Parks and Recreation ends its seven-season run Tuesday night on NBC. To celebrate the show’s unforgettable characters, Flavorwire is publishing a series of tributes to our favorite Pawnee residents. Click here to follow our coverage.
Garry Gergich is not a loser. Even if Garry lets his co-workers address him incorrectly for 30 years — first as Jerry, then Terry, then Larry — without correcting them, he is not a loser. Even if he spills his soup on himself, falls into a creek while chasing after a burrito, kills DJ Roomba, gets his words mixed up and rips his pants, babbles after talking for more than 20 seconds, or farts (a lot) while having a heart attack, Garry Gergich is not a loser. He is an anti-careerist, and he is my idol.
Here are all of the superficial reasons why Garry is a boss: He has a beautiful, caring wife named Gayle, who is played by Christie Brinkley. And they love each other. He has three lovely, intelligent daughters. They are a disgustingly happy family. (One could argue that Garry’s infatuation with his home life is a reaction to his being adopted, but he didn’t knot that back when he scored Gayle.) He has also worked at the Parks Department for more than 30 years, and is enjoying his pension, even though he has been rehired as an intern. He is even, as we find out in “One Last Ride,” a notary and, later, an interim mayor. Last but not least: he has a large penis. Those are all great things, but they aren’t the reasons that Garry Gergich is my idol.
Garry Gergich is my idol because he is happy. And his happiness has absolutely nothing to do with his work.
Let me clarify: he does get happiness from his work, but it has nothing to do with his love for the Parks Department or his ability to climb any kind of corporate ladder and everything to do with the job’s stability and the fact that it allows him the time to enjoy his life outside of work with Gayle and his family. Garry does not want to be Leslie Knope, who manages to “have it all,” whatever that means; Garry doesn’t even want to be Ron Swanson, though he and Ron get along. Garry is entirely his own man, and his lack of work obligation has allowed him to nurture his talents — as a painter, pianist, and notary.
And yet, while Garry’s job is not his priority in life, doing it well is important to him. This is why he doesn’t complain about having to redo an entire campaign’s worth of envelope stuffing. (In fact, he whistles as he does it.) He is the Norman Rockwell painting of characters, a prototypical American Midwesterner, a throwback to the giddy characters of Golden Age sitcoms, seen not at work but at home in their impossibly serene family lives. He may be the butt of all of his co-workers’ jokes, but his strength lies in the fact that his work life is a mere distraction from the life that really matters to him, the life where he is swift and golden, catching cups. It’s in this way, too, that Garry is the anti-millennial, the anti-21st-century American. He has created for himself a life separate from the corporate grind. It is the least hip way to form a life for yourself in 2015, but his aw shucks happiness and unstoppable geniality is everything any non-striver could hope for from life.
Garry Gergich doesn’t have it all, but he’s got everything he wants. He is the least ambitious, happiest character on television, and that’s also why he is the most radical. As the series closes, the characters of Parks and Recreation are in flux, and yet we all know for sure that Garry, Gayle, and their three daughters will be happy for the foreseeable future, because their happiness had nothing to do with Leslie or anyone else at the Parks Department.