throw in a little cliché to Poehler, you go girl!