Sonia Tsuruoka’s excellent piece in Slate about the deadpan awesomeness of Parks and Recreation’s April Ludgate needs to be read by all because this character is something we almost never see on television: a scowling young, pretty woman who doesn’t give a shit but is also frequently, surprisingly quite sweet. I’m an embarrassingly recent convert to Parks and Recreation, so I could go on and on about the fantastic cast of female comediennes or the show’s brilliant troubling of masculine types (e.g., Ron Swanson vs. Tom Haverford vs. Chis Traeger); however, I’m sure the internet or at least Jezebel already covered this about three years ago.
What makes April so wonderful, so refreshing, and so worth discussing is not just her sullenness and bitchiness but her moments of genuine sweetness. This week’s episode with the “puuupies” was a particularly fine example. Her character could SO easily have simply been a throwaway bitchy, slacker Leslie foil. Although she is kind of the anti-Leslie, she shares Leslie and the rest of the casts’ genuine decency (except toward Jerry, poor Jerry). She is the best assistant Ron Swanson could have both because of their shared apathy and also because they are both able to at once despise humanity but also really care about their friends. Their father/daughter chemistry never stops making every forced nineties sitcom depiction of the caring dad seem so lame by comparison.April really won me over in the second season when she dumped her hipster friends who were ironically mocking the elderly in order to tell an adorable old couple holding hands that they were, in fact, adorable. In these very rare moments when she smiles, she infuses the screen with more warmth than any of the other friendlier female characters (all of whom I love by the way) because these instances are so rare and thus are not simply depictions of a girl doing what girls are supposed to do (i.e., playing nice).
Even though I may personally be an exceedingly pleasant person (raised in the Midwest) who smiles at everyone and apologizes all the time (even when I hit inanimate objects), I nevertheless always find myself replaying scenes of April Ludgate’s crusty self. She’s not actually a bitch. She just isn’t concerned with the opinions of others, except those she genuinely likes, and she has no desire to be perceived as nice. Nevertheless, like her antithesis Leslie, she is, at heart, a good, decent person. I simply cannot get enough of scowling women on screen who still have the courage to be kind. The moon shall join your coalition!