Do you mind explaining why Parks and Rec is racist, or pointing me in the direction of someone/a post that could? I haven't seen the show but it was on my list of things to watch because apparently is has a lot of PoC in it? But is it bad despite that?
umm well the entire show centers around a white feminist woman, all the POC r dependent on her in some way. Her best friend is a light skinned WOC about whose family and ethnicity we know nothing about after 5 seasons. The one Black woman in the office is a side character after 5 seasons and again we know nothing about her history and family and she’s mostly there to deliver snarky comments or have jokes made about the improbability of anyone finding her sexually attractive. What else. The other WOC is Aubrey Plaza and she’s also very light skinned/ somewhat what passing and her ethnicity is only acknowledged like once. There are really offensive genocidal murals on the office walls that r used for laughs because they r “outrageously racist” yet none of the characters r ever concerned with removing them. The MOC Aziz Anzari is characterized as juvenile and desexual while even the dorkiest white men r coded with desirability and maturity. What else. Everytime a new “attractive” woman appears she’s always white and skinny. There was an entire episode which was about the greatness of US “democracy” vs Venezuelan corruption, and all of Leslie’s white feminist icons r white women like Hilary Clinton and Madeline Albright and Nancy Pelosi.
my hubs and I marathoned 4 straight seasons and I won’t deny it’s hilarious and the characters r very well drawn but the ovewhelming white liberal gaze is hard to ignore
How is it racist to not focus on race? The characters in Parks and Recreation are being treated as characters. Any race they belong to is kind of irrelevant to the point of the show. It’s depicting a comedy setting with a variety of races and showing it to be normal. Race isn’t the pinnacle of Tom’s character. Nor is it for April’s, nor Donna’s. And that’s because the show is about them as coworkers and their interactions with one another. Since their race shouldn’t be any deciding factor in their job or quality of person, it isn’t addressed as to present them all as somewhat equal humans within the office social space.
Now, of course, it is a comedy, which tends to mean it will tread on some toes. With the murals depicting the massacre of the land’s previous inhabitants, one could argue that the show is being blunt and honest about America’s past. And, what can they really do about it? Also, the stories of the murals are usually given with favor and sympathy for the native peoples, which in turn casts shame on the actions of the white founders of Pawnee.
And as for Donna’s sexual prowess and how she is depicted as wealthy and level-headed, sexually active and socially accepting of that being known, etc. isn’t that a good thing? Here is an independent, plus-sized woman of color shown as stylish, funny, wealthy, and not ‘sexy’ as in fetishized, but more as a character a lot of other characters find sexy or are attracted to.
I feel like this is maybe a step in the right direction??
1. Don’t you ever again suggest to anyone but ESPECIALLY to a woman of color that ignoring a character’s race is somehow a progressive act. The show of Parks and Rec focuses on the character Leslie Knope, who is a woman in politics, a field dominated by men and the show has never EVER shied away from the topic of gender inequality and feminism. The show has never tried to brush aside the fact that she is a woman and turn her into “just a character” as you say. Her identity as a woman impacts the decisions she makes, the criticism she receives, and the opportunities she has to work for and the show acknowledges and celebrates that without making her entire identity about the fact that she is a woman. They’ve managed to find that balance in her; it is not a stretch to assume they can find that balance in characters of color. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it has to be all about race or not about race at all. That’s an idiotic fallacy and it’s not the way the world works and it’s not how people work.
Honestly, the fact that you can watch this show and this character and not realize the irony of suggesting that race is an insignificant part of one’s identity and therefore should be ignored is staggering. You would never suggest that Parks and Rec ignore the fact that Leslie Knope is a woman and “just focus on her character”. That would be asinine and would diminish a large part of who Leslie Knope is. Race, like gender affects how people interact in the world, how people respond to them, and yes, even which opportunities they have to work for. It’s not a skin that people of color put on and take off when it suits white people. You don’t do anyone any favors by pretending it doesn’t exist and focusing on “the character” as if race and character are mutually exclusive concepts.
2. Depicting an overweight black woman as overly sexual is not progressive, which you would know if you had spent even a fraction of a second studying up on depictions of black women in media instead of assuming that all women experience inequality the same way. The over sexual black woman is a stereotype, a well-documented, damaging stereotype that finds humor in the idea that black women, particularly ones not considered “conventionally attractive”, could have not just one partner, but multiple. It also extends from the idea that black women are sexually deviant and must be controlled, in contrast to white women’s sexual purity. Melissa Harris-Perry explains this in her book, Sister Shame, but for a brief synopsis I suggest watching some of her YouTube videos instead.
But more to the point, Donna TALKS about her sexual conquests, she TALKS about being with different men, and yet we have never once, in six seasons, actually SEEN her with a love interest, which is a pretty common occurrence for black women on TV (see Mercedes on Glee). She is the only character on that show that has never had a love interest physically present. So why don’t you spend some time thinking about why stylish funny wealthy sexy black women on TV can openly and unabashedly TALK about sex and relationships and love, but are never actually SHOWN having any of the above and then you can get back to us on how progressive it is.
3. Word of advice, when people of color point out inconsistencies or missteps in depictions of characters of color on TV, don’t go blazing into the conversation without doing a little research. Everything that I have said could have been found out with a little Google search, a little trip to POC blogs, or even just a little reading. You’d know that POC have spent who knows how much time and energy arguing, studying and analyzing the impact of characters of color on TV. We live this subject because it impacts OUR lives, so don’t ever again suggest that you know better than people of color what positive depictions of people of color look like. You really honestly don’t.
More great commentary, esp. about Donna.
I’m still wary about saying that Donna is overly sexual because…I don’t think her mentioning her sex life or talking about having men waiting for her means that she’s being too sexual? Then again, it’s been awhile since I’ve watched, so I may be forgetting key moments.
However, YES, the desexualized/hypersexualized fat black woman is a very damaging stereotype, which is really important to consider when talking about her character. And I think the point about Donna never being seen with her lover(s) is very, very important. It’s not enough to just say that these things are happening. It’s important to show fat black women in romantic contexts, as being sexual agents, as lovable, etc.