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 Post subject: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 9:58 pm 
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COLD OPEN: The show has to get across that Leslie and Ben like each other but aren't dating because Chris has a stupid rule. This is conveyed mostly by acting and fairly naturalistic conversation. It's pretty good exposition for a Parks & Rec, a lot better than what the show usually expects of itself.

THEN AFTER THE CREDITS: Much less elegant exposition as Leslie explains to Ann everything that's going on in her life. But this is par for the course in network sitcom land.

There is an art show. Ron gives a speech: "I belive that after this is over, [these paintings] will be hung in government buildings. Why the government is involved in an art show is beyond me." It's kind of funny but I think the point is to contextualize/enable/explain away the conflict that ensues. As such, this is one place where just one additional sentence could make the script make sense. But we'll get to that.

Jerry's painting is revealed as depicting a lady centaur with bare breasts and Leslie's face. Leslie's infatuation with her naked centaur self is funny and relateable and character-driven and story-driving and fantastic.

The cherub being modeled on Tom does not play: The cherub has a goatee. Everybody points out that the baby looks fat, but nobody notices that it has a goatee.

In Leslie's office: The custodian fixing the lights (which were set up in the first scene after the cold open! Hey!) is the one that she will bribe at Lil Sebastian's memorial! Hey!

MARCIA LANGMAN appears. Marcia Langman is my fave. I love her whenever she shows up. It makes sense for her to demand that the painting be destroyed, because she is a woman who does not make sense. But nobody is taking the demand seriously. The story has not gone off the rails yet.

Leslie goes on Perd Hapley's show to discuss the painting. Why? Why isn't Marcia Langman there? It would make sense if Leslie tried to use the media to defend the painting against Marcia, but this is a conjecture in the absence of useful evidence. The story still works though: Leslie should know that the boob painting doesn't belong in a government building, but she's really enamored of it and is acting irrationally. Perd is amazing. Brandi Maxxx is amazing too.

After going on Perd, Leslie is called to Chris's office. He is distressed to see that Leslie was on TV with the painting. "Recently, you've been a little unpredictable," he says. The only unpredictable thing Leslie has done on camera since the Harvest Festival is kiss Tom. If she took the painting story to Perd herself, that makes sense as an unpredictable move too. What doesn't make sense is Chris's conclusion, based on Leslie's purported unpredictability: "You've left me no choice. I've convened a meeting of the Public Arts Commission."

What is Chris afraid will happen? What is he hoping the Public Arts Commission will do about it? What does Leslie being unpredictable have to do with it?

I mean, exactly one person in Pawnee believes that the painting is appropriate for being displayed in a government building. Why doesn't Chris—or anyone—say "Thanks for your painting, Jerry, but we can't put this in a government building. Maybe you can sell it to a centaur fetishist, or someone who has the hots for Leslie." Why does everyone in the government think that the only thing that can happen to this painting is it being hung in a government building—and why does Marcia Langman think the only possible alternative is to destroy it?

Did Jerry get paid in advance for the painting? Did the city make some sort of promise to someone that can't be rescinded? A single sentence could make all of this make sense. It doesn't even have to be realistic. You just need to establish actual stakes.

I guess the logical coherence of the story was lost a while ago, when Marcia and then Leslie conflated the question of whether the painting was appropriate for a government building with the question of whether the painting was obscene.

But as Leslie makes her stirring speech, it becomes clear that the stakes, whatever they were before, have quietly changed. Now we are fighting against censorship, apparently.

There is a version of this story that raises the issue of censorship in an interesting way. There are versions of this story, in universes beyond our own, that make compelling arguments against censorship, or teach us something important, or cause us, in some small way, to think. Somehow, with some combination of words, the writers' goal of making a statement about an issue could be realized. But in this world, we get a confused morality play where bad guys sneer, dumb guys get duped, and finally the good guys win, the way
a tobogganer wins by eventually slowing to a stop.

The Public Arts Commission rules: "There are nipples in it. So, it just seems like we ought to be safe and destroy it." The scene ends unceremoniously.

Why not return it to the artist, you cretinous straw men?

Of course, this is the Pawnee Public Arts Commission, and the people of Pawnee are stupid—when the script needs them to be. This has been established. But the commission's ruling is not framed as Pawnee Yokelism, as Pawnee Yokelism always is when it's required to drive the story. One sentence that points out that the ruling is cartoonishly stupid would make this make sense. You could even have Leslie say it to camera: "I shouldn't have trusted the Pawnee Public Arts Commission to rule on the side of culture and intelligence." Spend fifteen minutes making that into a joke, and you're home free.

Then Leslie asks Marcia if she can take the painting for herself, but she is asking the wrong person, and asking two acts too late. Again, Marcia's righteous lust for art-destruction makes sense in character, but that justification doesn't extend to the mess that has formed around her.

Leslie brings the painting to Andy and April's house. A conversation between Leslie and Ben ensues where they update each other on their respective stories. The recap of Leslie's deal goes like this:

"I was at a meeting around the corner, and some people wanted to destroy this painting. So, I brought it here."

[...]

"Why did they want to destroy it?"

"Well, it's a painting of me as a centaur. And it's a nude."

This is the plot as it understands itself.

Chris calls to demand that Leslie return the painting. (He says "you will bring that painting in tomorrow morning," which makes one wonder how it got so late at night, but that's not what we're here to discuss.) Leslie and Ben talk about the problem, and the theft of the painting is cast as a parallel to Leslie's desire to date Ben. This is good stuff. Leslie stealing the painting is a well-motivated act of rebellion. The fact that the painting makes Leslie an object of sexual desire is so perfect—Ben has to avert his eyes from the painting the same way he constantly has to act like he doesn't want to bone Leslie. As far as upping the ante of Ben and Leslie being into each other, this episode is incredibly good.

April and Andy get back. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I stole a painting, and I was hoping you guys would help me hide it."

April and Andy look at the painting and they both say that they would have sex with Centaur Leslie, which is basically what everybody says about Centaur Leslie.

Leslie says "I should go and hit the road with this." She takes the painting and leaves.

To a casual viewer this makes no sense at all. "I was hoping you would help me hide it... I'm gonna take this away now."

You could infer that, at some point in her conversation with Ben, Leslie decided to acquiesce to Chris's demands, and so when she says "I was hoping you would help me..." she is forgetting to add "but then I changed my mind." This is granting the logical coherence of the plot a lot of leeway, though. Also, it is bad writing. Slightly less bad writing would be to write a single sentence where Leslie says something to indicate that she is acting on a decision, rather than moving an object around randomly.

Leslie takes the painting to City Hall. To a viewer who hasn't made the inference that she eventually changed her mind, it looks like Leslie is trying to hide the painting in her office.

She talks to Jerry and has a brain flash!

When Marcia shows up, Leslie presents her with the painting: but now it depicts a centaur man! Twist!!! "Feel free to destroy it. But I think you'll find no one could possibly be offended."

This is idiotic. Half of Marcia's problem with the original painting was that it supposedly depicted bestiality. "Who had sex with what and gave birth to which?" she said, and could still easily say.

The new picture is still, from a reasonable non-fictional perspective, unsuitable for display in a government building, because it's a shirtless dude. From a non-reasonable fictional perspective like Marcia Langman's, it's still obscene, because it's a shirtless dude! If anything, now she should say it's gay animal porn, and demand that it be destroyed twice.

But Marcia just walks away defeated and this is a travesty. The more charitable interpretation is to say that Marcia doesn't get even a closing stupid joke because she's the villain in an artless morality play where the goal is to pat the viewer on the head for being a right-thinking person. My suspicion, however, is that Marcia doesn't get a line here because the entire second half of this episode was written in a hurry and the last three minutes were written in a big hurry.

Then Leslie reveals that the centaur boobs weren't painted over at all: She had Jerry paint a new painting! A NEW THREE FOOT BY SIX FOOT CANVAS. IT IS PROBABLY BIGGER THAN THAT ACTUALLY. THIS IS BEYOND THE PALE.

And what does this revelation prove? That Leslie didn't have to make any kind of sacrifice to prove her contrived point?

Then Leslie just stares smugly at the camera for way too long. I almost wonder if this script got interrupted by a writer's strike.

The resolution is a total mess, but it might have been be a thrilling, cathartic mess if the stuff leading up to it made any sense at all.

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:52 am 
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I hated the wedding episode. They spent all that time making you think you'd be spared a schmaltzy wedding episode, and then BAM! Schmaltz.

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:53 am 
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Also this thread is insane and I am concerned for your well-being, A Bear.

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:00 am 
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When you said you were going to complain about an episode called "jerry's painting"
I thought it was going to be a seinfeld episode
What doesn't make sense is that you expected a parks and rec episode to be good

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:04 am 
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Like the
Idea that you expected it to be
Thrilling and cathartic
Is insane I agree with tom

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:43 am 
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does Sandy still have that kramer painting

that's what I expected this to be about

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:45 pm 
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I think it's at her parents'

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:53 pm 
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why it doesn't have pride of place in your yuppie apartment I have no idea

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:42 pm 
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disagree with you all, this is good content

but could a government office really not display a painting with nudity in it?

also my favourite part of the episode is when leslie changes her hair to match the painting

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 8:35 am 
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I would like to clarify that I like Parks & Recreation, and also enjoyed A Bear's critique.

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 Post subject: Re: A Bear Criticizes Parks & Rec S03E11 "Jerry's Painting"
PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:26 pm 
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Having never seen the episode (or any episode), I would assume that Leslie's line "I'm going to take this away now" was meant to imply that she didn't want to leave the painting there because she didn't want anyone in the house to masturbate to it or obsess over it in some other way.

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