LightboxMay 3, 2016

Knope we can – How to win at life using lessons from Parks & Recreation


Joanna McLeod collates her favourite life lessons from Parks and Recreation‘s Pawnee, the little town built on optimism, fizzy drinks and a thousand rubber nipples. Please note this story contains spoilers.

Some people seek guidance from lifestyle gurus, motivational speakers or large amounts of drugs. For me, everything I need to know I can learn from a fictional public servant named Leslie Knope and her close-knit band of coworkers in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana (first in friendship, fourth in obesity).

Lesson #1: You need to be kind to yourself 

2011 brought with it the three most important words in self-care to the forefront of pop culture:

Treat. Yo. Self.

But you don’t have to purchase fine leather goods to treat yo’ self. Maybe you can just take time out to read something ridiculous but compelling, like Alex Casey’s Bachelor power rankings, or set aside a mere 48 hours to binge watch every single episode of Parks & Recreation. You’re worth it.

[Editor’s note: we did not pay Joanna extra to write this]

Lesson #2: If you need a job done well, call in an expert

Pawnee’s city hall murals are notable for their terribleness.

So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when city hall employees were asked to submit their ideas for a redesign. When the Parks & Recreation team worked together, they created an ungodly camel that frankly was worse on the eyes than the original.

Luckily though, everyone in real life knows that if you need something designed, you need a designer, and luckily New Zealand would never… oh. Never mind.

Lesson #3: Ron Swanson is fictional. There is no such thing as a sexy libertarian in real life.

Parks Department director Ron Swanson is a talented carpenter, hunter and meat griller with a strong moral code and a methodical pyramid of greatness. He likes Lagavulin scotch and strong brunette women, who he has the utmost respect for. You just know he’d be an enthusiastic and capable lover, even before you find out how he lost his moustache.

But Ron has his downsides too. He believes in small government and doesn’t believe in taxes. He’s extremely libertarian, and there’s the rub. This is one way in which Parks & Recreation is setting you up for a fall. There are no sexy libertarians in real life. I mean, Lindsay Perigo? Nope. Here’s a palate cleanser for you.

Lesson #4: Avoid the media whenever possible, because they really are terrible


It’s true in real life and it’s true in Pawnee. Stay away from the media, nothing good will come of it – unless you have the chance to read a piece entitled ‘Ice Town costs Ice Clown His Town Crown’, that is.

For example, radio hosts Crazy Ira & The Douche manage to make even Dom Harvey look classy:

And sure, there’s the highbrow Wamapoke County Public Radio but with the voice of Homer Simpson at the helm, don’t be expecting any kind of John Campbell smoothness:

Meanwhile on TV, if silver fox Mike McRoberts became more literal, lost the foxiness and gained the ability to do the worm, he could be our very own Perd Hapley. As Perd would say, let’s begin this supercut of some of Perd’s greatest moments by starting it.

The best thing about Perd is that actor Jay Jackson also plays a newsreader in Scandal, which gives us the opportunity to dream about a world in which Olivia Pope helps Leslie Knope run a presidential campaign. But back in Pawnee, maybe Joan Callamezo and her gotcha journalism is more in keeping with your media experiences?

Perhaps if Story got some dancers they might get some ratings?

To be fair, some people say you get the media you deserve. And these are the citizens of Pawnee:


Lesson #5: Galentine’s Day should be a national holiday

It’s important to compliment your friends every damn day.


But whether your friends are beautiful, talented, powerful musk oxes or just, you know, quite nice and/or cool, friendship is everything and it’s important to celebrate that. And that’s where Galentine’s Day comes in. What’s Galentine’s Day you ask?

“Oh it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”

Hell yes to the uteruses before duderuses and ovaries before brovaries mentality (although of course I acknowledge that not all women have uteruses and that not all uterus-havers are women). But speaking of breakfasts, are breakfast foods getting enough love in your life?


Lesson #6: Watching strong feminists succeed is compelling and magnificent TV

In one episode, Lesley has to deal with a bunch of protesters called the Male Men, basically a comments section come to life.


She responds thusly.

Mic drop.

Lesson #7: Love can last, and is amazing

Unlike almost every other television show, Parks & Recreation lets couples be happy together (are your ears burning, Joss Whedon?). Love develops, grows stronger, and together couples can smash adversity. Relationships are about balancing out need, being stronger together and learning to cope with challenges life throws at you.

Find a partner who can support you as you support them, and you’ll learn that love is beautiful and doesn’t have to be all drama all the time.

But one final tip – when someone tells you they love you, don’t reply with “Dude, shut up, that is awesomesauce!”


Click below for the greatest life lesson of all: a binge-watch of Parks and Recreation


This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. 

You can also check out Get It to Te Papa, a Lightbox Original, made by The Spinoff, that follows Hayden Donnell on an ambitious quest to collect underappreciated Kiwi cultural artefacts (The Waitangi Dildo, the DEKA sign, Suzanne Paul herself) and get them into New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa. Do yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service and all six episodes of this wonderful show.
Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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