Time of the Month: AMY SANTIAGO (BROOKLYN 99)

Oh Amy. Beautiful, naive Amy Santiago. Possibly television’s funniest geeky geek, with a heart of gold and a head of ambition.

On the one hand, Amy Santiago (played by Melissa Fumero) fits neatly into a trope which appears in almost every situational comedy show – the overly ambitious woman who takes everything a bit too seriously. In the past, they’ve been portrayed as shrill, as stuck up, as … boring, quite frankly. However, nowadays the world has moved on a bit and (finally) realised that women can care about their careers and also enjoy themselves too. Amy Santiago, as a motivated career gal, is in wonderful company. She’s comparable to Parks and Rec’s Leslie Knope (which is hardly surprising as Mike Schur is the brain behind both Parks and Brooklyn). They both share high ambitions, they adore their jobs and co-workers and are both unique in their own special (very special) way.

One of the most wonderful things about Amy Santiago, though, is just how much her character changes and grows throughout the series – whilst also managing to stay completely true to herself and her goals. So let’s talk about why Amy is the greatest, and why we would all secretly love to be Jake Peralta (and not just so we could behave like five year olds and get away with it).

If Brooklyn 99 was a lesser show (or perhaps was written in the 1990s), Jake Peralta would be the audience stand in. We would identify ourselves with him – the cheeky, yet charming ‘bad’ boy who always manages to save the day. Instead of focusing solely on Jake’s journey and character, B99 allows for a fuller and richer ensemble cast, meaning that other characters are also not reduced to their stereotypes. Amy Santiago would traditionally be Jake’s ‘nemesis’ – solely due to her competitive nature and her desire to succeed in her job. Whilst Jake and Amy tease each other often, it comes from a place of love and support. In this way, we also identify with Amy, and can understand her motivations and individual desires too. Unlike other sitcoms which always ultimately end up objectifying a (usually lone) female character through the eyes of the male protagonist (Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory… etc etc) Brooklyn 99 avoids this completely. Even when Jake and Amy begin dating, she is never portrayed as a sex object or as someone for Jake to attain (it totally helps that Jake is a feminist). Regardless of whether they date, are co-workers or friends, they are both still individuals.

So what makes Amy’s character so great to watch? For a start, her sheer determination. Whatever the task is, Amy Santiago will throw herself into it with 110%. Even jobs that she might not be that suited for (the time she went undercover in prison as a pregnant criminal), Amy wants to prove that she can handle it. And yes, she partly wants to prove herself to Holt, but it often turns out that Amy needs to prove it to herself more. Though confident in her abilities behind a desk, Amy routinely pushes herself to do things that are out of her comfort zone.

We also see this amazing, and hilarious progression between Amy, Gina and Rosa throughout the series. Though the three of them are certainly acquaintances, both Gina and Rosa are not the easiest people to befriend. In comparison to Amy’s need to please everyone around her, Rosa’s main goal is to be as un-emotionally unavailable with the people around her as possible. Likewise, Gina (who is one the greatest characters to ever grace our screens, but we will leave this for another post) can be a bit stand-offish, especially to Amy. Rosa makes an important point in season 1 however, about how the women of the precinct need to have each others backs in such a heavily male dominated environment. And whilst the three of them may not always see eye to eye (Amy’s constant stream of positivity regularly rubs Rosa up the wrong way), there are several moments of wonderful friendship between them.

One of these comes in Season 3, when Amy approaches Gina to give her some advice with an idea she has had for a new flashlight mount. It shows how far Gina and Amy have come in their friendship and that Amy understands the importance of asking for help when she needs it. With their combined talents (Amy’s product and Gina’s showmanship), they produce an incredible pitch. It’s Amy’s ability to let go of always having to be right and to allow someone else to give her help when she needed it, that shows how much she has grown. The purchasing department of the NYPD decide not to buy the product, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the wonderful collaboration of two very different, very wonderful people. It’s not dissimilar to the time (in ‘Beach House’) where Gina decides to get Amy very, very drunk just to witness the 5 Stages of Drunk Amy Santiago (or 5 Drink Amy). Though partly just for the comedy, Gina also does this to let Amy have some fun and let her hair down – something that she perhaps needs to do a little more often.

Of course, we can’t end this post without acknowledging Amy’s ethnicity and the fact that she completely bucks the stereotypical portrayal of Latin American women on TV. Amy is hardworking, brave, introverted and comically fearful of overt displays of sexuality – something which goes against all of the harmful tropes normally attributed to Latina characters. It’s important to note, because it proves that television can focus on a character’s individual desires and personality without always boiling them down to a stereotype. And if Brooklyn 99 can do this (and it does it so well with ALL of it’s characters) then there’s no excuse for other show-runners out there.

We love you Amy. Even if you can’t handle hot sauce.

8 Reasons You Should Be Watching Parks & Recreation

Parks and Recreation is a fantastic show. If you aren’t watching it, you should be. If you are watching it then good job. And if you’ve finished watching it then go back to season one and start that baby all over again. Seriously, I’m on my fourth re watch now and it only gets funnier and more excellent each time.

I wanted to write an in depth essay about the merits and achievements of Parks and Rec, something meaningful and articulate. Instead, I have decided that the best way of showcasing how great it is, is just to give you the definitive list of reasons why you should all be watching Parks and Recreation.

1) Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler

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Parks & Rec is centred around a small town local government parks department representative called Leslie Knope. Leslie has enormous amounts of ambition, loves waffles, friends and work (in that order) and seriously enjoys her job. She’s a wonderful friend to all, completely optimistic about everything and an out and proud feminist (“if I had to have a strippers name it would be equality”).

What makes Leslie different to a lot of female characters on television is not that she is driven and succeeds. In fact, she doesn’t even always succeed, for example (spoiler alert) getting voted out of office in season 6. The thing about Leslie is that she takes her failures on the chin and always makes the best out of a bad situation. She is never embarrassed by them and she always motivates herself to do better.

Basically, she is a well rounded woman who has flaws like the rest of us. It is a rarity to see women, especially in comedy, with these character traits. Leslie is strong and independent, but she is also human and relies on the people around her too.

2)  Female Friendships

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Speaking of Leslie’s support network, female friendship is something which Parks and Recreation  excels in. From Ann and Leslie’s beautiful friendship to Leslie’s mentoring of April (and April secretly loving it) Parks and Rec really gets the whole sisterhood thing. The women on the show constantly support each other, respect each other and they never argue about boys (with the possible minor exception of Ann and April…damn you Andy). Leslie’s Galentines Day tradition really underscores this incredibly written portrayal of female friendship (Valentines Day for girl-friends = Galentines Day).

 Parks also recognises that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but even when Ann and Leslie have a full blow snakejuice fuelled argument – they both realize they are wrong and reconcile together;  their friendship means more than their pride.

3)  Healthy relationships

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Another type of relationship which Parks and Recreation wins at is the romantic kind. Throughout the series, most of the main characters get into serious and not-so-serious relationships both with each other and guest characters. Whilst each relationship is incredibly different (can’t really compare Andy & April to Chris & Ann) they are all portrayed as healthy and loving. In season 2, Ron’s ex wife Tammy shows up and they rekindle (if you can use that word) their affair. It quickly becomes apparent that, whilst incredibly funny, their relationship is damaging to Ron and his happiness. The parks department all support Ron in breaking up with Tammy, none more than Leslie and in the end they prevail. Parks constantly shows the importance of friendship in relationships, as well as respect and trust.

Also if you don’t ship Ben and Leslie then what are you doing with your life?

4) Supporting Cast

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Never have I watched a show where I love every single member of the supporting cast. I *literally* cannot pick a favourite character. They are all well rounded, funny, interesting people with their own views of the world. They band together like a little family, one that I think we would all love to be a part of. The creators of the show spent so much time developing all of the characters individually, and it’s a unique touch that makes Parks and Rec that much more special.

 

5) Chris Pratt

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Okay, I do not have a favourite but Andy Dwyer/Chris Pratt deserves his own shoutout. Andy is hilarious, simple, caring and loyal. He was only supposed to be in the first season, and after splitting up with Ann – his character was supposed to leave Pawnee forever. Could you imagine? I for one can’t envision an Andy Dwyer-less Parks and Rec and thank goodness neither could Mike Schur and co. Andy has a fantastic heart, and what makes him even greater is that some of his best lines were improvised by Pratt onset.

 

6) It started life as an Office spin off but is wayyyyyyyyyyy better *

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Parks and Recreation started life as an Office (US) spinoff. As much as I like The Office, I am eternally grateful that Parks got it’s own path for television. The thing is, Parks and Rec is so much better than The Office. Instead of downcast characters that spend all day winding each other up and tearing each other down, Parks and Rec is filled with positivity and characters who are always supportive of each other. The humour in Parks comes from the situations that the Parks department find themselves in, not from chastising each other (apart from Jerry/Larry/Gary). Even then, we aren’t laughing at Jerry because we know that he has a beautiful wife and a massive penis (spoiler!)

 

7) Celebrity Cameos

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Celebrity cameos are far and few between but when they happen, they are amazing. It’s not the definitive reason to watch the show but seeing Jon Hamm as the office intern, and watching Leslie meeting Michelle Obama are certainly in my top 10 TV moments ever.

8) You will feel like part of the show

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Due to the way in which Parks and Recreation is filmed, mockumentary style with minimal lighting/staging, the characters really get a chance to interact with the camera in their own ways. From Tom Haverford’s surprised grin to Ben Wyatt’s exasperated plea for help, it helps us get a better insight into these characters thoughts and feelings. It also makes us feel like Leslie and the gang are talking TO us rather than around us. It’s beautiful.

The seventh season is currently airing so you still have time to catch seasons 1 – 6 on Netflix before the finale!

* DISCLAIMER I do like The Office ! You have to admit, it just isn’t Parks is it?