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The Office, the Wedding, and the Power of the Internet

By Mark D. Roberts | Monday, October 12, 2009

Warning: The Office spoilers ahead.

If you have doubted the power of the Internet to impact culture, consider last week’s big event on The Office.  After seasons of waiting, Pam and Jim finally got married. The “Niagara” episode offered its usual dosage of off-the-wall humor, plus some tender moments.

But one of the most clever and, for me, surprising scenes came right at the end. Pam, John, and their wedding party gathered in Spruce Avenue Presbyterian Church. Three cheers for the Presbyterians! (Note: This is a fictitious church. There are five Presbyterian churches in Niagara Falls, New York, but none named “Spruce Avenue.”) That Pam and John got married in a Presbyterian church was not a the surprise, however. (By the way, the actress who plays Pam, Jenna Fischer, is good friends with Angela Kinsey, the actress who plays Angela Martin on The Office. Angela Kinsey attends Bel-Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.)

Rather, the surprise came as the organist was about to play the processional music. On cue, she stopped playing. Dwight raced to the pulpit to turn on his iPod. All of a sudden the rock song “Forever” by Chris Brown began to play, and the wedding party started dancing forward as the processional, much to the bemused disgust of Pam and Jim, who had apparently asked that this song not be used in their wedding.

It was a funny scene. But it was much funnier and more striking if you knew the backstory. On June 20, 2009, Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz got married in Christ Lutheran Church,  in St. Paul, Minnesota. They and their wedding party danced forward for the processional, using Chris Brown’s “Forever.” Someone videoed the event. On July 19, 2009, somebody uploaded the video to YouTube so that Jill’s father could share it with relatives. Here’s the video. It’s well worth watching if you haven’t seen it.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Here’s a link to the imitation of this video on The Office.

The video went immediately viral. A week after being posted, it had 6.6 million views on YouTube. As of a few days ago, it has over 26,000,000 views on YouTube, not counting the large number of views on copies of the video.  My guess is that, after last weeks’s episode of The Office, the original video will get millions of new viewers.

So here’s what impresses me about the power of the Internet. Think about it. Less than three months ago, somebody put up a video of a small wedding featuring two ordinary and relatively unknown people. Last week, one of the most popular television programs imitated the opening moments of the wedding, and millions upon millions of viewers got the joke. Never before in the history of the world could something like this have happened. It’s rather stunning, if you stop and think about it. (Photo: a scene from the processional of The Office.)

By the way, Jill and Kevin decided to capitalize upon their new-found fame by encouraging people to give to the Wellstone Institute, a progressive institute with a particular focus on preventing domestic violence. Way to go, Jill and Kevin! This is  ironic, of course, because Chris Brown, who recorded the song “Forever,” recently and famously pled guilty to assaulting his former girlfriend, Rihanna. Jill and Kevin do not mention this situtation explicitly on their website, but they do say this about the utterly unexpected response to their wedding video: “We hope to direct this positivity to a good cause. Due to the circumstances surrounding the song in our wedding video, we have chosen the Sheila Wellstone Institute. Sheila Wellstone was an advocate, organizer, and national champion in the effort to end domestic violence in our communities.”

Topics: Cultural Commentary, Internet |

2 Responses to “The Office, the Wedding, and the Power of the Internet”

  1. Megan Willome Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Okay, that was just pure fun! Totally brightened my dreary morning. And I’ve never even seen “The Office,” (although I love Steve Carrell).

  2. Dale Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 9:19 am

    That was an awesome episode and the “Real” wedding was much better than the funny one!


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