Sunday, April 9, 2017

Can You Even Critique The Office?

The media plays a big role in creating social norms in our society, whether it’s through advertisements, television shows, or movies. According to the Nielsen Company, 96.7% of people own a television, this shows why TV shows have so much power in our society. They have the power to emphasize and reinforce stereotypes or they have the power to change social norms. More often than not we see shows reinforcing gender stereotypes. People watch so much television that a lot of the times they believe and think what they see. A show that has become widely popular over recent years is The Office. The Office is an American TV series that aired from 2006 to 2013 and has won several awards throughout its airing, including 5 Emmy Awards. The Office depicts the everyday lives of office employees in Scranton, Pennsylvania who sell paper and printers while also going in depth into their personal lives. While The Office does continue dominant gender stereotypes and ideologies of woman as being sex objects, seductresses, and dependant on men, The Office uses satire to show real life issues going on in the workplace and bring attention to major problems that are taking place.

The Office has a lot of characters that continue the social norms in society that women are sex objects and seductresses. While doing this, it also objectifies women and degrades them to a lesser role in society. For example, Michael Scott, the boss of The Office, gets into a relationship with his corporate boss, Jan, but later breaks up with her. Later in the show, Jan comes back with new breasts. Jan uses her looks and her new breasts to seduce Michael into thinking that she is the perfect person for him. She controls their relationship and controls all the power in it. Jan is the typical gender stereotype for women because she is a controlling, attractive, and a powerful woman. While Jan is a seductress, she is also used as a sex object because all Michael wants from her is her sex. Throughout the show, Jan and Michael have sex everywhere and he does whatever she says to be able to keep that up. He tries countless times to break up with her but he cannot do it because of her looks and sex, not her personality. In fact, Michael tells other people in the workplace that he wants to break up with Jan, but he always falls through. Later in their relationship, Michael realizes that he only cares for her sex and breaks up with her. Michael’s associates were the ones who pushed for Michael to break up with her and he finally did.  Here, The Office uses satire to show relationships that happen in the workplace and how they affect everyone around them.

Another example in the show that continues the ideology of a sex object is with Meredith. Meredith is an office worker that constantly has sex with anybody that’s willing. All she does is fulfill male’s sexual needs. One time, she had sex with an Outback Steakhouse worker for coupons and sales deals. She carries on the stereotypes that women are “sluts” and dependant on men. These two examples show continued social norms and gender stereotypes that are seen in this show and everywhere in our society even though they might not even be true. While continuing these gender norms the show also shows that women do not have to be restricted to the homelife and can do things outside of caring for the family.

The Office has consistently had five female leads in the show: Pam, Kelly, Phyllis, Angela, and Meredith. Throughout the show, these woman represent strong and dynamic workers that are involved all over the workplace in places such as accounting and sales. Although some of these women do possess some typical female gender roles such as being emotional, they were given enough development and they were very complex characters which allowed for them to be more than just average stereotypes. Many shows have a big male cast and a very small female cast, The Office is an exception. TV shows and movies continue to cast men way more than women which does not accurately depict the real world. In the real world, women represent 51% of our population and The Office enforces that statistic. The Office usually always has 6 female characters and 6 or 7 male characters depending on the season. An example of this is seen in the episode "The Beach Games".  In this episode, Michael has received job offers at a new office and he needs to decide who will be his predecessor.  He created four teams to compete in various games with four male leaders who are the obvious candidates for the job.  Michael assigns Pam the job of being a note taker to help him decide.  Throughout the episode, Pam acts as a valuable source of insight by completing all the tasks, showing off her leadership skills, and shows her plans for the future office.  While Pam is obviously the best candidate for the job, Michael still over looks her for her male counterparts. This episode gets at a real issue with the treatment and fairness between men and women in the workplace. The show uses this strong core group of women to show that they can have success in the workplace and compete with men in the same fields. It is defying the sense of a patriarchal society because men are not dominating the office place.

The Office uses satire to play on issues that exist in actual corporate offices such as gender, race, sexism, and other stereotypes that they address through humor and and different storylines.  The Office represents a very diverse cast, but the show still reinforces gender stereotypes for the sake of humor.  Some episodes where this occurs is the "Sexual harassment" episode, where Michael and his friend poke fun at a scandal that is going on in the office. While the episode is obviously blown a little out of proportion for humor purposes, it still gets at an issue that a lot of people face in the modern workplace.  Another episode that we satire in is, "Gay Witch Hunt". In this episode, Oscar is offended by one of Michaels comments where he uses an offensive word,  Michael later finds out that Oscar is gay and proceeds to tell the whole office about it. This episode, while being hysterical, talks about an issue that many people face in our society and have trouble dealing with. While it might seem like The Office is reinforcing stereotypes and dominant ideologies, it uses those ideologies combined with humor as a gateway to express real life issues that a lot of people would not pay attention to without humor. There are countless episodes in The Office that use satire to get at real issues, stereotypes, and ideologies in our society which makes is so good.  Satire is used in countless shows but it stands out in The Office because of how it expresses things going on in the country.

In our society, the media controls what people think and what people believe in because everybody watches TV and movies. A lot of people do not realize that these shows are reinforcing dominant ideologies because they are so used to seeing them. If our society is going to change the typical gender stereotypes and ideologies to what our society is actually like, it starts with the media. In particular, The Office puts women in the workplace and uses satire to express societal issues but continues ideologies and stereotypes in the workplace that are seen as normal even though they might not be true. A lot of women in society have power and work outside of their homes but the media does not portray them that way. The Office uses satire to criticize todays culture and how it translates into the workplace. The Office uses satire to demonstrate the ridiculousness of discriminating by gender, race, or sexual orientation in a comedic way while also bringing attention to real life issues going on in corporate offices.  

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