The Office makes me feel bad about myself. (I’m referring to the U.S. version.) Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the 10/8/09 episode.
Despite the LULz being few and far between this season and the last, I still perversely tune into The Office pretty much every Thursday. I gave up at the beginning of this season, but then I caved and caught up online. (I’m still blown away that no VCR needed if you miss an ep of almost any show.) I have been bothered by things on the show before. The humor can lean toward mean-spirited. There was the time Phyllis was flashed and Michael didn’t understand why *she* would be the one flashed. He asked if the flasher had seen Pam. “Or Karen from behind.” Really offensive stuff. To all the female characters.
Yeah, I get that that’s supposed to further portray how Michael is just a real loser. I actually think his entire character is one long mean-spirited “joke.” He’s actually had flashes of a real humanity. His showing up at and reaction to Pam’s art show spring to mind. But fine, one could argue the show is attempting to demonstrate how an a-hole treats fat people, especially women.
But the show itself goes on to make rather bigoted statements. Remember the episode where the office workers were giving blood? Phyllis and Stanley show up with cotton balls bandaged to their arms (having not donated blood) to try and score a cookie. Why those two? I think the answer is sadly obvious.
While Phyllis is shown as a happily married woman with a very active sex life, she is also all too often held up to be ridiculed. When Pam refuses to be a cheerleader for a pickup basketball game in the warehouse, Phyllis volunteers only to be met with Michael’s “ew.” When a reporter comes to the office for a press conference, Dwight puts a potted plant in front of Phyllis to hide her because “you always put the best fruit on top.” Again and again, The Office ranks the attractiveness of the women in their office, often if not always in ways that are public and hurtful.
Tonight it was a male character’s turn to be denigrated. Now, I’m not a fan of the Kevin character, but I absolutely cringed when Pam’s sister mistook Kevin for Oscar’s boyfriend and Oscar got offended. That wasn’t even the worst part. The horrible moment quickly followed when Oscar said, “You think I’d be with this?” And he pointed to Kevin, who in Oscar’s eyes is no longer a person, but a thing. A “this.” Then Oscar demands Pam’s sister apologize for assuming he’d be with Kevin. Hilarious? No. Repulsive? Yes.
Later, Kevin is shown to be smelly (his only pair of shoes are destroyed by the hotel staff when he asks for them to be shined because they smelled so bad), clumsy (he knocks over candles and flowers at the wedding ceremony), stupid (he wears Kleenex boxes for shoes), and disgustingly inconsiderate (he tries to alleviate his foot pain by putting his feet into one of the hotel ice chests for the guests). And I can’t help but tie all of this back to the fact that he is fat because they have pounded the audience over the head with it so many times in the past.
I don’t usually like to rant because I try to stay positive, but this time I just had to do it. I’ve actually sat on my fingers several times about The Office, but tonight’s episode just kept dragging me down. It did literally make me feel like I’m less than because I’m fat.
(Off-topic mini rant: I hated that Stanley brought his mistress as his date for the wedding. Oh, also long-term mini rant: the documentary supposedly being made about Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch — is it going to be like about 10 times as long as a Ken Burns’ film?)
So I don’t know if I’ll be continuing to watch The Office. There are inspired moments that I adore. There just haven’t been (m)any of them this season and last.