You are on page 1of 3

The use of language expands extensively from the expressions in daily use to the broad

context of communication, such as political debates, mass media, and tv shows. The show Parks

and Recreations includes a great amount of symbols and signs within the perspective of

semiotics. Ferdinand de Saussure, A Swiss linguist whose ideas laid a foundation for

developments in today’s linguistics and semiology. Semiotics is the study of signs, signifiers,

and signifieds. The sign refers to the combination of both the sound-image (object) and its

definition (idea). The signifier is the physical representation and the signified is the meaning of

the word or object. On the other hand, Roland Barthes who is a philosopher, linguist, and a critic

furthered Saussure’s ideas of semiotics. Barthes expanded the foundation of semiotics by

introducing connotations and denotations. Connotations is the implied meaning derived from a

larger cultural system and denotations is the literal object. The connotations and the denotations

describes the relationship between the signifier and the signified. In the show Parks and

Recreation Season 3, Episode 11 "Jerry's Painting", the characters shows a variety of signifiers,

signifieds, connotations, and denotation in order to convey a deeper message of adulthood

Ben, who is one of the main characters in the show is going through a rough time with

finding a new place to live. His coworkers, Andy and April happened to have a spare room open

since their roomate had just moved out. Ben was able to move in with Andy and April but then

realizes how terrible their living conditions are at their home. Feeling disgusted and horrified by

the house, Ben decides to help out Andy and April with their standard adult situations. The

episode continues with Ben showing them on how to proceed on different tasks like making a

bank account, paying bills, and cleaning. Ben is the standard meaning of a denotative adult who

pays taxes, holds a job, and bear responsibilities. Ben walks into the living room to see Andy and

April eating breakfast on a frisbee with only one fork and realizes how childish and untidy they
both are. Ben starts to think about him moving out and finding a better place to stay (Parks and

Recreations 12:52). Andy and April are the examples of a denotative adults that are over the age

of 18, however they cannot live up to their responsibilities like a connotative adult. Andy and

April are not considered as adults in our society, however they are systematically accepted as

adults for being at the right age. After just a night of Ben living with them, Andy and April spent

Ben’s rent money on an Xbox 360 (Parks and Recreations 13:01). This action shows the lack of

responsibility of being adults and using money on useless items. Andy and April are considered

unreliable as they do not acquire financial responsibilities and proceeds to act younger than their


Going into a deeper meaning of the transition of teenager to adult and its results is important

since it happens so often in this world. The average adult may be having a job, having kids, or

buying a house which can come in a good result in many people’s lives. However, there are

groups of people that are not able to adjust to the adult life and instead stay in the teenage world

that they enjoy. Being an adult is a huge step because it gives awareness of many situations and

responsibilities. While in Bath and Body Works shopping for house supplies, Andy and April get

distracted with the “As Seen on Tv” products and are determined on buying every single item

(Parks and Recreations 22:29). Instead of following Ben’s instructions of being a connotative

adult; Andy and April are pursuing to become the denotative adults who disregards the

responsibilities that the connotative adult holds. They are buying items that may seem important

to them but are actually irrelevant to what they should be buying as an adult. As they both start

heading to the checkout with a cart full of “As Seen on TV” products, Andy realizes that Ben

trusted them with the money and decides to go after Ben’s instructions of buying adult

necessities (Parks and Recreations 24:40). Andy was able to see Ben as his signifer, viewing him
as a perfect example of a adult and signified him of his responsibilities and his maturity. Many

people may be frustrated with the difficulties of managing occupations, finance, and home

responsibilities in the adulthood. However, in order to reach the connotative meaning of adult,

one should hold the responsibility of having a job, meeting ends meet, and house chores.

The definition of adulthood may vary from culture to culture. Adults in this world still

have the chance to have fun and have a good time but the responsibilities that are given to them

always comes first before anything. By using comedy, they are able to show humility of the

wrongdoings of a denotative adult and value the actions of the connotative adult. Given that the

audience are adults, they might be able relate and reflect from the actions that Andy and April

gave throughout the show. Adults are still able to have fun and enjoy their lives, however they

need to set their priorities straight and take care of responsibilities in order to become accepted as

connotative adults.