02 July 2013

The Swanson Effect

Image of Mustache CombI recently listened to yet another fantastic episode of the Nerdist podcast, this one featuring Nick Offerman. First of all, Mr. Offerman seems like a genuinely cool dude and I'm glad that Parks and Recreation has allowed him to get famous enough to be on talk shows so that we can get to know him a little bit. He's a dose of decency that the internets and popular culture need to suck down like a smoothie. And it seems that they have.


The closing bit of the interview questioned why Offerman has been dubbed such a man's man, and what he feels it means to be a man. He is, seemingly, the surrogate uncle or big brother to all the internet kids who can typically be found slogging it out in the garbage dump of YouTube comments and non-professional critics' blogs. The truly funny part is that this "man's man" is the artsy-fartsy son of a family of farmers and brewers and cops and teachers.

But, Offerman mentioned a few things, one of them being simplicity. The character of Ron Swanson has a set of ideals and rules by which he lives and that makes him attractively simple. He isn't concerned or swept up by the unending deluge of information that characterizes this Age of the Sun. In this way, he is seen as solid. He knows who he is. Hardwick mentioned this as well: there is an attraction to people who are comfortable with themselves and Offerman, rooted in his midwestern upbringing and solid marriage, carries this around with him like a sixgun. It scares the shit out of a generation of people (men especially) who have made a life out of non-commitment. We're marrying less, staying in one place less, keeping jobs less, digging into friendships less.

All of this equates to the real reason why Offerman/Swanson has become a bit of an icon in these last few years, especially amongst the denizens of the interwebs: to a population of young people who live ironic lives ironically, and voyeuristically through screens, Swanson is a rusty pillar of quiet confidence that is becoming rarer and rarer. Even though Mr. Offerman is just a man, and Ron Swanson just a character, the humor of both actor and character, the demeanor, and the energy, all make us point and say, "That is a man". He can do stuff besides talk about memes and movies and snark at politics. He's a throwback to the frontiersman two centuries ago, or the gruff sergeant in World War 2, an echo of the Greatest Generation.

I have not met Mr. Offerman, but he seems like a good dude. The world is in dire need of good, reasonable dudes, Christian or not, who can live quiet lives dedicated to art and family. And it makes sense that it would take a character in a sitcom to put a crack into that need -- humor goes down a lot smoother than Lagavulin to a generation raised on Natty Light.

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