Friday, May 23, 2008

Preferring Pam to Jenna

My favorite TV show is “The Office.’’ It never fails to make me laugh out loud. Each episode brings new dimension to words such as “dysfunctional’’ and “inappropriate.’’
It also manages to do something extremely difficult in seamlessly combining the authentic with the absurd. Anyone who has ever worked in an office will note the air of authenticity in the show's characters. And yet, it is mainly populated with caricatures. The writing is brilliant.
For all its amusing distortions, the show is not without an element of sweetness, due mainly to the two characters who are unqiue in the sense that they are not portrayed as gross exaggerations. The characters I refer to are Pam, the receptionist, and Jim, a salesman.
They have a budding romance that is tender and smart and entirely charming.
I find Pam especially endearing. She is sweet and genuine, modest yet appealing. Often, the camera will show her gazing across the office at Jim and smiling. In those shots, it seems to me that she is the most attractive woman on TV.
She is, without question, one of the more wholesome characters you will find on TV, which I realize is faint praise in today’s prime-time lineup.
I found her so refreshingly decent that I was compelled to find out more about the actress that plays the role. So I Googled “Jenna Fischer.’’
I wish I hadn’t.
The first image that came up during the search was a photo of the young actress that can best be described as soft porn.
My heart sank. Then, I had to chuckle at my gullibility.
After all, I’m almost 50 and, because my profession has often put me in the company of celebrities, I should certainly have known better than to assume that the people we know from the spotlight are the same people behind the scenes. My experience tells me that the surest way to be disappointed in your heroes is to actually meet them.
Yes, it was naïve of me to think that the qualities that define Pam on “The Office’’ would be exhibited in Jenna the actress.
Of course, it is always easy make judgments about people we don’t know. Maybe that photo of Jenna was a lapse in good judgment; perhaps it is something she deeply regrets and how I wish that were true,
But on the other hand, I cannot dismiss the possibility that the photo is an accurate portrayal of a ambitious young actress who is as promiscuous and morally bankrupt as any other young Hollywood starlet.
If that’s the case, there’s no reason I should be surprised.
Over the years, I’ve come to recogninze that fame is a most alluring addiction and all addictions destroy.
Consider: Ten years ago, a young girl tells her mom she wants to be the next Britney Spears and her mom takes her to a voice teacher. Today, a young girl tells her mom she wants to be the next Britney Spears and her mom takes her to a therapist.
A couple of months ago, Miley Cyrus was the ideal image of what a young girl should be. And then, this 15-year-old girl shows up semi-nude on a magazine cover and we shudder.
The photographer, Annie Leibovitz, is recognized as a great photographer, so she can defend turning a 15-year-old into a sex object as "art.'' In the process, she seems to have created a new genre, a means of making child pornograply a little more acceptable. Imagine that. Now, we have Child Soft Porn. Thanks, Annie, for your contribution to humanity.
At Molly’s age, Britney Spears was still as wholesome as an episode of “Little House on the Prairie,’’ which suggests that Molly is way past Britney on the journey into depravity.
So what happened to Britney? What is happening to Miley? They’ve been lost in the addiction of fame. And if you want to remain relevant in pop culture, you better be provocative. That is truly tragic, I think. Self-obssession, this desperate need the be in the spotlight no matter the cost, ultimately leads to ruin.
Of course, being self-absorbed is not limited to actors and entertainers.
Truth be told, we’re all vulnerable.
We’re all selfish, to some degree, and I’ve come to believe that it is greatest obstacle to true happiness, contentment and fulfillment.
At least, that’s been my own experience. It is a battle I’m always fighting on one level or another. And the pursuit of self is the great rabbit hole of humanity. Chesterton wrote that it is easier to grasp and understand the cosmos than to explore the vast expanse of self It is a dark and cold and empty space. You can get lost there.
The genuinely successful person is not one who thinks less of himself, but one who thinks of himself less often.
I am at my best, and most closely resemble the person God made me to be, when my thoughts turn to others.
That is what gives me hope.
World-weary through I may be, I still believe that somewhere among the Jenna Fischers and Miley Cyruses of the world, there really are some Pams and Hannah Montanas.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Miss you, Slim! Hope all is well whatever you're up to. I'm kinda bummed that you're no longer working at the place that's third on my list of most-frequented places. Oh well. Keep in touch :)