Show: NBC’s Parks and Recreation
Featured Characters: Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt
Parks and Recreation quickly became one of my favorite shows because of how unapologetically feminist it is. And the most glorious element of the series isn’t just how much the ladies appreciate one another, but how the men are fully aware of the fact that the women they are surrounded by are their equals.
Ben Wyatt not only loves Leslie Knope for all that she is, but he is completely and fervently supportive of her dreams and that alone is indescribably remarkable. Ben and Leslie’s relationship reminds viewers that sometimes, the biggest risks give us the greatest outcomes in life. Their love also serves as a pivotal reminder that it’s key to wait for someone who’ll not only grow wildflowers in your heart, but to wait for someone who’ll never once question your dreams and aspirations.
Interestingly, on my list of favorite couples, it is often the female that finds “home” due to their hearts finally feeling safe with someone; however, with Parks and Recreation, it’s Ben Wyatt who finally finds a home with Leslie Knope. It’s Ben Wyatt who comes to the realization that a small, ridiculous town can be the greatest place in the world because it’s what led him to the most incredible woman he’s ever known. And it’s extraordinary for a woman with such enormous dreams to find a man who’ll go above and beyond to help her in every way possible. Leslie and Ben build a solid foundation on honesty and bravery—a gorgeous love wrapped beautifully with a childlike spectacle.
Parks and Recreation is simply perfect when the two finally embark on a journey of love together, but even in the midst of the all the arguing, it’s always fascinating to watch Ben and Leslie find common ground in their transparency with one another. Nothing is ever sugarcoated for the two of them and that’s how it should be in love.
It’s always wonderful to watch them freely express every single one of their thoughts without the fear of how their partner will judge them. Ben and Leslie don’t always agree, no two people in the world do, but in a way most unique to them they handle it admirably. You have to give love the chance to win all battles, and when bickering continued during their first break, they’d each done that unknowingly. It’s all in the desire to remain friends because it’s too difficult to imagine life without the other, and in that sense, love always spoke for them. When things got heartbreakingly emotional during their first breakup, it was even more fascinating to watch their honesty weave itself into their conversations.
Together or apart, equal partnership is of great importance to both of them thereby giving them the chance to be fearless in the relationship when it bloomed again.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched “The Trial of Leslie Knope” but each time I’m reminded of the fact that series creators have been so unique in terms of handling their love story. What other couple gets to say that they’ve exchanged their first “I love you” through testimonies? And what other woman gets to say that a man loved her so much, he left the most steady job he’s ever known just to be with her?
And then it’s moments such as their proposal that makes me weep like a madwoman because it happens in a way that’s most exquisitely fitted for the two of them. I don’t have a ton of favorite proposals, but Leslie and Ben’s is without a doubt number one. From the moment he surprises her by getting down on one knee to her choice to soak in every little detail about the instance, there’s magic in that scene unparalleled to any other proposal. There’s a realism in Leslie Knope’s vision that very few characters ever showcase, and it’s her constant awe of how perfect things can be. It’s her effervescent belief in the notion that “when you’re in love, everything’s a sign.”
When we’re in love, we’re like children—the world is a much more beautiful place because it’s so easy to embark on a journey with our soul mate. The most indescribable form of light is so often discovered in the little moments where things are going so great, why not get married right then there? (I will find as many opportunities I can to talk about Ben and Leslie’s wedding because there are very episodes of television that are as enchanting from beginning to end. If you’re in a bad mood, this episode is guaranteed to cheer you up. It’s guaranteed to make you believe again.) There are a select few TV weddings that are just as marvelous, but it’s without hesitation that I say “Leslie and Ben” is all around perfect.
Opening our hearts to another person requires the most bravery—sharing our dreams, mind, body, and soul is never easy in the beginning, but once the first risk is taken, day by day, people always grow stronger in love. And that’s how it happens on Parks and Recreation. Leslie and Ben are great on their own, but together they’re unstoppable. Their love plays an enormous role in making each of them braver, and that’s the reason why they’re able to stand on top of a podium and state their beliefs without the fear of judgment because their partner will always have their back.
Leslie Knope doesn’t have to measure up to any standards to be Ben Wyatt’s wife while he’s a member congress. Ben Wyatt will stand up proudly and tell the world his wife is running for governor even when the two hadn’t decided who it’d be yet. There’s no level of superiority between them, and backup is granted when necessary, but for the most part, by simply loving one another, they continuously make the other braver. And that bravery is what allows them to climb the ladder of success all while remaining grounded in a place of immaculate wonder.
Ben and Leslie could literally race each other in government buildings, run campaigns, geek out over their favorite TV shows, take care of children, inspire their surroundings, and make serious decisions that’d impact the world. Their lives are anything but easy, and they’ve never been, however their schedules don’t stop them from cherishing one another. They are a prime example of the fact that if you work at love, even the most stressful duties can be dealt with.
Bottom line is, Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope represent the idea that people deserve the person who’ll not only support their dreams, but the one who’ll do everything they can to help. A person who will deal with all their quirks without ever trying to change them, and a person whose love will only ever grow. For five seasons fans were blessed with the opportunity to watch Leslie and Ben grow in the most magical way possible. And then we got to see them during the pandemic reunion, and yup, still happy and thriving.
I love you and I like you summed up so much of what made them special as a pair because it acutely represented the detail that they care for one another beyond anything either of them could comprehend. In each other, they found their best friend–their confidant, the one equal who’ll believe in them fiercely and endlessly. The good, the bad, and the ugly, they like and love them all.
Unparalleled serenity can be found sitting together in front of a wallflower mural because being together is all that they need to feel braver and better. There’s something so unexplainably perfect about them that dumbfounds me and years later, everything about them still makes me weepy. Perhaps it’s in the way they challenge each other while simultaneously praising each other, or perhaps it’s because there’s inspiring equality between them. Whatever the numerous reasons may be, I cannot (and safe to say never will) get enough of them. If I’m ever in need of a good pick me up, these two do the job. A solid enemies to friends to lovers.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture.
She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters. She's a member of The Cherry Picks and can also be found writing features for Looper.