(We here at the Rogue are huge Parks and Recreation fans. On January 13, it begins its final season at 8:00 PM EST. Jo Schaffer writes about her favorite character on the show)
Some say that gender roles are dead. The “new woman” can do anything a man does and the “new man” is allowed his feelings, to love shopping for clothes and even the occasional manicure. While some of this may be progress there are a few things happening as a result that may be less than an improvement.
In the book Boys Adrift, research psychologist, Leonard Sax, examines how our cultural changes have affected boys as they grow into a dubious manhood. Taking away gender roles and other social and biological factors of modern life have left boys feeling uncertain and directionless.
“Something scary is happening to boys today. From kindergarten to college, they’re less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere twenty years ago. In fact, a third of men ages 22–34 are still living at home with their parents—about a 100 percent increase in the past twenty years.”
In addition to Boys Adrift, there have been many books and articles pointing out a marked difference in the way young men are developing and behaving. I read about a study that examined male college students’ dating habits, work ethic and life decisions. There seemed to be a pervasive theme in the data: the boys don’t know how to behave. What they naturally feel and want often flies in the face of many societal expectations. Some of their nobler, finer impulses are not encouraged so more of them are becoming shiftless, irresponsible, entitled and pleasure seeking. It’s as if they are all afraid of launching into the life of a mature adult, insecure and unsure about what that even is. Who is qualified to lead them? Who will show them how to be a “real man”?
I believe heros arise where there is a need. And I believe that the drifting boys of our age have one.
If you aren’t a fan of the TV show, Parks and Recreation, you need to be. (The new season starts Tuesday so jump aboard the Pawnee Express!) One of my favorite characters on the show, Ron Swanson, is played by the indomitable, mustachioed Nick Offerman. Ron Swanson is a man with a code of honor, principles and self-sufficiency. He is a right winged, government despising loner with a heart of gold. His convictions and sincerity win the admiration and affection of even his left-wing counterparts on the show.
Ron represents what should be offensive to a lot of people but is a popular and admired character. Although he’s not stereotypically good looking, women find him attractive. You won’t find a shiny, hairless chest or a six pack on this guy. But there is no doubt that he is all man. He is stubborn, opinionated, and macho but he is also kind, consistent, reliable, mad skilled, and strong. Despite all the gender blurring going on there is something very appealing about an emphatically manly man.
I think that despite cultural confusion people respond to even the parody of a “real man” because they miss it. Ron Swanson may be a pigheaded, maddening Luddite but his sense of integrity, ability to make or build anything with his own two hands, and clear intentions are very comforting. Who wouldn’t want a Ron Swanson around after the apocalypse?
He is a mega-stud and hilarious. But don’t take my word for it. Nobody speaks for Ron Swanson, like Ron Swanson. Here are some of the gems that make Ron the model “real man”. You’re welcome.
“Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into Swansons.”
“I like Andy. I’m surrounded by a lot of women in this department. And that includes the men.”
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Don’t teach a man to fish, and you feed yourself. He’s a grown man. Fishing’s not that hard.”
“After I got home, I drank six more glasses of whiskey and then I finished crafting this mall harp, using a bandsaw, a spokeshave and an oscillating spindle sander.”
“Come on Leslie, you know I’m not sexist. I love powerful women.”
“I wanna punch you in the face so bad right now.”
“OK, well I’m not very good at visiting people in hospitals, so I’m going to go.”
[On bowling] “Straight down the middle. No hook, no spin, no fuss. Anything more and this becomes figure skating.”
“This is my basketball court. I don’t want to see any double dribbles. I don’t want to see any three second violations.”
“Strippers do nothing for me. I like a strong, salt of the Earth, self-possessed woman at the top of her field. Your Steffi Grafs, your Sheryl Swoopeses, but I will take a free breakfast buffet anytime, anyplace.”
“All of you be quiet. Andy, she’s mad because you said “awesome sauce” instead of “I love you too.” April, he loves you. Stop being a child. Tom, you’re clearly at fault here. Blaming Jerry won’t save you. Jerry, we both know you were shotgunning funnel cakes instead of watching Lil Sebastian. So everyone apologize to everyone else.”
“No home is complete without a proper toolbox. Here’s April and Andy’s: A hammer, a half-eaten pretzel, a baseball card, some cartridge that says Sonic and Hedgehog, a scissor half, a flashlight filled with jellybeans.”
“My first day of college my father dropped me off at the steel mill. He didn’t think I should go to college, but I hitched a ride, enrolled, and learned a lot.”
“The government is a greedy piglet that suckles on a taxpayer’s teat until they have sore, chapped nipples.”
“My only official recommendations are US Army-issued mustache trimmers, Morton’s Salt, and the C.R. Lawrence Fein two inch axe-style scraper oscillating knife blade.”
“Turkey can never beat cow.”
“Any moron with a crucible, an acetylene torch, and a cast iron waffle maker could have done the same. The whole thing only took me about 20 minutes. People who buy things are suckers.”
“It’s always a good idea to demonstrate to your coworkers that you are capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of pain.”
“There are three acceptable haircuts: high and tight, crew cut, buzz cut.”
“Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.”
“Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.”
“Fish, for sport only, not for meat. Fish meat is practically a vegetable.”
“There is only one bad word: taxes.”
“Cultivating a manly musk puts opponent on notice.”
“Honor: if you need it defined, you don’t have it.”
“One rage every three months is permitted. Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.”
“Only women shave beneath the neck.”
“Literally, everything is a weapon. That folder in my hands is far deadlier than this bow in yours.”
“There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk, which is water that’s lying about being milk.”
“Spending the day outside alone sounds like a dream. I love being a father, but there are a few things I miss: silence, the absence of noise, one single moment undisturbed by a children’s tv program called Doc McStuffins.”
“I’m giving you a non-electronic book made of paper from a tree. It is called Auto Repair Manual-1982. You will read this book from cover to cover then you will assist me in repairing the damage to my car. I will not report you to the judge but if you slip up again you will have much more to fear than some feeble government employee in a robe.”
“My son is several weeks old. He is very familiar with the sound of power tools.”
“I believe luck is a concept invented by the weak to explain their failures.”
“I warned you. Standard birth control methods are usually ineffective against a Swanson.”
“I’ve had the same will since I was 8 years old. Upon my death, I will transfer all of my belongings to the man or animal who has killed me.”