Michael Scott: I think the main difference between me and Donald Trump is that I get no pleasure out of saying the words: you're fired. "You're fired." Oh, "you're fired." He just makes people sad. And an office can't function that way. No way. "You're fired." I think if I had a catchphrase it would be "you're hired, and you can work here as long as you want." But that's unrealistic, so.
The Office: The atmosphere, created by society or the media?
The Office is a television show that presents office atmosphere events that society has a bias of. In particular, many of which show biases of race, religion, positions in an office – especially the boss, and sex. All of which encompass touchy subjects that often make people uncomfortable. The show has evolved to each culture, starting with Great Britain who aired two seasons in 2002 under BBC. NBC, in America, started the show in 2005, while Germany’s show called Stromberg, and France’s Le Bureau, have also since started their own segments. Not only does this suggest that each culture has a different structure of what an office atmosphere entails, but it provides conclusive analysis that each society has different biases that would only be humorous to their own particular environment. Further, “46 episodes and counting compared to the original's scant 14--has surpassed its vaunted predecessor,” proves that depending on the environment, creates the amount of success.
The humor entitled to the phrase “The Office” has also been long ago used in a movie called just that. With this in mind, as well as the multiple country takes on the show, it can be brought to light that the idea of making an office atmosphere humorous is long standing. However, the use of such comedy has evolved not only to each culture, but to each time period. It isn’t the same story being told fifty different ways that makes The Office popular; it is the new materials that represent events that have most likely occurred on a universal level.
The question then would be was the The Office created by society, or the media? Was the media mirror imaging what already existed? Or was the media flabbergasting on a grand scale. Because ratings for such programs have been busted since FRIENDS went off the air, the media has been pushing the boundaries further and further. There is no “political correctness” in the shows. No subject is too touchy, and it is possible that society has been developed to fit the show, who over time, has changed its beliefs of what is acceptable and what is not.
Evolution of the media
The Office makes use of a variety of new ideas that suggest the media is redeveloping its tools to fit societal desires and needs. The Office makes use of “Mixing scripted with non-scripted elements, or single-cam with multi-cam elements.” (Frutkin) The non-scripted elements are actually improv in the show, "Pioneering a new type of sitcom, the 'improv-com.'" -Tim Brooks. Not only is the show incorporating new tools, it is entirely envisioning its production based upon its viewers. “’Most of the seminal sitcoms have revolved around scenarios that were highly relatable to viewers,’ said John Rash, Campbell Mithun's chief broadcast negotiator. ‘Too many shows are either high concept or don't bear any resemblance to the lives most viewers lead, which is why I think the failure rate for comedy has been so high.’” This discretely suggests that the media is looking to the ongoings of viewer’s daily lives.
Technology advancement has also allowed for the advancement of media. Not only is technology increasing, along with new mediums , but so is the cost. For a one dollar and ninety nine cents an episode of The Office “are for sale now on iTunes' online store, thanks to a deal announced yesterday between media giant NBC Universal and Apple.” (Furman) NBC has also put one executive strictly in charge of TV programming. “The idea of creating a new position with responsibility for all television content comes amid increasing turmoil in the executive suites of the legendary broadcasting company.” (James)
Typically a sitcom has a couple of main characters, and solely depend upon them, not so in this sitcom. “Even minor Office characters -- Phyllis, Angela, Oscar, Creed et al. -- have been given just enough shading so that when they do step into the spotlight, it's a treat for faithful viewers and not an indication the show's creative team has run out things to do with the main players.” (National Post) This sitcom is really the innovator in comedy in the past couple of years. All of these aspects make The Office "The only must-see TV comedy on the air. The show got better and better as the season progressed." -Diane Gordon. The main character, Steve Carell, has imbued bumbling boss Michael Scott with so much heart, that viewers who are seemingly uncomfortable from the situations he creates that they laugh so hard their eyes water.
Stereotypes and Biases
The heart of the question of whether the media creates themselves or whether society creates it can be analyzed on the main character of The Office. Michael Scott, is the soul of the production, and whether he was created by the media’s writers out of imagination, or whether he was scripted after characteristics of a real person or even a bunch of people, will determine whether or not The Office is about an office that everybody has been to or just good storyline. The first place of analysis is the character’s traits, specifically what makes him the main character of interest. Or, why people watch the show. His biases and stereotypes are clearly the foremost reasons why people watch the show.
The definition of a bias is as follows: “A bias is a prejudice in a general or specific sense, usually in the sense for having a preference to one particular point of view or ideological perspective.” (Wikipedia_Bias) The boss has incorporated every bias in society, projecting racism, reverse racism, sexism, religionism, ageism, healthism, feminism, classism, linguisticism, politicalism, scientificism, and even sensationalistism. Now granted, most of those words are not in fact words, but all the bias types that one person can project, it is clear that the viewer can relate to this star of the show on many levels. The relation being the fact that everyone has a boss, even a boss has a boss, and so some sort of bias or setting of uncomfortable situations have been brought down the chain of command. The boss justifies all of his actions because he is “the leader,” but most people in the workplace are actually hindered by his involvement.
An example of a bias that is exemplified in The Office is the fact that the boss is male, and most of upper management is also male. In fact, the woman who was about the branch office boss in fact got fired and replaced by a man, all for doing a poor job. What “might be sustaining the glass ceiling that women frequently bump up against in the workplace... as you progress through the ranks of management, the number of women gradually dissipates. By the time you get to the level of chief executive of a top corporation, only 3.8 per cent are female.” If you talked to the female characters in the office they would probably say something similar to what “real life” women would say as well. "If you ask women leaders in business what is preventing them from reaching the top jobs, the odds are really high that they will cite gender-based stereotypes as one of the barriers they're facing,' she said." (Cornell) In either case, management clearly favors males in most corporate office settings.
The positions of this gender setting that create stereotypes against women “because the image of women as housewives was reinforced by attitudes within the family, media, workplace and even the education system. Some parents, she said, were unwilling to invest in their daughters as much as their sons while others still believed women did not belong in the workforce.” (Tong) The boss even comments that he wants a son, so he can continue his business image. As well as the fact that the secretary is a woman, and most sales members are male as well as previously mentioned management. "The media act as a gatekeeper. Media depictions of women and men contribute to the creation, maintenance, or change in widely shared gender social definitions. They often show how women and men should be, rather than portraying the realities of their lives. Traditional gendered social definitions constitute a fundamental bulwark for maintaining and reproducing a system of gender satisfaction."
Biases turn into stereotypes. Stereotypes are ideas about members of other particular groups based primarily on membership in that group. Manuel London points out that “Stereotypes come to mind automatically, that is, without effort or deliberative control.” (London) Some types of stereotypes can be positive or negative, but most of the stereotypes are negative represented in The Office. The boss, Michael Scott, takes things way too far sometimes. His relationship with all of the employees and the way he treats them, specifically favoring one over others for particular situations that historically or generally that person because of their background would perform better at. This can be seen with the multiple race related comments and beliefs he portrays. “The reason for this is that the word ‘racist,’ for all its negative associations, has become a vague term encompassing an enormous range of human thought, expression and activity that, until very recently, wasn't even considered objectionable. This includes not only off-colour jokes about "Newfies" and Polacks, but also the communication of harmless stereotypes grounded in truth--like the idea that blacks are more likely to get to the NBA than whites.” (National Post) One day the people who worked together were playing basketball, and he kept passing the basketball to the black employee, who was terrible at ball. He couldn’t dribble, let alone shoot, and yet Michael Scott kept passing him the ball, even though Dwight, the geek on the squad, was the best player they had. Scott also put the black guy in charge of all musical duties, and urban creativity. He had no ability to see through stereotypes at all.
"Stereotypes stem from category-based responses, so stereotyping represents a basic mental process. Insofar as all people categorize others on the basis of noticeable features, stereotypes bring preconceived notions to mind. However, stereotyping in not inevitable because personal motivation and social norms can facilitate more detailed perception." (London) This in an example of how The Office over emphasizes stereotypes. It seems to be a basic mental process, but it is inevitable in The Office that in every episode at least a couple of times the boss himself will make a stereotype comment, as well as other stereotypes shown throughout the episode. Although the true office environment may exemplify a couple of stereotypes, over a longer period of time, but clearly not as many and not as often in occurrence to the point of redundancy.
Other examples are when he gives sexist comments, such as “that’s what she said,” added onto the end of sentence that someone else made. He also thinks men are more competent, and that secretaries should be women, sales people should be men. “Michael is not intentionally hostile; he often finds himself backpedaling after making a racist, sexist or ageist comment. This, combined with his penchant for lowbrow humor, gives Michael the ironic character flaw of being too juvenile to realize that he is generally incompetent as a manager and widely disliked as a person.” (Wikipedia Michael Scott)
The question then is was this character created by society, or by the media? The fact that there is some evolution of the character between seasons one and two would suggest that the media is in control of who this character is.
“In Season One, Michael is sometimes portrayed as being slightly overweight, unathletic, and unattractive, especially in deleted scenes: In a scene cut from "Basketball" he compares himself to Allen Iverson, then of the nearby Philadelphia 76ers, saying "Iverson has maybe got me beat by like 20 pounds, 3 inches" to which Roy replies, "What? Iverson's not fat" to which Michael responds, "Neither am I, we both look good." In a deleted scene from "Hot Girl", Jim Halpert gives Michael's age as 44 and makes references to his weight and rapidly thinning hair. However, by Season Two, he has lost a lot of weight, no longer gels his hair straight back, and is portrayed much more sympathetically than in Season One.” (Wikipedia Michael Scott)
The fact that the boss has become more personable, although not much, still makes it apparent that the media was shying back a little bit on how abrupt the character was. His comments about the secretary, Pam’s breasts, are not as often made in later episodes. He is even seen more competent landing some big clients with his personable touch.
The media created The Office. There is absolutely no way that a boss could be so incompetent, unproductive, vulgar, racist, sexist, biased and full of stereotypes, that they would not be fired immediately. Although most people would say that they are “smarter than” their bosses, it doesn’t mean that that generalization is true. It may be the case that most bosses are people oriented and don’t require technical degrees, and so many people who are under the boss, are in fact more intellectual, they do not have management skills. The show does represent this truth, as the boss has people skills, but hardly any technical skills at all. But the length at which the show takes it, again is so exaggerating that the realistic nature of the generalization becomes sarcasm to new lengths.
The fact that NBC copied the exact content of an entire season from the British version and presented it with Americanized characters proves that it was just a story. Both countries have a paper supply company, but no unique characteristics besides accents changed between the two shows. Granted the American version had a sales representative and the secretary have a bit of a love vibe, but the British creator himself admitted he wish he had done the same.
The media also takes so many multiple occurrences of biases and stereotypes that the writers take many of them out of context and exaggerate them to great heights. The discriminatory office not only does illegal activities constantly, specifically breaking human resource protocols, if not laws themselves. The Boss is completely subordinate and a sexual harassment suit could be filed on him almost per episode. He constantly asks women in the office out, and even slept with his own regional boss, which may as a result have gotten her fired.
The productive level of The Office is very low. They may be in an office setting, but they never do any work. The occurrences of meetings where the boss rants on and nothing goes on as well as random company parties or birthday parties suggest people want to do nothing while at work. Furthermore the amount of pranks played by the protagonist, Jim, and the secretary, Pam, against Dwight, a sales representative, is also extreme. Dwight is a paranoid wannabe CIA agent, who Jim constantly gives notes and orders to do practically nothing, but called them missions. In a real office, things actually have to get done, and although the perception of people not working is a bias that people are either envious of or disrespect, the productivity level does still exist in most offices. It is not like the construction workers on the side of the road watching one guy dig a hole.
On another level the love relationship between Jim and Pam is also unrealistic. They weren’t dating, but Jim decides he loves her and because Pam was with another guy, he left for another branch. This is another example of an exaggerated plot line that is unrealistic to a real life setting. A branch transfer isn’t something someone would typically request even if it was due to a lost cause over love.
The Office was evolutionary in the sense that they took an old idea and put a new look to it. Satire and sitcom humor has been the same for some time. The one camera angle personalizes the story, and puts the viewer inside The Office. This helps create the reality, because without this it may not seem as real. Obviously this is due to the fact that the situations are very uncomfortable, often even for the viewers. People don’t normally get into the situations that occur so frequently in the show.
In reference back to the quote before the introduction, you will notice two things. First Michael Scott is referencing himself to a qualified boss, Donald Trump. Secondly, he says the word “unrealistic.” Everything that comes out of the boss’s mouth is almost meant to be satirically opposite of what he says or means. The comparison itself is unrealistic. The character is unrealistic, and the show is unrealistic.
In summary, the media manufactures circumstances, feelings, and events, in order to make the show comical, but exaggerate them to unrealistic heights. They have to mass produce these absurd situations to even get through an episode. The media creates love triangles for drama, the boss’s character, and the comical settings. Nobody wants to watch a show about real life, and that’s why The Office takes life but makes a fantasy out of it. This specific case example suggests on a grander scale that television is an exaggeration of life, and numerous other examples could back this point up. Point and case would be the fact that even reality TV is not real life. There’s still some sort of forced dialogue or directional purpose, which life would not normally have or take. The Office is not real in any case, and that’s why they take an overtly fanatical approach to an average day job, in the middle of a cubicle.
Cornell, Camilla, March 07, 2007, The Gazette, Most prefer male bosses: Stereotypes intact. Female managers still struggle with gender bias.
Frutkin, A. J., Adweek, January 1, 2007.
Furman, Phyllis, Daily News Busines, NBC TV SHOWS ATTUNED TO IPOD, 2007.
James, Meg, Times Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, NBC weighs restructuring in Burbank; The company is said to be considering putting one executive in charge of TV programming.November 29, 2006.
London, Manuel, How People Evaluate Others in Organizations, 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Michael Scott, The Office, NBC, produced by Larry Wilmore, 2003-2007.
Michael Scott, Michael Scott Quotes, Memorable quotes from the hit NBC show "The Office," accessed December 05, 2007. http://www.quotesfromtheoffice.com/employees/michael_scott/
National Post, Everybody's a little bit racist, editorial, January 17, 2007.
National Post, The Office Tops the Office, Februrary 21, 2007.
Payne, Kay, Different But Equal: Communication Between the Sexes, 2001, Praeger Greenwoood.
Tong, Nora, South China Morning Post, June 24, 2006, Women continue to come second on gender agenda.
Wikipedia, bias, accessed November 30, 2007, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bias
Wikipedia, Michael Scott, accessed December 1, 2007, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Scott_%28The_Office%29