I’m doing a mini-blogathon today for Secular Students Week!
This week is Secular Students Week, when people around the Internet are celebrating the fantastic work the Secular Student Alliance is doing to empower students. Their goal is to get 500 donations now through June 17th: if they do, they’ll receive a $20,000 challenge grant! Help them keep up their amazing work by giving this week. A gift of $5, $10, or $20 will go a long way towards helping them reach this goal and empower secular students: please give today!
In today’s mini-blogathon, I’ll post a new blog post once an hour, from now (a little after 9:00 am Pacific time) until 5:00 pm Pacific time. In addition, for every donation that’s made today via my blogathon, I’ll post a new cat photo!
This hour’s post: Parks & Recreation, and the Myth that Happy Love is Boring. (Note: This post contains spoilers about Parks & Recreation.)
There are a lot of things I love about the show Parks & Recreation. Leslie Knope is an awesome character, a fierce icon of passion and compassion and determination and success, who is also very human and flawed and identifiable-with. The characters and stories are just exaggerated enough to be absurd and funny (and to let the audience not worry too much about whether they’re believable), while not being so absurd that they don’t resonate. I could gas on at great length.
But there’s one particular thing I like about Parks & Recreation: It explodes the myth that in narrative art, happy love is boring.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the standard arc of televised sexual tension and romantic love, exemplified by Moonlighting and Cheers: The couple CANNOT GET TOGETHER. The romantic and sexual interest is all loaded into the question: Will they get together? Will they find love? If the couple actually gets together and stays together, all that bickering and bantering, all those comic misunderstandings and missed signals, the whole dance of almost getting together and then not quite getting there, goes into the toilet. (Of course, after a few years the dance itself gets tedious and predictable, leaving the writers with pretty much nowhere to go. And if they do finally let the couple get together, the story often does tank — because they loaded all the interest into “Will they or won’t they?”, and they forgot to make the people themselves interesting.) Typically, the only time you get to have happy love on television is if it’s a family story, and the couple is already together and married at the start of the story. (In romantic comedy movies, you see this trope play out by having the arc of the movie be about falling in love and all the comic missed signals, with them finally getting together in the happy ending.)
Parks & Recreation shows this to be complete and utter bullshit, a catastrophic failure of imagination. The show goes on for several seasons after the central couple, Leslie and Ben, get together. And it makes it clear that there’s plenty of drama and conflict and tension and hilarity in a happy relationship. We get to see them meeting, getting to know each other, falling in love — and we get to see then stay in love. We get to see their relationship unfold. And it’s interesting. It’s funny. It’s dramatic. It’s entertaining.
Yes, falling in love is interesting and funny. Being in love is also interesting and funny. Happy ongoing relationships have conflicts and dramas and misunderstandings — between the people in love themselves, and just with their lives and with the rest of the world. Good for Parks & Rec for showing how it’s done.
Once again — please support the Secular Student Alliance! Help them get their challenge grant of $20,000 by reaching their goal of 500 donations now through June 17th. Even small donations help. Please support them today!
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.