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Comedy and the Cultural Forum

by How to Watch Television

Though Leslie has no intention of making a political statement, she ends up playing defense and debating on a local TV show with the representative of the public interest group calling for her resignation. In her essay in How to Watch Television, Heather Hendershot writes about how the episode is an example of the ways in which TV can still serve as a site for public debate about contemporary issues. Leslie ultimately decides to take the penguins to Iowa (where gay marriage is legal), but the series routinely champions civic engagement and discussion

Is Leslie Liberal?

by Britta Hanson

While it is clear how Parks and Recreation fits within Newcomb & Hirsch’s definition of a cultural forum, I would argue this strategy is used more for narrative structure than for audience-building. As Hendershot admits, television audiences are so fragmented today that hot-button issues are often simply a ratings ploy. Even a feminist show such as Grey's Anatomy introduces unwanted pregnancies with little motivation other than induce discussions of the topic among the characters. Also, I contest Hendershot’s suggestion that Parks and Recreation is liberal to the point of drawing conservative ire. For while our sympathy is with Leslie, she is rarely presented as indisputably correct, or incontestably liberal. In this episode, for example, she never explicitly endorses gay marriage, but is swept up in a dance party and the accolades given to her there. When Leslie is later recalled from the city council, it is because the public finds her policies restrictive, not because they disagree with her political affiliation.

Parks and Recreation's Cultural Forum

In this episode of the NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation, Leslie accidentally steps into the gay marriage debate when she "marries" two male penguins.

from Parks & Recreation (2009)
Creator: NBC
Posted by How to Watch Television
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