In which Emily celebrates finishing the end of Parks & Rec — as well as the impending arrival of the Feast of St. Valentine — by taking a moment to enjoy Galentine’s Day. In doing so, she has some feelings about the awesome lady spies and fabulous lady pilots in Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity.
By the middle of its second season, Parks & Rec had begun to find its feet. First, in “Greg Pikitis,” the show figured out how to mellow Leslie Knope into a likable human being while still giving her space to be the over-enthused, somewhat obsessive, manic government hummingbird that she is.
(Sidenote: The call-back to Greg Pikitis in the last season of Parks & Rec was one of the absolute best moments of the entire show.)
Then in “Hunting Trip,” Parks & Rec threw Andy and April at each other and watched the weirdest, silliest, most unlikely romantic relationship develop between an unspeakably cynical intern and a goofy, shoe-shining man-child.
But then, in episode 16 of season 2, Parks & Rec presented us with “Galentine’s Day” and, in so doing, completely confirmed its eternal place in my internal queue of comfort-food tv.
In the episode “Galentine’s Day” — Leslie Knope preempts Valentine’s Day to gather together her group of lady friends for an absolutely amazingly wonderful holiday.
“Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair. Minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
A non-angsty Lilith Fair with breakfast food? Who could possibly want anything else?
As an episode, “Galentine’s Day” works because the aforementioned breakfast date motivates some weird hijinx around a Valentine’s Dance. But as a thesis statement of the preoccupations of Parks & Rec, “Galentine’s Day” works because it’s about optimism, multigenerational female friendship, and the fact that ladies liking ladies (whether romantically or not) is one of the coolest things ever. In a society that all too often wants us to decide which lady we like best in some made-up competition — do we like JLaw or TSwift? is Poehler better or is Fey? is Anne Hathaway cool or is Emily Blunt? — it feels fantastic to just revel in the waffles, affirmation, and friendship of Leslie’s annual Galentine’s Day celebration.
“Galentine’s Day” gets at what I love best about Parks and Rec: it’s about community and about female friendship. Both of these, the show posits, can be super weird and can steer our protagonists down some truly bizarre side-plots. But they are, fundamentally, powerful, positive forces that we should all seek to cultivate.
With the relationships between Leslie, Ann, Donna, and April — as well as the brilliance of Galentine’s Day as a concept, Parks & Rec joins — for me at least — the pantheon of awesome pop culture about fabulous female friendship. And this year, in advance of Valentine’s Day and in honor of finding something delightful to celebrate when February days get slushy and cold and grumbly, I encourage you to take some time and celebrate Galentine’s Day.
That’s not to say, of course, that you need to throw your own Galentine’s Day party or brunch. (Although that would be awesome.) But if you’ve got some spare time in the next week or so, why not wander over to that aforementioned pantheon of fabulous female friendships?
There’s something there for everyone. You could go canonical with Celia and Rosalind in As You Like It, whimsical with Anne and Diana in Anne of Green Gables, or mildly passive aggressive with Paris and Rory in Gilmore Girls. Perhaps you love Emma and Maggie in Playing House, or Abbi and Ilana in Broad City, or Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility. (Yes, I know that Elinor and Marianne are sisters. It still totally counts.)
Some of these pieces of media allow for queered readings between the ladies (Mallory Ortberg, for example, famously and only somewhat facetiously argued that Paris and Rory and the one true pairing of Gilmore Girls). Other are strictly platonic.
But awesome media affirming female friendship is kind of the best. Especially when it’s cold and slushy outside and you need a metaphorical hug, cup of hot chocolate, and long girl talk. And that’s why this week I’m recommending that you take a break from your busy February life and dive into Elizabeth Wein’s FABULOUS Code Name Verity, in celebration of Galentine’s Day, female friendship, and WONDERFUL narrative storytelling.
Code Name Verity is partly a Scheherazade story, partly a Peter Pan story, and partly a WWII spy story. It’s about unreliable narrators, and about how we tell stories about our own lives, and about heroism. It’s also about kickass lady pilots who fight Nazis. (I am absolutely certain that the two ladies at the center of this book would be total BFFs with Peggy Carter.)
And with these two ladies, Elizabeth Wein tells a gorgeous, sad, and deeply felt story about female friendship.
“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”
The friendship at the heart of Code Name Verity is TOTALLY one that you could read as queered. There’s totally lesbian subtext. But there’s also just a fantastic relationship between clever, brave ladies in WWII Britain. Regardless of whether or not you want to ship these ladies, Wein tells a stunning and ridiculously happy-making (but also heartbreakingly sad) story about the power of female friendship even in the darkest of situations. It’s a book about companionship, and about why we tell stories, and about hope. And in that, it might be the perfect companion to your Galentine’s Day celebration.
So take some time, this week, to think about the awesomeness of your favorite lady-friends. Even if you’re not a lady yourself, Galentine’s Day seems like a meaningfully bubbly sort of holiday. And if you need some new reading, I highly recommend that you check out Wein’s fabulous young adult novel about the British resistance in WWII. Happy Galentine’s Day, all!
And happy reading!