Character Appreciation - Ben Wyatt: Parks and Recreation’s ‘Normal’ Man
If you ask anyone who their favourite character in Parks and Rec is, I doubt that Ben Wyatt would make the Top 3 of many. I personally believe this is because he isn’t defined by a specific characteristic. Leslie? Unrivalled enthusiasm. Chris? Overbearing positivity. Tom? Probably swag. Andy? Goofiness. April? Cynical. Ron? Staunch in his beliefs. This is oversimplifying it but I can bet that if you asked for one adjective to describe Ben Wyatt, most people would instantly go to geeky. I’m not saying this isn’t true but it’s a quirk of a character unlike the feature that defines the other characters the most. Ben is grounded in a footing much more real and is the most complete person on the program.
The format of Parks and Rec lends so much to why Ben is my favourite character. The mockumentary setting allows the camera to pan to Adam Scott’s character and gives us many instances where he expresses a face to sum up how we’d probably be reacting to the situation unfolding if we were actually there. This subtle, but essential, feature of Adam Scott’s acting allows Ben to be comedic but also so relatable. It reminds me of those moments you catch someone’s eye whilst facially expressing your reaction to something someone has just said. Those moments can be the funniest in person and can be shared with friends or strangers. That’s the beauty of it.
As discussed before, geeky is a character quirk of Ben. It is also one handled extremely well. I have watched many shows before where this isn’t handled very well. That love of sci-fi or fantasy makes someone naive or not of the world they are living in but Parks refuses to go down that route. Ben is unashamed by his love of all things considered ‘geeky’ and I think would be a fine example of what a modern take on a person that loved ‘geeky’ things was like. He drops it in conversation, never shying away from the over explanation (the scene of why everyone loves Game of Thrones and why it will never be cancelled) to his saddest scene crying in a Batman suit. I feel personally that this is why I can relate to Ben so much. I enjoy all of these things that are considered geeky but I don’t feel like I am pigeonholed in to the specific idea of what a ‘geek’ is. Adam Scott is much better looking than me though right enough.
Ben also loves Calzones. Check. He made a board game called Cones of Dunshire. Check. He’s scared of cops… He doesn’t get the fuss about Li’l Sebastian. Ehh we can let him off with that one.
The character has some real foundations too. He battled back from failure as a child and is a good example of hard work reaping the rewards. His uptightness when he originally comes in to the show at the end of season 2 was slowly stripped back to reveal a character that respects, admires and is loyal to his colleagues, friends and lover. Ben pairs with every character on this show. From a real brotherly love with Chris to a real underrated gem of the character is his relationship to Jerry (Larry/Garry) because it is one founded in real respect. Ben isn’t partial to laugh at the ridiculous things he does however has had some really great scenes with Jerry - where he offers Jerry to be mayor and the Enchanted scene where Ben tries to surprise Leslie with an Enchanted themed carriage.
Speaking of which you can’t discuss the triumph of Ben Wyatt as a character without Leslie Knope though. Their relationship is the true heart of the show. Starting as adversaries, moving in to friends and will they wont they however Ben is head over heels for Leslie. Their relationship brings me joy. It is loving, rewarding and they both support each other incredibly. Ben Wyatt is what I would aspire to be for my future wife. He is his own character and has his own agency throughout - as seen taking jobs in Washington - however Leslie is his anchor and he always returns to her. Their relationship allows Ben to open up on an emotional level. The aforementioned Batman suit scene was due to Ben and Leslie not being able to be together. However, their relationship just couldn’t stay apart and they work so well. The defining speech between them? “I love you and I like you.” And that’s what we are all looking for, someone who we can say that to and know that its mutual and real.
Ben Wyatt is a triumph. I may love the outlandish aspects of each character on this show a lot (Jean Ralphio singing things is kind of my one true love) but I won’t love any as much as I love Ben Wyatt (and I love every character on this show a lot).