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Ron Swanson and Coping with Abandonment

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

We, the viewers, are spoiled. We no longer want a barebone comfort sitcom. We want layers of irony, meta-commentary and catharsis so strong we can reactivate certain emotions that have died within us. Bojack Horseman owes its entire existence to this collective desire of ours, but instead, let us talk of the sitcoms that allowed for this transition. The Office, Community, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, How I Met Your Mother, all shows that fulfil the basic desire of wanting a sitcom with episodic and comfortable resolutions while also subverting what it means to get a resolution and transcending it to, once again, perhaps the logical evolution of sitcoms, Bojack Horseman.

But the show I want to talk about is none of these. It is one that strayed away from one major trope of sitcoms: Stability. All these amazing shows I listed have a relative sense of stability, even seasonally. Dwight and Jim will remain salesmen pretty much for the entire runtime since their natural conclusion is their big career advancements. But you cannot pull this when your main character is all about progress.

Leslie Knope cannot stay forever at the place she is. She is too skilled and diligent to forever remove drunk people from children’s slides when National Parks need this level of attention. The realistic structure for her own show has to be episodic in nature but seasonally dynamic, which is exactly what we get.

Eliminating season 1 for obvious reasons, season 2 is the most barebone and focuses on the wacky adventures of the parks department. Season 3 hits the town with a financial crisis, wherein Leslie has to use all her tactics, charisma and skill to push forward with the resources the parks department has, and she does so. Becoming the saviour of the town, Leslie finally begins to rise up by running for the office. After a close but successful run, season 5 Leslie deals with the worst city council ever, which is why she is recalled in season 6, only to find herself facing the biggest step-up of her life.

During all of this, every other character, Ben, Chris, Tom, even Garry face major changes in their professional lives, but not Ron. Before meeting his wife-to-be, Ron does not change at all, and after meeting her, he still keeps his professional life as stable as it can be. He is the antithesis of Leslie, and her best friend.

The problem for these two arrives in season 7, and it deals with this evolution of the viewers themselves. While Leslie wants dynamic growth and moves forward in time, Ron wants things to stay static and let time move through him. One day, he looked up from his desk only to face a sea of unknown faces. The Parks and Recreation he knew and loved was over, and he didn’t even have one moment to fare goodbye. The perpetrator? Leslie.

One by one Leslie brought change in everyone’s lives and helped them move up. Ron, who actively refused any advancement was left behind. The man defined by his desire to be left alone was finally left alone, and he couldn’t feel worse. He was every teacher who starts liking a set of students only to see them graduate and leave. All Ron could do was go to Leslie and request her to let him once again be work with her and all his other friends.

But that’s not what Leslie did. Last minute, she got too busy and had to leave Ron waiting away at JJ’s diner. Ron could not be left dangling anymore, he decided to cut and run. He started his own company and destroyed Ann’s house and ruined the aesthetics of Leslie’s park, knowing that he will end up forever burning that bridge. But this was something he had to do. If season 7 was shot from his perspective, this would be his moment of catharsis, his big refusal to look back. But that is not what it was. Ron did not have a big smile on his face, just a completely different kind of emptiness.

Luckily, there was one magical night in the Parks and Recreation department that healed those wounds. The best episode in Parks and Recreation.

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