I’ve been enjoying the melancholy beauty that is the last few episodes of Parks and Recreation. It feels like they’re doing the wrap-up well, so far.
And I came across this article at The Atlantic; it made me think. It’s a lovely reflection on Jerry’s character, and particularly on how the show’s other characters have interacted with him.
I think they’ve actually pinned down something that bothered me for a long time. Jerry was, effectively, the butt of some quite cruel jokes in what is otherwise a very … fuzzy, heart-warming show. There. I said it. You love it too.
So it felt strange when those jokes happened, and Leslie would do mean things to Jerry. It was like watching a kind, elderly auntie who’s always been caring and considerate, kicking a dog viciously in the guts.
Of course, as the show goes forward, there is redemption. Jerry’s love-able characteristics are revealed, other characters appreciate him, and he wins success. The article ties that together into a story, of sorts, about opportunity for people who don’t get the limelight.
I think, though, that what really shows through is the different impulses in the writers. They were writers of a heart-warming, genuinely optimistic show – that is also a comedy. And while there are a lot of different laughs to be had, it’s true that you can also get laughs from comedy that appeals to something baser in us, a part of us that is afraid of being the butt of the joke and so laughs with relief when someone else is. I know I laughed.
So I think if Jerry’s redeemed in the show’s end, it’s … an encouraging sign of one tendency – the fundamental optimism and conviction of the writers and their narrative – winning out over something darker and meaner in our nature.