When it comes to therapy, television is one of my favourite vices to get me out of an emotional funk. There are few shows that have the ability to provide genuine insight into real world situations and truly authentic emotions. The Office is one of those unique sitcoms that feels so realistic that you get wrapped up in its characters like they were your own circle of friends. It also makes very intelligent social commentary that cannot truly be seen for what it is without a little humour to accent it. I have cried many tears, many times over and had many epiphanies from episodes such as the following, which I can nearly guarantee will change your mood, if not your entire perspective on life.
1. Boys and Girls
In this second season episode, Jan comes down from Corporate to hold a “Women in the Workplace” meeting with the ladies of Dunder Mifflin Scranton. To start with, the episode blatantly displays sexism in the workplace and how commonplace it truly is,because unlike this show, in the real world nobody is saying it out loud. Dwight states that he feels uncomfortable with all of the women in the same room because their periods might sync up. Whilst trying to fend off Michaels many interruptions, the ladies get down to some very real conversations about how women perceive themselves, and each other.
In one scene that is typical Angela, she puts down Jan’s clothing after the women are told to dress “for the job that you want” by saying “I just think it’s insulting that Jan thinks we need this. And apparently, judging from her outfit, Jan aspires to be a whore.” Kelly makes it a point to bring up Jan’s sex life in order to humiliate her and display a dominance over her. Both actions are forward examples of the way that women put each other down in order to feel some twisted sense of power of one another. In another scene, Jan asks the women to say, out loud, one thing that they’re good at. They can’t even get through one round of answers without one woman putting down another ones answers, or trying to humiliate one another.
The single most important moment in this episode-and the one that always turns on a lightbulb in my mind-is the scene where Pam opens up about wanting to be an artist. While you can see the immediate shame that feels, Jan immediately begins to encourage her, and says the single most important line that Jan’s character ever has a chance to speak:
“Theres always a million reasons not to do something”
That powerful sentiment connects with Pam. In a very relatable scene, she confronts her fiance and expresses her interest in an art program, but is immediately convinced that her dream is a waste of time. It goes to show how easy it is to be shamed out of your passion by people who just don’t understand it.
2. The Injury
In one of the single greatest episodes of the entire series, this season two episode finds Michael Scott with a burnt foot because of his George Foreman grill. He spends the entire episode obnoxiously seeking out attention and sympathy, exaggerating his condition as much as humanly possible for effect. In the midst of his dramatic displays, Dwight receives a concussion while trying to leave the office to help Michael get to work. Of course, in true Michael fashion, he tries his darnedest to prove that his injury is still far more important.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the message of this episode that isn’t obvious. The reason that it makes this list is simply because it is ludicrous, hilarious and aggravating. If I were to show any single episode to someone that hadn’t seen the show, this would be it. Michael is at the peak of his narcissistic arrogance, but somehow he still manages to be lovable.
And therein lies the real brilliance of The Office.
3. Gay Witch Hunt
This one was an obvious choice, simply because of how relevant it still is. Michael is confronted by HR for using the word “faggy”, and learns that one of his own employees is gay. Instead of exercising discretion, he makes it his personal mission to make as big a deal of the situation as possible, as he does with every other awkward situation.
The sheer volume of “ahh” moments in this episode is endless. The reactions of Oscar’s coworkers and peers showcase a wide range of realistic and comical scenarios, from Kevin’s immature laughter, to Angela’s disgust, to Creeds creepy understanding, to Michaels defensive ignorance.
“Maybe we could go out for a beer sometime and you can tell me how you do that to another dude”
This is one of those episodes that speaks to something much bigger than a television show joke. It serves as a reality check for all the ignorant Angelas, Kevins and Michaels of the world who think that being gay is wrong, disgusting, threatening or funny.
Most importantly, I think, is that it puts all the cards on the table with no intention of being politically correct or guarded about the subject. This happens to people in professional and non-professional situations, and can be easily applied to anyone who ‘comes out’ as a vegetarian, a Christian, a divorcee, or a childless adult. If you are different in any way, there will be people who disagree in a vocal way or people who just make it a point to project their discomfort onto you in subtle and obvious ways.
In the end, can’t we all just get along?
Now, get on Netflix and watch this entire show. You will not be sorry!