Capitalism in TV Sitcom, The Office

How is it Portrayed?

Sitcoms are generally known for their humor, but have you ever wondered what lies behind that humor? Exactly what hidden messages are being conveyed?

The Office is one of these hilarious sitcoms that intrigue many people. It could have many of these messages that criticize our society today, from the way we act in a (what is supposed to be professional) setting, to our society as a whole. One of it’s “hidden” messages is that capitalism helps the economy.

The fictional show is about a documentary crew that goes to Scranton, Pennsylvania and films a small paper company named Dunder Mifflin. Their office is filled with many different characters that help establish a sense of what it’s like on a day to day bases. Most of the staff, or at least the main characters, are salesmen that sell paper to many different clients for “all their paper needs.”

If you follow the plot line of The Office, then you’ll know that throughout the show, many of the other branches of Dunder Mifflin were struggling with their sales numbers and some of them even got shut down. However, the Scranton branch had outstanding numbers and their sales, if not increasing, didn’t decrease too much. At one of the corporate picnics, it was announced that one of the branches was going to be closed down. The Buffalo, New York branch had a really hard year and their numbers were doing very poorly. It is mentioned several times about how the economy was decreasing, in 2008, it even followed the crash in the housing market, and described how bad the economy was in the show too.

Small business is built around the idea of capitalism and being able to support yourself without much help from the government. The Scranton branch as a whole does very well financially and could possibly support itself, if it didn’t have corporate.

In season 8 of The Office, Jim and Darryl are presented with a new investment opportunity. Jim and one of his friends in college had an idea about a company to start. This company would mainly involve sports and famous athletes, and its name would be Athlead. Jim’s friend finally decided to start this company. Athlead did very well and got even bigger towards the end of the show. Darryl had to travel to the South United States in order to get new major athletes involved.

Another major part of capitalism is investing money in to new companies, properties, and stocks for financial gain. Dwight is also an example of this when he buys the building and property that Dunder Mifflin is on. Investing money in order to make more money is very intelligent, and the writers knew that in the long run, it would make these fictional character more money. Dwight also owns a small beet farm in Pennsylvania that he makes money off of in other ways than just farming beets. Yes, he farms and sells his beloved beets but, he also turns it into another small business, a Bed and Breakfast. Dwight having all these investments shows that he practices capitalism and even encourages it, he tells Jim multiple times that he should start investing his money elsewhere so that he can make a gain too, and later Jim invests and starts a new job at Athlead.

Overall, small businesses are a large part of everything that Capitalism stands for. It is mentioned many times in The Office how Staples and other large corporations are taking over the paper industry. When large corporations are trying to over run these small, friendly businesses it hurts the economy little by little.

During one of Dunder Mifflin’s downfalls, when the whole corporation was having trouble with money and going under, another company from a similar industry saw potential and bought Dunder Mifflin. Saber saw that even though the corporation was going under, it could be a great investment opportunity. They also looked at Scranton’s numbers and projections for the upcoming years and decided that they were good enough to invest in.

Capitalism is useful in the economy, it promotes a stronger and more independent society. The Office displays this in a number of ways, such as showing investments and their strong numbers despite the dying industry of paper. If you haven’t already, I implore you to see how you can use capitalism in your life.