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Critical Reading – The Office (U.S.)Sophia PlommerSummary:The Office is an American adaptation of the original British show, also known as The Office (U.K.). The series had nine seasons which ran from 2004-2013, and each season had 5-9 million people viewing the show. The Office reached many televisions across North America and was a hit comedy show for all running years.
The Office was an American hit for years; however, many viewers may not realized the subconscious themes in the show. Upon closer inspection, the overlooked themes within the show are quite disturbing. It is important to identify these themes and not overlook them, as complacency when dealing with negative themes will result in with the viewers becoming desensitized to negative actions. The underlying themes of the office are sexist, exploitative, and encourage non-consensual situations.Their first interaction of the series makes it known that sexism is accepted in this office. The first scene shows the office manager (Michael Scott) ignoring the receptionist’s (Pam) capability and goes straight to commenting on her looks. This shows his sexism and is an example of how sexism is shown in a workplace environment.
The fact that Michael feels entitled to comment on a woman’s looks before her skill shows how he can be outright sexist to his coworkers. It is crucial to point out how Michael’s sexism may influence young female viewers, as young viewers should be encouraged to speak up for themselves when they enter a professional environment. This sexist behaviour can not be normalized for the next generation of female professionals. It is unacceptable for this sexist atmosphere that allows for men to exploit their position as their superior, as well as being able to do so knowing that they will not be reprimanded.This knowledge that authoritative figures will not get punished for their actions can cause serious problems with an abuse of power.
Michael shows that within the first few minutes, and is shown through Michael’s treatment of Pam. One of Michael’s first lines in this episode occurs when he is talking to Pam, he then says to the camera, “if you think she’s cute now, you should’ve seen her a couple of years ago” (Daniels & Kwapis, 2005). Pam is visibly uncomfortable, however doesn’t question her superior. This promotes the idea that it is acceptable for a superior to take advantage of their position and to make comments knowing that they will rarely be questioned.
Michael shows his total disregard for consent in Season 3 Episode 1, titled “Gay Witch Hunt”, where Oscar was outed by Michael Scott. This episode includes a scene with which Michael calls a meeting and forces a kiss upon Oscar to prove his love of gay people. This situation was set up as comedic, as it was amusing for everyone else in the room, yet this situation completely overlooks the idea of consent. Again Michael Scott ignores the important idea of consent. It is important to influence young viewers in a positive way and teach them how to ask for consent rather than to ignore it.With the understanding that many sitcoms include humor that some may find offensive, I believe intentions of some ‘comedic’ moments can be questionable.
Michael’s interactions with Pam are a textbook example of the oversight on woman’s professional skills, his actions also describe the exploitative nature some bosses have due to their authoritative position, and his interaction with Oscar shows his disregard for the idea of consent. These themes are incredibly dangerous to normalize, especially in a workplace setting, as it gives working professionals a false idea of what is acceptable, as well as giving the next generation of professionals a bad example to follow. The popularity of this show is alarming as these themes have subconsciously reached many viewers, yet they are not talked about. The themes of this shows, celebrate these horrendous actions depicted within the series.
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