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The Office

The Office is a comedy set in a paper sales company Dunder Mifflin. Shot in a mockumentary style the show follows the exploits of regional manager Michael Scott whose excruciating behaviour can make life difficult for his fellow employees. NBC 2005-???

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Episode 2 - Diversity Day

27 March 2012

Synopsis: Mr Brown of Diversity Today comes to lead some Diversity training. Michael interrupts his session and won’t sign a form to indicate he completed the training. It turns out that Michael was the only employee who was required to complete the training after performing a Chris Rock monologue. Michael decides to lead his own Diversity training session with typically disastrous results. Meanwhile Jim loses his biggest client to Dwight.

The Good: Michael’s ignorance and misunderstanding of racial issues are examined pretty thoroughly. He has learnt what shouldn’t be said in public but he has no idea why. He knows not to call a coloured man “brown” but has no idea why Chris Rock can use the “n” word and he can’t. He draws attention to how much he does judge people by race the more he talks about why you shouldn’t.

Occasionally these interactions do lead to good jokes. Mr Brown (an African American) tells everyone his name to which Michael responds “Oh right! Ok! First test, I will not call you that.” Then during Michael’s race game, Dwight has no truck with sensitivity as he says “Shalom, I would like to apply for a loan” to Pam who has Jewish written on her card. And Kevin plays along oblivious too asking Angela (Jamaican) if she wants to get high.

I suppose what saves Michael from being an offensive and unpleasant character is that he isn’t a racist. He is just oblivious. He is more concerned with being the centre of attention than he is with diversity. He is far more upset that Kevin isn’t doing an adequate Chris Rock impression than he is with the fact that his employees have already complained about his previous performance. Michael has an almost autistic attitude to race. He just can’t understand how anyone else might view the issue.

The Bad: Of course Michael’s ignorant behaviour makes for some uncomfortable viewing too. His mean spirited Indian impression deserves the slap he gets from Kelly. And that of course leaves the sad reality of the episode in place. That Michael has learnt very little while simultaneously plunging further in his employees esteem.

His implication that the word Mexican has negative connotations was an awkward moment. As was his savaging of Toby which seemed completely out of order (we haven’t yet been fully introduced to their relationship). His childish attitude to Mr Brown was irritating at times too.

Meanwhile Dwight crossed a line between annoying and unprofessional which I don’t think the writers meant him too. His paper shredding while Jim was on the phone was so petty and mean spirited that he probably would have been reprimanded in a real office. But to actually steal Jim’s sale was surely against some kind of rule. If salespeople within the same office were allowed to steal one another’s clients it wouldn’t benefit the company at all. Only sour the relationship between employees who have to work together every day. Worse than this deeply unprofessional betrayal was Jim’s quiet acceptance of it. That was one quarter of his annual sales just stolen and he didn’t care. I suppose that is his character and he is meant to be so uninspired by his job that he can’t be bothered to get angry about that. But it just robbed Dwight’s actions of their true horror and made Jim look like a wuss.

Comic Highlight: Dwight has “Asian” written on his card. He and Michael encourage Pam to describe his race in stereotypical terms:
P: “If I have to do this based on stereotypes that are totally untrue and I do not agree with. You would maybe not be a very good driver.”
D: “Oh Man! Am I a woman?”

That’s what I said: A mixed bag. Michael dominates the episode so heavily that it can be irritating to watch.

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