Jim Halpert Smiling Through Blinds

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For fans of comedy, few shows have become quite as beloved in recent years as “The Office.” Because the premise of the series is that it portrays the making of a documentary, numerous situations arise in which characters would literally react to situations occurring on screen by staring into the cameras with which “documentarians” were filming them. Naturally, the show has created its fair share of “reaction” memes, and indeed, a particularly memorable image from the show has made serious headway as a reaction image on web forums, Facebook, and other sites in recent years.

Dubbed the “Jim Halpert Smiling Through Blinds” meme, the image of a bemused Jim Halpert watching his workmates with a slightly devilish expression tends to be used online to express the feeling that someone is watching a slow-motion train wreck of their own devising while getting away scot-free in the process.

Origin

As is the case with numerous other popular image macros, the “Smiling Through Blinds” image first appeared in early 2014 on the 4Chan /fa/ (fashion) image-board. If you’re not familiar with the history of 4Chan, suffice to say that the controversial website has probably created some of the most famous memes in Internet history, including the immensely popular phenomenon that is “lolcats” and the not-so-popular “Pepe the Frog,” who became famous as a symbol used by Internet trolls to annoy web users everywhere.

From there, as memes originating on 4Chan tend to do, the Halpert meme made its way to the immensely popular website Reddit, where the site’s users quickly put Jim’s smiling face to use in describing a myriad of real and hypothetical situations. And with its capacity for expressing extremely satisfied glee, it is no wonder that Jim Halpert’s smile has become such a popular image used to express thoughts on anything from history to politics to fashion.

Meaning

For some background on the facial expression and situation being portrayed in the meme, you’ll probably want to remember that a basic conceit of “The Office” as a television series is that Jim Halpert is one of the only people in his workplace who is cognizant enough to realize how crazy and dysfunctional his workmates are.

To relieve the pressure of working in such a borderline-chaotic environment, Halpert tends to enlist his level-headed workmate Pam in the planning of ever-more complicated pranks and harmless ruses to be played on colleagues. Of course, these pranks only serve to make the office in which Pam and Jim work more chaotic, as the humorless, authoritarian “assistant (to the) regional manager” Dwight Schrute constantly attempts to foil the pair’s hijinks. (It is no coincidence that Schrute also happens to serve as the primary target of Jim and Pam’s capers.)

Based on a Ricky Gervais-led sitcom vehicle of the same name that got its start a few years earlier in the UK, “The Office” has thus become synonymous with awkward humor, which may explain why Jim Halpert’s grin is so maniacal in the “Smiling Through Blinds” image, and why its use as a reaction image is so widespread across the ‘Net.

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