WATCH: Conservatives and Progressives Debate Feminism, #MeToo, and Donald Trump
Even when she's not running for office, the question of her likability in the public eye is inescapable. In S7:E9, while accompanying her husband Ben (Adam Scott) on his congressional campaign schedule, Leslie comes under fire from the media for skipping the "Pie-Mary"—a tradition in which congressional candidates' wives face off in a pie-baking contest—even though she and Ben mutually agreed to skip the event to focus on bigger issues. Throughout the episode, she's harangued for "not caring about her family" or "trying to have it all," and when she tries to rectify the situation by entering the contest, a local women's advocacy group vows to protest her and Ben at the event. Basic actions like changing her hair or leaving her kids with her mom so she can support her husband's campaign are immediately thrust under scrutiny as a means of evaluating her failings as a mother, wife, politician, and person. Ben, meanwhile, receives none of the flack.
In Parks and Rec, Leslie does the same: she puts her head down and guts it out. The only difference is that the voters in Pawnee ultimately value this and she wins, whereas we’re now two years into a Trump presidency.Setting aside Clinton’s defeat in 2016, the show’s careful, comedic balance of optimism against realism felt feasible enough for it to be initially received as a contemporary political satire, instead of the political fantasy it feels like today. Parks and Rec offers an idyllic vision of Washington D.C. that is considerably more wholesome than our present reality. Watching it now is like witnessing a political fanfic written through rose-colored glasses. There are several cameos from prominent politicos in the latter half of the series, from the likes of Michelle Obama and Joe Biden—then-First Lady and Vice President, respectively—to Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Orrin Hatch, and the late John McCain, along with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Newt Gingrich. Their collective appearances make the series feel like a snapshot of an alternate reality that existed in the Obama era, one that cheerily ignores all the bureaucratic hostility from congressional Republicans he endured while in office.
“It has played out pretty much how I, and many others, thought it would. The enmity people have for her is unprecedented. Her successes and achievements are dismissed as those of other people, or forgotten altogether. Her flaws—and she certainly has some—are magnified and dissected and blown up and discussed forever as if they are unique and unparalleled (they are not), and those discussions often involve politicians who are literally currently in the middle of their own enormous scandals. She is criticized—by professional, on-air journalists—for the sound of her voice, and her physical appearance, and for not smiling enough—a situation, again, that women in this country are all too familiar with. […] There are legitimate reservations to have about Hillary Clinton, as there are about literally every politician who has been in high-ranking positions for 25 years, but those legitimate reservations are buried under an avalanche of hysterical misogynistic garbage. And Hillary has done what she has always done—put her head down, and gutted it out.”