“If not for you/Winter would have no spring/Couldn’t hear the robin sing/I just wouldn’t have a clue/Anyway it wouldn’t ring true/If not for you”
“If Not For You” by Bob Dylan
When I presented* my findings on the Outside Girls about a week and a half ago, I received a lot of intriguing, complex questions from my audience members. The presentation (which went very well, by the way) gave me many new ideas for this blog, including the subject of today’s post. Someone asked me if the Outside Girls had anyone they could confide in and trust completely. And, predictably, my response was “yes and no.”
When it comes to friendships, the Outside Girls often fall in one of two categories. They might have a dramatic split with their best friends, which results in their outsider status. (Angela Chase, Lindsay Weir and Jessica Darling all fit into this first pattern.) Conversely, the Outside Girls might have one really good friend in the margins with them. (Think Enid and Becky, Daria and Jane, Alike and Laura, and Janis and Damian.) In the latter case, the Outside Girls have no use for anyone besides their best friends.
April Ludgate of Parks and Recreation is definitely part of the second group, although she eventually begins to (somewhat) like all of her coworkers in City Hall. Over the first three seasons of the series, April barely hides her obvious disdain for everyone. She is willfully incompetent at her internship and job, openly mocks Leslie’s enthusiasm, tosses insults around like they are candy, terrorizes Ann and preserves an annoyed-yet-monotone voice. As you can tell, April is not exactly the Miss Congeniality of Pawnee, Ind.
The only person April makes a real effort with is Andy Dwyer, Ann’s ex-boyfriend and City Hall’s resident shoe-shiner. These two are almost exact opposites. April is petite, rude, sarcastic , fiercely intelligent and can be recognized by her signature scowl. Andy is tall and wide, kind, has the brain of a golden retriever and can be recognized by his signature childlike look of wonder. On paper, you would think that these two would work better as foils than as allies and eventually lovers. But–to paraphrase Jerry Maguire–they complete each other. What’s more, Andy proves to April that she will always have one person she can always trust and, more importantly, never hate.
But don’t think that April’s devotion to Andy changes her fundamentally. Being attached to a social person does not bring her in from the outside. Their union just makes April an Outside Girl with a husband. As Caralyn Bolte explains, “friendships…solidify this sense of exile.” Bolte’s research is specifically about Buffy Summers and Veronica Mars, but I believe her point can be applied to many other Outside Girls, April included. Bolte notes that “despite developing deep friendships, both [Buffy and Veronica] remain distinctly isolated.” Outside Girls do not have many friends, but the friends they have make life on the margins bearable. In effect, the girls make a conscious decision to only give their affections to someone who really deserves it. But they do not suddenly give up their outsider status; they just find someone to confide in. Similarly, even after the clearly-happy April makes it official with Andy, she does not make a new effort to be just as approachable as her husband. Instead, her unimpressed eyes and perpetual frown communicate how everyone else can get stuffed. Andy is the only person she loves and has the time of day for.
And I realize this analysis is dangerously close to Lifetime-esque, Daddy I love him! He’s the only one who understands me! mania, but I’m here to discuss who the Outside Girls turn to when they, you know, have feelings. Andy Dwyer could just as easily be a female friend, the Jane to April’s Daria. April’s commitment to Andy does not hinge on their romantic connection or her desperation for a relationship. April’s loyalty to her husband is contingent on his ability to listen to her without judging her and for his willingness to accept her as she is. Remember when I said that April does not fundamentally change when she meets Andy? Well, he has no desire to change her. At the end of the day, both halves of this odd couple know there is no one else they would rather talk to than their partner.
*By the way, apologies for the extended break between this post and the last. I’ve been finishing up my senior year and had to temporarily put the blog on the back burner. But I’m back now and will continue posting every week.
Can you think of any other Outside Girl/friend combinations? What are your favorite April and Andy moments? Do you think my argument is off base? Discuss in the comments section!
(Image #1 courtesy of telephonewallpaper.com; #2 courtesy of fuckyeahaubrey.tumblr.com; #3 courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)