That’s What She Said

One of my favorite sitcoms is The Office. Whether I am doing homework (and need some type of background noise) or in the mood to watch something funny and entertaining The Office always fits the bill. What truly intrigues me about The Office is their central character Michael Scott, portrayed by Steve Carell. Michael Scott is the Regional Manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, a paper company.

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Throughout the series Michael combines his personal life with work while consistently making inappropriate and ignorant comments to his employees. These comments greatly contribute to the show’s success, yet often rely on sexist, racial, or gender stereotypes in order to deliver comedy. enhanced-buzz-833-1366427692-6

On a daily basis we watch Michael fail to change his missguided perspective without serious repercussions, which makes me think about the exploitation of stereotypes discussed in our class reading. “Plotting was generally based on the exploitation of character stereotypes (3). The Office manages to reinforce gender stereotypes and problematic class representations.

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The show has lasted 8 seasons and gained several awards throughout its run, but I wonder if the way The Office was produced has allowed it to last longer and stand out from other sitcoms. An article titled That’s What She Said”: Gender, Satire, and the American Workplace on the Sitcom The Office (found here on zsr database) discusses how these stereotypes undercut The Office’s transgressive potential.  Jessica Birthisel and Jason Martin note, The Office’s unique mode of production, which does not include a laugh track but instead features “mockumentary” techniques, reduces the likelihood of misinterpretation of satire and enhances the show’s transgressive potential (65). I wonder if The Office gets away with offensive stereotypes and characterizations by using a different type of production style, which influences how the audience might react to certain jokes and situations within an episode. Birthisel and Martin later analyze and compare The Office to real-world offices while exploring how the show mixes satirical humor with representations of gender.

The Office is still one of my favorite shows to watch and I will continue to explore how this sitcom compares to the ones we will learn about in class and in our readings.

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Ziba Klein

 

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13 Responses to That’s What She Said

  1. mediaphiles says:

    It is interesting to look at some of the shows like this and wonder how they got away with the type of content that they were putting out on a regular basis. In terms of The Office, I would venture to guess that it is because of when the show came onto the air. If a show tried to start airing in 2016 with that type of content being put out, it would face much larger social resistance than if it started in the early 2000’s. With the culture today being very politically correct, I can not see the office getting away with everything that it was able to during the time that it aired.

  2. mediaphiles says:

    The Office reminds me of a spinoff of the movie “Office Space.” I think it provides viewers with that daily dose of “I know what you’re going through.” It is so funny because it is actually accurate in how some people act and behave in the workplace and the different personalities you find there. The workplace is an interesting setting because everyone experiences it and although it is rarely discussed or even thought about, we all feel pretty much the same way about it.

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I want to preface this comment by saying that I ADORE The Office. I think Steve Carrell is wonderful and Jim + Pam are serious #RelationshipGoals. I’ve seen every episode more times than I care to admit, and I often have it playing in the background while I clean. With that being said, I’m not really sure how much of a critical analysis the show warrants. I don’t know what makes it so funny– it just is! And I think it’s okay to leave it at that. The show doesn’t provoke a ton of critical thought or reflection from me in the way other shows do, so it’s one that I can watch mindlessly without really having to engage or wrestle with it. It’s easy to watch. I will say, though, that I think the comment doubting the success of The Office in a “politically correct” world might be missing the point- it seems as though many of the jokes made in the show about race, religion, sexual orientation/ID, etc. actually (perhaps inadvertently) emphasize the importance/legitimacy of political correctness. In fact, I can hardly imagine a world in which the show would ever be met with social resistance (maybe the show warrants more analysis than I initially thought!). I’m also really intrigued by the amount of friends I have who dislike the show simply because they can’t STAND Michael Scott. Watching him embarrass himself makes them feel embarrassed and deeply uncomfortable. For me, he’s the best part!

    • mediaphiles says:

      I agree with what you’re saying about emphasizing political correctness, Callie. It’s the classic Archie Bunker viewpoint: portray a character who is so dim and out-of-tune to social issues, yet so confident in them, that the viewer is forced to see how important it is NOT to act that way. On top of that, the reactions of the other, more rational characters around him often give insight on these social issues to make it clear that the show itself is not trying to perpetuate stereotypes or dangerous ideas. That being said, I also adore The Office and Michael Scott. – Kristina Kokkonos

  4. marymdalton says:

    I, too, am a huge fan of The Office. I watched it from the beginning and never faltered (even when it dipped a bit after Steve Carrell left). The last season was a big payoff because I felt it really regained momentum.

  5. mediaphiles says:

    The Office is an extremely funny show that I will not hesitate to rewatch over and over again. Michael Scott is known for being an eccentric character on the show and has exhibited tendencies to be quite offensive. Not only is the viewer aware of his antics, but the other characters in the show are also aware. Characters such as Jim and Pam always call Michael out and make him aware that the things he says are not particularly okay. Their awareness is why Michael Scott is such a paramount character to the show.

    -Shelby Halliman

  6. mediaphiles says:

    In going along with the chain of comments here, I too am a binge watcher of The Office. One of my favorite things about this sitcom (which you touched on at the beginning of your post) is how there is never not a perfect time to watch The Office. No matter what type of environment you are in, whether you are looking for a quick 20 minutes of entertainment or simply have the show running as background noise, I can always find a time to put on The Office. Despite my love for this show however, I have yet to venture into the British version (and I’m still not sure I want to..). In regards to stereotyping and the offensive or racist remarks that are touched on in the show, I think it would be interesting to see how the British version differs – how the dry and satiric humor in each episode is tweaked or changed given the different viewer groups. – Eleanor Raether

  7. mediaphiles says:

    I feel like Michael says what a lot of people are thinking but have enough social awareness to not voice, which is what attracted me to this show. We get to watch this man make a fool of himself and put himself in awkward situations by saying what he is thinking with no filter, and we are glad we are not like that.

    -turner arrington

  8. mediaphiles says:

    I totally agree with you that The Office gets away with a lot of inappropriate or politically incorrect humor because of the way it is presented. This concept is present in many TV shows and movies in varying degrees of intensity. Shows that make blatantly racist, homophobic, or sexist comments are often laughed off because the joke is so “wrong” that it is accepted as a criticism of the actual problem in society and is supposed to bring awareness and thought through a different medium. Michael Scott’s comments “Your gayness doesn’t define you. Your Mexican-ness is what defines you” is so pervasive to our culture but is a way many people think and speak. By presenting it through comedy instead of an open criticism, it forces people to acknowledge the problem and think about it in a different context.

  9. mediaphiles says:

    I feel like we could have written a book on the Office alone. How do jokes get so much funnier just by Jim giving “that look” to the camera? It’s truly the advent of the post-modern sitcom. Self-referential to jokes as they happen and the 4th wall is totally broken. So. GOOD! It would be really interesting to trace the influence of the Office to shows currently airing today.

    Elyse Conklin

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