For seven seasons, we were blessed with the good people of the Pawnee Parks & Recreation Department. Leslie Knope was the department's Deputy Director before she ran (and won) for City Council, became the Deputy Director of Operations at the United States Department of Interior, and then Regional Director of National Park Service Mid-West Region.
Leslie had the lovely support of Ron Swanson, Ann Perkins, April Ludgate, Ben Wyatt, Chris Traeger, Gary Gergich, Tom Haverford, and Andy Dwyer. With this group of lovely weirdos, the town of Pawnee was in caring hands, while giving viewers oodles of comedic content. But it wasn't all fun and games. Parks and Recreation tackled some pretty intense issues.
Shown with comedic undertones, Parks and Recreation talked about more than life in the parks system. From tackling gender equality to battling depression, here are 10 dark topics Parks and Recreation tackled.
10 WANTING A BABY AS A SINGLE WOMAN
In the earlier seasons of Parks and Recreation, Leslie seemed more interested in finding a partner and starting a family than later seasons. As we later find out, Leslie's love for politics (and for Pawnee) outshined her need for a man.
As time went on, rolls were switched and Ann Perkins decided what she was missing from her life was a baby. After a string of unsuccessful dates, Ann decides she's going to tackle motherhood alone. All she needed to do was find supreme sperm. Not wanting to go to a sperm bank quite yet, she asked a few ex-boyfriends for their sperm first before landing on Chris. Many women in similar positions can relate to Ann on her quest for motherhood.
While April Ludgate may appear depressed, that's just her mono-toned voice and lack for human emotion. Even more appropriate and closer to home, Chris Traeger is one of the most upbeat and positive people on the show so it was surprising to fans that he was battling some darker demons.
Like many funny people, though, depression does not discriminate and can affect just about anyone. We saw Chris go from an upbeat and happy political figure to a man who saw his therapist more than his co-workers. Over time, Chris got his stride back but it was an important message for the show. Just because someone is happy and fit doesn't mean their life is perfect.
8 WHAT BEAUTY PAGEANTS ARE REALLY ABOUT...
In the second season of Parks and Rec., Leslie was asked to be a judge for the local beauty pageant. After hearing about the pageant, Tom weaseled his way into the committee to become a judge, which is proof in itself that some judges don't have the best intentions.
April, after hearing the winner of the pageant won a cash prize, decided to join the pageant (and even tried bribing Leslie; another inside look at the fact that some contestants bribe the judges to win). But come pageant night, all the judges decided to choose the hot, "dumb" girl because, well, she was hot. Leslie tried to bring attention to this issue but failed, as many often do in our society.
7 BEING TOLD A WOMAN IS TOO 'FRAGILE' TO BE ON CITY COUNSEL
Leslie is constantly trying to prove that women can do anything that men can. In the episode “Women in Garbage,” Leslie is being spoken over by Councilmen Milton. She’s thanked for setting up the snack table and is being pushed to the side so the men can take over the commission.
“I believe the problem with hiring women is that they’re frail, breakable.” In response, Leslie, of course, asks if he’s talking about his hip instead of the entire female gender. It just goes to show that there are still some old-time thinkers in politics today who still believe women can’t maintain a position of power.
6 THE MARRIAGE OF TWO PENGUINS
In the first episode of the second season, Leslie decides to marry two penguins at the Pawnee Zoo because it would be an adorable gesture. As it turns out, the two penguins were both male and Leslie’s marriage ceremony was seen as a pro-gay political stunt.
Not sure how to handle the situation, Leslie was thrown through a loop before finally standing up for what she believes in: There’s nothing wrong with loving who you love.
5 BULLYING GARY (BUT HE COMES OUT ON TOP IN THE END)
In the first two seasons of Parks and Rec., we quickly figure out that Gary (or Lary) is the joke of the office. He's constantly spilling things, falling, or getting blamed for things that didn't even concern him. To be honest, the office came off too strong and it was clear our favorite Parks and Rec. department was filled with a bunch of bullies.
Over time, we see the gang lighten up on Gary and we see another side to him. He's married and has three beautiful daughters. He also hosts an annual Christmas party every year that gathers a large crowd! He may be bullied at work, but he comes out on top by always being kind and going home to loved ones every day.
4 GENDER EQUALITY
After Leslie won the bid for City Council, it was time to get more women involved. Beginning a petition to break down inequality, Leslie and Chris realize they may the problem since every department head was a male. After a snappy garbage man said women weren’t strong enough to be a garbage person, Leslie and April took on the challenge to prove women are just as good as men.
This, of course, is an ongoing problem in many companies today. As we've seen, Leslie was more than woman enough to take on the challenge. Furthermore, Leslie even broke down the laws of inequality in Season 4 when it came to the Pawnee Rangers and Goddesses.
3 OBESITY IS AN ONGOING PROBLEM IN PAWNEE
One of the best lines in Parks and Recreation is when Leslie notes Pawnee's slogan: "Number four in obesity, number one in friendship." Throughout the seven seasons, we continually see Pawnee's problem with junk food. Ann (a registered nurse) even notes that all the children walking by are chunky.
Looking to make a change in Pawnee's youth, Leslie has a fight with the opening of a potential Paunch Burger and even put a tax on soda. In real life, America absolutely has an issue with obesity thanks to our endless supply of snacks and late-night fast-food restaurants. Although Leslie is a fictional character, it was nice to see her care about the future of Pawnee's citizens.
2 WHEN A MAN WINS THE 'WOMAN OF THE YEAR' AWARD
In the second season, Leslie is up for the Indiana Organization of Women's Woman of the Year Award. When the envelope comes in the mail, she quickly opens it only to see that she actually didn't win... Ron did.
As it turns out, the IOW decided to present a man the award that year because the media no longer cares that women are winning awards. Giving a man an award for the Woman of the Year would be enough to draw attention to their organization, even though it means appreciating a man instead of a woman. Once again, Parks and Recreation shows that sexism can be found everywhere.
1 NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE
The thing about April Ludgate is she doesn’t take herself seriously, but she wants to. After being an intern, she only took the job with Parks & Rec because she had to. When a full-time position opened up, she felt compelled to take it because she’d be working with her mentor Ron Swanson. Over the course of seven seasons, though, we see April in a Dilemma.
Who is she and what does she want to do with her life? Does she stay in a comfortable position or do something she’s passionate about? Being one of the youngest in the office, April’s inner struggle was something we’ve all dealt with.