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Two Sitcoms Diverged on a Low-Rated Network, and One Took the Road Less Traveled By: Comparing the Season Five Starts of "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation"

By Rob Payne | TV Reviews | November 13, 2012 | Comments ()


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Quickly approaching mid-November, we are now seven weeks out from the start of the season for NBC’s Thursday night line-up. As I vowed to do at the end of last season, screaming at a mountain that isn’t so much lifeless as indifferent to my pathetic needs, my boycott of the peacock network until “Community” is back on the air is in full effect. So far, NBC has listened by first pushing the Greendale Six’s premiere a whole month after the rest (and on Fridays after “Whitney”) and then by pushing it even further away until February of next year (but at least back on Thursdays). So, my plan is clearly working. You go, me.

Still, I adore “Parks and Recreation” and I won’t let the evils perpetuated by the National Broadcasting Corporation stop me from watching it. So, a special thanks to Hulu is in order: Thanks, Hulu! In the midst of all the heartwarming hilarity to be found in both Pawnee and D.C., something very peculiar jumped out at me: Didn’t season five of “The Office” also feature a dramatic, surprise proposal? I don’t know how I remembered the right season - as I stopped buying “The Office” DVDs with season three, hadn’t re-watched any episode after season four, and my sense of chronology has always sucked - but sure enough, a quick look at the episode descriptions on Netflix proved all the alcohol and drugs from my misspent youth hadn’t yet put my mind in total disarray. When I watched the first two episodes of “The Office” season five after catching up on “Parks,” originally aired as a two-parter, it was impossible not to compare Jim’s proposal to Pam in the rain to Ben asking Leslie in their new shared home.

What I found intrigued me, but it wasn’t shocking. Season five may be the make-or-break year for our favorite sitcoms, when character arcs should be in full gear and the series’ mission statement fully understood by the writers, producers, and audience. Season five broke “The Office,” but it probably won’t break “Parks and Recreation.”

Let’s dive in and consider why…

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As you may recall at the beginning of “The Office” season five, Jim and Pam are separated due to the latter attending art school in New York City while the former toils away back home in Scranton, PA. Naturally, the separation is hard for both partners, with all their missed calls and bad timing. Being away from his lady love proves to be too hard for Jim, so he arranges a rendezvous with Pam approximately mid-way between their two locations (although it is a little closer to Scranton) in order to propose marriage to the woman he loved unrequitedly for too many years. Of course Pam says yes, they kiss, it’s raining and romantic and the two-part episode ends with a strong sense of purpose for both our heroes and the show in general. At least, that’s what the episodes are designed to do. But closer inspection reveals that Jim felt that pressure of separation far more than Pam did, who was enjoying her time at art school in a new city with new friends quite a bit. Jim, unlike Ben on “Parks and Rec,” bent down on one knee due to a growing desperation more so than profound, undying love for his girlfriend.

That desperation stems directly from Jim’s latent jealousy over other guys that Pam now knows, because he was once an “other guy” that Pam once knew. Outside of her, Jim had no dreams, so the fact that Pam is off striving for hers while he remains stuck in a life and career he never wanted can’t help his inner turmoil. This stands in stark contrast to Ben and Leslie, both of whom are living the lives they always dreamt of and doing so together, in lock-step. Their separation is equally painful, but because they don’t want their paths to diverge for any longer than necessary, not because one of them is completely lost without the other — and not in the fun way like April and Andy. When Ben proposes to Leslie, it isn’t the obvious pay-off to years’ worth of pining, but an evolution of the relationship between two characters who really, really like each other.

To be fair, most bitterness toward “The Office” as the sinister place where storylines go to die comes from the present state of the show, whereas Jim and Pam kissing in the rain felt, at the time, like something worth rooting for just as much as Leslie and Ben. It is with these decidedly not-rose-colored glasses that we can start to see season five as when “The Office” began to waver as a contender for Best Sitcom of All Time. Remember: Jim and Pam don’t actually get married until after they find out Pam is pregnant at the start of season six, rather than at the end of season five when stakes should be at their highest; and they have the baby eight weeks before the finale of season six; and then Jim and Pam offer nothing of consequence for the next three years. Oh, and let’s not forget that since this, Pam (or the writers) gave up on trying to be a professional artist; not through conflict and resolution, but by simply dropping it from all future scripts.

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There’s a simple reason for this, unlike in real life, Jim and Pam’s story was over the moment Jim proposed (or, if you prefer, the day they got married). Sure enough, in the four episodes following the season five premiere, Jim and Pam barely register as a couple due to their continued separation - meaning, besides the momentary happiness, nothing for the characters on the TV show has changed. One could probably very easily describe Jim and Pam, and most of “The Office,” as a darkly comic reflection of suburban middle-class America, where stories simply stop happening rather than have satisfying endings, just like the reality we all experience. Surely the world is littered with failed artists, for any number of reasons, who perhaps just find themselves drawing less and less until they can’t remember the last time they drew anything at all.

That, of course, is a cop-out.

Jim and Pam are fictional characters in a fictional story, wholly conceived by the producers, writers, and actors who make “The Office.” It is not, despite the narrative conceit, an actual documentary. Their situation was established as a fairly generic romantic comedy for the first three seasons and they were given practically no other motivations than they were simply, obviously, “meant to be together.” (G’awww.) There was talk amongst critics and fans during seasons four and five, and perhaps six, that maybe Jim and Pam could morph into something we rarely see in our entertainment: a mostly normal, mostly happy, well-adjusted and loving couple. In theory, that is what happened, and it wasn’t terribly entertaining. Here again, with “Parks,” we begin to see what could hopefully be another marked difference between the two NBC series that share more than a little in common. If we’re lucky, Mike Schur learned those lessons after leaving “The Office” for “Parks and Rec” and will finally fulfill that promise.

After all, like so many aspirant people, Leslie Knope has never been solely defined by whom she is dating. In fact, before Ben Wyatt entered the picture, Leslie’s love life was entirely secondary to her career in government, or even tertiary when considering the story arcs of her (admittedly) workplace friendships. There is a tectonic, almost palpable shift when Ben arrives in Pawnee as one of her new bosses. Yes, their relationship starts rocky, but it’s doubtful that anyone watching at home thought these characters were headed anywhere other than lustily smooshing their parts together. And eventually they did, though after much less agonizing time than the three whole seasons Jim and Pam danced awkwardly around each other. And now they’re getting married and, yet, there seems very little to be wary of in the months (and hopefully seasons) to come.

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Why is this? Because neither Ben nor Leslie absolutely need each other as characters to be interesting, or any romantic partners to be meaningful. They both have goals beyond each other, but it’s clear those goals, once achieved, will be far more satisfying because they’ll be achieved together. They have a trajectory, something which Jim and Pam, and most of “The Office,” never really had beyond that engagement ring.

Trajectory is a strength “Parks and Rec” has had going for it since the earliest days when nobody was sure what to make of this new, seemingly more lightweight version of “The Office.” (Itself a more lightweight version of the original UK recipe.) That first season memorably began with a giant pit and Leslie as a merely feminized Michael Scott trying to fill in that pit. Season two turned the pit into a not-a-library and revealed the city’s budget crisis. Season three used the Harvest Festival to get out of that budget crisis and bring Ben and Leslie together, which led straight to the quandary behind season four and Leslie’s run for political office that ends with personal and professional wins for both. With season five only six episodes old, it will probably look a lot like season two, with the characters living with their successes before another multi-episode arc presents itself having grown organically from what came before.

Through all of that, we’ve seen Leslie, and Ben grow, and by leaps and bounds once they were growing together. These are characters that don’t just exist until the next punch line but feel actively engaged in their own stories, their own lives. With any luck, their careers will throw them some curveballs but their relationship will remain mostly normal, mostly happy, well-adjusted and loving. Fingers crossed, it won’t get boring after that transition, because we’ll have something besides their couplehood for which to root.

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This meta-narrative of general purpose extends to most of the Parks Department, as well, as each character learns to be the most awesome version of themselves. Ron’s constant struggle against his ideas and the rest of the world, a strong but wounded guy who gradually pokes holes in the walls he built to protect himself. Tom’s constant entrepreneurial spirit and striving for a way of life he wants so badly, finally focusing with an idea he recognizes as having real potential. Andy and April both maturing in their own ways without losing their true natures of fun-loving party dude and acerbic, cynical wit, like if the ninja turtles Michelangelo and Raphael finally got hitched. (Bonus: April and Andy’s maturation was spurred by their own evolving relationship, giving us a second “normal” couple to watch.) Ann, Chris, Jerry, and Donna are somewhat more problematic in this regard, though each has had continuing arcs throughout multiple episodes. Donna is the possible exception, but Retta makes her a damn delight.

What can be said of the Dundler-Mifflin crew?

Michael Scott clearly had a trajectory, but like Jim and Pam it was based solely in terms of his romantic relationships. Yes, he was the office manager, but he had no career goals beyond that save for the pipedream of his Michael Scarn screenplay, which, like Pam’s art, was another unceremoniously dropped character arc. (Save for a overproduced video that stretched believability beyond reasonable limits and ruined the joke.) For the most part, Michael’s goal was a wife and kids who loved him; who appreciated his efforts for the grace notes he always intended. Of course, he did at least get that wife in Holly, who became his soul mate in - yep, you guessed it - season five, before being sent away four episodes later. But Michael and Holly didn’t get engaged until the end of season seven, with two long interims where they didn’t see each other and Holly was rarely, if ever, mentioned. Sufficiently enough, with Michael’s story done, he was written out of the show. Technically, the story had to conclude because Steve Carrell, the actor who played Michael Scott to perfection, was leaving. The mind reels at how long the character might have spun his wheels if Carrell didn’t have a burgeoning film career.

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But the rest of the Scranton branch? As an independently successful beet farmer with a huge ego that curiously works as a toady in a dying industry, Dwight is comic foil that might be one of the least consistent characters ever presented on screen. Except there’s also Andy, who was a yuppie with anger issues until he became a naïve romantic until he became Michael Scott with more personal issues, lurching to each personality by the dictates of the Maguffin-like plots. Then there’s Kevin the Idiot, Angela the Bitch, Darryl the Cool Guy, Oscar the Gay One, Stanley the Grouch, Phyllis the Secret Bitch, Meredith the Drunk, Toby the Doormat, Kelly the Other Idiot, Ryan the Douche, Erin the New Idiot, and Creed the… well, at least Creed being an enigma is the point. Now, in its final season, “The Office” also has Jim 2.0 and Dwight Redux, as well as a British Lady Michael Scott. After nine years these people haven’t changed, except, perhaps, to devolve into the least awesome version of themselves.

Who are these people and why are they here? We don’t know, and we’ve stopped caring, because the story of “The Office” was done years ago. It was a romantic comedy slathered in the venom of Ricky Gervais and the faux-normalcy of Greg Daniels, whose trio of leads were a lonely man who wanted love and a will-they-won’t-they-couple-that-obviously-would. When the lonely man stopped being alone, the story was done. When the couple tied the knot, the story was done. In a perfect world, the stories would have ended at the same point, with Pam and Jim tearfully saying goodbye to Michael as they prepared to board different flights at the airport, the former heading off on their honeymoon and the latter to Colorado, to be with Holly.

On the other hand, the story of “Parks and Recreation” isn’t even the story of the Pawnee Parks Department; much less the romantic entanglements of its employees. Rather, it’s about the people who work(ed) there and whatever entanglements their march toward the future inevitably brings. One is about a paper company, the other is about people. Both, in the right hands, can lead to long-lived and entertaining television. One is about the jokes, one is about the characters, and neither must be at the expense of the other. But it’s can be much more satisfying to allow and embrace the risks that change brings, successfully achieved or not. Anyone who’s worked in an office or the corporate world knows how very few things actually change and how microscopically those changes happen. Verisimilitude has its place in art but, in spite of what Beckett might tell you, soul-devouring tedium is not it. When you write about people, you must write about change, because otherwise it’s a pointless, fruitless endeavor, which is too often the real world we’re already trying to escape.

“Parks and Rec” is trying for the latter, trying for the thing that so few sitcoms actually value. Trajectory. Unlike a show like “How I Met Your Mother,” “Parks” also isn’t confined to a specific ending, allowing the characters to go down paths unknown to both the audience and the creators. So far the miss-adventures of Leslie Knope been a wonderful, memorable ride. The show ought to remain a ride worth taking all the way to the very end, as long as the writers don’t lose their true north: that characters like Leslie matter.

If only every sitcom — groundbreaking or not — could say that. If only more tried.


Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He thinks “Community” under creator/showrunner Dan Harmon was certainly trying, albeit very differently, so here’s to the new regime taking that baton and running with it.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • SHough610

    Really great article. You hit on it but I don't think it can be understated how important the inherent niceness of the Parks and Rec main characters is. Even Tom, despite his obvious douchiness really cares for the people he works with.

    I was never a great fan of the Office but I could never get behind Jim, who I saw as the guy the creators wanted you to relate to. Jim's stayed in a job he hates because he's scared to take a chance and fail, he bullies Dwight to show he's too cool for school, he constantly mugs for the camera, and he's dishonest to Pam about his intentions until Casino Night. Jim always reminded me of the popular kid you went to high school with who talked about how "awkward" and "nerdy" he was but who was really just average (projection over).

  • Well sh*t, now you obsessed pajibans have gone and made me want to watch Parks and Rec. Never thought it would happen. What's this about a hunting trip? I hope hijinks ensued.

  • Katylalala

    SPOILER ALERT: They totally do!

  • BWeaves

    Season 5 = Characters marry.

    CASTLE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • Morgan_LaFai

    This was brilliant. Not only is it spot on about the respective shows, but it also highlights my biggest complaints about most gay and lesbian characters on telly. With a few exceptions, most of the GLB (not so much the T) characters are characterized by their closeted status. Once they come out (and then get over the external hurtles, i.e. family, friends, career, etc.) the story line has no where to go. And most of the exceptions to this rule are stereotypical gay characters whose purpose is to provide a comedic punctuation to mostly strait stories. It is so very rare to find fully fleshed out GLB characters it drives me bonkers.

    And if this isn't bad enough, roughly 80% of all GLBT characters are gay men, 15% are bi women (and I am using bi very loosely to include all the women who have one off experiments and then go back to men for the rest of the characters duration), 4.9% are lesbians, and the 0.1% are trans.

    Okay, that's my soapbox rant. I know return you to your regularly scheduled program.

  • Mariazinha

    I completely agree tha now Parks is a much better show then The Office. But in it`s prime, especially up to season 3 of the Office, I just don't think Parks was ever that great. And even loving Lesley and Ben, they don't hold a candle to Jam in their prime!!
    But maybe that's just me...

  • Geoffrey Wenzlau

    this is wonderful to read.

  • Lauren

    Ehh... well thought out article, but as you mention, hindsight is 20/20. It's easy now to poke holes in the narrative of The Office because of the decisions the writing staff has made over the last few seasons, but after Season 4 of the show, many still felt it impeachable. (IIRC, there were complaints about the show peaking at S3 before everyone realized how far off the cliff The Office could truly fall). If Parks as a show and Ben&Lesley as a couple have another 4 or 5 years left in the tank I'm confident there will be plenty to pick apart, even the early years retrospectively. Too many episodes = too many opportunities for disappointment.

  • GDI

    I, for one, could never handle the American version of The Office. Lightweight and cookie-cutter at its best, I just couldn't stomach it. P&R jumped at me, almost the same way that Arrested Development did. I couldn't explain it, but I just loved both shows from the get-go. I wouldn't attribute the perceived fall of The Office as hindsight; perhaps it was simply never good to begin with.

  • brian

    So you are not even going to mention the episodes of the office where Jim is about to drive all the way to new york because he suspects Pam of cheating but stops saying that he is not that guy to the camera. Or the episode where Jim tells Pam to repeat the course when she fails; to not come back wrong

    Lame

  • NoPantsMcLane

    I still think The Office in it's prime was better than Parks and Rec is. I love both shows though.

  • Jill

    I agree. For some reason I just like Michael Scott better than Leslie Knope. And I like her very much.

  • John W

    It's funny that you talk about season five because I've always held to the idea that the average span where a good show is actually good is five seasons. After that it's usually downhill from there.

  • I think that's fair, but there can be arguments made for TNG, Seinfeld, Friends, Buffy, MASH, Cheers, Cosby, The Simpsons, and a few others to dispute that.

  • pissant

    One could probably very easily describe Jim and Pam, and most of “The Office,” as a darkly comic reflection of suburban middle-class America, where stories simply stop happening rather than have satisfying endings, just like the reality we all experience. Surely the world is littered with failed artists, for any number of reasons, who perhaps just find themselves drawing less and less until they can’t remember the last time they drew anything at all.

    That, of course, is a cop-out.

    No...I think that might be the best defense I've ever heard of what The Office has become. Quick, delete this post before Google caches it. We wouldn't want the writers to read this and then retcon the last, uh, "x minus 3" seasons as some brilliant satire.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Good article but it forced me to realize something; I like to read about the office as much as I like to watch the office. Which is not at all.

  • dizzylucy

    I truly loved the Office at its prime and at this point I'm watching it to the end, but it so badly should have ended when Michael left, if not earlier.
    Parks & Rec, on the other hand, just seems to get better and better, and I agree there's still so much potential.

    There's also just a general difference in tone - Parks is happy, optimistic, and heartwarming in every episode, and there's a sense of family within the characters. The Office occasionally hit on that, usually by taking the DM crew outside of the office and making them feel more like a group (Beach Day, the recent trip to the pie stand), and often was at its best when they were all in the conference room together or when some stupid thing Michael did actually worked out. But overall, that show seems to prefer the awkward and often depressing, compared to the sunniness of Parks, and when you're watching a show for years, it can make a difference.

  • SHough610

    I never enjoyed the discomfort humor that the Office was so masterful at. I didn't find it funny, it was just painful to me. I like the characters on Parks more than I do on the Office and even if an episode isn't hilarious I enjoy hanging out with the characters.

  • apsutter

    Agreed. The Office is so uncomfortable to watch and just has an underlying meanness to it. P&R is inherently sweet and nice and you are right about the characters. There are just sooo many people I can't stand on The Office. Whereas P&R has the best ensemble cast on tv and the only person I don't like is Perd Hapley

  • Motorcykey

    Great article! Another part of the issue is that you're comparing (and many people are quick to do this within the last few seasons) Jim (not the main character of the office) to Leslie Knope (the main character of Parks & Rec). Leslie and Michael both went on their respective shows without love interests for a number of seasons without engaging romantic plots. Michael had every member of the office, clients, and anyone he came into contact with to work off of for entertaining conflict. As does Leslie with the addition of her crazy townspeople. But Jim usually had only Pam, Michael & Dwight for their stories. And he only seems to have Dwight to work off with now (they really underuse his relationship with Andy). Pam just sits around now that she has little to no conflict with her husband Jim (besides a secret job venture? i dont know how much that can escalate through the rest of the season). It's a lot tougher to call out a main character on The Office in its newer seasons now that Michael is gone. The show seems to be trying to make Andy the main character, but it's really relying on very forced conflict with Andy and Ellen or for some reason, we've seen so many episodes around him and his family. (Are the showrunners big Josh Groban fans?) It all just seems a lot less focused since Michael Scott "put in his 2 weeks notice" and many of the employees lost, achieved (or were just never given any) objectives. None of these things are issues that Leslie and Ben would run into because Leslie will always have her government issues with news anchors, journalists, townspeople, co-workers, family, etc.

  • Now I just feel like starting from Parks & Rec season 1, episode 1 and just going...

  • its almost worth just watching the finale of season 1, theres no real character development to speak of. in fact the first 3 episodes of season 2 really tell you everything you need to know, then like ep 6 is hunting trip and you are locked in.

  • FrayedMachine

    Fair warning if you haven't watched it before, season 1 of Parks and Recs is ROUGH. Like tinged with poorly written female Michael Scott rough. It gets wwaayyy better, though.

  • Yeah, I've seen them and totally agree. But now it's all nostalgia!

  • dizzylucy

    But once you get passed those, it's bliss.

  • $27019454

    I am glad to hear this. High on The Office's first 4 seasons, we startd in on P&R on Netflix streaming and after like 4 shows, I just could not handle it. So...it gets better, eh?

  • luckypete

    Much better indeed

  • SO MUCH BETTER.

  • jiffeylube

    Great article.

  • Tom

    I think you touched on the inherent problem of adapting "The Office" to an American broadcast television schedule. At its heart the setting and its characters are designed to remain the same. That makes for a good story but only for a small amount of time. The office itself is as much of a character as anyone else. It demands stasis and a certain mundane consistency. The job and the office is destined to stay the same and as a result so are the characters. In the scene above, Jim tells Michael that they'll just have lunch and talk about it "tomorrow." In that world, just like in a working life in an office, there is always a tomorrow and always more of the same to do. In some ways I respect the show for staying true to its ultimate mission statement and theme even though it has made for dull television. They began with a thematic ceiling and looking back it's easy to see when they reached it.

  • I agree and think that if the office were to remain more "real" - in fact, if The Office itself were the central character, we would have seen a lot more cast turnover throughout the years. Places like that will always have lifers like Stanley and Dwight, but there is really no reason that characters like Pam, Kelly, Andy et cetera should be at the same office for 8 years. But that'd be a completely different show, and probably not a very good one. And even in the British version, it was less a show about an office than it was a show about David Brent and then also sort of about Tim and Dawn. If the US version had played up it's Reality Show set up (as opposed to the UK's documentary) I think there would have been some more area to explore with characters like Michael and Andy, but again, I'm not sure that would have been a good show either. Had the show ended with Jim and Pam getting married (that exact episode) it would probably be remembered along with Cheers, Seinfeld, All in the Family and MASH as an unquestioned classic. As it stands...there are some really funny episodes.

  • $27019454

    Nothing to add except that I will always love The Office for the first 4 seasons, maybe 5. My love for the unique, singular oddity that is Dwight Schrute klnows no bounds...not space, nor time. My daughter (11) loves Dwight, has a poster of him on her wall and his bobblehead and wants to marry him. She's insane, but I get it.

    We tuned in recently and I wish I could unsee the travesty of what it has become.

  • apsutter

    Great article and absolutely true. Leslie Knope is my televised feminist hero because her life never revolved around a man and her life goals weren't dependent on finding "the one." Parks is a better show than The Office ever was but at least The Office is having a bit of a comeback this season. I also was annoyed about how they completely dropped Pam's drawing storyline. I couldn't remember how they even resolved it so I re-watched the entire series run on Netflix and I still don't know what the hell happened to it. If Parks start to turn into The Office I will be so very bummed.

  • SHough610
    Great article and absolutely true. Leslie Knope is my televised
    feminist hero because her life never revolved around a man and her life
    goals weren't dependent on finding "the one."

    I always thought Leslie Knope was the perfect fictional example of feminism. Not to get into a debate about feminism but I just love Leslie and agree in your assessment.

    Perhaps the best thing about Parks is that they earn their emotional moments. I was never a big fan of the Office but I remember reading by the third or fourth season persuasive arguments that Jim was a jerk (the mugging for the camera, the pranks on Dwight, going after Pam in typical "nice guy" fashion).

  • FrayedMachine

    I use to love Jim and Pam's relationship probably because the show started when I, too, was in a lovey-piney-oh my god so much loneliness phase of my life. Their relationship was painfully romantic and yeah, the feeling of "They're destined together!" certainly was what kept my interest going. I was also hopeful that their relationship would manifest more strong love and devotion towards one another but their relationship has seemingly flat lined in a way that is quite familiar to the relationships I witnessed growing up. Alternatively, this is why I love Ben and Leslie's relationship. I guess it fits my hopes and wishes regarding love as an adult like Jim and Pam's relationship did as a teenager. It's probably also because I finally have a normal-y-happy-healthy relationship rather than one built on pining and desperation like they all have been up until this point. Alternatively, Ben and Leslie's long distance convos remind me a ton of my own with my boyfriend since we're temporarily long distance.

    The office just makes me sad now, and is insanely and painfully reflective of the life that I fear to have one day where as Parks and Recs seems to be great at making me feel a little more hopeful about getting older every day.

  • I choose to look at Jim and Pam of the last few seasons as a pretty hilarious joke by the writers about how uninteresting people with kids become to people without (and I say that as a very recent member of the former). Jim and Pam were the two cool kids on the show right up until their baby. Now everyone thinks Jim is a loser and Pam is pretty much the only one who laughs at his jokes, which fall flat more often than not. It's a pretty cruel trajectory and not a nice joke, but the flip side is that they still find each other hilarious and interesting and care way more about their kids and their family than they do being the coolest people at the paper company. Pretty decent trade off (and some truly spectacular attention to detail and character by all involved if this is indeed something they have been trying to achieve).

  • FrayedMachine

    It seriously bummed me out how their relationship turned out after they had kids because that is also on my list of "Oh god, please don't let this happen to me when I'm older". I guess it's good that they still are in love with each other and still see each other as the bees knees but the idea of losing all interest in any hopes and dreams that I had in life for the sake of being involved with someone for the rest of my life kind of makes me dry heave.

  • John G.

    kids destroy people. I've seen it happen first hand, over and over again. These formally interesting people suddenly can't talk about anything that doesn't relate directly back to their little creation. Suddenly, nothing in the history of anything has ever been as hard or as ... (gulp) special as their little special guy. Yeah, so special it happens every 15 seconds somewhere on the planet.

    They never want to do anything anymore. Their taste in movies disappears, and they can no longer name any movie title that isn't for children, even movies they used to love. They also hate each other now, since their relationship previously consisted of two selfish people who led generally separate lives and only saw each other when they were in the mood to see each other, a workable situation. Now they have to know at all times where the other one is, because it's their turn to spend huge chunks of time with the child thing, the most boring creature in the world. Now, they resent the other person so much, because having a child did not make them less selfish, but they have all this responsibility now. So, they blame each other for failing, when the failure was on both their part in having the stupid kid.

    And they are stupid too, kids. They are so stupid. They will stick electric things in their mouth if you let them. In the early days, they can't even hold their own head up. They can't even talk back to you for so long, and then it takes years before they can abstract enough to say anything that could ever even begin to approximate an interesting comment. They can't do anything for themselves, and they cry all the time. They cry because they are tired, rather than just going to sleep. That is pretty stupid.

    All in all, having children is pointless. We definitely don't need any more children on the planet. We're full up. It's just an old-fashioned biological law. Most people fall victim to it, even though it's unnecessary and totally fucks them up. And we're totally smart enough to resist this need, if we just make the effort. But people hate this when you say it. It doesn't matter if it's destroying the world. It doesn't matter if you don't sleep for a couple years, and you lose all your friends. It doesn't matter that you're going to have to give up on all your dreams. Everyone gets the right to keep filling up the fucking world with children. Why? You can't ask that. You just get to keep doing it.

  • *slow clap*

  • Kip Hackman

    This was hilarious. Just enough truth, with just enough sarcasm, to make the whole thing delicious. And, hey, those people that like/hate kids depending on their mood, you can always be the awesome aunt/uncle/weird distantish cousin (I'm currently in that third group). It's kinda fun. I see these little brats spaced out enough to forget they're brats, I get out old toys and play with them until I get bored, and then I make them clean up after themselves and I go do whatever I want to do for a while. They think I'm super cool (huge ego boost, which doesn't make sense because I don't value their opinion on anything else), They are mostly stupid in the funny way when I see them, and after a few hours, they leave and I won't see them for months.

  • lilianna28

    Spoken by a dude without kids. Feel free to be proud of yourself for avoiding such an uncool experience. I for one, will go home to craft glue, toddler hugs, baby spit, girl scouts, basketball and sprout online. Maybe not a "cool" as the bar, but my life is full of laughter and I don't need to convince you as to why it rocks. It just does.

  • He didn't mention anything specifically about a bar and it's pretty far-fetched to insinuate that someone's life doesn't or can't have laughter, just because they don't have a child. I'm as barren as a cornfield in winter -- am I destined for a bar-filled, laughter-less life? No. I can adopt. I can get what you have without biological implementation. John G. can do the same if and when he chooses. Or with me. I'm all for raising non-biological children with strangers from the Internet. Sounds like a Judd Apatow movie already.

  • John G.

    I'm not proud, just incredibly relieved that it never happened on accident. I've seen children take down very smart people.

  • FrayedMachine

    Admittedly, I'm at the age where my friends are starting to get married and have kids (why the hell they would want to start so early is absolutely beyond me) so I have yet to see the process in full swing. But I'm also not above everything to admit that my want of children is pretty fucking narcissistic in that I'm curious as to see what I can create. It's probably why I'm going to put it off until I really really really REALLY actually legitimately want kids but there's no way I want a kid to ruin what I have right now.

    The horrors that you describe are part of why I juggle between wanting them or not. I used to DREAM of the day I'd be a mother. Now, sitting in my mid/late twenties, I'm cringing over the idea. Its' probably because I've started to actually live selfishly and don't want to sacrifice that right now for anything.

    The only thing that I don't agree with is the notion that couples only see each other when they're in the mood to see each other. I mean, okay, don't get me wrong, I've known couples like this. They're the ones who stay together because it's convenient and they've decided that aw hell, it works, so why not keep going with it. But in that same line of breath, I've also known a lot of couples who actually do know how to work together and live a life -together-, and not just separately.

    I guess to bring it back to the original topic, it's part of why I like LesliexBen more than JimxPam now. Maybe it is the introduction of the child so soon and the clear tone of desperation between the two of them where it seems like they constantly need something 'solid' to bind the two of them together that makes me feel like they are totally going to end up waking up one day and hating each other. Pam likely to be the one who will end up filled with seething hatred before Jim because she seems to have sacrificed much much much more than he has. But I guess Leslie and Ben have a better idea of how to actually work together, probably because their work relationship has been more dependent on cooperation than Jim and Pam's. But that kind of dynamic gives me a little bit more hope about handling little ones than JimxPam.

    Babies are dumb and are only really cute so that we aren't driven to kill them when they're young. But maybe I'm being totally naive but I think there's a way of having a kid without COMPLETELY hating each other and turning each other into a seething pile of emptiness.

    There's a part of me that's also convinced, however, that it's in part a culture thing. Americans are so baby-centric once there's one in their life but there's so many other places that actually know how to still be adults and not let a newborn take over their life and yes I totally just read Bringing Up Bébé.

  • GDI

    Bravo! I do say that in earnest. That post read like the dark recesses of my mind. I try not to be so nihilistic about children and relationships, but c'mon. The world isn't sunshine and rainbows.

  • AudioSuede

    An exhaustive, but thoroughly well-considered approach to the topic at hand, and a brilliant summary of a fascinating point.

    You get a thumbs-up, and a dancing gif:
    http://thisthepodcast.files.wo...

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