Favorite Fictional Characters, #381: Jim Halpert
Updated: Feb 20, 2022
I was a latecomer to the pop culture phenomenon of The Office. I only started watching it a couple of years ago with my family. My boys, by the way, on the brink of the teenage sarchasm, adored its cheerful mining of the comedy that comes from awkwardness. And to be candid, they loved Dwight. Sure. It's easy to love Dwight. He's ludicrous. So is Steve Carrell's Michael Scott, the maestro of madness presiding over the improbable antics at Dunder Mifflin's Scranton location. Lots of other likable or memorable characters from the show as well, from Pam Beezly's weirdly attainable sex appeal to Darryl's warehouse ennui. But for me, the guy I most identified with throughout the series was Jim Halpert.
Jim carries with him echoes of Peter from Office Space, a man who probably does fifteen minutes of actual work each day, who fills the hours with complex pranks on Dwight and flirting with the engaged receptionist. One gets the sense that Jim is slumming a bit, just kind of getting by, not really interested in selling paper or getting any mileage out of his intellect or charisma. He's most of us, punching his card and hoping something better falls in his lap. That something better, of course, is Pam, so adorably portrayed by Jenna Fischer. This is the rare series that answers the will-they-won't they question fairly early on, and then is capable of surviving the neutering of that central sexual tension. The story of The Office is the story of Michael's good-hearted idiocy and Dwight's Amish assholery, but it's also the story of Jim and Pam. Of a guy and a girl who found each other by the copy machine and made it work, questionable late-season plot devices aside. And they make it.
Jim dallies with ambition, which I think is what I most understand about him. He plays footsie with fate, thinking he can chase down that brass ring while retaining all the wholesome goodness of his domestic life. It's so illusory, but so seductive, and we all flirt with it. But like Jim, if we're smart, we come home and we realize that the best things in life aren't crushing our enemies or seeing them driven before you. It's the quiet victory of love, and friends. Jim finally gets that. We all should.