parks and recreation

Happy Galentine’s Day!

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.

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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.

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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!


Eleven Shows to Binge-Watch at Your Earliest Convenience

As we enjoy the end of winter break, avoiding both snow and responsibilities by sitting on our computers and watching tv, we got to thinking this week about our favorite shows to binge-watch:

1. Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) – A remake of the 1978 television series, Battlestar Galactica is a sci fi military drama following a war between the human-inhabited Twelve Colonies and their cyborg creations, called cylons. With incredible plotting, compelling characters, and genius world building, it’s sci fi that doesn’t feel like stereotypical sci fi as it becomes a reflection on a post-9/11 world. It is nearly impossible to stop watching. But you don’t have to take our word for it: Portlandia has wonderfully dramatized the experience of watching Battlestar Galactica.

Series available for purchase or through your local library system.

2. Friends (1994-2004) Rachel Green leaves her fiance at the altar and moves in with her best friend from high school in the pilot of this foundational ‘90s sitcom about being in your 20s – when your job’s a joke, you’re broke, and your love life’s DOA. Yeah, reruns are on tv constantly, and you’re probably already familiar with the major plot arcs and character beats. But – with strong relationships between the characters, some really smart comedy writing, and just enough serialization to pull the plot along – Friends definitely holds up.

Series available on Netflix.

3. Orange is the New Black (2013-present) – Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, Orange is the New Black follows trojan horse Piper Chapman as she spends time in federal prison for transporting her girlfriend’s drug money. With a beautifully diverse cast of incredible characters, Orange is the New Black weaves a complicated narrative about the experiences of incarcerated women. Netflix releases each season in one lump sum, and the story arc feels much more like one continuous narrative than your average TV show, creating a natural environment for non-stop watching.

Series available on Netflix.

4. Veronica Mars (2004-2007) – Film noir meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Veronica is a high-school-student-slash-private-detective who’s just trying to get through high school while solving (and coming to terms with) the murder of her best friend Lilly Kane. The first season, which focuses on the murder of Lilly Kane, is definitely the strongest of the bunch, but they’re all good!

Series available on Amazon Prime.

5. Doctor Who (new series: 2005-present) – An alien (who looks and sounds like a British man) with a time machine (that’s disguised to look like a police telephone box) has a lot of adventures and saves the world a whole lot of times – usually accompanied by a human companion. Start with the show’s regeneration in 2005 with the 9th doctor (Christopher Eccleston). It’s incredibly campy and rather low-budget at points, but that’s its charm.

Series available on Netflix (until 2/1) and Amazon Prime.

6. Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) – Three generations of Gilmore ladies laugh, love, fight, and grow up in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s famously fast-talking, pop-culture-referencing dramedy. Small-town Connecticut and an eccentric cast of supporting characters lend a vibrant back-drop this show about friendship, family, and finding your way (and also one man’s quest to work every job).

Series available on Netflix.

7. Lost (2004-2010) – When a plane crashes on an unknown island in the Pacific, surviving passengers attempt to create order and find meaning while attempting to survive on a hostile island. While the fourth and fifth seasons were particularly rough and the finale was unusually divisive, Lost follows a big cast, creates big mysteries, and asks big questions, making it an utterly compelling show.

Series available on Netflix.

8. Arrow (2012-present) – Returning home after being marooned on an island for five years, Oliver Queen dons a hood and grease paint (as you do) and becomes the Arrow (cue grimly dramatic music), a masked vigilante out to save his city from the corrupt capitalists, socialites, and super-villains who would exploit it. With lots of Lost-esque flashbacks and some silly dialogue, it’s not the most prestige-y television show you’ll ever see, but it’s campy and delightful with great chemistry between the core trio of Oliver, special ops man John Diggle, and IT lady Felicity Smoak. (Awesome special effects, campy plot arcs, and repeat appearances from a scenery-chewing John Barrowman (Doctor Who) don’t hurt either. Nor does the sheer physical attractiveness of the main cast.)

First two seasons available on Netflix.

9. Parks and Recreation (2009-present) – About to start its seventh season, Parks and Rec started out a bit rocky (although the first season is short and respectable, we recommend skipping ahead to the second season). However, as it follows our optimistic parks department employee Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the satirical mockumentary quickly picks up steam and becomes an upbeat comedy about friendship, government bureaucracy, and breakfast food. The overwhelming positivity of the show (not to mention superb female friendships, if you’re into that sort of thing) makes it utterly delightful.

First six season available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

10. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) – In an Asiatic world where some humans can manipulate particular elements by “bending” them, one Avatar seeks to master all four elements to “bring balance.” Aang, the new Avatar, awakens after 100 years to discover that the world he knew has changed, and he joins up with airbender Katara, her brother Sokka, and earthbender Toph to attempt to master the elements and stop the Fire Lord’s war against the other three nations. Told in half hour segments with a strong mix of action and humor, Avatar is almost impossible not to marathon. Plus, if you want more, you can start on the sequel, Legend of Korra, which follows the next Avatar and has a totally rad ending that kind of made TV history.

Series available on Amazon Prime.

11. Downton Abbey (2010-present) – House fires, Turkish diplomats, forbidden romances, class conflict, corsets, trench warfare, and – of course – Dame Maggie Smith. Need we say more? It’s silly and soapy, but so much fun.

Series available on Amazon Prime.

Happy watching! And don’t forget: