It’s almost a year since Parks and Recreation aired their final episode, and of course there are late bloomers like me that only just finished watching the series. But watching Parks is an experience, it’s a learning curve, it’s an inspiration. So naturally I would find a character that I would gravitate towards, that I would relate to, and for most people that would be the amazing Leslie Knope – driven, enthusiastic, ambitious, assertive – but for me, it was Parks’ Debbie Downer – April Ludgate.
Throughout the 7 seasons, April goes from being the apathetic intern in the Parks department to woman with a career she loves, a husband that she adores, and a group of compassionate friends but without losing a sense of self. April is the success story for millennials, she is the number one symbol of growth in Parks.
Unfortunately as much as we wish, most of us struggle with being like Leslie Knope, most of us don’t know what we want to do at age 8, much less at age 20, many of us don’t see the glass half full, or we it takes us time to make new friends, and admit to a crush that we like them. And for this group of people April is the poster child. She does not have Leslie’s positivity, Donna’s confidence, Ann’s compassion, but she still manages to find her own happiness.
When I first started watching Parks I instantly gravitated towards April, what with her sarcasm, her dark thoughts, and her need to rain on everyone’s parades, she was both unique and totally someone I could relate to. And then as her character developed, we got to watch as she had the most adorable crush on Andy, who in many ways seems like the antithesis of her – positive, happy, excitable – and there is something so irresistible about watching a character who did not care about anything start to fall in love.
I will stand by notion that Parks and Rec has some of the best character development of any series with all its’ characters but even more we got to see April subtly learning from each of her co-workers, doing random acts of kindness, displaying love, standing up for the people we care about. Her job also changed from intern to Ron’s assistant to Deputy Director of the Animal Control department to working for Leslie, until she discovered that despite the fact that she was climbing the ladder in the government she did not love her job and she worked up the courage to quit and search for a job that she would truly be passionate about – which was to work for a foundation in Washington D.C. which helped job-seekers find employment.
In the end, she became a character that worked hard to give herself and those around her the best possible life, she became a good friend, a loving wife and mother, a dedicated employee, while still keeping what made her utterly unique.
Which is the biggest lesson I think that the audience should take from April and characters like her, that even as she matured and grew, she did not lose her sense of self. Even in the year 2023 when she finally has a baby, she goes into labor with her face made up with monster makeup and the song ‘Monster Mash’ playing in the background (not to mention the fact that they named their baby Burt Snakehole Ludgate Karate Dracula Macklin Demon Jack-o-Lantern Dwyer). She still throws in a sarcastic retort whenever possible and she remains uber dark. April is the number one student at the Leslie Knope School of Growth, she openly admires and learns from Leslie, and in many ways she is also the audience substitute in the series, she is an example of someone that we could become when we learn from positive female role models.