Monday, January 28, 2013

Are Jim and Pam "Having It All?"

It's been a while since I've watched "The Office" regularly, but this week's episode caught my attention when I heard that the "documentary film crew" was finally revealed after married characters Jim and Pam had an argument. You can watch the full episode, but here's a quick summary: Jim now works at a start-up in Philadelphia while Pam still works at Dunder Mifflin in Scranton. It's their daughter Cece's first ballet recital, and due to an emergency at work, Jim can't make it there. Pam promises to shoot a video, but gets an important call in the middle of the performance, and ends up not recording the performance. And then there's the argument:

(Edited to add: Gah! The original video I had here got pulled down. Here's a shorter clip.)

Putting aside the moment with the film crew and the doubts that portion of the scene obviously casts, I found the argument to be one of the most realistic portrayals of the tension between work and family life that I've seen on television. In two and a half minutes of dialogue, the following points get raised:
  • The moment is gone, and they don't have their own video of it. I understand the sadness that comes from missing out on one of those milestone firsts, and that with the ubiquity of recording devices these days, no one is filming to get the group, just their own kid. It's a double whammy of not being there for a first, and not having the proof that it even happened. An old dilemma wrapped up in today's technological trappings.
  • You should have been there. Not only is Jim physically farther away and dealing with an emergency, but it was one of his "days in Philly" that Pam "agreed to." Those are the toughest moments, when despite all of your plans, things don't fall out the way you expected and you're left a bit heartbroken. Jim had been helping his daughter practice and was looking forward to this day, and it's nice to see an involved Dad on TV, who wants to be in two places at once. But Pam also questions the "fairness" of the situation, and says it's been "intense" for her too.
  • He's "doing it all for his family" while she's "trying to make their home/family life all perfect so he can do what he wants." This might be the crux of the whole struggle. They're both trying to be successful for the same end goal of a happy, well cared for family, be that by providing the salary they need or the opportunities for their child to thrive and have a joyful childhood. And both of them are stressed out trying to do so.
Oh, and Pam was working late too, as her coworkers had all said good night to her just before this clip began - so who was doing daycare pick up? Chances are her character was trying to figure out just how late she could stay at work before she needed to race to get their child.

I don't have a solution to all this, but I'll be interested to see where the show goes from here. There are shades of the struggle and conflict that so many of us have experienced, and I hope they don't just gloss over these issues and focus only on the potential betrayal of Pam's relationship with a member of the crew. The only solution I've seen from my own experience is to talk it out, and find a way to cut each other a little more slack. If it was easy, we wouldn't be reading and writing about it. But I hope Jim and Pam keep on with the struggle. I've always thought they make a great couple.

Image and video are credit of NBC. Video was edited by YouTube user kriterr.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Wow. That was kind of cool to see the film crew after all these years. I don't watch regularly anymore, either. But I agree, that was a great portrayal of the struggle all parents go through.

  3. I thought that scene with Pam on the phone and the film crew comforting her was really powerful. What made it so realistic in my mind was that there were no clear answers. Everyone in the family is making sacrifices toward the better good for the whole family, and sacrifice is hard. That pain and confusion struck me as very true and well played.

  4. I stopped watching The Office after Pam and Jim got married since it seemed to get boring--but I've been watching now and again since this is the last season. Plus, I have a crush on John Krasinski. This episode is actually on my DVR so I'll need to watch it!