Monday, November 9, 2009

Love: An Example

If you're reading this, then you probably know already that I'm a decent-sized fan of the American version of The Office. Now when I read Karol Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility awhile back, I was almost obsessed with the philosophy I was absorbing, and certainly annoyingly intrigued, and it definitely created a shift in the way I saw our culture's portrayal of love. I'm definitely a tad surprised it's taken me this long to make a post about it. But anyway, now I get to post about and about L&R and about The Office. Now let it be known that reading that work has definitely affected my view of this show negatively, but it's affected my view of just about every bit of culture that even goes near what Love (the virtue) or love (romantic) means. I'm not saying I think writers endorse everything their characters do, or that I expect characters to be perfect on TV shows; they patently don't and patently aren't. But it's worth seeing where we can find examples in pop culture of stuff like Love. So here's an example of dialogue from the second season of that I think helps to illustrate amor benevolentia, or "love as goodwill."

To give some context: Jan Levinson, a regional supervisor, has come to the office to seek women who are ambitious and who might play a role in corporate life. She has urged Pam to try and get some graphic design schooling...later on, her fiance, Roy, talks her out of it, which is followed roughly by a talking head in which she rationalizes her decision. So here's the quotation, shamelessly culled from The Office Quotes. Ladies and gentlemen, Season 2, "Boys and Girls."
Jim Halpert: So you're not doing it.
Pam Beesly: How did you know?
Jim Halpert: Why not?
Pam Beesly: Just, like, no big reason. Just a bunch of little reasons. Roy's right there's no guarantee it's going to lead to anything anyway.
Jim Halpert: Roy said that.
Pam Beesly: What. You have something you wanna say?
Jim Halpert: You gotta take a chance on something sometime Pam. I mean do you wanna be a receptionist here always?
Pam Beesly: Oh excuse me! I'm fine with my choices!
Jim Halpert: You are?
Pam Beesly: Yeah.
This is then followed by another talking head in which Pam again tries to rationalize the decision, and winds up crying on-camera. I couldn't find the clip just by itself anywhere, so the best I can do if you want to get an idea of the sound/look of it is to go here and listen to an audio clip.

Love as goodwill, as I can gather, seems to mean showing Love to the other person over and above whatever attraction you have to them, or whatever desire you have for them. In a romantic context it's one possible motivator for saying "If you really love someone, you want them to be happy, even if it's not with you." In an un-romantic context the best example I can think of is telling people what they need to hear, even if they might hate you for it. This example is definitely a little bit of both; certainly there are motivations to what Jim is saying that go beyond pure goodwill, and it's pretty clear by implication that he still wants her, if only subconsciously. But it's a very slight impurity in this case, if you will, and in the scene it's pretty clear that he wants to motivate her more than he actually wants to be with her. This set of scenes remains one of the most profound that The Office cast/crew ever pulled off, in my mind. It is also one of the purest examples of love as goodwill that I've ever seen portrayed in pop culture. There will be more examples to come in the future from shows that aren't The Office. Hopefully I can find one or two with a YouTube clip available.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Nice. I still really need to read that book; I'm trying to find a cheap copy, but I might not be able to wait that long. And I agree about the profundity of that scene, for sure. It's a very profound.

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