Character Deep Dive: Ben Wyatt

Episode still from Parks and Recreation featuring Ben Wyatt.
Source: NBC

Portrayed by: Adam Scott
Show: NBC’s Parks and Recreation

A nerdy feminist with a heart of gold and ridiculous sarcasm all wrapped up in a hardworking individual with an agenda to do good? This basically sums up perfection if you ask me. And Leslie Knope would agree.

Ben Wyatt was the greatest addition into the show, and I’ll forever be in awe of how drastically the series changed when he and Chris Traeger entered the picture. Parks and Recreation gave its characters a plethora of opportunities to showcase a number of different sides and when Ben was first introduced, all I could think of was how much he’d potentially change for the department, but at the end of the day, the changes that did occur were monumentally impactful, and he was given the opportunity to make an excellent name for himself.

Ben’s childlike excitement, genuine desire to do good, work ethic, and kindness have made him a character who’d be hard to replace. And in every sense of the word, a character who’s truly inimitable.

In the same way that Leslie would voice her excitement and happiness over the little things when Ben was finally comfortable around the department, he began showing more of his nerdy side too. And that side of him may very well be my absolute favorite. He and Chuck Bartowski would get along. I’m 110% certain of this. What’s often made characters on Parks and Recreation stand out has been the fact that they’ve always been outspoken about the things they’ve liked or disliked. And while some may see that as a flaw, in my book it’s what’s made them that much more memorable. Ben geeking out over the iron throne in the same way that a child would react to a gift they’ve been begging Santa for was an epic showcase of not only how perfect he is for Leslie, but that it’s perfectly okay for men to voice their happiness over the little things as well. (And Ron Swanson is a prime example of this too.)

Ben Wyatt is the kind of man who appreciates soundtracks with the belief that it’s as though his favorite directors have made a mixtape for him. And I couldn’t agree with that concept more even if I wanted to—soundtracks are the absolute best! It’s in these little outbursts that exhibited a childlike wonder, which surely made Leslie feel as though she’s found a kindred spirit through him—someone who wouldn’t look at her excitement as annoying or weird, but rather a perfect match to his own.

There’s not a single character on Parks and Recreation who doesn’t believe in the fact that people have the choice to do good, and their innate desire to constantly be a help to the world is an outstanding display of honor. And Ben Wyatt believes in good work so fervently, he was mayor at 18 but screwed everything up. #NeverForgetIceTown. Ben’s desire to do good is illuminated throughout the seasons, but it is mostly present in his career choices when he must resign (in disgrace) over what’s happened with Leslie.

Let’s be frank, he isn’t perfect with his voiceovers or the choice to make Bobby Newport look bad, but it’s all good because then he’d be unrealistic, right? (He also thinks calzones are great and they’re actually overrated.)

That said, Ben Wyatt’s goodness is what doesn’t allow him to settle for a job where he isn’t helping someone out. When his ambitions increase and kindness takes a more prominent role in his life after finding love with Leslie, it forces him to seek career paths that’ll make the world a better, safer place. And so much of Ben’s serious demeanor, in the beginning, is what stopped him from believing in the fact that he could make the differences he wants to. He was stoic not because he was unkind, but because he hadn’t found his place or the comfort to be himself yet.

Ben’s work ethics are remarkably admirable and that’s the one thing that’s most evident about him when we’re first introduced to the character. Whatever Ben does, he goes in head first until it’s accomplished. He puts in everything he’s got in order to make ends meet and even when things get stressful, the desire to succeed is enough to keep him going. I’ve always appreciated the fact that he’s a man who’s good at a number of things. He can be an accountant, he can be a manager, he can successfully run a campaign. Ben Wyatt is anything but lazy and that’s the reason he could succeed at absolutely anything he attempts—except claymation.

And claymation. Those moments especially are what make him that much more realistic and relatable because in the past year during the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all been Ben Wyatt at some point. We’ve been in darkened slumps where we didn’t want to admit things were getting to us. Raise your hand if you tried to cook something and you burned it instead. Raise your hand if you picked up a new hobby and failed at it. (Raises hand.) I appreciated the series bringing in Ben’s depression when I initially watched it, but today, I feel as though I speak for a lot of us when I say it hits differently. I’m even more grateful for it now and what it shows. It’s what tells us that even the most hardworking people fall. It tells us that no one is perfect, and we’re all susceptible to mental health struggles because we’re human. And it tells us that it’s okay not to be okay.

On another note, and most importantly, Ben’s resourcefulness and self-awareness have made it easier for him to learn from his failures while continuously doing everything in his power to better himself. It’s so easy to appreciate this characteristic because it serves as a reminder that in life, perseverance and kindness will be met with success.

(Do you ever just stop to geek out over how perfect he and Leslie are for one another? I totally just did that. There’s absolutely nothing he wouldn’t do to ensure that she’s the happiest person in the world and … I’m crying. He stood his ground as the most supportive partner through everything, and she did the same in return.)

I’ll always wonder what Ben Wyatt thought of the final season of Game of Thrones, but it’s safe to assume he’s probably writing fix-it fan fiction, right? Also, don’t ever think about Ben Wyatt crying in the Batman costume during #TreatYoSelf day otherwise you’ll be crying too.

Finally, Ben’s kindness shines above all, and where need be, the compassion within him is reflected boldly through his actions. Ben is straightforward, but he’s also someone who does things in such an intricate way that allows people to confide in him. He’s always been able to find the right words, and in that way, he and Chris Traeger were born to be best friends. Ben may not be your traditional sweet talker or the positive voice of reason like Chris is, but he’s an incredibly kind man whose nerdy spirit makes him the person who’s wanted around. Because even when it seems as though he’s being mean or tough, the compassion within him will allow him to dig deeper into the bigger picture in order to do what’ll bring the best, most noble outcome. And it’s in the little things such as his appreciation for Lil’ Sebastian because of how much Leslie and the team care about him even though he himself doesn’t understand what’s so great about the horse.

In conclusion and more so, storytime. Once upon a time, I saw Adam Scott at my old workplace and I awkwardly blurted out “I love Ben Wyatt so much okay bye” as I passed by him. He laughed and said thank you. It was a wonderful moment and then we watched him lose his mind over meeting Mark Hamill, and I suddenly didn’t feel like such a strange duck for what I’d said.

But now it’s my turn to properly say that Adam Scott’s performances as Ben Wyatt have been exceptional from his very first scene to the final breath he took in the character’s story. Scott has played Ben Wyatt with so many subtle nuances we’d be here forever if I went through them all. No other actor could fill such intricate shoes.

Ben Wyatt is the kind of character who’ll be adored for years to come, the kind of character whose best episodes you can watch over again and find endless joy in. He’s quite literally the most uncool, cool person to exist. The kind of character who’s just so well written, you’ll always wish there’d be more of him.

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