Bye, Leslie

I am going to miss her.

Parks was almost a wreck when it started.  I downloaded the 6-episode first season after seeing Communie after Communie tweet about it.  It sat there untouched until Superstorm Sandy blew through my power lines and left me with five nights of uninterrupted boredom.  I was smart in advance and charged my laptop to full, and for the five dark nights I was without power, I sat huddled in my bedroom, wrapped in layers of old wool garments, watching.  It was the Hanukkah of laptop battery lives, considering these days the old beast can’t spare more than 45 minutes without needing to feed.  Leslie kept me company on five dark cold nights.  

Even though I had some issues with her character, something behind her cold stupid eyes made me keep watching.  When the show started, Leslie was some kind of ditz, and the show seemed to revel in taking shots at her.  Her unyielding optimism for government wasn’t as heroic as it was blind folly, and much of the show’s humor centered around Leslie the Punching Bag.  Still, I liked the premise enough to give the show another shot, and boy was it worth it.  Leslie blossomed into an ambitious leader.  She didn’t earn the validation of her peers; it was her validation of them that became infectious.  We started to see reason in her optimism.  We started to see heroism in her actions.  We realized that we were already cynical enough about government and society, and what we needed from television was an example of the kind of character that might make us want to believe in the system again.  Leslie was it.

Leslie’s always been insecure but unstoppable.  She’d manically sugar-rush through every nerve-wrecking step, only to be re-centered by Ann, and later Ben.  Her will never wavered even if her voice did.  For the past few years, if Leslie Knope were running for office in a blue state, she’d be a sure thing.  I can’t count the number of times I thought to myself “man, I really wish Leslie were real.”  There are parts of her unshakeable nature that I’ve adopted… more than a few times, in weak moments moving through my professional career, I have asked myself what Leslie would do.  And the decision has always been a good one.

All of the Pawnee characters meant a lot.  They were an ensemble, and they worked off each other in interesting and entertaining ways.  But Leslie is the one that inspired me.  I will miss her mos.

Bye, Leslie.

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