Because I enjoy visiting my old faves (who doesn’t?), and we all have a little extra time during this self-isolation. I recently found myself watching this near and dear NBC comedy for the third (or maybe fourth) time now. The nostalgic theme song graced my ears like my favorite childhood lullaby, I was excited to watch the gang’s adventures… But something this time around felt very different. As I re-watched this dearly beloved sitcom I noticed that I didn’t find it nearly as funny as I used to.
Over a decade has passed since The Office first aired and it only makes sense that humor has changed along with the world around us. But, in today’s politically and socially charged climate, Michael Scott’s blatant misogyny, homophobia, and racism come off worse than ever. There’s no doubt that this show has some seriously funny moments, but let’s take a second to remember some of the series’ painfully problematic episodes.
As long as the show remains available, men everywhere will think it is okay to behave the same way that Michael Scott and Todd Packer do.
5. “Women’s Appreciation” (Season 3, Episode 21)
“Women’s Appreciation” is the episode where Phyllis gets flashed in the parking lot.
In an attempt to be funny, Michael makes the day even worse by pretending to flash his staff with his finger in his pants. Which, could easily trigger any form of PTSD for Phyllis.
In an aim to save face, it is also the episode where Michael takes all of the ladies of the office to Victoria’s Secret. I certainly would be very uncomfortable shopping for lingerie with any of my male coworkers. If he thought that was necessary, Michael could have supplied them with gift cards to any store to visit on their free time.
4. “Benihana Christmas” (Season 3, Episode 10)
This list could not be complete without mentioning one of the multitude of the series’ Christmas specials. In terms of being problematic, “Benihana Christmas” comes to mind mainly because Michael (are we surprised?) can’t remember which Benihana waitress was supposed to be his “new girlfriend.” He literally stares at the two women and cannot tell determine which one is “his girlfriend”.
What’s even worse is that Michael marks his waitress with a sharpie so that he can recognize her. If you cannot determine who your girlfriend is, you certainly don’t deserve her.
3. “Sexual Harassment” (Season 2, Episode 2)
In “Sexual Harassment,” we get the privilege of meeting the most problematic character I have ever seen on TV, Michael’s offensively crude best friend Todd Packer (David Koechner). After many uncomfortable jokes made by Packer about the former CFO’s sexual misconduct allegations, Toby (Paul Lieberstein) reiterates Dunder Mifflin’s sexual harassment policies.
Unsurprisingly, Michael’s biggest concern is that he won’t be able to be friends with his employees or make a dirty joke ever again (Poor him). But Michael Scott mentioning that he worries about “getting a boner” when he’s around Phyllis is by far, the most cringe-worthy moment in this episode.
2. “Gay Witch Hunt” (Season 3, Episode 1)
This is the episode where we find out that Oscar is gay. Because Michael has such a unwieldy way with words, he accidentally outs Oscar in front of the entire staff, which is a very personal thing that Oscar clearly wasn’t ready to announce yet.
Michael then, to prove that he supports Oscar’s sexuality, kisses Oscar against his will, and nobody should be kissing anyone without their consent.
1. “Diversity Day” (Season 1, Episode 2)
Finally, we have “Diversity Day.”
In the episode, we learn that corporate has sent over a speaker to hold a meeting regarding diversity after a very negative response over Michael’s imitation of Chris Rock’s routine (you know which one). And because Michael Scott is who he is, he holds his own diversity training session, which gets a tad bit out of hand.
The part where Kelly walks into the meeting late and Michael rushes over to her and starts speaking in an “Indian” accent and says “Welcome to my convenience store” sheds light on the the blatant racism that exists in America. Hopefully it was their intention to end such xenophobia, but I find that doubtful. Michael’s meeting ends up being EXTREMELY racist that I cannot believe anyone ever has thought this episode was funny.
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