Friday, February 28, 2014

Pawnee Vs. Dundee

Bosses can be unapproachable, task oriented, and even disinterested in any traits of employees not directly influenced by the work environment. However, Leslie Knope and Michael Scott hold characteristics that are vastly different in comparison. They are individuals who take leadership and “what it means to be a boss” to the next level. By looking at the similar mockumentary style that encompasses Parks and Recreation and The Office, the dynamic roles of “the boss”, and the role of feminism in their work environment; we can begin to dissect the differences in leadership style of the two.

The interview style of both shows seems to be a way to showcase the superiority of the bosses in comparison to the other staff that complement them. Leslie’s character is enhanced through her dedication and professionalism that accompanies her passion for the parks department. On several instances, the home video approach that frames her progression gives a feeling that we are capturing a quirky state level operation and gives an optimistic insight into our local government structure. An example of this is when Leslie is fighting to implement a soda tax for the wellbeing of the citizens of Pawnee to decrease obesity and diabetes. Although her opposition is met with factual instances of Michael Bloomberg, the show frames it in a way to satirize the ridiculousness of the debate. The child size cup measuring in at a robust 512-ounce container because “it’s roughly the size of a 2-year-old child, if the child were liquefied,” enhances the arguments of Leslie to continue the progressive movements she stands for. However, with the fictitious paper company Dunder Mifflin, we are hoping that although entertained by the environment that this office does not exist in the real world. Michael Scott, although successful is a scatterbrained yet somehow lovable boss who tries too hard to befriend office staff. Through the camera portrayal, the lightly edited camera angles and one on one conversation with Michael give a light that would not been shown given other camera techniques. Although Michael is a boss, he often needs the support of staff to babysit him as seen in the George Foreman grill instance. Michael wants to wake up to the smell of bacon, ok who doesn’t? So to solve the problem, he sets a George Foreman grill bedside so he can do so. However, in the process he grills his foot leaving him unable to work (as if he would otherwise) and Pam helps him get through the day. Although Leslie and Michael function as bosses it is clearly obvious that the more ambitious of the two is Leslie, a civil servant doing her part to improve her small town. Although it is clear to the obvious superiority of Leslie’s attributes as boss, she is not the top dog like Michael is.

Leslie, although an ambitious woman, is overseen by the likes of Ron Swanson. Ron is a public employee that strides on the idea of scarce government involvement, a conservative male who plays her superior in the office setting. His presence is quite prominent and overseeing her is a daily routine. Ron is another form of comic relief but serves as a censor to cap Leslie’s involvement in whatever capacity he can, however, Leslie usually takes initiative to step outside of boundaries to accomplish what needs to be done. However, when looking at Michael in his work environment, there is not an individual superior to him in hierarchy that resides in the office, Jan is miles away in New York and does not see Michael’s day-to-day work pattern directly. Although this may seem minute, there is a fundamental difference between the idea of what it means to be a boss to women and men individuals. In Leslie’s case, her supervision can be identified as a form of glass ceiling that she has to break when given limitations that her counterpart. Even when the shows display an almost identical mockumentary tone, there are certain adversities that Michael does not have to contend with.

These observable differences in the roles of women and men can be subtle but what truly set these two bosses apart are the lengths they go for their passions, but more importantly what their passions are. In Leslie’s instance she has many projects that encompass her spectrum of social progression. More specifically I will focus on her love for the Pawnee Goddesses and the juxtaposition with the Girl Scouts. Leslie devoted her time to seeing that young women had the opportunity to showcase their talents in outdoors situations and giving them a space to be themselves, creating mini Leslie Knopes. However, there is an altercation in the show when Ron’s group, the Pawnee Rangers, become jealous and wanted to be included in the festivities that were taking part with the Pawnee Goddesses. Leslie initially responds with telling the girls no, they respond in form of public hearing concluding that boys can join. This controversial topic in the Boy Scouts is where the episode resonates with viewers. The mindset and drive that Leslie has for positive social reform is admirable and something that audience members can identify with. On the other hand, Michael is passionate about entertaining through his leadership style. He wants to be well liked and does not possess the capabilities to make the unpopular decisions, handing them off to Dwight. An example of this is when Dwight is given the task of deciding the insurance plan the employees receive and when he does decide and people dislike Michael for making the choice, he wholeheartedly blames Dwight. Both Leslie and Michael have leadership styles all their own.

At the end of the day, who is to say what is the most effective boss? It is about inspiring a group of individuals to work to their potential, whether it be in a professional manner or not. Their ideas of  “what it means to be a boss” are vastly different and that is why it resonates with the audiences of middle class America. By looking at the similar mockumentary style that encompasses Parks and Recreation and The Office, the dynamic roles of “the boss”, and the role of feminism in their work environment; we can begin to dissect the differences in leadership style of the two. Although Leslie wins through her poise and intellectual persona, there is something about Michael that makes you love him.


Grynbaum, Michael M. "A Soda Fight Moves to a Sitcom Town." City Room A Soda Fight Moves to a Sitcom Town Comments. New York Times, 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.

Grey, Simon. "Allusions of Grandeur." Allusions of Grandeur. Word Press, 27 May 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.

Carter, Bill. "A Sitcom Grows Up And Finds Its Identity." The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Oct. 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.

Sharma, Iona. "In Praise of Leslie Knope: Feminism and Small-town Politics." - Reviews. The F Word, 24 Dec. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.


  1. Solid two shows to use linked together in The Office and Parks and Rec. I liked how you talked about their team, partners, and network the bosses have to go through for action. Seeing as how feminism is the main topic, I would've liked to see comparing and contrasting of the two boss styles with female coworkers. Michael is without a doubt, at least somewhat sexist, and it would've been cool to see your take on how that attribute diminishes his leadership style.

  2. I really liked you putting The Office and Park and Recreation side by side because they are both wonderful shows in their own rite. I do agree that using Michael Scott in an essay hovering around feminism is a bit of a stretch because there are several instances in which his character is overtly sexist and degrading to women in the office, however at times he can be very sweet and uplifting of them. Leslie however is the perfect character to analyze when talking about feminism. She embodies all that feminism stands for.


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