Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Chronicles of Jan (Part II)

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As you already know, I love NBC’s The Office. I love it! So you can imagine how eagerly I awaited the season four premiere last Thursday. The episode did not disappoint. We finally got to see Pam and Jim together! Michael resumed his position as Regional Manager of the Scranton branch and Dwight resumed his positions as Assistant to the Regional Manager.

Perhaps one of the largest changes in the show was that Ryan ‘the temp’ Howard took Jan’s place as Michael’s boss. I mentioned in my last post how upset I was about the drastic and frankly quite unrealistic turn Jan’s character took at the end of the third season. And I was very disappointed to see that the opening of the fourth season offered little hope for Jan.

Before I get into that I should also mention that I listened to the cast commentary on the DVD of the last episode of the third season. I was interested in their interpretation of Jan’s ‘breakdown.’ Melora Hardin is the first one to say how much she loves the way that Jan’s character is ‘developing.’ Most of the cast agrees that they would not have foreseen this in the future for Jan based upon her earlier character. However, no one on the cast challenges why Jan’s character was written this way. In fact, they praise the writers for making her such an interesting and complex character.

Again, I ask: Why do we delight so much in seeing that bitch taken down a notch?

The so-called ‘self-destruction’ of Jan’s character is little more than a culturally condoned backlash against a very strong woman who is no less loveable than say, Donald Trump and we think of him as an icon, a self made man, someone to aspire to.

The absolute woman hatred that is embedded in the writing of Jan’s character goes unchallenged by nearly everyone involved in the show and, indeed, many viewers of the show. We need to ask ourselves why the writers of such a wildly popular show felt the need to destroy the most powerful (if a bit over the top) female voice on the show. The season four opener saw Jan passed out in Michael’s condo (they conveniently omitted the scene where we see that all of the furniture in the condo is Jan’s). She didn’t make another appearance until the “Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run For The Cure.” In that scene Jan bitchily and jealously accuses Pam of trying to steal her man. “He’s mine, okay. So HANDS OFF!”

At this point I feel the need to remind viewers of Jan just a few months earlier. She had a very lucrative career, was freshly divorced, was totally in charge in her relationship with Michael whom she openly detests. Why would a woman with so much culturally valued ‘power’ and capital give it all up for a man as loathsome as Michael?

The answer is that she wouldn’t. But backlash climates allow for all sorts of stretches of reality in order to show women where their real priorities should be: wearing stretch pants, living in the boyfriend’s condo, with fresh breast implants, and plenty of jealous rage toward other women.

3 comments:

La Pobre Habladora said...

Great post. I was also dismayed by the decision to turn Jan into a caricature of a histrionic housewife. It robs her character of all its humor as well as promoting sexist stereotypes. What could the writers have been thinking? I expect much more of Mindy Kaling, at least.

Cortney said...

I really liked Jan's character pre-breakdown. I am not sure why they felt the need to change her either. She was a great character!!! I have actually been noticing a lot of changes in the female characters lately. (Kelly and Phyllis especially). It reeks of backlash to me.

RMJ said...

Hey there, great article! I linked it on Bitch, I'd love to know what you think of my opinion on Pam :)

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/televism-pambition-the-offices-abandoned-artist