I love NBC’s hit television series The Office. I converted all my family and friends into fans and quotes from the characters are part of my daily conversations. My high school students even printed off a “Join the Fist” flyer (from the episode when Dwight is acting manager and Jim is trying to get him to think that a resistance is forming against him) and taped it to my classroom’s podium. My husband and I named our dog “Beesly” after the beloved receptionist Pam Beesly. Needless to say, I’m a pretty big fan.
Can Catholics Watch The Office?
I am not denying that the show has its own dose of immorality. I’ve always grappled with those bits. However, by continually forming my conscience in a healthy, non-scrupulous manner (through prayer, frequently receiving the Sacraments, studying Church Teaching, and spiritual direction), I’ve learned that I can sift through a show in search of what is good, true, and beautiful. In fact, next month I’ll be publishing a post here on the BIS blog all about how to consume media virtuously as a Catholic.
In the final moments of the series, Pam marvels at how the documentary crew was able to capture the reality of what life was like. She ends the show with the statement:
There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things… Isn’t that kind of the point?
As Christians, this is the lense through which we are called to view all of reality, even fictional reality. There is beauty, love and goodness everywhere, and as St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, these are the things which we are called to think about (Phil 4:8).
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The Office and the Beauty of Ordinary Life
If I had to pinpoint a reason as to why The Office is my favorite show, it would be because they succeeded in showing the beauty of the ordinary. Here are just three of the ways they illustrated that.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
Forgiving and Reconciling
Just as in real life, there is frequent disagreement among the co-workers of Dunder-Mifflin.
Take Angela, a judgey, self-righteous, and hypocritical accountant. Yet, despite her own intense actions, her co-workers are often extend an olive branch for no reason other than it being the right thing to do.
An example of this is when Karen and Pam offer to merge the two feuding Christmas parties. Everyone attends theirs and almost no one goes to the one Angela planned. Though Angela had not apologized or shown any remorse for her attempts to sabotage their party, Pam sees the pain of rejection in Angela’s eyes and offers forgiveness in a simple way.
Another example is the relationship between Oscar and Angela. In the early years, Angela had ostracized Oscar, becoming especially cruel when she found out that he was gay. Despite this, when Angela and her toddler son are evicted from their apartment, Oscar offers his home as shelter until they are able to recover.
Persevering through Marital Problems
The wedding of Jim and Pam (everyone’s favorite couple) was truly one of the sweetest moments of the series.
Then, much to the viewing audience’s surprise, Jim and Pam have major marital problems just a few years down the road. The emotion was raw and relatable, and many fans were truly worried about how the situation was going to end. I was relieved by the way in which the writers resolved the conflict.
Though Jim struggled for months with the decision, he finally realized that having his dream job meant nothing to him if it meant losing Pam. He chose to give up what he wanted in the moment for what he wanted forever. In this pivotal moment, Jim clutches Pam in desperation, hoping with all his might that she might return his affection despite the ways in which he has hurt her. In turn, the camera flashes back to their wedding, when St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians is being read. The words play over the scene as Pam and Jim slowly start to piece their marriage back together:
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way… Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…
It isn’t an easy journey moving forward, but Mr. and Mrs. Halpurt decide to love each other despite their wounded emotions. Not many shows attempt to portray love as requiring true commitment and sacrifice, let alone quote Scripture in doing so, but The Office did.
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Loving the Odd Man Out
We all have people in our life who are difficult to love.
Maybe it’s a person like Jan, who manipulates others for their own good, taking and taking from others while giving little (if any) back in return. Maybe they’re like Michael, who is annoying, emotionally needy, and way too invested in his own personal life. Or maybe they’re like Toby, the sad and lonely person who often sucks the fun out of the room.
All of these type-casts (and more) are a part of the show. And while there are certainly times where these individuals fail to be kind, there are also moments in which they show great love to one another. Michael takes Jan into his home after she’s lost her job. The entire office is full of joy for Michael when he finds his soulmate and distraught when he announces that he is moving to Colorado in order to be with her. Even Toby finds friends in Pam and Nelly because of their own compassion.
The Office does an incredible job of showing how the decision to love others despite feelings of discomfort or dislike changes our perception of those around us. The people who are your biggest headache can become people you love, admire, and respect.
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Like the rest of this fallen world, The Office certainly has its faults. But all in all, it portrays a lot of truth, beauty, and goodness about loving our fellow man… and that is what living a Christian life is all about.
Are you a fan of The Office? What’s your favorite episode?
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Written by Grace Bellon, lover of bearded men, rich coffee, cheesy puns, cuddly doggies, and Catholicism. You can find out more about her here (warned ya she liked cheesy puns).