Leslie Knope Gets My Vote

Last night, Parks and Recreation‘s “Campaign Ad” focused on Leslie grappling with a new political foe and the tough decision whether or not to go negative in her local ad.

Leslie’s Campaign Ad

What she ends up with is a compromise between her too-positive and too-vague ad and Ben’s smear campaign. The ad starts with a campaign ad she made when she was 10 years old. A very-1985 little Leslie sits behind a desk decked-out in patriotic paraphernalia and declares, “I love Pawnee and I want to make it even better. Better schools, safer streets, and a more progressive tax on residential properties.”  Cut to the opponent who has no idea what he’s doing. “Leslie Knope had better ideas when she was 10 than Bobby Newport has now.”

What I love about this ad (aside from how adorable it is), is that little Leslie looks a lot like little girls I knew when I was 10 and a certain little girl I know now. Bright, opinionated, ambitious, loves dogs. As an adult, Leslie is still very much this little girl. Instead of portraying little Leslie as weird or a joke, the ad uses the dreams of a little girl to help her adult self. I wish there were more portrayals of ambitious little girls that don’t treat them like bossy brats or sad remnants after the woman learns to cool-it or fit in or focus on more practical things (like dating).  I couldn’t help but think of Tracy Flick from Election. Her ambition is portrayed as shrill at best and evil at worst (granted, she’s a teen, which changes the game, but the haircut is so similar!). Little Leslie isn’t just cute, she’s intelligent and well-informed. She’s going places.

Like the “Pawnee Goddesses” episode, I think this ad portrays smart, articulate girls as real, fun, and admirable, not oddities or the butt of the joke. It’s no surprise either, considering Amy Poehler’s work on Smart Girls at the Party, which encourages girls to “change the world by being you.” Unfortunately, that project has received much less support and attention. But Leslie Knope gives me hope.

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