Ron Swanson: Television’s Last Great Man

Parks and Recreation

Television is rife with guys. Lots and lots of guys. Bros. Sons. Buddies. Drunk uncles. What television lacks is men. Down and dirty, meat-eating, beard-growing, grunting, unapologetic men.

Make no mistake about it, Ron Swanson is a man, and he may be the last great man on TV.

When Parks and Recreation premiered in 2009, not many of us picked Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson as the show’s breakout character. There were other comedic talents to watch: Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza to name a few. Not to mention the entire premise was built around comedy genius Amy Poehler. Yet here we are six years later, and Ron is the most quotable character on a series brimming with memorable roles. Not only that, but he has injected soul into a show that was always fuelled by Leslie’s heart. After all, how could anyone argue against “Ron F—ing Swanson”?

As we prepare to say goodbye to Parks and Recreation, (its seventh and final season premieres) Tuesday night, we are also bidding farewell to one of the last great men on television. Ron Swanson made it seem so easy in his Pawnee Rangers handbook when he succinctly wrote those sage words of advice, “Be a Man.” There are a wide variety of interpretations as to what that means, yet one need look no further than Ron himself to find an answer.

Things have changed a lot over the last 50-60 years, especially when it comes to the role of men and women in society and television. But there’s still a place in this world, and on my TV screen, for a real, honest to goodness manly man. Ron Swanson personifies that and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t going to miss the hell out of him when NBC blows through the show’s remaining 13 episodes in just seven weeks. Make no mistake about it, he will leave a void, and it’s one that won’t easily be filled by any other character on TV today. So unless Kiefer Sutherland decides to once again resurrect Jack Bauer, Tim Allen finds a new show to expound on manly virtues (sorry, Last Man Standing isn’t doing it for us), or Craig T. Nelson’s Zeek Braverman is somehow resurrected on a new show, Ron is it. And he’s leaving us without our weekly shot of testosterone when the show wraps on Feb. 24.

Ron is a man of few words, but he has extensive wisdom. You had better be paying attention when he speaks or you’ll miss out on any number of important life lessons that prove he’s the quintessential alpha male with a soft, caring and even patient side to him.


He doesn’t care what the latest diet fad is, because in his book, “turkey can never beat cow,” and the world consists of three food groups: steak, bacon and scotch. He’s unapologetic and unwavering in his views. Don’t think for a second you’ll get away with sneaking anything past him either, because he’s sharp and he’ll notice. He doesn’t accept any substitutions. How could we forget his bang-on assessment, “dear frozen yogurt, you are the celery of desserts. Be ice cream or be nothing.” Hard to argue with that.

Yes Ron appreciates the simple things in life, like “pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food,” and he believes in taking time out for what you love. For Ron, that includes all kinds of manly hobbies such as hunting, fishing and woodworking. He is an award-winning chair maker after all. Oh yea, and lest we forget, the man has an artistic side to him and plays a mean saxophone as his alter ego Duke Silver.

Ron is a man who tells it like it is. He’s not going to play games or beat around the bush. He’s direct, honest and to the point, a calming presence and nothing more than exactly who we expect him to be. He’s not changing for anyone, unless you count the crazed sex maniac he becomes when second ex-wife, Tammy II appears. Or the still inexplicable “neutered wimp” we see when the first ex-wife, Tammy I, is present. But those are anomalies, and Ron is a man who will cut straight to the point and tell you no. He stands firm behind his decisions and has no regrets.

There was some concern that Ron would soften when he got married and had a baby last season, but in fact he became an even better man for it. Sure, Ron’s new family has caused him to soften, but only in the best possible ways. He’s not afraid to get right in there and mix it up with his two stepdaughters and play princesses. Real men do wear pink after all. With his new little boy, John (middle name redacted) Swanson, we’ve seen what a great and proud papa Mr. Swanson is as well. For someone who doesn’t smile that often, Ron sure has been doing a lot of it since John has been around. It takes a special kind of guy to smile so big and proud over their little boy.


It was also Ron who realized what a tough time Leslie had been having while her best friend Ann prepared to leave Pawnee. Ron became a source of strength for Leslie, offering lots of trustworthy advice and a shoulder for Leslie to lean on when she needed it most. He’s always been chivalrous, but this took things to a new level.

This is exactly what makes Ron Swanson stand out and different from every guy in any random beer commercial. He loves strong women, especially Leslie, and would even be considered a feminist by any definition except his own. Remember he did once say, “Come on Leslie, you know I’m not sexist. I love powerful women.” Sure he may disagree with her about everything she believes in, but he never loses respect for her, despite his unwavering belief in his own position. He never talks down to her. They disagree, but in the end they work it out and remain friends. Yes, all those “guys” on TV may pound beers and act tough, but what really makes Ron Swanson a man is that he’s not conforming to that definition set forth by society. He’s got his own rigid–and practical–moral code and that’s leading him just fine.

The reasons why we’re sad Parks and Recreation is going off the air are innumerable. We’re already distraught just thinking about saying goodbye to everyone in Pawnee, but the fact that we’re losing the last great man on television is right at the top of that list. That moustache alone is reason enough to crown Ron as the manliest of them all, right here and now.

But in the true spirit of Ron Swanson, we shall not cry. Crying is only “acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.” So with a stiff upper lip and an even stiffer glass of scotch, we’re standing steady. It won’t be easy, bidding farewell to this mysterious, moustached champ after six wonderful years, but we will survive. Ron has given us the skills to say goodbye like a man.


Parks and Recreation’s seventh and final season premieres Tuesday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and City.