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Class Culture (the Office) Final Exam

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The Office - TV Series (Take Home Final Exam) [LABR 3P06]


The Office should expose a capitalistic view of the employer and stereotypes of the employees given that these circumstances highlight what the working class experience at the workplace. The Office emphasizes and influences many aspects of stereotypes and social norms in a satirical manner. The television series is shown as a mockumentary that criticizes the popular culture of corporate Americans and presents everything in a comedic fashion style. It demonstrates the lives of employees at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company branch at Scranton, Pennsylvania. The main point of the show is to exemplify the stereotypes, oppression, and prejudice towards race, sex, working class, and higher positions that happens at the workplace. The show revolves around racial slurs where employees and employers often have unpleasant interpretation of each other. Normal conversations may take place between employees that would usually involve a negative compliment about race, sex and religion which would generally lead to an awkward moment of silence or discomfort from the other employees.

The workplace at the Office shows that male employees are often seen as aggressive and sociable while the female employees are seen as calm and passive. Furthermore, men are represented as greater hierarchy in control of everything compared to women. The main employer of the show is regional manager Michael Scott. He is viewed as someone that's impolite and inappropriate with little awareness. Social norms and stereotypes by Michael are results of his misinterpretation which can highlight the fact of countering norms that are related to gender, race, class, sex, and the hegemonic masculinity that resides at the workplace. The Office has shown to be a successful series in which it has aired over nine seasons. This assessment will analyze six episodes from the first three seasons along with characters that have experienced social norms at the Dunder Mifflin Company.
Episode Analysis

The episode 'Diversity Day' demonstrated how Michael presented different racial stereotypes to his employees. The episode opened up with a guest speaker that came to give a seminar on racial diversity. Further into the episode, Michael made his own conference at the workplace about diversity. He came up with a game that involved placing index cards on foreheads. Each card had a race and the workers didn't know which race they received. The object of the game was to guess the race on their forehead. During this activity, many of the workers exchanged racial stereotypes which Michael explained that workers would learn what it was like to be a minority. However at the same time he satirically added an offensive stereotype. For example he stated that there was no index card for Arabs or Muslims because they would be too explosive. In another example Dwight Schrute, known as the assistant regional manager, had to guess his card while Pam Beesly, the receptionist, gave him clues. Michael insisted Pam used racial slurs that stereotyped women and Asians when it came to bad driving. The episode demonstrated Michael's weak sense of maturity. As a manager of the Company he didn't take the situation responsibly but rather abused the perspectives of various racial backgrounds. In reality his offensive remarks would have violated the Employment Equality Act. Michael would have to face disciplinary action if his corporate boss found about his constant habit of discriminating workers based on gender, sexual orientation, age, race color, nationality, ethnic and religious beliefs.

The episode 'Sexual Harassment' showed how Michael defended one of his employees from sexual harassment. The episode started out with a former CFO, Randal that resigned from work because of sexual harassment. Despite the incident, Michael's best friend Todd Packer arrived at Dunder Mifflin in hopes of taking a desk job as salesman. On his first day Todd ironically offended Randal and the employees at the workplace in which they felt oppressed and defenceless. He specifically detailed blonde women and how their attractiveness usually led to sexual thoughts. For example, he told Michael that Randal had nailed a blonde secretary which was why he quit his job. It offended Angela Martin, a senior accountant at Dunder Mifflin which Michael found humorous. It sent a powerful image to the audience about how sexual harassment of the working class could be taken as humor to upper management. Toby, the human resource representative, insisted the Company held a meeting and watched a video based on the sexual harassment policy. During the meeting Pam explained to the camera crew she got harassed by the other employees at the workplace. While Todd continued to harass Michael's employees, at one rare occasion he blocked Todd from further making offensive insults to Phyllis. Phyllis Lapin is a sales representative and was criticized of her appearance and weight but Michael concluded that Phyllis was a beautiful women and viewed her as a grandmother. The episode told the audience that although Michael may act inappropriate and show little awareness, he still cared for his employees.

Women employees had often been exploited to gender ideology in the Office through stereotypes, harassment and oppression. They've been described as lesser beings than men and were treated unfairly. In many levels this could give the audience a bad image of gender ideology at the workplace. (Holtzman and Sharpe 2014, 111) stated that gender ideology was hidden in entertainment media as hegemony which often generated profits and portrayed visible messages of what it meant to be masculine or feminine. Furthermore, traditional gender roles were exposed to the media and were accepted as normal in the society.

The jokes in the sexual harassment episode clearly harassed Phyllis. Phyllis had been constantly been mocked for how she dressed and how she looked. However Pam had been viewed as an attractive receptionist. Most of the other employees regarded her to be a good looking woman at the workplace. It sends a message to the audience as if Pam's looks were superior to Phyllis's appearance. The stereotypical jokes portrayed in the Office have shown to be harmless but yet dangerous. They have a tendency of showing negative impact among employees. The camera crew have privately shown the audience, how oppressed employees felt when they were victims of stereotypes and harassment. Offended employees never retaliated but solved their issues through filing complaints to the HR representative. They handled their situation professionally as would any worker in a work environment. The gender hierarchies in this television series have been produced the society to propose a gap between men, women and various races.

The episode 'The Client' showed Michael having sexual relations with his corporate boss Jan. Jan Levinson is the vice president of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company and in this episode the two scheduled a meeting with a buyer at a restaurant. Her plan went ashtray when Michael's humor diverted the buyer's interest. Jan ultimately got drunk, kissed Michael and rented a hotel room together. He admitted to the camera crew and the audience a lot more had happened between them. The situation exposed the capitalistic view of the employers, the Company, and how the situation carried on without Michael facing any consequences. A sexual relationship could affect their career as long as they worked at the same Company. For Michael, he could no longer have a traditional boss to employee relationship after what happened with her. In many circumstances, he had asked Jan to discuss about their sexual interaction but Jan insisted he talked strictly about business. Michael was disturbed by how quick Jan wanted to disregard their sexual relationship. She was aware it was a mistake but Michael's judgement was clouded. Michael had found his competence in question. Having a sexual relationship with his boss meant Jan could view his opportunities, success and goals as something that came from their sexual relationship and not from his own hard work.

The episode 'Boys & Girls' discussed about women's equality at the workplace and the right for the lower working class to start a union. The episode started out with Jan forming a female exclusive seminar to discuss gender equality and women's rights at the workplace. Michael felt displaced so he formed his own meeting with the male employees at the Dunder Mifflin warehouse. The lower working class from the warehouse were interrupted at work and was forced to join Michael's meeting. They were annoyed at the fact Michael delayed their working schedule. They were often oppressed from their class positions and changed their attitude towards Michael. Since the warehouse workers received low pay they came to the conclusion of forming a union for a pay raise. Michael agreed and expressed his sympathy for them. Warehouse foreman, Darryl Philbin argued that Michael didn't understand the hardships of the warehouse workers. Given the small size of the Scranton branch, a union would not only compromise their wage but force everybody to lose their jobs. For that reason Jan denied their request.

Since Michael was the regional manager, the camera crew barely showed him working for his money. With the constant witty jokes and offensive insults, he often fell short of delivering sales to his boss Jan. As for middle class workers, his employees at the workplace rarely asked for a pay raise which meant they were getting paid fairly well. It was not until this episode, the lower working class revealed themselves to be going through a low wage struggle. Low pay often oppressed the lower working class which was clear as to why they were interested in starting a union. It was to boost their morale in working. Looking into the perspectives of an upper class regional manager and a lower class warehouse worker, if both did the same amount of work, it would've resulted in a wage pay gap difference. The episode highlighted the social class struggle between upper class management and the lower class workers. It showed the power of capitalists where the upper working class of a Company continued to prosper with little work and high income while the lower working class continued to work a lot for very little income.

The episode 'The Gay Witch Hunt' explored an important social theme about one of Michael's employee that appeared to be gay. Oscar Martinez is a paper supply accountant and a homosexual. Oscar found it offensive for Michael to call him 'faggy' and later announced his sexuality to the workplace. After Michael humiliated Oscar's sexual preference, he was treated differently by all his co-workers. Michael wasn't a homophobe but yet didn't understand the world and many aspects of sexual orientation. He wasn't essentially racist, homophobic or sexist but rather lacked understanding. With the little understanding Michael grasped of homosexuality, he unintentionally misrepresented it to Dwight. Michael instructed Dwight to hunt down gays and lesbians he found at the workplace. Later in the episode, to have everybody accept different sexual orientation, Michael held a seminar regarding homosexuality where he made Oscar uncomfortable. As a result Oscar threatened to quit his job from discomfort. So Michael insisted they hugged it out and kissed Oscar on the lips at which Michael revealed himself to be gay growing up. Despite ending the seminar awkwardly, the other workers started accepting Oscar for who he was.

This episode set the image of discrimination of sexual orientation and how a heterosexual workplace felt uncomfortable of homosexuals. It told the audience that homosexuals and heterosexuals were likely to lead to discomfort of each other's sexual preference. (Sharpe and Holtzman 2014, 418) described that homosexual was rejected because it meant same sex relationships and was quite sinful. Another reason was because the term meant a person's identity being wholly sexual rather than having sexual attraction or behavior. The co-workers and manager at Dunder Mifflin were quickly to judge Oscar based on his sexual orientation rather than him as a person. There was a sense of heteronormativity at Dunder Mifflin with heterosexuals being the dominant sexual orientation until Oscar's sexuality was revealed.

The episode 'The Merger' was the highlight of two branches merging together with new employees working for Michael. When the regional manager of Stamford branch found a new job at Staples, his branch closed down. All the employees that worked there was transferred to the Scranton branch under Michael. While the employees of both workplaces merged together, Michael held a meeting to introduce them all. Michael organized the meeting by having all the new employees sit up on top of a table with chairs. One of the newer employee Karen Filipelli, a regional manager, asked why the rest of the employees weren't being treated equal. Michael explained that it was to demonstrate the importance and the value of new workers at Dunder Mifflin. Meanwhile, another new employee, Tony Gardner was asked to sit up on the table but because of his overweight he refused. Michael forcefully insisted despite his condition and asked Dwight to hoist him up. As Tony felt uncomfortable from the pressure he resigned from his job.

The episode told the audience that Michael lacked acknowledgement of equality. He may have introduced them well into his branch but didn't show employment equality they all deserved. Even though Michael had been the regional manager of his employees longer than the newer employees, he valued their presence more than his own employees. Moreover the incident with Tony's overweight disability showed an aspect of prejudice. Michael simply ignored Tony's response and forced him into doing something he felt uncomfortable with. In this case Michael basically discriminated against a new employee.


In short, the Office exposed the capitalistic view of Michael by demonstrating the power upper class held. No matter how many times Michael discriminated, stereotyped, harassed and oppressed his employees he got away with his remarks without facing consequences. It could lead the audience to assume that his sexual relationship with his corporate boss, Jan, may have defended Michael's position as regional manager so that none of them would have to face a disciplinary action. Jan had also shown a capitalistic view for the Dunder Mifflin Company. As a vice president she had greater power of the Company and was quick to deny forming a union for pay raise. It was clear the upper class dominated the lower working class.

Overall the Office has portrayed stereotypical attributes of race, gender and sexuality of the middle working class. It did explore the typical situations that could happen in a workplace since most of these offensive remarks relate to reality. Even though these remarks didn't represent all workplaces it engaged and taught the audience a fundamental lesson employees face and how they take care of these situations under certain circumstances. If these situations were to happen in reality and all social classes behaved the same way as the characters in the show, it would create an hostile environment with the likeliness of court cases.…...

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