Saturday, March 04, 2006

Romance in Unlikely Places







I consider "The Office" to be one of the most romantic stories of all time.

"The Office" is a 1/2 hour long an episode, six-episodes a season, British mockumentary about office life. The main goal of the series is to make the viewer as uncomfortable as possible, and maybe laugh a little. Human insecurities and fallacies are laid bare and humiliated. All romance, warmth, sincerity, and sentimental emotions are ruthlessly dragged from their homes and beaten to death. And it's funny.

How could that be romantic?

Well, in the midst of all the barren cold wasteland of mid-sized company in Slough, England, is Tim and Dawn. Sometimes in the forefront, sometimes in the background, they are the two likable characters floating in a sea of awful drones. Their relationship is a spot of warmth and humanity.

The agony is that Dawn has a fiance, Lee. A big bruiser who works in the shipping department of the office, downstairs and away from the main happenings. Anyone can see he's all wrong for Dawn. He's not supportive or sensitive, or even terribly nice. But he is considered rather good looking (not my type really).

Normally that sort of romantic entanglements drive me nuts. Why would a sane girl like Dawn go for such a jerk? But of course we've all had friends date people who were asses for far to long so I accepted it. Dawn's not perfect, and why dump Lee only to risk the unknown with Tim?

And lets face it, Tim is not the best catch. A rather downtrodden young man with no friends who hates his job but will probably never leave it. He has a sense of humor and a strong wit that make him adorable, but perhaps his push-over nature does look bad in comparison to Lee's strong (overbearing) nature. He certainly doesn't look very tough in comparison. The episode where it's Tim's birthday and he ends up forlornly wandering the parking lot of a bar without shoes (someone tossed them on the roof for a bet despite Tim's protests) comes to mind.

For two seasons and twelve painfully embarrassing, and funny, episodes Dawn and Tim flirt and keep each other sane. Their unrequited love playing against an absurd backdrop of office shenanigans. In the second season, when Tim finally branches out and dates another co-worker and you can see just how devastated Dawn is, it hurts. When Tim dumps the girl because he's latched once more onto the impossible hope that he might be able to date Dawn, you cringe. But you smile again with them when they trick the oblivious, ridiculous uptight Gareth into saying he jerks men off.

Still, at the end of the season everything ends horribly for just about everyone. Tim makes a final (second) bid for Dawn, and she rejects him in favor of moving to the US to marry Lee and become an illustrator.

I was heartbroken. So was Tim.

The Christmas Special that came afterwards is an unabashed fan service, and perhaps even an apology for ending everything so bleakly.

Dawn it seems has been stuck in Florida taking care of Lee's sister's baby (which for one heart-stopping, well planned, moment we think is hers) and has given up all dreams of being an illustrator. She very obviously isn't interested in talking about Tim and glosses over her abandoned dreams, trying to look strong and happy. Her reluctance to return to England shows just how vulnerable she really is.

Tim is still at his job. Gareth is now his boss and he has a new awful desk mate. He's not miserable, but not happy either. His attempts to appear casual upon learning that Dawn will be back in town are as delicious as Dawn's own attempts to get out of returning.

Through the two episodes Lee again and again puts Dawn down in small ways, and she seems resigned and unhappy in his company. But when she is back with Tim it's like the two never parted. At the Christmas party they make fun of Gareth like always and laugh together like old times. Tim tries to encourage Dawn back towards illustrating despite Lee's declaration that to make money "you gotta be good."

And then the Christmas party is over. Lee convinces Dawn to leave early because they have a long flight the next day. She and Tim have an awkward goodbye and she's back on her way to the other side of the globe. Of course, we are angry with her for being so stupid as to stick with Lee. Then, when she opens her secret Santa gift in the cab, and it's an art kit very obviously from Tim, and she cries, we forgive her.

(It's such a wonderful juxtaposition to Lee, who earlier comments that Christmas is a gimmick and that he has her just take the money she spent on him out of his wallet. "I'm thinking of wrapping it this year," she remarks.)

Meanwhile Tim interviews back at the party optimistically that while Dawn was a ray of sunshine in his life, life does go on. He believes that things could turn out great for him in the next few years, there is no way of knowing. We are glad to see him so optimistic and cheerful despite the pain, but we know it won't do.

Then it happens.

Tim chats with his old boss and Gareth affably. Life is going on. And there she is at the edge of the screen. Walking unsteadily across the office. Tim doesn't see her as we zoom in on her tearful face. She pushes between him and the other guys, and kisses him.

"Careful, she's got a fiance," Gareth breaks the moment up.

"Not anymore." She pulls away from Tim long enough to say.

Their kiss is awkward, and tender, and wonderful. Tims hand comes up to touch her cheek as though he is only now realizing his dream is coming true. They break apart. She is the one who grips his hand, and leads him from the office. Away from the dark beige carpet, metal desks, and depressing, collating copy machine.

At last.

Like a sap, my heart soars every time I see it. Whenever "Only You" by Yaz, which plays during their climactic kiss, comes on my heart clenches a little.

It's because the rest of the series is so bleak, cold, and unromantic, that this moment shines out. The one moment of happiness magnified by the misery that surrounded it.

For this geek, it's perfect. Forget "Gone With The Wind", "Romeo and Juliet" or any of that overwrought drama. "The Office", two imperfect office workers falling sweetly in love, triumphing over the banal, does it for me.

1 comment:

people who want to see pictures of Erica's cats said...

We want to see pictures of Erica's cats! Pictures of Erica's cats!! (that's what all the people are saying)