By: Joshuah Chrisman
There is no doubt in my mind that this show has the potential to be one of the best TV shows of our generation but I do not think it would be as successful if it aired in today’s society. First Airing in 2005, the show takes place in a local paper company’s office in Scranton Pennsylvania with an over the top boss who only wants the best for his company and fellow employees. Michael Scott is the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton and is also the heart of the office. With his dark sense of humor and tendency for unproductiveness, Michael Scott has the ability to change the entire offices mood just by saying something funny or conducting one of his famous conference room presentations.
Although not everything Michael says is correct or suitable for work, his heart is always in the right place and he always wants to help with whatever he can. Michael Scott has many leadership attributes that make him the world’s best boss, at least in the eyes of his employees. Michael’s main attribute that puts him over the top is his sense of humor. Although some might see it as a dark sense of humor, Michael’s intentions are always for the betterment of his office or cheering up one of his employees. With that in mind, Michael will go to extreme lengths to please someone in the office, regardless of if it offends someone else.
Worlds Best Boss
“Michael considers himself as not just a boss, but a friend to all those who work in the office” says Catherine Holdsworth in 7 reason why Michael Scott is the ‘World’s Best Boss’. For some employees, Michael is seen as a great boss but to others he is seen as an idiot who never knows how to say the right thing. The characters who see Michael as a good boss are very aware of his unfiltered office etiquette, yet still find him as a productive leader. For the employees who disagree with Michael’s office language, they are often disregarded or made fun of by Michael and other employees.
Michael has a tendency for not saying the right thing and that sometimes leads him into trouble. In today’s time, a lot of the things that Michael jokes about would be highly offensive for some viewers. Whether it be about Oscar being gay, Stanley being black, Kevin being too fat, or any of the sexist/sexual remarks made toward the women in the office, Michael can always find a way to not say the right thing. Although his higher-ups are aware of his odd behavior and unusual managerial style, there is no doubt about it that Michael knows what he is doing in the paper business. With his extensive knowledge of sales and the love of paper, Michael is Dunder Mifflin’s only option for the Regional Manager position which makes it hard for him to be replaced.
Sexism in the workplace
Sexism is a major problem in the labor force today which is another reason why I think a lot of the things said in the show would not be forgiven today. As the Regional Manager, Michael is the highest in command in the office and this gives him the power to do and say whatever he wants with little to no ramifications. To me, this portrays a deeper meaning in today’s society that some bosses believe that because they are in power, they can do whatever they want to whoever they want and get away with it.
Examples of sexism are portrayed throughout almost every episode. In my opinion, the primary examples of sexism stem from the treatment of the receptionist, Pam. Pam is the one who most frequently falls victim to Michael’s sexist remarks because she is a young and attractive woman who works directly under Michael, catering to his every need. Pam is also put on the party planning committee along with the other females in the office which rises a question. Why is the party planning committee only made up of females? Does Michael believe females are only good in an office for planning parties? These instances of sexism are often overlooked by the viewer because they are distracted by Michaels unruly behavior.
Is he racist?
Over the course of the show, there are many instances of racial remarks being thrown around, yet the biggest offender is the boss, Michael. In the very start of the show season 1 episode 2, Diversity Day, The office is forced to conduct a mandatory diversity training because of something Michael did. This leads Michael to form one of his famous conference room presentations which quickly gets out of hand as usual. If this was shown on TV today society would be in awe over the blatant disregard of racism in the show and the stereotyping that everyone in the office takes a part in.
In a tweet from @DiscordianKitty she says “Characters like Cartman and Michael Scott did a lot to normalize bigotry. Yes, they were portrayed as in the wrong, but also portrayed as likable, funny, and harmless. They taught a generation to see racism, antisemitism and misogyny as harmless personality quirks.” Although many people in the office have confronted Michael of his behavior in the workplace, nothing ever seems to change. Going back to the tweet, I agree that in the show, Michael is portrayed as being in the wrong but his odd sense of humor seems to be what gets him out of trouble for the most part. Just because Michael covers his absurd behavior with humor does not make it suitable for the workplace.
In an article by Kassidy Groner published in Affinity Magazine she states “Michael Scott is racist. He repeatedly makes racist comments towards his coworkers, for which he is rarely reprimanded.” Because he is rarely reprimanded, Michael believes it is ok to continue on with the attitude that he can do or say whatever comes to his mind. With that mindset, Michael creates his own problems and is the only one to blame for his misfortunes.
Are they just fat jokes?
Of the main cast, the Office has 3 recognizably fat people: Kevin Malone, Phyllis Vance, and Stanley Hudson. You don’t see that many television shows or movies that have main characters that are overweight, so to be such key players in the show is something that people might actually enjoy seeing if the show launched in today’s day and age.
The only downfall to having an overweight character is that they are bound to be harassed or discriminated on because of their size. There is a lot fat shaming that takes place in the office and not everyone is innocent, but If you guessed Michael to be the primary offender then you’re right. In season 5 episode 1, Michael goes to the extent of making an alter ego named Michael Klump to fat shame everyone in the office into losing weight for a weight loss competition put on by corporate. As long as the overweight person can perform their job correctly then there should not be any reason why people in the office are fat shaming them.
With Oscar Martinez being the only main character who is gay he is often discriminated against by the entire office. In season 3 episode 1 the office finds out Oscar is gay and he is instantly treated differently by the rest of his co-workers. To make it worse for Oscar, after publicly being humiliated Michael furthers the humiliation by kissing Oscar on the lips. As a way of keeping away a lawsuit the company sent Oscar on a paid vacation but that did not stop anyone in the office from continuing to use homophobic slurs and singling him out for being gay.
Furthermore, The Office has had its success and its downfalls but will definitely go down as one of the greatest television shows ever made. The creators of the show definitely dodged a bullet with all the use of insensitive dialogue and if the show aired in 2018, people probably would not find Mr. Scott to be as funny as he seems. In Kassidy Groner’s article she says “The worst part of Michael isn’t even his terrible attitudes towards other people, though. If he was just a racist, homophobic, sexist character, that would be fine; after all, there are racist, homophobic, sexist people in real life. However, the fact that Michael’s problems are part of his character and that we are supposed to adore and forgive him for these things he’s never even apologized for is a huge problem.” This is crucial to the show because as the viewer we are supposed to forgive him and adore him even though in the previous episode he offended you and your whole family.
I would like to end this with one final quote from Kassidy Groner’s article: “Racism is not forgivable. Sexism is not forgivable. Homophobia is not forgivable. None of these things are just “character flaws,” especially when Michael himself doesn’t understand what he’s done wrong.” In today’s society, none of these things are acceptable to see on television so to see how far we’ve come in a short period of time is kind of inspiring.