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When a Pawnee librarian throws shade
on an attempt at Parks&Rec fanfic
Hello again. Or, hello for the first time.
If this is your first time reading—welcome! It’s always nice to start something new, on purpose. I hope you have a good time here.
For those of you returning, I have an update of sorts on the fanfic series I’ve been teasing for the past few weeks (okay, months)…
Its inception sprang into being back in December 2022, when I wrote a post called I think it's time I revamp my fanfic, no?
In it, I wrote about Trevor Noah’s thought-provoking memoir, and shared a playful story about our shining star, the library. I mentioned that the title wasn’t clickbait, that I actually had been brainstorming a fanfic idea. And in February, I finally shared it:
What if TVs MaNLieSt straight characters were actually gay? Like masc for masc, for fake-real? Don Draper from Mad Men, Ron from Parks and Recreation, Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air…
I thought it so merry. Such an exciting plan!
I landed on jumping off the series with Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. I even rewatched the “Ron and Tammy” (2009) episode I’d base my fanfiction on. It’s the one where Ron's 2nd ex-wife (Tammy #2) used sex to manipulate Ron into turning Leslie's vacant lot into a library. It (almost) holds up, by the way—minus a few off-color jokes that did-not-age-well.
Ron is just as deadpan and manly as I remembered. Leslie, just as lovably earnest (also see: annoying). And Tammy, oh, Tammy. Tammy, the sexy, cunty, witty, deputy director of Pawnee library services. Tammy turned my little world upside down.
The plan was to turn Tammy into Tommy. But as I watched on and these perfectly hilarious characters performed this pretty solid script, I imagined a Tommy in Tammy’s place and realized…nothing of the script would actually change.
At one point, Tammy ranted about her “mall slut phase.” Later in the episode, while convincing Leslie she was utterly harmless, she said, “We government girls have to watch each other’s backs,” with the campiest inflection, and I found myself rewinding for a double take.
Like…girl. How did I not see this before?
I’m reminded of recent news of an upcoming book by Ricky Tucker, a queer author and art critic. The book is called But They Did Do That on Television: Queer Dispatches in the Golden Age of Entertainment.
When asked about the book, Tucker said, “Gayness and queerness has always been on TV, but it used to be coded in a way you had to be hip to understand.”
When queer folks don’t see ourselves on screen, we appoint honorary representation. Prince becomes our genderqueer icon. Bea Arthur from Golden Girls our shady queen. Bend it Like Beckham becomes the gayest love story never told.
With our longing to be seen and known, queer folks and those who love us have created a portal through these representations that show us a glimpse of a possible future, one I often motion to, in which we honor the expansiveness of expression.
In so doing, our imaginations become bowls carrying truth until the world is brave enough to digest it. But no matter what, with this loving practice, we stay full.
It is affirming that we need not search for codes or crumbs nearly as much these days because we’re far more represented than those 14 years ago, when this Parks & Rec episode aired.
Amid boocoo anti-queer laws today, not even actual representation is enough to save us. But with or without representation, imagination can and does save lives. And unlike most things, it can never, ever be taken from us. Imagination in the right minds creates action, and in minds seeking guidance, it gives answers. It feeds, it shelters, it waters, it leads.
So when you watch a thing or read a thing in these next couple weeks, let your imagination run wild. It’s foraging in a luscious field of goodies, and it wants to nourish you.
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With all that said…
I am back to the drawing board on this fanfiction idea. Ha!
I have learned to hold close to fragile ideas so they can grow and mature in my care. This way, my little creations survive real easy in the wild on their own without my elaborate explanations hovering around, trying to protect them.
So yeah, next time you hear about this damn fanfic better be ‘cause you’re reading a script.
Until next time…
🌸❀ Jasper 🌼✿