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The Ballad of Ron Swanson: How the Internet Celebrates Modern-Day Folk Heroes
By: Judi Cutrone
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Billy the Kid. Davy Crockett. Paul Bunyan. For those familiar with the character of Ron Swanson, the fictional director of the Parks Department on NBC's comedy Parks and Recreation, his inclusion in that list of popular folk heroes doesn't sound all that off. Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, is a brawny Libertarian with a larger-than-life mustache who enjoys such staunch American staples like red meat, confident brunettes, hunting, and woodworking. Remove him from fictional Pawnee, Indiana and drop him into the Wild West or amongst lumberjacks in the Pacific Northwest and he'd do more than survive — he'd be thrilled to be so far away from modern annoyances and his horrible ex-wives.

In the past, we lionized such characters by bringing them to new life on canvas, with portraits that now hang in the world's finest museums. In the middle ages, troubodours paid tribute in song. Today, we pay tribute in a different way; through Photoshop and the magic of social media. Celebrating fictional characters through social media is nothing new, but the practice is becoming increasingly mainstream (just look at the fan-generated gallery of art for talk show host Conan O'Brien) and Ron Swanson, it seems, is leading the charge.

See for yourself. Ron Swanson: A Collection of Folk Hero Tributes.

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About the Author
Judi Cutrone is a social media strategist, novelist, and food blogger. She is an appreciator of good television, muppets, and the music of Phil Collins.
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