Pop Pedestal: Donna Meagle of Parks and Recreation

Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

The day is finally here! Parks and Recreation is back! In honor of tonight’s season premiere (seriously I can’t wait until 8:30), today’s Pop Pedestal is for the one and only Donna Meagle, played by the hilarious Retta.

animated gif of Donna putting an I told you so post-it on the wall
She told you so.

Pedestal profile: Donna is the office manager for the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department—no easy job, considering the shenanigans that happen there. Though not one to suffer fools (this means you, Jean-Ralphio), beneath her tough exterior beats a heart of gold—and not just for her Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV, either.

Known around the office for her expensive tastes (the aforementioned Mercedes, dog parks that are for poodles only) and her dating prowess, Donna is a loyal friend who is always willing to give her coworkers a ride home when they’re drunk or buy out their shares at the Snakehole Lounge (for a considerable markup, of course).

Admirable qualities: Donna’s wit is unmatched among her group of also-funny coworkers. She’s quick with a zing, and her smarts make her the person in the office least likely to get caught up in a ridiculous scheme (of which there are many). Though self-serving at times (remember when she made Andy rub her feet?) she is fair, and she’s the first person I’d ask for advice if I ever found myself at the Parks Department. Of course, I’d risk hearing something like this:

Donna telling it like it is to Ron

Though she may have started as something of a sassy black friend- meets-magical negro character, Donna has evolved over the course of the series. Yes, she’s a fat black woman with an attitude, but she’s also a shrewd businesswoman with an active sex life and her own opinions. (Bonus: Donna is also the second-best-dressed Parks and Rec employee after Tom Haverford, and she has the best haircuts on the show.)

Donna is smart with her money, being the only person in the office who can afford things like part-ownership in the Snakehole Lounge AND a Mercedes. Though we don’t know exactly how she’s getting her extra cash (maybe this season will reveal her secrets?) she appears to be a crackerjack finance whiz. Oh, and she has her finger on the pulse of the Pawnee scene, especially when it comes to dating. She may be a ruthless heart breaker, but at least she’s willing to share her dating secrets with the unbelievably naive Ann Perkins.

Her influence: Not surprisingly, there are plenty of awesome Tumblrs dedicated to Parks and Rec and Donna’s role in it. One of the best of these is Texts from Pawnee, which flawlessly combines Texts from Last Night with Parks and Rec screen shots. Behold:

Donna gets in Jean-Ralphio's face. Text reads we all know badassery is carried on the XX chromosome

There is also this really charming video on YouTube of a sketch a 15-year old did of Donna. So cute!

That’s not all: One of the more hilarious pairings on Parks and Rec is that of Donna and Jean-Ralphio. She’s constantly swatting down his sleazily good-natured advances, but he persists in his quest to win her over. Well! In this EW.com interview, Retta says that her hope for season four is that Donna and Jean-Ralphio will have a secret relationship. Could anything be funnier? I hope it happens! (For even more Retta, check out this laughspin interview where she talks about her stand-up career and also about her pre-med degree from Duke and how she used to be a pharmaceutical researcher. Renaissance woman!)

Think of her when: Think of Donna when you need a reality check, be it in your love life, your work life, or your life life. She’d tell you to get your head out of your ass (and into her Mercedes, if you’re lucky).

Previously: Amber Holt from Parenthood, Gloria Akalitus from Nurse Jackie

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2 Comments Have Been Posted

Yes I am a hunter. And it's you season.

Donna Meagle is flawless, end of story.

Poor Lavondrius!

You know if Donna would strap you to the roof of her Mercedes, she's got your back! She'd make sure your pockets were empty so you didn't scratch her roof, but still, she's got ya.

On another note, while I'm always willing to swat down a stereotype, I don't see how Donna's character could fit, at any point in the character's emergence, either the magical negro or sassy black friend tropes. Sometimes I think we default to these accusations without actually looking at the context. I think Donna, like the other characters, have had a great, nicely paced evolution. I've found this article by Rebecca Wanzo useful in proposing that maybe we don't have to see "mammyism" whenever we see a larger black woman on our screens: "Beyond a 'Just'Syntax: Black Actresses, Hollywood and Complex Personhood," Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, 2006.

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