Unraveling April Ludgate

April Ludgate is a complex character in Parks and Recreation who changes throughout the show, but in many ways, stays the same. She does not want people to be able to read her and crack her shell. Her attitude, therefore, is apathetic and bored. A few times in the show, however, April opens up and her friends can get a glimpse of the person she is trying to conceal. She wants people to see her as unmotivated and passive, and unwilling to build relationships. As the show progresses and the characters get to know each other better, her coworkers can see the true April and know that secretly, she does care about her friends and wants the best for them. In Parks and Recreation, April is keen on being seen as cold and tenacious, but she proves herself to be a caring and devoted friend.

April’s typical personality is closed off and unexcited, as highlighted in Season 2 Episode 23, “The Master Plan.” The episode opens with Leslie and April unwrapping a gift for April’s birthday. When April sees the organized frame with government papers, her body movement stays the same, showing no excitement. With fake enthusiasm, she says, “Woah! Documents.” Leslie explains how each piece of paper has a significant connection with April’s time in the government, including her first paycheck and her ID. April still demonstrates her lack of interest, and she looks straight at the camera which portrays that she is uninterested and could not care less. This is a funny part of April’s character because her glance catches the audience off guard because they were not expecting a person in the show to almost seem as if they are looking at them.

Throughout the entirety of Parks and Recreation, April rarely tries to build deeper relationships with her coworkers in the department. Her personality naturally connects better with some of her coworkers, for instance, Ron because of his aloofness, and Tom because of their closeness in age. In some instances, however, April goes out of her comfort zone to learn more about her friends. In Season 6 Episode 7 “Fluoride,” she has a fabulous idea, requiring immediate attention. Donna, Craig, and Larry are going to help April in picking everyone in the offices’ spirit dog. They fly by their friends who have outward points in their personality that easily connect them to a breed of a dog, but tension arises when April informs Donna that she’s a poodle. April tells Donna her reasoning is “because you’re pretty and you like makeup and stuff.” The way she describes Donna with surface-level characteristics can be seen here. Her answer clearly shows that she doesn’t know any personal details about Donna. Unlike April’s normal persona of not caring when she hurts other people’s feelings, in this instance, she follows up with Donna and asks if she’s still mad at her for picking a poodle. Donna says she’s not mad about the choice of the dog, she’s upset that all April knows about her is “makeup” and “pretty.” To Donna, this symbolizes that April’s friendship with her has no deeper connection. April says, “We don’t hang out that much. It’s not like you know a ton about me.” In response, Donna gives April a complete analysis of her personality, 

“You’re beautiful, yet cold and aloof. You pride yourself on being a loner. You do not obey, you choose to cooperate. And when you stop bearing your fangs to pick a mate, it’s for life. And you’re fiercely loyal to your pack, which makes you a rare black siberian husky.” 

Donna knows enough about April to pinpoint exactly which dog breed she identifies most with. April is clearly surprised as it is seen by her eyes widening, but in going with her character, she just stands at Donna’s desk and thinks about how much her friend cared to put in the effort to get to know April, despite the brick wall she builds around herself. 

April realizes that her unwillingness to build close relationships clearly hurt Donna. As a result, she challenges herself to pick the perfect spirit dog for her friend. She interrogates Donna with questions that seem basic, but, when answered by Donna, are multi-layered. April gives off the image that she has a firm grasp on who Donna is and she will get to work on the search for her perfect pup. She seems intentional in her words, “I will have your answer shortly” as she points her pen at Donna with a determined glance. In a comical confessional, April informs the camera that she has no idea what Donna’s spirit dog is. The aside is humorous because of April’s vulnerability, which makes the audience giggle. She works really hard on this project and three hours later, she informs Donna that she knows her spirit dog. April says, “You are a Nova Scotia Toller, because you are outgoing and adventurous. And you love Canada?” Disappointed, April rolls her eyes in frustration because she knows that Donna’s dog still does not match with her personality. Donna, on the other hand, is not disappointed in April because she knows that she put in time and effort to make sure her spirit dog is the best it can be. She also points out that April will probably never figure out what kind of dog she is. April stares away for a few seconds and immediately it comes to her. Her energy is high and she is committed to finding the right answer.

Donna causes confusion in the audience watching the show. The viewers may wonder why her dog is so hard to pick. April, however, cracks the code without hesitation. She reveals that no, Donna cannot have a spirit dog because she does not identify with any. The answer becomes crystal clear to her that Donna is none other than a cat! She is positive about this and when she explains why, she points at Donna with her finger in an “ah-ha” fashion. April declares,

“You’re temperamental. You’re unpredictable, complex, and hard to read. You make people work before you let them in. But if they put the time in and prove that they care, then you open yourself up to them.” 

Donna’s stone cold face as April gives her analysis throws her off and April expresses her vulnerability when she asks for confirmation in saying, “Right?” Donna positively approves of everything April said with a large smile. She is clearly proud of April and pulls her into a hug. Keeping consistent with her character, April tries to refuse the embrace but her “no, no, no, no, no, no, no” does not stop Donna in the slightest. Donna knows that April has a soft side, no matter how hard she tries to hide it. 

April’s headstrong nature can intimidate her friends and prevent her coworkers from getting close to her. Many times, however, her intentions to push away people are ignored and her friends force her to spend time with them. April often chooses to be boring and waste their time, but on some occasions, she will put forth the energy to get to know her friends on a deeper level.

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