An Open Love Letter to Ron Swanson

There are so many things to love about Parks and Recreation – whip-smart writing, making mundane local politics hilarious, opening the second season with earnest (and super-square) heroine Leslie Knope giving a passionate rendition of the classic Fresh Prince song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” – but the crown jewels of the show are its each-one-more-hilarious-than-the-next cast of characters. I credit the writers and producers with taking such care to respect and flesh out all the players, each one contributing their own little piece to the ensemble’s whole: Amy Poehler‘s Leslie is the heart, Aziz Ansari‘s Tom Haverford the creative energy, Chris Pratt‘s sweet but dim Andy Dwyer the childlike enthusiasm. Throughout its three seasons all have had moments to shine, but none has done so more brightly than my current character crush Ron Swanson, the stomach of the show.

Case in point, I give you his journal dedicated to meat. Inspired.

Brilliantly played by Nick Offerman, on the surface Ron is a man of simple pleasures: breakfast foods, pretty brunettes, facial hair, woodworking, no BS. He’s a man who just wants a hearty meal and for the government to stay out of his business, and here’s where the beauty in the depth of this character begins: government is his business as he’s Director of the Parks Department. But that doesn’t stop this city servant from making sure no parks are ever built during his tenure and imparting a strong opinion on how existing ones should all be sold to corporations with impressive business models, a la Chuck E Cheese. He’ll even go so far as to influence future generations with his staunch libertarian outlook. This overall brusque demeanor shouldn’t make him so endearing, and yet he is the most cuddly curmudgeon on television.

Even his self-proclaimed Pyramid of Greatness makes me want to hug him closer. How could someone who emulates volatile college basketball coach Bobby Knight bring out the smit in me?

Perhaps he’s so easy to love because underneath that burly gruffness beats the heart of a romantic. He looks out for those he cares for (although he would never admit it outright), so noticeable when he patched up the relationship between his sullen assistant April and the lovelorn Andy and defended Leslie to a board of review threatening to fire her. It could also be the way he handles a saxophone moonlighting as Duke Silver.

Then again, it’s mostly his love of keeping meat real.

As the July 14th announcement of Emmy nominations approaches, I can only hope the protein gods will smile down and ensure that Nick Offerman’s name is on the list of Best Supporting Actors in a Comedy. For how can I live in a world where the man who brought us this is not recognized for his own piece of greatness?

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