Masculinity And The Midseason: Nick Offerman On Ron Swanson’s Feminism And The Episode He Wrote

Parks and Recreation comes back tonight*, and to celebrate, I’ve got something special! I talked to Nick Offerman at the NBC party about Ron Swanson, feminism, libertarianism, and an upcoming episode of the show he wrote that happens to deal with all those gender issues.

There’s an ongoing conversation about whether manliness is on the run in American pop culture, and I feel like I always end up holding Ron as proof it’s not true. How do you think he fits into current trends in masculinity on television?

Well, I also have felt a dearth in manliness over the years that I’ve been in the business. Men, action heroes have shaved chests now. There’s been a real sort of denuding of the man’s man. And I feel like maybe that’s why people are responding well to Ron because he’s the plumber that we all know and love. The guy who goes back one too many times at Thanksgiving to load up his plate.

But Ron also likes strong women. Do you think the character suggests that there’s no contradiction between being masculinity and feminism?

Well, yeah. There’s an episode coming up that I actually wrote that kind of touches on that. With modern feminism, we’re sort of seeing the backlash of feminism where all these powerful women are in charge of things and they’re saying, “Oh wait a second, these emasculated guys are not nearly as handy as we were at running a household, so now I’ve got to take care of the kids and be an executive.” And you know, I think Ron, also speaks to that issue because he despises weak women in the exact same way he despises weak men.

So the show’s calling for a gender truce.

Absolutely. The show and Ron, I think, declare that everyone should be allowed to just do their thing and we can all get along and get kissed once in a while.

I live and work in Washington, and I have libertarian friends so I love seeing a libertarian represented on television. Where do you think Ron fits in to the political spectrum?

Well, it’s a good question. I think Ron is a little too cartoony to fit into the real political spectrum. There’s way too much gray area in any political affiliation in modern America. And I think if Ron were really a living, breathing American, he wouldn’t have any time for American politics. He’d probably end up in a cabin in Montana with his guns and just wanting to be left alone, and not wanting to hear about, not wanting to be bothered to have to think about the political race every four years.

But Ron’s libertarianism also seems undercut by Leslie’s competence and enthusiasm. Do you think Americans would be more enthusiastic about government if they saw more out of it?

I suppose. I think the message is that, and it’s one that we could all really use, that being a good neighbor should come before your politics. No matter how you feel about fiscal issues, you should still be willing to lend a hand so we can all exist in a community and have a happy life.

*My recap will be up tomorrow, though a bit late: I’m seeing Veep and Game Change tonight, so I’ll have to catch the episode after the HBO panels in the morning.