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Feminism, Gender, and Politics in NBC’s «Parks and Recreation»

Erika Engstrom

Widely hailed as one of the best feminist-oriented series on television, NBC’s Parks and Recreation (2009–2015) presents a multifaceted text for examining the incorporation of feminist ideology into its storylines. This book analyzes the various ways the series presented feminism as a positive force, such as the satirical portrayal of patriarchy; alternative depictions of masculinity; the feminist ideology and political career of main character Leslie Knope; the inclusion of actual political figures; and depictions of love and romance as related to feminist thinking. A much-needed treatment that adds to the literature on feminism in media and popular culture, this book serves as an ideal resource for instructors and scholars of gender and mass media, women’s studies, and media criticism by investigating Parks and Recreation’s place in the continuum of other feminist-leaning television programs.

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Chapter 3. Pawnee’s “New Man”: Manly Men and Male Feminists


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The temporal placement of Pawnee as a patriarchal culture, in which outdated, gender-traditional notions appear obsolete and yet are still adhered to by those in power positions, comes into contrast with the people that surround Leslie Knope. These allies, who support her political ambitions and efforts to make life better in her beloved hometown, include not only competent women who implicitly forward feminist ideals, but male colleagues and friends. Working from the context of hegemonic masculinity, the version of manhood that permeates a culture and presents models of behavior and thinking considered most appropriate for males, in this chapter I analyze the commonalities and differences in the portrayals of the main male characters in Parks. I explore how Parks utilizes alternative forms of masculinity as embodied in its male characters that counter traditional notions of the male identity familiar in mass media, those that idealize what it means to “be a man.” In that the series’ male characters present a range of personality types, worldviews, and competencies, their composite portrayal and placement within a feminist-leaning series combine to offer a useful textual site at which to examine the portrayal of masculinity using a feminist lens. ← 43 | 44 →

Mass Mediated Masculinities

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