Worth Your Weight

October 8, 2009

Calling in sick (of this)

Filed under: fat acceptance — worthyourweight @ 10:34 pm


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.


  1. I love the show, since it’s pretty obvious that we’re supposed to hate the characters for their bigoted statements, as opposed to the usual, “Oh, they’re good people, being a bigot is just an understandable, forgivable flaw.” But sometimes I wonder if they really care about their female viewers’ (fat viewers)comfort when they constantly resort to showing sexism (fatphobia) to make a joke.

    Comment by NotWednesday — October 9, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  2. I definitely see your point, but I think the show is trying to have its cake (make a joke) and eat it, too (the character is stupid/hateful so the joke is, too). In fact, I think they have their cake a lot more than they ever eat it.

    It’s a strange statement if all we’re supposed to do is hate the bigoted characters. Also, it’s an odd thing for a show to make the lead character and his second banana the main ones we are supposed to hate.

    Comment by worthyourweight — October 9, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  3. I can’t be too hard on “The Office” for a few isolated incidents over several seasons. I mean, it’s astonishing to me that they have three fat main characters who are all portrayed as human beings with regular lives–they’re not there to be mainly targets of ridicule but they’re also not there to make some point about not being shallow; that’s better than 99.9% of all scripted TV shows.

    To be picky, I do agree that the way they write Kevin is inconsistent; sometimes he’s dim but sweet, sometimes just a complete buffoon. I’m not sure the writers know what to do with him.

    Comment by boots — October 12, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  4. boots,
    I’m not sure the incidents are isolated. Shoot, now I’m going to have to have an Office marathon and update this post…

    I guess even if I’m being overly sensitive about how the show treats fats and women, my problem with it is just that it grates on my own sensibilities. Almost every character is deplorable in one way or another. (Yes, even Jim and Pam…I find their “harmless” needling of Dwight and Michael cruel at times). I think it goes beyond just humanly flawed characters. In fact, people like Creed and Meredith have never been shown to have anything but negative qualities (as much as I can remember off the top of my head).

    I should have added to my post that the Oscar/Kevin incident was disturbing, too, because the fatism wasn’t coming from the established fools — Dwight and Michael. It was coming from a character who is usually a voice of reason. So mistaken or not, I took that as a statement from the show itself, not a statement from a fool/therefore the show was making fun of how foolish the fool was.

    Comment by worthyourweight — October 12, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

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