Friday, April 24, 2009

The Thing That's Still Likable about "The Office"

I've been disappointed with "The Office" ever since they brought in Rashida Jones as a love interest for Jim. Since then, they've totally bombed the love plot, made Michael Scott far too stupid, and essentially turned the show into a caricature of itself.

But for your real-life-office dweller, one crucial point still rings true:

None of the characters care about their jobs except for the threatening prospect of losing their income.

I think we can all relate. The culture in the US has become such that jobs are no longer jobs—they're lifestyles. Your coworkers are your family and friends. Your desk is your home. We sleep and eat at a rented or purchased base, the main purpose of which is to prepare us to be at work for long hours each day. But that's changing.

People graduating from college now are more interested in having lives. I'm talking about the kind of lives people actually enjoy living, which involve personal enrichment, family, hobbies, and growth outside of the workplace. With the economic (depression? no . . . downturn? . . . eh . . . let's go with . . .) hunk of rotting meat we're in at the moment, people have finally realized that you can't trust the workplace to be the basis of your life. Jobs come and go (more and more for each new graduating class), and if you're not anchored to something outside of your job, you're going to get tossed about in the squall.

What most of us can relate to about "The Office" is that we care much more about the rest of our lives than our jobs, but we need our jobs to support the rest of our lives. The reversal of our previous "live to support work" mentality is a good thing, except that while we're trying to live more balanced lives, our bosses still expect us to live at work. At many companies, the management structure is still built around dedication to work rather than self, home, and family.

So that panicked look in Jim's eyes when the new boss doesn't like him speaks to each of us who has more important things than a job going on, but depends on the job to keep those things going. Jim dislikes and distrusts the job, but he needs it to pay his mortgage and support his family-to-be. That's the American struggle these days, and that's the thing that's still likable about "The Office."

1 comment:

Lisa said...

For me, I started liking the Office less after Jim and Pam got engaged. Now they're so... stable. No sexual tension :)

I like how you say it's a caricature of itself though--that's so true :)