Characters and Balance in Parks and Recreation


After watching and rewatching Parks and Recreation, I’ve found myself noticing how balanced its cast is. The show’s characters have realistic characteristics based on the personalities of the actors and actresses portraying them.

Each character has unique traits, quirks, strengths, and flaws, and the characters’ personalities balance each other out. Together, they work to create a uniquely semi-efficient Parks Department that strives to better the town of Pawnee.

Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), is a Councilwoman who consistently works towards her dreams. At first glance, she might seem like a “dumb blonde”, but she works nonstop to make her town better with every project. With role models such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, Knope idolizes hardworking and well-respected liberal politicians. Sometimes her projects are too government-controlled, and they need the conservative Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) to tone them down. Ron Swanson hates lies and socialism, loves woodworking, and drinks Lagavulin. Swanson wants the government to be difficult to access, and he acts as a counterpart to Leslie.

Knope’s best friend, Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), is a levelheaded and faithful nurse who makes sure that Leslie doesn’t sacrifice herself to achieve her goals. Her rational personality is a great counterpart to her boyfriend, Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), a physically perfect individual with great emotional instability. Chris’s (usually) overwhelmingly positive attitude that is perfectly contrasted with the dark and morose nature of April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza). Despite her seemingly cold-hearted personality though, she is shown to smile and be happy. This is usually due to the childish joy of her husband, Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt).

April and Andy are childlike in nature, and they both seem very unprepared for the real world. They need the mature and rational Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) to make sure their lifestyles don’t prevent them from success. Ben is an excellent  businessman, and he invents a board game, The Cones of Dunshire, that skyrockets in popularity.

Although his brain is smart, his social skills sometimes need work. His coworker Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), the well-dressed flirt that knows every “in” brand and enjoys living as lavishly as he can. Tom’s best friend Donna Meagle (Retta) is a hugely successful real estate agent that loves to treat herself, watches Game of Thrones, drives her Mercedes, and live-tweet horror movies.

Oh, and then there’s the butt of everyone’s jokes: Jerry/Larry/Terry/Barry/Garry Gergich (Jim O’Heir), an older man who has the perfect family life but a terrible work life.

Each character is much more complex than I’ve made them out to be, but with each quirk, flaw, trait, there is another character with other traits that balance each other out. Together, the team makes a refreshingly realistic friend group that happens to center around the Parks Department.

Sam Bishop

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5 Responses to Characters and Balance in Parks and Recreation

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I have rewatched Parks and Rec too many times to count at this point, but I have never put together the characters like this! The more I think about it the more balanced they seem. Each one is such an extremist in their personalities, but there is always another character whose craziness seems to make them both appear functional. The Parks and Rec Office functions in a circle of hectic behavior with each character leveling off the one before until somehow something gets accomplished, which I think also attests to the teamwork this show emits.

    Margaret Murray

  2. mediaphiles says:

    As a fan of Parks and Rec, I appreciate your take on how the series has crafted well-rounded characters. At a glance, the show can be hectic and discombobulated with such big personalities, but you’ve highlighted how they do in fact balance one another. I think the show’s writing team is successful in weaving a believable story even when the premise is entirely unbelievable (Meghan B).

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I have only seen a few episodes of Parks and Rec so I haven’t been able to observe these characters as deeply as you have described them in this article.They are all “crazy” in their own way that when interacting with each other, they don’t really seem crazy at all. Their big personalities are just part of their norm and how they interact each other. They are functionally dysfunctional as a group and always manage to work together to accomplish their goals/tasks. From what I have seen though, your analysis is spot on when you discuss how all of the characters balance each other out.

    Kylie L

  4. marymdalton says:

    Interesting perspectives! Try a little text before the photo.

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I absolutely love this exploration of Parks and Rec! It is one of my favorite shows, and I think this is one of the reasons why, even though I never noticed it before. No character is overwhelming or overbearing, and they all get along because they fill in the personality weaknesses in each other. This was definitely a reading of the show that I haven’t thought of before, and I think that it echoes the strength of the writers as well as the actors. They are able to read each other and react accordingly to create the perfect balance of minor conflict and comedy to create a holistic show that teaches viewers lessons about how to get along.

    Alex Buter

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