All of the crazies in The Office make Pam Beesly seem like an angel in comparison. However, when you dig a little deeper, you see this is not the case.
I’m not saying she is a horrible person but just that she’s just as flawed as you and me. Throughout this post, I’m going to list eleven examples of Pam being a bad role model for viewers, and ten examples of her being a good role model.
While people all over the internet are bashing Pam, she has been a good role model for me, overall. This is because I try to emulate her good qualities rather than her bad qualities. In fact, many of her good qualities are because she’s able to overcome some of her bad qualities.
(If you can relate to Pam’s journey, you may be interested in my new Facebook group, I am Pam Beesly: A Group for Those Who Have Struggled to Find Their Voice.)
So, what do you think? Is Pam impish or admirable? If you’re unsure where you stand, use these lists to decide for yourself:
1. Kissing Jim at the Dundies
When Roy tries to get her to leave the Dundies because he thinks they’re lame, Pam barely manages to wriggle herself out of her fiance’s clutches. Maybe she was actually enjoying watching Michael make a fool of himself, but more likely, she wanted to hang out with Jim.
She begins drinking heavily to drown out her feelings about her fight with Roy, and she is wasted by the time she’s awarded a Dundie. It’s a Dundie for something she wasn’t expecting. Instead of the usual “Longest Engagement” Dundie, she receives a “Whitest Sneakers” Dundie. She is so ecstatic that she kisses Jim.
2. Continuing to Allow Michael to Make Inappropriate Comments Toward Her
Michael often objectifies Pam and makes comments about her appearance. Pam usually doesn’t stand up for herself – at least when it comes to sexual harassment (she does call him a jerk when he fake fires her).
I guess this is what most sexually-harassed women do when the harasser is their boss, but despite the risks of speaking out, it’s the right thing to do.
Pam is an especially timid person at the beginning of the show, so it’s not surprising that she doesn’t say anything too direct. In later seasons, she gains confidence, but still doesn’t chastise Michael very often.
At this point, it becomes apparent that she views Michael as a child in an adult’s body, so she’s letting his comments slide because he doesn’t know any better. While it may be true that he doesn’t know any better, it is still not an excuse for sexual harassment. Intent doesn’t matter.
The first time Pam directly stands up to Michael is when he’s dating her mom. While it is upsetting to have your boss date your mom, Pam goes a little overboard, and I think it’s because it’s not as much about her mom as much as it is about all her pent-up anger.
To read more about Pam’s interesting relationship with Michael, check out my post, Why do People Like Michael Scott?
3. Allowing Roy to Treat Her Poorly
Where do I begin? First of all, Roy has been refusing to set a wedding date for three years. He also makes a lewd comment about Katy, the purse girl, in front of Pam. He doesn’t give Pam a valentine’s gift. He discourages her from going to art school. The list goes on and on.
Pam usually doesn’t stand up for herself much – except maybe that one time when she wanted to stay at the Dundies.
Many women find themselves in relationships like this. If they’re in need of a role model, they should not look to Pam in the first two seasons. She waits way too long to end the relationship.
4. Laughing at Dwight (and Others)
When Jim convinces Dwight to talk to the purse girl, we see Jim and Pam laughing at him the whole time. I think it’s ok for the audience to laugh because Dwight isn’t a real person (and there’s no one remotely like him in real life).
However, when Jim and Pam laugh at him, they are making fun of someone who lives and breathes and has inherent value. He may be an oddball, but no one should be made fun of for being their authentic selves.
Jim’s pranks on Dwight are discussed in more detail in my post, Are Jim’s Pranks Mean?
Pam also laughs at Jim’s mocking impressions of other coworkers, and even joins in by using a Stanley voice to say, “I do not think that is funny.” Pam also joins the bandwagon of making fun of Kevin using a Cookie Monster voice.
5. Kissing Jim at Casino Night
While Jim is the one who initiates the kiss, Pam doesn’t push him away even though she is still engaged to Roy. At least she doesn’t allow a second kiss.
Cheating is wrong even if you’re cheating on a horrible person and the person you’re cheating with is your soulmate.
6. Quitting Art School
Once Pam and Jim are finally together and they’ve established a solid foundation, Pam decides to go to art school in New York. However, when Pam finds out she failed a class and has to spend another three months in school to retake it, she decides to quit art school.
While she claims she didn’t come back to Scranton because of Jim, you can tell by her face that this was one of her motivations. Giving up on your dreams for the sake of romance can have unpleasant consequences. I talk about this concept in my post, One Major Reason for Jim and Pam’s Fight.
7. Creating a New Job for Herself by Lying
When Pam grows tired of being a salesperson, she decides to fool everyone into thinking she is actually the office administrator. She makes up a salary (way more than she’s currently making), so she’s not only lying but she’s stealing money from the company.
While this is a situation crafted for the sake of comedy, this post is about character rather than comedy, so that’s the lens I’m using for the moment.
8. Harassing Jim About Whether or not He Likes Her Replacement, Kathy
While it’s funny to watch Pam and Dwight perform all these tests on Jim, it paints Pam as insecure and superficial. Jealousy does not make for a healthy relationship.
9. Not Holding Jim Accountable for Going Behind Her Back to Start a Business
Jim decides to become a partner in a business venture even though he and Pam decided that he shouldn’t because it’s all the way in Philidelphia.
When Jim finally confesses, Pam isn’t really that angry with him. Jim then tells the audience, “I have the best wife ever.” What he’s really saying is that he has the most lenient wife ever.
10. Letting Meredith Take the Fall for the Lice Infestation
When several people in the office are found to have lice, Meredith is blamed because of her reputation. However, Pam knows that it probably wasn’t Meredith because Pam got lice from her daughter, Cece. She lets everybody be angry with Meredith because she is afraid of having people angry with her.
11. Being Emotionally Dishonest
Emotional dishonesty is one of the most undesirable traits you can find in someone. We’re talking about lying here, people.
Pam lies to herself and others. For example, she lies to herself about her feelings for Jim and flirts with him for years while telling herself he’s just a friend.
Emotional dishonesty is not something that can ever be completely cured. While Pam does gradually become more honest throughout the show, she still has bouts of dishonesty up until the very last season.
It’s in this season that she fails to tell Jim how upset she was about her mural being defaced. She says she didn’t want to stress him out. This is understandable but never a good reason to lie, especially to a spouse.
One reason that emotional dishonesty is an undesirable trait is because it can be difficult for your spouse to know how to fill your needs.
I’ve heard some women say, “Guys can’t take hints because they’re dumb.” I think this is a convenient way for women to place the blame on men instead of taking responsibility for their own communication skills.
I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request to ask women to speak more plainly. Honesty and assertiveness are important. They tell others that you care enough about the subject at hand to risk speaking with confidence and vulnerability.
You’d think women would want to find their voice in this day in age, but many of them, especially me, are still keeping their feelings to themselves to avoid appearing needy. (The fear of emotional vulnerability is a problem for men, too. You can learn more by listening to the Hidden Brain podcast episode, The Lonely American Man.)
Appearing needy is the last thing Pam wants. When Jim leaves the Scranton branch, Pam gives him hints that she wants to date him without actually directly saying it. However, Jim doesn’t pick up on these hints and continues to feel hopeless about a future with Pam until she stands up in front of the entire office and clearly states her feelings for him.
Unfortunately, even after her speech on the beach, Pam struggles with emotional dishonesty. While this is a struggle for most people, Pam takes this a step further and blatantly lies to people, including the camera crew and her closest friends.
1. Buying Things for Kevin When he is Worried he Might Have Cancer
When Kevin finds out he might have skin cancer, Pam and Jim buy him 69 cup-of-noodles because it his favorite lunch and favorite number. Paying attention to your coworkers’ likes and dislikes is huge. It’s hard to care about more than just yourself, especially at work.
2. Eventually Choosing the Right Gift
While Pam initially trades Jim’s teapot gift for an iPod as part of “Yankee Swap,” she eventually trades it back. She noticed Jim’s reaction when she gave away the teapot, so she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings.
3. Finally Breaking up With Roy After Years of Abuse
Shortly after kissing Jim, Pam breaks off her engagement with Roy. She is pretty evasive about her reasoning, but it’s clear that it is mostly because of Jim. In fact, she eventually confesses this to be the case.
While this is not the best reason to break up with an abusive partner, it takes courage to get out of a relationship like that regardless of the circumstances.
4. Organizing a Bird Funeral to Make Michael Feel Better
When Michael learns his former boss has died, he becomes quite sad. He might not realize it but his sadness is related to his fear of dying alone.
Pam realizes this, so she throws together a funeral for a dead bird that Michael is lamenting over. She reads a moving eulogy, and in a way, she is speaking directly to Michael.
5. Changing a Tire
For thousands of years parents have taught their sons certain skills and their daughters other skills due to gender stereotypes. For example, daughters are not often taught how to change a tire (luckily, I was).
It is not clear where Pam got her tire-changing skills, but it is impressive that she was either attentive enough to remember what she was taught or resourceful enough to learn on her own.
In either case, when Meredith’s tire blows, Pam ends up changing the tire even though there is a man present. That man is Michael.
As the only male in the vehicle, he feels compelled to take charge of the “male-oriented” task, but when he starts trying to use the jack to unscrew the nuts, it becomes clear that he is incompetent and Pam takes over.
I love this scene because it is poetic justice for Michael’s stereotyping of women throughout the episode.
6. Trying to be Friends With Karen Even Though She is Jealous
When Jim returns from Stamford with a new girlfriend, Pam is quite jealous. However, she doesn’t let this jealousy affect how she treats Karen. In fact, she feels sorry for her when Angela is mean to her, and decides to team up with Karen to throw a party using ideas from her time at Stamford.
Pam also doesn’t let her jealously get in the way of helping solve a relationship dispute between Jim and Karen. Eventually, Pam does cause the demise of their relationship, but you can tell she feels bad about it.
7. Confessing to Roy That She Kissed Jim
Pam tries to clear her conscience of one of the mistakes from the list above. Confessing infidelity is always the right thing to do even if it takes you years to do it.
8. Walking on Hot Coals and Finally Telling Jim How She Feels
Pam is quiet and timid throughout the first two seasons, but she does something brave on Beach Day that gives her the confidence to be brave in other ways – namely, telling Jim how she feels.
She tells him he is the main reason she broke up with Roy and that she misses him. She says this in front of the whole office. It is probably the most honest thing she’s said up until this point, and from here on out she is more assertive in general.
It’s hard to change our habits, but Pam managed to make an amazing transformation. This transformation makes Jim rethink his decision to distance himself from her – honesty and vulnerability are attractive traits. Wouldn’t you want to date someone who’s isn’t afraid to let others see their imperfections?
Jim sure does. Pam’s brave speech leads Jim to break up with his girlfriend and withdraw his name from consideration for an executive-level position just so he can be with this confident woman.
9. Going to Art School
As mentioned earlier, Pam goes to art school in New York once she has a solid foundation with Jim. It is not only expensive but it means living far away from Jim. Despite these drawbacks, she believes in her skills, challenges herself to learn new things and pursue her dreams.
10. Deciding to Have Another “Beach Moment”
Pam’s confession on Beach Day wasn’t the only time she boldly shared her feelings with the love of her life. In Season 9, she has another very brave moment where she chooses emotional honesty instead of burying her feelings.
This is what happens . . . It’s the worst Valentine’s Day of Pam and Jim’s relationship. Jim thinks they should spend this special day apart because they have been having relationship issues all day – actually for many months – and he doesn’t want to fight on Valentine’s Day.
However, Pam says in response, “I don’t think you should go to Philly tonight. I think you should stay. And I think that we should fight.”
This is possibly the best marriage advice ever (or relationship advice in general). It’s always better to talk about important issues rather than keeping them to yourself and letting them fester. I hope I will remember Pam’s words during the hardest parts of my marriage.
Pam is One of My Role Models
It doesn’t matter whether the good outweighs the bad, Pam can be a good role model if you focus on her journey rather than her individual decisions. I think she is an inspiration to timid people everywhere who want to find their voice and go after what they deserve.
What are Your Thoughts?
If you have some thoughts about Pam, please share them in the comments below!