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Character Deep Dive: Ron Swanson

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson in NBC's Parks and Recreation.
Source: NBC

Portrayed by: Nick Offerman
Show: NBC’s Parks and Recreation

When it comes to the men of Parks and Recreation it’s impossible not to appreciate them because of how intricately they’re each written and brought to life. And in truly inimitable ways, each character has the kind of story to tell that someone somewhere needs to hear. In Ron Swanson, he’s not only an unsurpassed boss, but he’s an incredibly kind soul behind what may be classified as the manliest man to exist. As a feminist and a hard worker who loves breakfast and meat an obscene amount, Ron Swanson is the kind of character that’s bound to leave a mark on anyone.

And perhaps for me, my favorite thing about him is the fact he plays a crucial role in providing a different perspective for men who may think feminism just isn’t for them. And if that’s the case; steak connoisseur Ron Swanson would say otherwise.

Mike Schur and Greg Daniels are geniuses when it comes to the characters they’ve written. It takes a lot of skill and risk to develop something like Parks and Recreation without it ever feeling like it’s dragging on or the tropes are forced. And Ron Swanson for instance is written with such delicacy and realism that he’s able to challenge viewers in ways they may not have seen coming. Ron’s feminism isn’t thrown into the face of viewers with the kind of force that may seem jarring or overtly evocative, but rather the subtly in the beginning is what makes it so brilliant. He’s presented to us as a man who’s working for the government while he fervently hates the government and his job, but deep within, you know he has a sincere desire to make the world a better place, which he reveals by supporting his female coworkers whose ideas he values greatly even though he’s reluctant to agree with them.

In his display of ceaseless female praise, Ron’s ability to carry on extremely traditional manly activities with great love ultimately showcases the fact that it can and should be done. You never once doubt Ron’s strength when he admits to loving riddles or even drunkenly giggles. In fact, it is in those moments where you see his strength more clearly because as a man, he isn’t afraid of being his true self regardless of what people may think of him. And while his coworkers may not get all of that, as the audience we’re able to understand why certain things are hidden because they aren’t often the important life changing matters that the others need to know about.

Where Ron needs to be bold with his beliefs, he is. Where he knows he can make an impact, he’s perfectly clear about what he desires and how he feels. And it’s very important to make it clear that learning of Lil’ Sebastian’s passing made him cry.

As a character with a lot to say, Ron Swanson has said two things that have inspired and will be carried forever. (At least with me.) “Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.” I personally remember hearing that at a time where I needed it most, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that it was coming from someone with such distinct beliefs. You’d imagine that someone like him would praise constant hard work in an area where one wants to achieve success, but I admire the wisdom in understanding that as human beings we are only capable of carrying so much on our shoulders. And to tell Leslie that she needs to take the sabbatical in order to bring her absolute best, strongest self to the elections was the perfect piece of advice that could have showcased what strong work actually is—dedicating oneself to something wholly.

When we put our absolute all into something, we’re guaranteed to succeed in it. We are guaranteed to have the energy needed to come out of it not weakened or drained, but truly satisfied and proud of ourselves.

Another piece of advice that’s shown Ron Swanson’s unparalleled wisdom is when he states: “Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way madness lies.” Essentially, going hand in hand with the advice above, this piece of wisdom serves to prove that in order to justly succeed in something, human beings must do it for the right reasons. And as someone who isn’t a fan of too much attention or acclaim, Ron’s choice to do things because they’re right and not because he wants some sort of praise reveals honor in the form of an incredible bravery. It’s also an acute reminder of something all of us could take on as well. We shouldn’t do things for credit, we should do them because we believe in them.

There are a number of great qualities to admire about Ron Swanson, but by the end of the series I realized that my favorite trait of his was his loyalty and love for his friends. When it’s revealed in “Leslie and Ron” that he wanted a job in the government again because of his friends, Ron’s heart was revealed in a way it had never been before. In everything that he has done, he has done it out of love and respect for his friends. A man who claims he only has “work proximity associates,” laid it bare that it is so much more. Thus, it became clear that there had never been a person to care more for his friends than Ron Ulysses Swanson. (I think Leslie Knope would agree, I really do.) And that revelation illuminated the fact that there’s a reason he could never give up on Tom in spite of how much he would mess up when it came to businesses, it revealed just how much he cared and believed in Leslie, it revealed just how much he admired April for all that she’d done, and it revealed the fact that he believed Andy was capable of greatness.

There’s absolutely nothing Ron wouldn’t for his family and friends, and that kind of person is the best kind at the end of the day. You knew that whatever word came out of his mouth, it’d be the absolute truth. The heartfelt honest truth. He was hysterical, ridiculous, crafty, incredibly brave and loyal. And without a single doubt, Ron Swanson was inimitable to the t.

And Nick Offerman, where do we find the words? Offerman’s embodiment of Ron Swanson was nothing short of genius—from the very first words he spoke to the last, Offerman showcased a wide array of emotions that revealed a prodigious amount of Ron’s heart. A stern, incredibly hard working individual with a heart of a gold and a delightful appreciation for food. His wisdom and his humor are unparalleled and if to be frank, I’m almost certain I can make the assumption that there’s not a single person out there who’s watched Parks and Recreation and doesn’t care immensely for him. As a man who doesn’t exactly care to be liked or praised, Ron Swanson is surely adored by many, and no other actor could have breathed life into him as brilliantly as Offerman did.

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