30 Offices of Parks and Recreation

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Thursdays NBC tv was… not the greatest. Doostyn and I spoke about how it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t so bad it’s good, either. But the common thread, to a degree, was the place of feminism in the workplace and boy’s clubs, most explicitly on Parks and Rec, and just implicitly on The Office, but it wasn’t handled as well as I think these generally clever comedies are capable of. 30 Rock at least, has done it better before.

Bottom to top then, The Office. In this episode, Michael has to choose between Pam and Ryan who can stay on as a salesman, since the other Dunderheads demand the return of the clients who defected to the Michael Scott Paper Company. Several people scream at Pam that she’s “only a secretary.” At the end of the episode Michael tells Pam that he’s giving the job to Ryan, despite the fact that of the two of them, Pam is the one who hasn’t been to prison for embezzlement. But surprise! Michael was just kidding! But then Michael calls in Other Kelly, the new secretary to pull the same “You’re getting fired” prank that he pulled in the very first episode. So it becomes pretty clear that Michael, enormous fan of bromantic work relationships, has not actually learned that women are also people worthy of our respect, but has just upgraded Pam to the buddy circle. Great.

The Office is a show I enjoy, but it’s pretty much in constant feminism probation for its inability to show women succeeding. (Jan was insane, baby obsessed, cruel, and abusing her position. Holly also engaged in an inappropriate work relationship. Pam isn’t even allowed to finish her degree.)

Line of the night, and one I will be stealing: “It is on like a prawn who yawns at dawn.”

30 Rock‘s A Plot was who suffers more when treated equally, black people or women? Or so we are meant to generalize from the examples Tracy and Liz. (Black women exist! Tracy is married to one!) Tracy’s opening foray– making Liz change the water dispenser– made me wonder about the logistics of those things. Surely they’re not just open like that? The biggest problem with this plot is that it’s basic sitcom hardy hars without any 30 Rock twist. I have seen this plot on Boy Meets World for cry yi.

And 30 Rock did this better with Jenna and Tracy during the primaries when Tracy lived for a week as a white woman and Jenna in terrifying blackface as a black man. And part of why that was better is that Tracy and Jenna are about equivalently ridiculous, whereas Liz is clearly more of an adult than Tracy is. Some of the things Liz is put through during equality week are ridiculous and inappropriate for the workplace, like the strip club visit, whereas Tracy is essentially freaking out about having to show up for work on time.  So not only is this storyline a little tired, it also really trivializes the experience of racism.

Simply put: it’s reasonable to expect that when you go to work you will not be expected to do things you are physically unable to do for whatever reason, and that you will not be expected to interact sexually with coworkers. It’s unreasonable to expect that you won’t have to show and can send a monkey in your place. The effect is to imply that the only thing holding black men back is ridiculous behavior and laziness. Charming.

Line of the night? “He treated her like dirt all those years — coming and going, taking up with other women, including more than one Unitarian!”

As a Unitarian, I say hee. Also, I thought Tracy voted for McCain? Remember his PSA: Black People– don’t vote!

Parks and Recreation.

“I wanna take that cheese and do terrible things to it.” Me too, Tom, me too.

But more seriously, the topic of the episode is that Leslie gets herself in trouble by opening up a gift basket that was more than $25 in her excitement to break up the boy’s club in politics.  The problem is, this episode treats the existence of these boys clubs as hilarious and unimportant. Yeah, good point. That’s way half of all the senators and representatives and even local politicians are women. Oh wait.

The fact that all the dudes are actually getting together for beers and to talk about how their clothing looks doesn’t at all negate the idea of boys’ clubs.  Politics is about making connections to other people and exploiting those connections, and it’s very hard to rise to any level of importance if you’re not seen as a real human being.

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