Panel 1: Ann, you [Insert Compliment Here]: Parks and Recreation Positively Stereotyping Race by Means of Complimenting

Cynthia Porter, Bowling Green State University - Main Campus

Description

The popular television show Parks and Recreation (hereafter Parks and Rec) is filled with an assortment of humor ranging from dry wit to awkward body humor. Though the documentarystyle of the series is comparable to that found in The Office, Parks and Rec offers American viewers the chance to not only become better acquainted with the characters of the show, but also brings forward a new approach to racial humor. Aside from acknowledging moments of tension regarding the various races present within the cast of Parks and Rec, the delectably uncomfortable humor that often comes with topics of race in the show are also complimented by humor dedicated to the complimenting of race. Specifically, mixed race. The character Ann Perkins is a registered nurse who quickly becomes the best friend of the comedy’s lead, Leslie Knope. As their friendship flourishes, Leslie Knope becomes and more complimentary not only to Ann’s beauty, but some of her compliments of Ann’s beauty come hand-in-hand with the acknowledgement of Ann’s mixed race and racial ambiguity. Could the humor resulting from praising and idolizing those of mixed race, as found in the Parks and Rec television show, be leading to an entirely new form of racial humor? This is the question I will be addressing in my paper. Fulfilling the obligatory diversity requirements found within television shows that avoid being questioned when it comes to racial representation, Park and Rec goes beyond having their token “Black character,” Donna Meagle, by also having Tom Haverford, who is of Indian decent, !2 and mixed-race Ann Perkins. While both Donna and Tom combat the stereotypes that are associated with their races both deliberately and inadvertently, Ann is often left with a complexity of emotional reactions in response to Leslie’s compliments to her looks. Typically, Ann accepts Leslie’s compliments with a contorted facial expression that relays her confusion of the string of words that were just thrown at her. Occasionally, Ann simply grins with a “Thank You” in response to Leslie’s compliments, but is also sometimes forced to communicate her discomfort with the compliments given by Leslie. I will be breaking down the content of some of Leslie’s compliments to Ann, the possible ways Ann could be interpreting these compliments, and what the presence of these compliments could have on American popular culture. In accordance to focusing on the content of the compliments, I will also put emphasis on who these compliments are directed toward, occasionally being Ann and occasionally other characters of the show. I question the messages these complimentary jokes may be sending when being used to not only describe Ann’s personality but also an almost-need in mentioning Ann’s beauty and/or racial ambiguity, almost as if it is a novelty. This ambiance of novelty surrounding mixed race may be assigning more value to the already tension-filled atmosphere surrounding black women and their skin tone. Can these complimenting racial jokes be causing just as much harm as good? I will be approaching this question through the scope of fair-skinned women being deemed more desirable because of their ability to accomplish whiteness while also being pegged as a novelty for being an exception to the rule of blackness. While some of the compliments Leslie pays Ann do not always include the mention Ann’s racial ambiguity, there is something to be said about the content of the many compliments tied to the singular mixed race representation on the show. The friendship of Leslie Knope and !3 Ann Perkins can be described as complex, sincere, occasionally awkward and yet constantly compliment-riddled. I simply plan on breaking down the many possible messages sent by Leslie Knope’s admiration of the woman she has claimed to be a “Land Mermaid,” among many other things, Ann Perkins.

 
Mar 27th, 10:30 AM Mar 27th, 11:30 AM

Panel 1: Ann, you [Insert Compliment Here]: Parks and Recreation Positively Stereotyping Race by Means of Complimenting

BTSU 315

The popular television show Parks and Recreation (hereafter Parks and Rec) is filled with an assortment of humor ranging from dry wit to awkward body humor. Though the documentarystyle of the series is comparable to that found in The Office, Parks and Rec offers American viewers the chance to not only become better acquainted with the characters of the show, but also brings forward a new approach to racial humor. Aside from acknowledging moments of tension regarding the various races present within the cast of Parks and Rec, the delectably uncomfortable humor that often comes with topics of race in the show are also complimented by humor dedicated to the complimenting of race. Specifically, mixed race. The character Ann Perkins is a registered nurse who quickly becomes the best friend of the comedy’s lead, Leslie Knope. As their friendship flourishes, Leslie Knope becomes and more complimentary not only to Ann’s beauty, but some of her compliments of Ann’s beauty come hand-in-hand with the acknowledgement of Ann’s mixed race and racial ambiguity. Could the humor resulting from praising and idolizing those of mixed race, as found in the Parks and Rec television show, be leading to an entirely new form of racial humor? This is the question I will be addressing in my paper. Fulfilling the obligatory diversity requirements found within television shows that avoid being questioned when it comes to racial representation, Park and Rec goes beyond having their token “Black character,” Donna Meagle, by also having Tom Haverford, who is of Indian decent, !2 and mixed-race Ann Perkins. While both Donna and Tom combat the stereotypes that are associated with their races both deliberately and inadvertently, Ann is often left with a complexity of emotional reactions in response to Leslie’s compliments to her looks. Typically, Ann accepts Leslie’s compliments with a contorted facial expression that relays her confusion of the string of words that were just thrown at her. Occasionally, Ann simply grins with a “Thank You” in response to Leslie’s compliments, but is also sometimes forced to communicate her discomfort with the compliments given by Leslie. I will be breaking down the content of some of Leslie’s compliments to Ann, the possible ways Ann could be interpreting these compliments, and what the presence of these compliments could have on American popular culture. In accordance to focusing on the content of the compliments, I will also put emphasis on who these compliments are directed toward, occasionally being Ann and occasionally other characters of the show. I question the messages these complimentary jokes may be sending when being used to not only describe Ann’s personality but also an almost-need in mentioning Ann’s beauty and/or racial ambiguity, almost as if it is a novelty. This ambiance of novelty surrounding mixed race may be assigning more value to the already tension-filled atmosphere surrounding black women and their skin tone. Can these complimenting racial jokes be causing just as much harm as good? I will be approaching this question through the scope of fair-skinned women being deemed more desirable because of their ability to accomplish whiteness while also being pegged as a novelty for being an exception to the rule of blackness. While some of the compliments Leslie pays Ann do not always include the mention Ann’s racial ambiguity, there is something to be said about the content of the many compliments tied to the singular mixed race representation on the show. The friendship of Leslie Knope and !3 Ann Perkins can be described as complex, sincere, occasionally awkward and yet constantly compliment-riddled. I simply plan on breaking down the many possible messages sent by Leslie Knope’s admiration of the woman she has claimed to be a “Land Mermaid,” among many other things, Ann Perkins.