After years of resisting it because it felt too real, I’ve finally come around to The Office. I guess I have enough distance from that life now that I can laugh at it. I recently watched a bunch of episodes (all in one evening but we don’t need to go into that) and now I am more impressed than ever.
There’s a scene in season two where Pam catches sight of the camera just over Jim’s shoulder and abruptly stops saying whatever personal thing she was about to say. It’s genius because in that moment we realize that we the audience are actually preventing the drama from moving forward just by watching it. We are the person staring over Jim’s shoulder who reminds Pam that they’re not alone. And that makes you question all kinds of stuff, like is it really ok to read all the stories speculating about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s private lives just because they’re famous? Is it okay for us to watch private moments that are based on the lives of normal people, of our friends and neighbors, but made symbolic and large in TV shows and movies and books? Who are we really spying on as we consume all this media? What dramas are not moving forward because we’re all peering in each other’s windows all the time?
But then later on the cameraman indicates something to Pam, something we the viewers did not know about, and we realize it’s not really us behind the camera, it’s whoever the character of the cameraman is. It’s not us spying on the characters, it’s that damn cameraman. So we can go on watching it and not have to ask all those awkward questions we were asking before. Relief!
And then there’s that time where Steve Carell says something that’s kind of almost sweet, but then follows it up with a really appalling remark and it’s so totally hilarious. Remember that time? See, there’s a lot to like about this show.