Pawnee (Parks and Recreation)
|Parks and Recreation location|
|Created by||Greg Daniels and Michael Schur|
|Notable locations||City Hall|
|Notable characters||Leslie Knope
Pawnee, Indiana (// paw-NEE) is the fictional city in which the NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation is set. Since the show's start in 2009, the city's colorful history and inhabitants have been the joke or focal point for many episodes.
Pawnee is depicted as a typical mid-sized city in southern Indiana, located in the fictional "Wamapoke County" about 90 miles from Indianapolis. Dialogue from the show and other officially licensed material suggest a population in the range of 60,000 to a little over 80,000.[note 1]
Pawnee's fictional history begins with its founding in 1817, which was very shortly followed by the driving of the Native American Wamapoke tribe from the land. The town is depicted as having an extensive history of abuses of the Wamapoke people and misogyny towards women, which it celebrates in various murals on the wall at city hall.
Pawnee's twin town is Eagleton, Indiana, a smaller but wealthier adjacent community. Eagleton was founded by Pawnee's richest original settlers, who moved uphill shortly after Pawnee's establishment to found their own town. A mutual dislike between the communities has festered ever since. However, in "The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic", due to Eagleton's impending bankruptcy (caused by excessive overspending on luxurious amenities for Eagleton residents), Eagleton is dissolved and incorporated into Pawnee.
The town is shown to have many flaws and problems, including a raccoon infestation and an obesity crisis, the latter being mainly the result of the town's major employer being a candy company called "Sweetums". The populace are generally unsophisticated but have a high degree of civic engagement. Over the course of the series, in part due to the actions of Leslie Knope and her associates, the town's fortunes improve and Pawnee becomes a more desirable place to live.
Pawnee's government is set up like most local governments in the United States, with several departments, such as Parks and Recreation (the primary focus of the show), Sewage, etc., serving under a strong city council and a mostly ceremonial mayor, with a city manager running the town's day-to-day operations. From 2014 until his election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018, Ben Wyatt succeeded his former boss, Chris Traeger, as City Manager. The primary protagonist of the series is Leslie Knope, a former member of the City Council who was the deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation until she accepted a job as the Regional Director of the National Parks Service Midwest, at the end of season six.
Walter Gunderson (portrayed by Bill Murray) became mayor of Pawnee in 1994, according to the book Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America, and held the office until his death in 2017. After an exhaustive search for an interim Mayor, Garry Gergich assumed the office and was then elected to 10 consecutive terms. Although the mayor of Pawnee exercises a fair amount of personal influence within the city, the office itself is largely ceremonial.
At the end of the second season, Pawnee had a serious budget crisis that eventually led to a temporary shutdown of the government. This storyline was inspired by the real-life global recession. The third season opened with the budget of every department being slashed.
- City Hall, sometimes referred to as Pioneer Hall, in season one, is the primary setting for the series. It contains the Parks and Recreation Department, as well as other departments and offices.
- The Snakehole Lounge, a sleazy nightclub where many after-work functions are held. Donna Meagle is an investor, as was Tom Haverford before Chris Traeger made him sell his shares, to eliminate a conflict of interest.
- JJ's Diner, the unofficial meeting place for people in the government. It is Leslie Knope's favorite eatery, where she always orders waffles.
- The Bulge, a gay club. Leslie became an inadvertent hero of its patrons when she "married" two penguins at the Pawnee Zoo, not realizing they were both male.
- Food and Stuff, a store frequented by Ron Swanson, where he purchases meat and miscellaneous items, such as mufflers.
- The Glitter Factory, a strip club that Tom frequents. They serve an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet that Ron Swanson appreciates.
- Turnbill Mansion, the site of an historic wedding between a Pawnee Native American man and white woman, which became a "bloodbath" when knowledge of the wedding became public; the sole survivors were two horses.
The city of Pawnee has received critical acclaim. Several critics have noted that the city has become the show's secret weapon.
For example, Hillary Busis of Entertainment Weekly wrote: "the show wouldn't work nearly as well if it were set in a less wonderfully quirky place", and raved that "some of the show’s funniest moments come when the extreme weirdness of its setting is revealed — when, say, Leslie explains what’s going on in one of City Hall’s numerous, horrifically offensive murals, or when she dispatches ridiculous bits of Pawnee history. ('For a brief time in the ’70s, our town was taken over by a cult.') And then there’s how absurdly cosmopolitan Pawnee is: Why does this blip on the map have its own tabloid news show, zoo, beauty pageant, periodicals, and thriving nightlife scene? Pawnee is more than a setting — it’s a rich comic universe, like Springfield."
Despite Pawnee's Indiana setting, the show was mostly filmed in southern California. The exterior of the Pawnee government building, and several of the hallway scenes, were shot at Pasadena City Hall.
Since the series' premiere, NBC has sold merchandise for the town of Pawnee. Shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and other items were sold with the seal of Pawnee, as were shirts with Pawnee's slogan, "First in Friendship, Fourth in Obesity".
In the episode "Born & Raised," Leslie writes a book about the town, titled Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. After the episode aired, NBC released an actual eponymous book, filled with information about the fictional town. The author is listed as Leslie Knope, although it was actually written by show writer Nate DiMeo. In 2012, it was nominated for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
- Pawnee is said to be the seventh-largest municipality in Indiana. This would put its population between 80,294 and 80,405, the populations of the real ranking sixth and seventh largest cities in Indiana, Bloomington and Gary. However, Pawnee's population has also been described as between fifty and seventy thousand. ("Watch Parks and Recreation: The Future of Tom and Ann's Relationship online | Free". Hulu. Retrieved 2012-09-22.) Per the book Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America, the town is "roughly the same size as Bismarck, North Dakota" — which had a population of 61,272 as of the 2010 United States Census. As of the 2000 Census, Pawnee had a population of 79,218 according to NBC's fictional Pawnee website.("City of Pawnee". Retrieved 28 February 2016.)
- "City of Pawnee - History". Pawneeindiana.com. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- Taylor, Jessica (11 February 2015). "'Parks and Recreation' takes crusade to D.C." The Hill. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- "City of Pawnee". www.pawneeindiana.com. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
- "City of Pawnee - The Fourth Floor". Pawneeindiana.com. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- "94 Meetings."
- Ross, Dalton. "'Parks and Recreation': Let's hear it for Pawnee, the town for weirdos who care | PopWatch | EW.com". Popwatch.ew.com. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- Daniels, Greg (2009). Parks and Recreation: Season One: "Pilot" (Audio commentary) (DVD). Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
- Moata, Tamaira. "How did Christchurch become Parks and Recreation's Pawnee? A Spinoff Investigation". The Spinoff. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
- Schelle, Charles. "Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza: Is Muncie Real?". Patch.com. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
- "Parks & Recreation Merchandise | Parks & Recreation Store - NBC". Nbcuniversalstore.com. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- Knope, Leslie (2011). Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America (1st ed.). New York: Hyperion. ISBN 978-1401310646.