Parks and Recreation gave us an infinite number of things to be grateful for, like “Treat Yo Self,” Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins’s friendship, and Galentine’s Day on February 13th—which really should be declared an official holiday in my opinion. But more importantly, it gave us April Ludgate (played by Aubrey Plaza). I adore Leslie, but I find April the most underrated role model on the show.
The seemingly indifferent 19-year-old college intern at the start of Season 1 had such a transformative journey. She transitions from Ron’s assistant, whose only task is ensuring that no one bothers him, to the eventual Deputy Director of Animal Control, to an employee of the National Park Service, and finally, to her dream job at the fictional American Service Foundation, which helps people find jobs.
What makes her character so relatable is that she doesn’t always have her life figured out—not even by the end of the show. Still, she carries herself with confidence. Sure, April comes off as a little too sarcastic and uninterested, but she never lets anyone undermine her—perhaps it’s because she genuinely believes she’s “half wolf” and therefore physically invincible.
Donna Meagle declares April’s spirit dog a rare black Siberian Husky because “You’re beautiful, yet cold and aloof. You pride yourself on being a loner. You do not obey, you choose to cooperate. And when you stop bearing your fangs to pick a mate, it’s for life. And you’re fiercely loyal to your pack, which makes you a rare black Siberian Husky.”
Wherever April’s toughness may come from, it makes her someone to aspire to. Her inner circle is airtight, and she fights for those she “secretly” loves. Much like Ron Swanson, she is a woman of action—all substance and no frills. She helps Leslie out whenever possible—volunteering her time to organize the Freddy Spaghetti concert during the government shutdown, covering for her during her term in Pawnee City Council, nominating her for an international leadership award, and babysitting her triplets. And April’s relationship with Ben proves that while she loves to mock him, no one else can. Not only does she assist him in Washington D.C. on a congressional campaign, she threatens bodily harm to an intern who doesn’t listen to Ben. Scary? Yes. Badass? ALSO YES.
As much as we all admire Leslie Knope, even she knows that April’s backbone is the one made of steel.
April likes who she is as a person and has no intention of changing herself to fit the needs of someone else. She is the physical definition of the “If You Can’t Handle Me At My Worst, Then You Don’t Deserve Me At My Best” meme—except she would probably find her before and after images to both qualify as her “best” because she despises most people anyway and doesn’t care for their arbitrary superlatives.
This resolve is why people on the show seek her approval and want her respect. It’s why Jerry Gergich is so quick to defer to her, despite their differences in age and experience, and why Ann is so keen on making April like her. And it’s why she takes so long to forgive Andy after learning that he and Ann kissed. The fact that she is able to get Andy to grovel and to personally exhibit such strong willpower to resist him is a testament to the tenacity of her character.
April knows she doesn’t deserve to be anyone’s second best.
Even after April and Andy do become a couple, it’s obvious to everyone that April guides that relationship. She follows her gut to make major life decisions, no matter how those decisions might appear to others. Case in point: spontaneously marrying Andy and deciding not to attend veterinarian school on a whim because her gut tells her it’s not the right decision. April’s decision to not follow through with her original plan even inspires Ann to trust her gut about her own future in Pawnee.
We see ourselves in April because she doesn’t let her age define her experiences, whether she’s a 19-year-old newbie or a nearly 30-year-old woman starting her career over. She puts up a front of being lazy, but her quiet ambition subverts the generational stereotype. It shines through in her efforts to save the Animal Control department and her choice to stand up to Leslie about opening a dog park on her Lot 48.
You want Leslie in your corner, without a doubt. But if you can earn April’s respect, you’ve pretty much won at life.