"The Office" series ends with Pam Beesly mulling over the nine years the documentary crew has been filming her. "There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things," she says. "Isn't that kind of the point?" This last line may be the exact reason that the show is so insanely popular across all demographics. In a world where everybody seems to be achieving their fifteen minutes of fame; the average-Joe can come to believe that they are utterly unremarkable and nondescript.
People begin to wonder, if someone can get famous off of eating food on camera or being a snob on reality TV, why aren't we all famous? If someone can get famous so easily, there must be something exceptionally below average about each and every person who has not made their name.
But what "The Office" does seamlessly is remind us that it is the ordinary that makes us great. It is the ordinary that is the baseline and the foundation of society. And, it is exceedingly fitting that Pam is the one to drive this point home at the end of the series. After all, as much as we adore Pam, she is very ordinary. She's an average looking woman with light brown hair, who has an average life in the suburbs, she works as a receptionist, and she has dreams of being an artist that she doesn't fully achieve.
Yet, Pam's appeal is in this steady, easy-going, yet incredibly durable personality. This is why we love Pam, she shows us that we can be average, and still be exciting, interesting, and significant people. If we can love good-old, routine Pamela Beesly, then why can't we appreciate the rest of the average world?
Pam may be average, but most of "The Office" characters are noticeably abnormal. While some may say the characters are strange to an unrealistic extreme, I think this is necessary for the show's appeal. While it is nearly impossible for all of these odd personalities to appear in one office, school, or neighborhood, they do all exist somewhere. We all know a dulled down Kelly, Kevin, Toby, or Dwight. Everybody sees these characters and can think of someone they know that is similar to Micheal, Meredith, Oscar, or Angela. The exaggerated state of these characters in the show makes their personalities apparent enough to be recognizable, and therefore, ordinary.
In fact, the actors even look ordinary, there is no use of excessive makeup, and for the most part, no character is unreasonably attractive, they just look like normal people (unlike most television, that hires only the best-looking actors). The characters, although exceptional, are not archetypical. Despite their immensely unrealistic actions, the characters feel real because they do not follow the classical ideas of certain characteristics.
While Micheal may appear to be witless and out of touch, we see countless times that he is, in fact, a genius at sales.
While Pam may appear unambitious and quiet, she grows throughout the series and we see her stand up for herself many times.
While Oscar is a gay man, he isn't a flamboyant, feminine, airhead like we usually see in media. He is measured, smart, and masculine.
The value and beauty of these characters are that "The Office" creators take archetypes we are familiar with and twist them just enough to create dynamic, changing, and real characters that viewers can relate to on multiple levels.
The storyline of "The Office" reflects this "ordinary is beautiful" idea. We follow the relationship between Pam and Jim throughout the entire season. But it isn't a fairytale romance. While Jim does eventually win Pam over from Roy, their relationship is rocky at times. Unlike most love stories, Jim and Pam don't stay together after the first time they kiss. Pam still goes on to be in a relationship with Roy, and Jim dates Karen. Even after they are married, Jim starts a sports advertising company without Pam's knowledge, and their marriage starts to fall apart. They fix it, but it reflects the reality of love as something not enduring and perfect, but as something that takes work.
Other relationships reflect this also. Michael and Holly are clearly made for each other, but it takes them years to finally get back together after they are separated. Dwight and Angela have an up and down, on and off love for each other, but eventually, get married. Andy, who Erin broke up with, ends up being single at the end of the show, along with Toby, who was madly in love with Pam. And Oscar, who got publicly rejected by Angela's gay husband, doesn't find somebody either. What we know from this is that the love and relationships shown in "The Office" are not idealistic. Some relationships do not come to fruition, and those that do did not come to fruition with any amount of ease.
"The Office" is a breath of fresh air for generations of people who have grown up under the influence of media that presents pipe-dreams as realities. The thought that everyone will achieve their dreams, find 'the one' for them, and have a remarkably outstanding life is false and toxic. "The Office" is an unprecedented piece of media that breaks away from the norm and presents us with the realities of the unimportance of our own lives. But it doesn't leave us hopeless. We love the characters, we are invested in their lives, we think their experiences are amazing, and hilarious, and sensational.
But what we fail to realize is that our own lives are just as amazing, and hilarious, and sensational as theirs. "The Office" characters are just as average and simultaneously unique as we are. And, therefore, our ordinary lives hold just as much love, happiness, tragedy, and passion as their own.
What we learn from "The Office" is that we are allowed to not achieve everything, we are allowed to not be famous, we are allowed to not be in a fairytale romance, we are allowed to be regular people. The show takes place at a paper company in the middle of Pennsylvania, can you think of anywhere more unextraordinary? This little microcosm of the world that "The Office" shows us proves that in offices, cafes, schools, and other ordinary places all over the world, beautiful things are happening.
As Andy Bernard says in the last episode, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." He realizes that the days he regarded as boring and average, were actually significant in his life. It's time that we all start realizing this. There is beauty in the places we do not think beauty should be. "The Office" reminds us to look for it.