For the bulk of nine years, fans of The Office have watched Jim.
Sure, we like the other characters too, we may even care about them. But Jim is the one who acts, the one who pines and pursues, the one who pranks and plans. We wait for Pam to react, to respond, to reciprocate, but for the most part she’s a woman to whom things happen; more specifically, a woman to whom Jim happens. She’s the princess to be rescued—from Roy, from her own self-doubt about her artistic capacities, most recently from her doubt of Jim.
But in the finale, Pam finally accepts her agency. She even admits that she’s learned and moved slowly—four years to get to the man who worked five feet from her desk. By giving her the final recap of her time on film, she has the final say of the way the narrative can be read. It may not be heroic, but it is honest, and it is the story of many, if not most, women in our society. We are taught to be timid and small, and it takes much of our adult life to move into controlling our own lives, it takes us “so long to do so many important things.” We are happy when a man buys a house for us because we feel like someone cares for us and is in control, but that falls so far short of having the kind of agency to make a decision for ourselves. And we see where that kind of “love” leads Jim and Pam—Jim continues to make the decisions, as Pam withers in her smallness.
In the final minutes of The Office, Pam re-narrates the series into a feminist one. She remembers her identity, and acts out of it in bold agency. Like so many woman, she is ambivalent, happy where she is while lamenting the time lost. And like so many woman, she hopes that her lessons will make it easier for those watching, for the next generation of women.
“It would just make my heart soar if someone out there saw this and she said to herself: Be strong. Trust yourself. Love yourself. Conquer your fears. Just go after what you want, and act fast, because life just isn’t that long.”