Cruel to Be Kind

 

Image Credit: NBC
Image Credit: NBC

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!

3 Replies to “Cruel to Be Kind”

  1. As has been noted in various places, April’s evolution illustrates just how special Parks is–she’s been able to grow, both personally and professionally, without giving her a personality transplant.

    For instance, in early season 2, who would have imagined how awesomesauce an April/Andy pairing could end up being?

    And the same evolution-without-reinvention thing could be said about all of the show’s major characters (less so for the more over-the-top characters like Ron or Tom or Chris, maybe, but there’s still growth), which is rare and hard to do in the confines of a sitcom.

  2. April is my favorite character next to Ron Swanson. No doubt. Everything you described about April is why I love Yvonne, actually. Hahaha. Not that she isn’t pleasant and nice (also from the Midwest). But she’s certainly not easy to please, nor does she care for most things. So, the fact that she cares for me is pretty cool.

    And I couldn’t stop laughing at, “[I apologize] all the time (even when I hit inanimate objects).” I find myself constantly apologizing. Ugh. Especially at work. We Midwesterners appear so weak, I’m sure.

  3. April was not my favorite character in the begining. At first she was an annoying hipster. But, she has grown in ways that other characters have not.Who would of seen her with Andy in the earlier seasons?

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