pam beesly: the appeal of nomalcy (3/10)

Part three of my mini character-study series.

I love Pam Beesly-Halpert. She’s probably my favorite female character ever to be portrayed on television. Before I started watching The Office, my favorite female characters were badass women like Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley, and other not HP characters. These women showed young me that girls can be warriors, a little bit bossy, beautiful, and everything we set our minds too.

But after a while, I realized that I couldn’t fight a dark lord, that being bossy would be perceived as a bad thing, and that I could never look like the women I saw on television. Even Hermione, who in the books, was supposed to have frizzy hair and slightly large front teeth, was gorgeous in the movies.

When I started watching The Office, Pam did not seem like an interesting character. She didn’t have the most exciting job, wasn’t the prettiest girl in the office (when Michael told her that Amy Adams was a prettier version of her).

Of course, we all know that Jenna Fischer is absolutely stunning. But when Jenna was auditioning for the part of Pam, the director told her to deliberately try to not be “pretty”. No makeup, messy hair, etc.

Pam is also often mistreated by her co-workers at the office. Michael (I’ll definitely be doing a blog post on him soon) especially comments on Pam’s physical appearance regularly, and ignores Pam’s replies, waving them off as merely jokes. She is used to believing that she isn’t deserving of something better, settling for the job as a receptionist and her long-time fiance Roy, who is also a significant contributor to Pam’s low self-esteem, forgetting about her and leaving on their very first date. In the office, Pam is also underappreciated, both as a receptionist and as a friend.

One of the big plot points in the first few seasons of The Office was Jim and Pam’s relationship, and if you’re like me, you were screaming for Pam to ditch Roy ASAP and get together with Jim. However, life wasn’t all that easy as it took quite a while for Jim to admit his feelings for Pam, and disappointingly, Pam didn’t vocally reciprocate them back. Because of the excellent camera work, we know that Pam feels the same way about Jim, and wouldn’t admit the fact to even herself. This idea of bravery and a sort of internalized acceptance of reality follows Pam’s character arc as she puts her art out on exhibit, only to be criticized by Oscar and Gil, calling the painting “motel art”.

However, despite the harshness of that comment, Pam seems to undergo some sort of mental transformation, sprinting across the coal walk at the beach and finally telling Jim how she feels.

After Jim and Pam finally got together, they enjoy a few happy years together without any major problems, but their marriage comes to a stagnation when Jim’s career interests seek to take him to Philly. What seems like the impossible happens to this “perfect pair”, and they go to couple’s therapy. It doesn’t seem to work as Pam is adamant about staying in Scranton with their two children. Jim eventually realizes that his marriage is more important than any job he could have, and quits his job. Here, we see a rebound in Pam’s mentality, as she fears that she is holding Jim back from achieving his dreams. From previous experiences, we have already seen that Pam relies on stability and often fears change, so it’s not surprising to us that this internalized reality still haunts her after she’s achieved so many brave things. Eventually, the Pam who walked bare feet across the coal surfaces, and sells their house and decides to go to Philly. Her character arc concludes with the end of the show, and the last time we see her, she is smiling, and ready to embark on a new journey.

Pam Beesly-Halpert is the embodiment of so many women in our society. Often seen as the emotional support, never fully acknowledged, and having internalized their own situation, these “normal” women aren’t represented enough in television. Pam’s character shows us that we all have a badass side to ourselves, which, even though might not be as glamorous or as exciting as helping kill a dark lord, is most definitely enough.

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