Instant Nerdflix: Geeks and Recreation

Hey kids, it’s a brand new semester here at the GeeKon Record, and that means it’s time for a bit of a revamp here at Nerds & Netflix. First off, I realized three days ago that I could have called it Instant Nerdflix, so that’s the name of this feature now, because puns are important.

Secondly, I’m going to be changing up what I’m covering here. My plan is to highlight different portrayals of geeks on television—from typical nerds you could find on most channels, to guys on The League, a show I plan on covering later, who geek out about fantasy football! On our instant-streaming journey together, I hope to introduce you to a variety of folks with whom we’ll feel a very enthusiastic kinship.

Let’s get started this week with a show that I feel celebrates many, many types of enthusiastic geeking out: Parks and Recreation. Parks, first and foremost, is a celebration of loving other people, as evidenced by the first half of Pawnee, Indiana’s motto: “First in friendship.” The characters on the show feel, for the most part, like real people—flawed, yes, but full of joy at the things and the people they care about. I think you could make an argument for anyone on the show being a geek about something: Donna livetweets her favorite shows (inspired by the actress Retta, who plays her); Ron Swanson, of the famous mustache, won a prestigious woodworking award for a chair he made; Chris is literally the character most excited about fitness on any show, possibly ever.

But there are two characters in particular I’d like to focus on while talking about this show: the Pawneean queen and king (or, as she’d prefer, President and First Man) of geekery—Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt. Ben is a more typical nerd, so we’ll talk about him in a bonus post—right now, I wanna talk about my girl Leslie.

If geekdom was judged solely on enthusiasm about a topic, Leslie would qualify as a geek about almost literally everything in her life. In her own words, “We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” Let’s tackle these in order.

First, Leslie is as passionate about breakfast food as Ron is about meat—in one episode, her best friend, Ann, and Ben, her husband, fight over who gets to buy Leslie a vintage waffle iron for a gift. She turns down chicken soup in favor of waffles when she has the flu. There’s not much else to say here that she can’t cover herself.

Ron’s matter-of-fact response? “People are idiots, Leslie.”

As mentioned earlier, Parks focuses on the joy and love of friendships, and no one geeks out about that more than Leslie. She refers to Ann early on as her best friend, saying, “anyone who hurt her is someone I would murder, probably.” She’s supportive to a fault—at times, she’s downright mean to her friends to try and push them in the direction she believes they should go, a bad habit one episode calls “steamrolling.” But on the flip side, Leslie might just be the best friend you’ve ever had. She invented her own holiday (one of many) called Galentine’s Day. It takes place on February 13th, and it’s a celebration of lady friendships. She considers Christmas gift giving a competition, where she usually beats everyone by finding the absolute perfect gift for them—her wedding gift made Ron, one of the closest friends she has on the show, cry once. Not only does Leslie geek out about her friends, she inspires the same level of loyalty and support from them—when she runs for City Council and her campaign managers quit on her, her office friends rally together and offer their talents to help her keep her hat in the ring. That’s her Christmas present the one year we watch her lose the competition—“I got my ass handed to me,” she says through a teary smile.

Leslie’s friends and coworkers presenting her with a gingerbread Parks office and a plan to keep her campaign going.

And finally, work. Now, Leslie might be a government employee, but she absolutely loves it. Leslie is a huge geek about her work with Parks and Recreation and later, the City Council. She’s crazy about Pawnee, too—she literally wrote the book on the town, doing meticulous research about things almost no one cares about. Once, Leslie was suspended from work for two weeks. Her boss Chris caught her sneaking in to take work back home with her on a flash drive, and had to chase her down to keep her from going home to work for the city during her mandated suspension. When he finally got through to her that she wasn’t allowed to come into the office and work on official city business, she started a citizen’s brigade to try and get things done from the other side of the government desk. Leslie geeks about about her work because she loves her town, the people in it, and the waffles at JJ’s Diner—and, you know, the importance of the government listening to its citizens.

A word cloud created from the text of Leslie’s work emails shows what she cares about, and how much she cares about those things. “She definitely loves Ann,” one character says, and her husband Ben is on there as well. It’s impossible, though, to miss the size of Pawnee and Parks, the largest words on the board.

There are infinite examples of Leslie’s geekery about these three things, but there’s honestly not enough room to list them all. If you’d like to watch for yourself, the first five seasons of Parks and Recreation are on Netflix, and the newest season is available on Hulu/Hulu Plus. If you want to read more about Parks and Geekreation, stay tuned for the second part of this discussion, focusing on Ben Wyatt, the man who cried in a Batman costume.

Nerds & Netflix: The X-Files

Hey, fellow geeks! My name is Jessica, and I’d like to welcome you to Nerds & Netflix, where I’ll be talking about great and geeky television available to you on the wonderful gift that is Instant Netflix. My goal here is to not only make you aware of shows you can watch to up your geek credential (note: this is not a real thing), but also to highlight some lesser-known sci-fi shows that might be up your alley.

Today, I’m going to talk about the show I’ve been slowly working my way through since last December: The X-Files. Now, I’m going to assume that if you’re alive and involved in pop culture at all, you’ve heard of it: Special agents Mulder, a believer, and Scully, a skeptic, investigate weird cases for the FBI involving things like creepy children (so many creepy children!), a young Mark Sheppard (a staple in any good sci-fi show,) vampires, and aliens. Lots of aliens. Actually, aliens might not exist! We’re not sure.

And Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are going to find it.

In my opinion, X-Files is one of the most important geek shows out there—if not just one of the very best—and that’s because it has left such a mark on our pop culture as a whole. Trust me; at least one thing you love is probably connected to it in some way, whether big or small. In the sixth episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy accuses her mentor Giles of “trying to Scully her” when he’s skeptical of her theory; in a college-age flashback on the sitcom New Girl, a character has an iconic “I WANT TO BELIEVE” poster in his residence hall room; and I recognized a set from The X-Files in the pilot of my favorite but lesser-known sci-fi shows The Middleman.

Buffy:  (exasperated) I cannot believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me. There is something supernatural at work here. (grabs some books) Get your books! Look stuff up!

 Giles:  (takes the books) Look under what?

 Buffy:  I don’t know. (exhales) That’s your department.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, episode 1×06, “The Pack”

Even the people who make the things you love watched X-Files. So you’re excited about the end of Breaking Bad? Guess what show Vince Gilligan worked on. Ever heard of a guy named J.J. Abrams? (Probably not, it’s not like he’s involved in a billion franchises.) Abrams has said many times that his work on Fringe and Lost was influenced by X-Files. I can’t find the exact quote, but Abrams once wrote an introduction to an X-Files book, in which he said that everything we are watching on television now lives in the shadow of The X-Files.

This gif (from Tumblr, because of course) compares the title sequences from The X-Files and Fringe. This is only one of many nods to X-Files in the show.

X-Files spans nine seasons and two movies–one that fits between seasons five and six in canon, and one that came out in 2008 after the show had been over for a while. That seems pretty daunting, but come on, look at it this way: watching X-Files is like doing your geek homework. Plus, it’s got everything: great characters, hilarious comedy, heart-wrenching drama, plenty of monsters-of-the-week, and good lord, the pretty people. Fun fact: guess which fandom the term “shipper” came from? You guessed it. Mulder and Scully are such an iconic pair, and for good reason. If you’re into ‘ships in your shows, this one’s a long-burning flame, but absolutely worth the wait. Hilariously, show creator Chris Carter wanted them to be platonic, but he didn’t do a very good job of it—even as Mulder claims, “I do not gaze at Scully,” the audience is rolling their eyes and making fanvids to prove him wrong. Even if you’re not into shipping, Mulder and Scully are clearly important to each other, and their bond is crucial to the show (and will also hurt your heart, trust me.)

Nope, no gazing here. None at all. Just super platonic work partners casually dancing together.

I could talk about X-Files further, but I’m sure you guys would rather start watching it. Seasons 1-9 are available on Netflix streaming, and the movies are available on DVD from Netflix or from our very own media library! I recognize that it’s a lot of TV to get through, but come on—who doesn’t love a good Netflix marathon session? It should be noted that the show can get kind of scary and gross at times, so if you would like forewarning on triggers and common fears, someone on Tumblr has written a really great and extensive guide that covers all the episodes and both movies, which you can find here. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve watched it or if you’re going to start, and maybe we can start a support meeting where we yell very loudly about how upsetting Mulder and Scully’s faces are and how ridiculous Krycek is at any given time. Best of luck, and remember—the truth is out there.