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Why no one likes Jim anymore

The character who won the hearts of fans on ‘The Office’ has turned into ‘a stupid goofball’


 

Why no one likes Jim anymorePoor Jim Halpert on The Office: with the exception of his wife, no one likes him anymore. On the U.S. adaptation of Ricky Gervais’s show, Jim (John Krasinski) once won the hearts of fans with his conspiratorial looks at the camera and his crush on Pam (Jenna Fischer); he was the romantic character in a comedy about workplace drudgery. Fans thought this season, in which Jim and Pam finally got married, would make him even more lovable. Instead, the writers have exposed Jim as, in his own words, “a big stupid goofball,” whose defining moment this season was in an episode where he spitefully allowed someone to fall into a koi pond. Fans are starting to notice: TV.com picked Jim and Pam as two of the most annoying characters on TV, while journalist Meghan Keane wrote a widely discussed article for theawl.com, arguing that Jim is a “mediocre man who has already realized his full potential.” He was a popular character, but now Keane tells Maclean’s that only a few of her readers are ready to “stand up for Jim.”

When the show started in 2005, viewers saw Jim as their representative in a crazy world. With his subtle put-downs of his insane boss Michael (Steve Carell) and his refusal to take his boring job seriously, he used humour to cope with a bad situation, like Hawkeye on M*A*S*H. But this season, Jim’s promotion to co-manager at his workplace has exposed his petty, resentful side, like his jealousy of Michael for being a better salesman than he is. Keane says that because the show once offered Jim “as someone to empathize with,” it’s depressing for us to see that he’s “not very good at his job.” Even his wisecracks— “legend has it, on this very site, there used to be a productive paper company”—seem nasty now that he’s a boss.

One moment that especially infuriated fans was when Jim decided to try to get some respect by openly humiliating the insubordinate Ryan (B.J. Novak), making him literally work in a closet. Ryan is a villainous character who deserved what he got, but other signs point to the fact that Jim is no longer a fun guy: in another episode, Dwight (Rainn Wilson), who was usually the butt of Jim’s jokes, successfully plays a trick on the now-clueless Jim. Even Jim’s messy haircut, the visual cue that defined him as a lovable comic hero, has been toned down. The Office is known for its ambitious, dark comedy, and this might be its darkest, most intriguing story idea: demonstrating that even cute young TV heroes get less cute with age and responsibility.

An even darker undercurrent of the new season is the idea that Jim has no life beyond the office, and probably never will. Keane thinks a key moment in his downfall was the wedding episode, where it turned out that he had few friends: “If Jim and Pam couldn’t get more than four people out to their rehearsal dinner who weren’t family or co-workers, then that office space suddenly becomes the entirety of their existence.” That development makes Jim just like the other people on the show, a dysfunctional person who can’t exist outside the workplace; unlike in the early seasons, it’s hard for us to pretend that he’s normal.

Fans have reacted with a sense of betrayal: NPR’s Linda Holmes lamented that Jim “lost his sense of humour as a result of his promotion.” TV.com sent a message to Jim and Pam: “We even like Ryan more than you two. And we really don’t enjoy Ryan.” But if these viewers had looked more closely at Jim in previous seasons, they might not now be so surprised—the writers have often hinted that he could wind up like this. In the fourth season, when he was forced to try hard at his job for a change, he became a clone of Michael, with the same desperate pushiness. This season hasn’t changed Jim all that much. It’s just made his flaws impossible to overlook.

The transformation of Jim may also be an inevitable part of dealing with something that’s happened since the show began: the world economic collapse. Jobs became scarce, and suddenly it became clear, as Keane puts it, “that someone with a dead-end job is better off than all of the people who are dealing with unemployment and unable to pay their bills.” When the U.S. version of The Office began, there was a sense that someone like Jim might be able to look forward to a brighter future. Now we know this is the best he can expect, and he seems to sense it too. Maybe the problem is not that, as Dwight put it in a recent episode, “people are starting to notice how terrible Jim is.” It might be that Jim is starting to reflect how terrible the world is.


 

Why no one likes Jim anymore

  1. Well, things might change now that a new company will be taking over the Scranton branch. Perhaps, a new boss will come in, and shake things up. Although at some point, I'd think that the Pam-Jim combo in the office just isn't going to work and one of them — Pam, probably — would have to be written off the show.

  2. Simmer down – The Office is still the best comedy on television, and Jim and Pam are still the best couple on television.

  3. Does this mean you're not allowing him to sit at the cool kids table with you anymore?

  4. A little harsh. He's different now, but his changes make him seem more believable. His frustration at his lack of power over co-workers, his realizations that he is going to have to support a family–people in the workplace deal with these things every day. The shaggy-haired underachiever Jim was perhaps more lovable but hardly realistic.

  5. I love Jim. Definitely don't get the hate.

  6. That tv.com article also includes Barney Stinson, so I'm not sure how much stock I'd put in it.

    I enjoy the direction the show is taking, even though I agree with most of the points the anti-Jim people make, with the exceptions of the two cited here:

    1. I still don't think it was his fault Michael fell into the Koi Pond (the clip is online http://bit.ly/zm7LJ). To me it looks like Michael walked straight into the water while Jim was oblivious and not paying attention.

    2. Ryan was being openly insubordinate, refusing to do work and trying to undermine Jim's authority. Putting him in a closet was kind of a sitcom solution to the problem, but a good one, as Ryan likes to be the center of attention.

    He and Pam have always been slackers (it helps explain why she stayed with Roy so long), and now they're put in a situation where they actually have to try (which I can relate to as I'm finishing college). It makes sense that they'd be less adorable than when they could just make fun of people from the sidelines.

    About them not having close friends, we don't see their life outside work, and they aren't the kind of people who like to talk about it, unlike Michael who will blurt out anything. There seemed to be a lot of people at their wedding, especially considering they purposely made it far away so people wouldn't come, but we weren't introduced to many of them. Anyways, a couple in their 30s in Scranton not having tons of friends doesn't seem that unusual.

  7. The man is a husband and is about to have a child….what do you expect? While some criticize the show for becoming "less realistic" and more sitcomy, I believe that it is becoming more realistic…when it comes to the portrayal of Jim and Pam. To me they were always passive aggressive underachievers….and we loved them for it. Now they are married, with a kid on the way, and have moved up in the world. They are less willing to sit back and make funny faces, but are more able to say what's on their minds. Now they actually have to try…and their lack of talent in Dunder Mifflin is more apparent. Jim was a good salesman, but can he do Micheal's job? He always looked down on Michael but now he sees that being a regional manager is not as easy as he thought. Can Pam be more than just the receptionist? I personally was happy to see Pam quit her job and assert herself and her want to be something more than a receptionist. However, is she cut out to be a saleswoman? I love the direction that the show is taking. I personally dont need to have the main characters be likeable to relate to them…or to like them.

  8. This article is nuts. Jim is still very much beloved; he is now a manager and husband and soon to be father and the character has to change. The show has always tried to be "real life" and this is just part of it. I've never read anything negative, nor have I ever heard anyone talking about it. Fans have reacted "with a sense of betrayal"? I think the author needs to get off the drama wagon and appreciate this show for what it is– the very best sitcom that's been on TV in years and years and years.

  9. This is the writers. Not the character. Not "Jim." Jim is not real, he is written by a staff that makes his character and his decisions take place. Fans aren't feeling betrayed by Jim, they are being betrayed by the writing staff, who, since the introduction of Charles Miner last season have been messing with their fans almost with glee.

    • Whoa, whoa, whoa: Jim's not real? What? He's got writers?? But in that case, why is he being such a bastard? I mean, it's almost as if he were a real, flawed human being, rather than a sitcom concoction.

      I'm so confused.

      • Andrew, I don't remember you being confused when NYPD Blue turned out to have writers. Come clean: Why are you so biased against sitcoms?

  10. Absolutely agree with grouchtype. I thoroughly believe the writers know exactly what they're doing here. From his clashes with Charles last season through his increasing ineffectiveness as boss, the show writers and producers have been taking Jim some very dark places this season. Now that there is a major corporate shakeup that is going to see a branch with two managers, Jim's position and office difficulties will be resolved, probably starting after the Olympics.

    Having said that, I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the flirtation between Bernard and Erin this season beginning to supplant the Jim/Pam relationship. I've found myself really rooting for Bernard and Erin to get together.

    • I agree, Andy and Erin are the new Jim & Pam. I could care less about what happens with Jim & Pam's relationship. I like that Andy is his own worst enemy, and it's not external forces that are keeping them apart like J&P.

  11. I think this is just the natural growing-up process most sitcoms go through, and Jim's development has been rather consistent. He's becoming more adult, taking on more responsibilities, sacrificing some ideals and getting into the reality of life. A lot of people can relate to that progression, since many of us have gone through, or are still going through that, for better or worse.

    Jim and Pam have always been cast as a stereotypical middle-American couple. They're not perfect or amazing people, heck, they're barely average people. But they're well intentioned, relatively unselfish and seem to generally enjoy life. That resonates with audiences and I think it will continue to resonate.

  12. I like the Office, its one of my favourite TV SHOWS. Its not real.

  13. I don't talk this much about my own family…

  14. who I assume to be real and write their own gags.

    • That depends — the T doesn't stand for "Truman," does it?

  15. Well, I for one am really disappointed–I'd assumed the unpopular Jim you were writing about must be Jim Flaherty.

  16. Firstly, do you people have lives?
    Lastly, do you people have lives?
    An entire article on something this devoid of importance,
    I can't believe I wasted my time reading it, TRIPE.

  17. If the characters all stayed the same, there would be an article in place of this one complaining that the show was stagnant, boring and unoriginal!

  18. Why no one likes Jim anymore – I think a great title to discuss.

  19. K. dude, wtf. I mean, this article is really REALLY depressing. It feels like you are just trying to exaggerate the mistakes and bad traits of a person with the sole purpose of dragging him down. I am sorry, but if you all saw Jim as the hero in the first place, you are off to a bad start. The office was never that kind of show. There aren’t any heroes or villains, just people, with their share of craziness and bad and good things. Michael sure was an idiot, but he was a loyal, good intentioned idiot, and he sure demonstrated his ability to sell paper well off in the start of the series without being pushy but actually smart. And as for Jim, he is kind of an asshole. He has been pranking Dwight since ep 1! And not to mention that he was obviously flirting with and engaged person at the start of the series. How in hell did you assume he was a hero? He is a person who makes mistakes. And that is what i guess i like about the office. And just how is that you assumed that these people do not have social likes outside their work? What? Just because the series is centered in their work environment? I think yours is a hasty comment. And finally, i do still like Jim, and I like Pam, and Dwight, Michael, Angela, Stanley, Meredith, Kelly, Oscar, Kevin, Creed, Andy and Erin. Hell, i even love Toby! They were realest people i was ever able to find on a medium overflowed with flat, static characters. I am gonna go now. If you read this, wow. I just wanted to put here on paper or electronic whatever that at least I am completely for the office. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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