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There are several ways to try to instill life lessons to today’s society, whether it be in the form of films, books or perhaps even songs. Television is the most common way we seem to learn the lessons of life today. We can see these valuable lessons being endorsed by television series such as ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Friends.’ It is television series like these where life lessons such as individuality and respect for others come into play. The American version of ‘The Office’ is example of one of the numerous television series out there. The show follows the whimsical office workers of Dunder-Mifflin, a paper supplier in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The mockumentary format with the one on one discussions with the employees and awkward/peculiar yet relatable plotlines have actually made this series wildly popular. The crew of the show portray the most difficult/awkward situations in life, to not only make their audience relate and laugh, but to teach valuable lessons in life. I specifically chose to deconstruct the unforgettable ‘Goodbye, Michael’ episode from season seven of ‘The Office.’ The episode follows the main character, Michael during his last day of work in the office. Through symbolism, narration, and extreme close ups Michael demonstrates the intended theme of the episode that sometimes goodbyes could be hard, even for the toughest people out there.
Throughout the whole series one of the factors that distinguish The Office from other shows is that there is not one designated narrator. The show is often narrated by all of the employees of Dunder-Mifflin. Since there isn’t one specific narrator it allows audience members to see the point of views of characters and how they feel when it comes to certain situations they’re put in. In this specific episode Michael is a key perspective to the plot. Through one of his one on one discussion it was revealed on his phone call with Holly that he was actually flying out later that day. Whereas throughout his whole shift at work he continuously tells everyone in the office that he doesn’t leave until the following day. By lying to all his employees about what day he actually leaves Michael is avoiding the final goodbyes that he knew would become too emotional for him. As a result, throughout the whole episode he plans out all his goodbyes individually. Some goodbyes in a form of a gift and others with advice. Some of the employees were given gag gifts like the cheap scarecrow doll received by Oscar, while other characters were given awkwardly sincere gifts like the letter of recommendation for Dwight. Instead of revealing the truth to his employees Michael uses these gifts because to him they feel like a goodbye without having to be so emotional. With only the audience and Michael even aware that these are goodbyes, we get a real sense of who these characters are and what their relationship with Michael has developed into throughout the series. Although Michael plays an obnoxious goofball, he learns to accept that he is using his humor as a defense mechanism which is normal when it comes to individuals going through difficult situations. As discussed by Sovereign Health, “Humor can be a helpful defense mechanism used to cope with unpleasant circumstances or past trauma. However, this habit can turn destructive when used to hurt others or conceal an individual’s insecurities or anxiety.”
Essentially in Michael’s case he is acting tough and humorous around his employees but behind the scenes the audience is able to see how these goodbyes are negatively affecting Michael as the day goes by through his one on one discussions. As the episode continues there are many forms of symbolism being displaced in which depict just how difficult of a process this all is for Michael. One of the many including his new trophy for Worlds Best Boss. Throughout all 7 seasons of The Office, Michael had a mug with the words “World’s Best Boss” that he had to go out of his way to buy himself. However, in this episode he reveals in the beginning how everyone in the office contributed to buy him a trophy which awards him as “World’s Best Boss 2011.” After receiving such an award, he throws away his beloved mug which is a huge deal in the show. Before this episode the mug was a symbolism of Michael’s dedication and love for his employees and his job. But after finally receiving a trophy from all of them, Michael steps into a new realm where his employees finally appreciate him like he has always appreciated them. This alone creates things so much worse for Michael as he has finally achieved what he has always wanted in his career, to be appreciated and loved by his employees. As the goodbyes start to get too surreal and harder Michael is asked a simple question by Oscar which is, “What address should we sent out your last paycheck out to?” This simple question sends Michael into a breakdown as Michael is quite unsure where his house in Colorado is. For many years the office was a place he felt safe in and according to Allumniportal, “Home can give us orientation and serve as a safe anchor in these fast-moving times. But there are many people who feel homeless because they have had to leave their homes.” Essentially to many people like Michael a home symbolizes stability, strength, ownership and shelter. Because he didn’t know where his new home was located, he felt very vulnerable. For so long his home was the office and his employees were his family and at that point he came to realization that his “home” is no longer his home.
Lastly, a significant factor to many of the episodes in The Office are the extreme closeups of the employees to emphasize their reaction or emotion to something. In this specific episode there are many close ups of Michael. In a specific scene where Michael is sitting down eating alone in the break room the camera man zooms into Michaels emotionless face. Instead of sitting with everyone he sits in the background analyzing and taking in everything one last time. Although throughout this episode Michael is trying to act strong and say he isn’t emotional this scene says otherwise. They somehow manage to express this simply by zooming into Michaels face as everyone is just minding their own business eating. Through his facial expression and presence, the audience sees that he will miss the environment and being with everyone although he is trying really hard not to express such emotions.
In summary, The Office is more than just a sitcom. The show is a work of art. Because the show is a mockumentary it really stands out from other shows as it makes the show feel so much realer. The characters often ask the audience questions and speak to the camera about their issues which makes it very easy to forget you’re watching a TV show. The show demonstrates many relatable issues that people face in real life which gives many people the chance to learn from the characters experiences. Little things that often go unnoticed like the narration, symbolism, and close ups tell so much more about the story of Michael leaving than the audience may have thought. Through key factors like these the plot of the episode unravels beautifully and is what make the show so unique.
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