Pretentiousaurus: Beets, bears, and Baha'i


PAPER JAM | Rainn Wilson's character in 'The Office' struggles with a phone. In real life, shrugging the Schrute stigma is a struggle.

JIM (pretending to be Dwight): Question. Which bear is best?

DWIGHT: That’s a ridiculous question.

JIM: False. Black bear.

This week Rainn Wilson, the actor who plays Dwight on “The Office,” contributed an op-ed column to CNN.com speaking out against the Iranian persecution of the Bahá’í religion, of which he is a member. As Wilson explained it, the Bahá’í faith, started in 19th century Persia, is built around a prescribed notion of absolute religious unity — i.e., that “there is only one God and therefore only one religion.”

{josquote}I think it is worth considering the various reasons why Wilson is the worst possible spokesman for an obscure world religion based on hyper-monotheism.{/josquote}

I think it is worth considering the various reasons why Wilson is the worst possible spokesman for an obscure world religion based on hyper-monotheism.

But first: When Jim says “false,” is he rejecting Dwight’s answer (i.e. the submission that, in fact, no bear is best) or is he rejecting the notion that it is a ridiculous question?

On one hand, I tend to agree with Jim that black bears are best (long story). On the other hand, we here ensconced in the echo chamber of academe would have to side with Dwight: “Which bear is best?” is a bad research question. It’s entirely too vague, and it presumes an objective truth — that there is an absolutely superior bear — that doesn’t exist.

I don’t mean to devalue the situation of the Bahá’ís, the religion itself, or Wilson’s passionate commentary by comparing it all to a stupid debate about bears. In fact, Wilson essentially told us not to do that, bracketing his column with the kinds of “this is no joking matter” buffer phrases that any well-known character actor would have to deploy at charity events. But there is still a problem here, and it isn’t merely that Wilson is inextricably linked with Dwight or that he kind of plays himself. It’s that the very act of Wilson preaching to us is tainted by the essence of Dwightness.

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