Monday, November 23, 2015

The Office's Use of Satire

The Office is a comedy series that ran for nine seasons on NBC. The television show is centered around the employees of the Scranton, PA branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. The Office is emblematic for its satire which is used to bring attention to the problems that occur in real corporate offices. Several characters in the show experience sexism, racism, and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Pam Beesly, the receptionist at Dunder Mifflin is often overlooked and used as the punchline for sexist jokes. In "The Beach Games", an episode in the third season of the series, Michael Scott, the boss at the Scranton branch, had received an offer for a bigger job at corporate headquarters. In order to find a suitable replacement, Michael has the employees go to the beach and compete in a series of competitions. He splits the group into teams and assigns four team leaders, which are obviously the four men that he is considering for his replacement. Michael overlooks Pam as a prospect and assigns her the task of "note-taker". Throughout the episode, Pam acts as a valuable source of insight and demonstrates her effective leadership as she is cooperative and shares her great ideas with Michael, whom then presents the ideas as his own. While Pam is shown as the obvious best choice for the new boss, she is instead overlooked for her male peers.

Racism is also prevalent in the show. In an episode titled "Diversity Day" Michael decides to have a seminar hoping to "educate" his colleagues about different cultures. He hands each character a card with a different race written on it to place on their foreheads. Michael urges the employees to treat each other based on the race that is on their foreheads. The seminar does not go well and pokes fun at offensive stereotypes and devastating parts of some cultures' history, like slavery and the Holocaust. In Michael's interview, he states that he opted not to make a note card with Arab on it "so the meeting wouldn't be explosive." Several characters on the show regularly deal with racist remarks, including Kelly Kapoor, a Indian-American woman, and Stanley Hudson, an African-American man.

Along with sexism and racism, there is also a homophobic culture in the Scranton branch. Oscar
Martinez is a gay character on the show, and in the episode "Gay Witch Hunt" Michael finds out that Oscar is gay after calling him a derogatory word. Michael is curious if any other office members are homosexual and searches online for a "gaydar" after Jim jokingly mentions that they are available online. Angela, another character on the show, is open about her disapproval of homosexuality. Meanwhile, Kelly approaches Oscar and tells him that he is "so cool" for being gay. Kelly's comment, which may have had the intentions of supporting Oscar, may also be seen as offensive as it suggests that Oscar is following with some sort of trend, that he is choosing to be gay.

The Office reflects on societal issues that are present in work environments. The show uses the technique of parody to criticize today's culture and how it translates into the workplace. Although the show may seem like it is moving society backwards by decades, it is actually very progressive. The show uses parody by demonstrating the ridiculousness of discriminating by sex, race, and sexual orientation, in a comedic manner. When a character is faced with discrimination, the "jokes" come off as funny instead of offensive. The Office successfully brings attention to major problems that occur in a real life office.


  1. I agree about how the Office uses a lot of satire. I never really realized how the show is progressive by making fun of the ridiculousness of discriminating by sex, race, and sexual orientation. This is really interesting!

  2. The Office is a great show! The show is such a great example of satire. The different episodes present different situations that follow along with satire.

  3. The Office is a great show! The show is such a great example of satire. The different episodes present different situations that follow along with satire.

  4. This is really well-written. I really like that you cite several examples, and I think all of them make interesting points. It'd be cool to see which specific forms of satire were used, but I think for the most part they're self-explanatory. Great job!