Ron Swanson, Capitalist Hero

The NBC comedy Parks and Recreation stars Amy Poehler as a hyper-enthusiastic civil servant. The head of the titular department head is one Ron Swanson a manly meat-loving wood-working anti-government zealot who happens to suck on the government teat. Mostly played for laughs, Ron Swanson as understatedly played by Nick Offerman has become a conservative icon on the level of Stephen Colbert.

In the most recent episode, Leslie Knope, now a city councilwoman has pushed through the council a government handout to a failing video store only to have it converted to a porn store. In this scene, Leslie offers to eat crow for failing to listen to Ron’s warnings.

(It seems the embed code doesn’t play well with WordPress, so use the link below):
Ron Swanson

Leslie laments:

There has to be a way for government to help places that add community value but don’t necessarily rake in the money.

Ron says:

There is not. The free market is a jungle. It’s beautiful and brutal and should be left alone. When a business fails, it dies and a better one takes its place. Just let business be business and government be government.

It’s done sincerely without any snark or comeuppance for Ron.

For the full episode, go here

My point is that while Ron Swanson is a caricature, he also has character. And he has a pyramid of greatness.


17 Responses

  1. And of course, the Turf & turf


    • I wonder how many conservative caricatures there have been in TV comedy history relative to liberal caricatures. I can’t really think of any liberal caricatures off the top of my head. But I was out of the country for a long time, and so missed a lot of TV in the 90’s and early 2000’s.


      • Scott: Maybe Lisa Simpson?


        • Leslie Knopes is often portrayed as being a little too wide-eyed in her liberalism as exemplified in the very episode I reference. My point is that while Ron Swanson is played for laughs he has depth and is not just a laughingstock who is always wrong. The more apparently evil villain on that show is Councilman Jamm who tried to get a vacant lot rezoned for a fast food chain instead of park in return for a kickback.

          On the otherwise awful 1600 Penn, there was an episode where the president’s son fell in with OWS-style protesters and Bill Pullman had to explain why they were shortsighted and misguided.

          That show costars Jenna Elfman who was also in Dharma and Greg. While her character in that was silly enough, her mom and dad were a militant vegan and left wing conspiracy nut respectively.

          Portlandia does nothing but ridicule over-the-top lefty excess but that is mostly liberals laughing at other liberals.

          Going waayyyy back, the first season of 21 Jump Street had a ridiculously hippie-dippie squad leader before he got nearly immediately replaced with a more traditional hard-nosed black bad-ass.

          But your observation is well taken. There are a lot more Montgomery Burnses out there than Ron Swansons.

          What would a conservative The West Wing look like? Or is such a thing even imaginable.


        • yello:

          What would a conservative The West Wing look like?

          I don’t really know because I have to confess to never really having watched it. I was in England when it got big here, so it was easy to avoid. I could have gone out of my way to watch it on DVD (they were available over there), but after watching one episode at a friends house, I decided Martin Sheen was too grating and would just piss me off, so I didn’t bother.


        • Martin Sheen’s as President Mary Sue was far from the least grating character. I wanted to punch Tobey in the face at least twice an episode. I quit watching after Season 3 when Aaron Sorkin was pushed out. I’m a big fan of Sorkin but each series he creates has bigger and bigger strawmen as his shibboleths.The Newsroom approaches pure propaganda.


        • Scott – where would you place the original House of Cards?

          FU was an evil man, but he was often correct, and he was slashing of Brit liberals, who generally were never portrayed sympathetically, it seems to me.


        • I’ll have to watch the British House of Cards when I make it through the US version (I’m through Episode 6). Interesting that in the US, the anti-hero is a manipulative cynical Democrat.


        • YJ, see for a preview.


        • Mark:

          I actually never saw it. That was well before my time in the UK, or even in Hong Kong. (I moved to HK in 1992…the original House of Cards was apparently done in 1990.

          One UK political show that I did become familiar with while in HK was The New Statesman starring Rik Mayall. It was an over-the-top parody of an up and coming conservative MP in the Thatcher government. His character’s name was Alan B’Stard, which should give you some idea of the tone of the show. I have to admit that, despite its obvious Labour leanings, I found it very amusing.


  2. I could watch Ron Swanson clips all day. The Perfect Government:


  3. “not just a laughingstock who is always wrong.”

    I actually really liked the way you phrased it: “is a caricature, he also has characted”


    • There was a comedy in the 90s I caught a few times called Linc’s Place. A black owned tavern in D.C. Lobbyist hangout. Pam Greer as an upscale DC hooker. Political themes. The owner, ___ Lincoln, was ex-military and R, and he made fun of liberals, especially as they pandered to blacks. He was not, from what I recall, a caricature.


  4. makinaustin,

    I missed that show entirely (but then again I never got Showtime until the third season of Weeds). It seems has the best synopsis of it.

    Pull up a barstool and get ready for major laughs when you enter LINC’s, the Washington DC bar and grill. The title role of Russell “Linc” Lincoln is portrayed by Steven Williams. Linc is the politically conservative proprietor who caters to a diverse crowd. And a very vocal one indeed. The patrons speak their minds, and although the comedy might be sophisticated, it is definitely not politically correct. LINC’s also stars Pam Grier, and Georg Stanford Brown. Tisha Campbell guest stars as Linc’s beloved daughter, Rosalee. The irreverent ensemble comedy series was created by Tim Reid (WKRP IN CINCINNATI and FRANK’S PLACE) & Susan Fales-Hill. Fresh and abrasive, LINC’S won the acclaim of many national critics and ran for two seasons on Showtime

    It was nominated for a GLAAD award once.


  5. Liberal caricatures: half the cast of Modern Family (and most of Glee).



    • FB:

      Modern Family strikes me more as lifestyle, not political, caricatures. Cameron is clearly a gay caricature, but I’ve never seen him spout political nostrums.


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