The Serious Sarcasm
It is fair to say that, the LGBTQ+ community has made a tremendous amount of progress over the last decade. Progression not only legislatively, but socially. In June of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage would be legal in all 50 states of the U.S. This in itself was a huge deal and still is to this day. However, before homosexual marriage was legalized nationally, media had a huge role in the portrayal of gay individuals that inevitably reflected on societies perception of the LGBTQ+ community. The Office U.S in particular had a lot to say about the subject. What is different about The Office is that its incredible use of sarcasm can also be used to convey important messages to its viewers that can also be seen in a comedic and entertaining way. For example, an episode titled “Gay Witch Hunt”, which aired in 2006 has an overwhelming amount of messages dealing with the treatment of homosexuals in the workplace, and peoples ignorance when it comes to the LBGTQ+ community. The Office culturally transmits the idea that it’s embarrassing to be ignorant and/or uneducated about homosexuality and instead of being cruel to the community, it makes fun of the ignorance instead.
In this episode, Michael Scott, the manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, discovers one of his employees, Oscar Martinez, is in fact gay. He was made aware of this due to complaints by Oscar to the HR rep concerning Michaels insensitive use of the word ‘Fag’. Michael defends his actions by comparing the situation to the word ‘retarded’, he says, “You don’t call a person with down syndrome retarded, you call your friends retarded when they are being retards.”. At first glance, this sounds like an extremely offensive line, but being aware that The Office is an extremely satirical television show it allows viewers to take a deeper look at its meaning. Anyone who hears what Michael said laughs in pity for how stupid, for a lack of better words, he sounds. This completely takes the joke off of the fact that Oscar is gay to Michael is just dumb. In addition, Michaels right-hand man Dwight Shrute makes a comment in a meeting saying, “I have an idea, everyone who is homosexual, raise your hand now so we all know.”. Oddly enough, this is coming from a place of trying to understand homosexuality and wanting to treat people the right way. But what Dwight suggests is a complete violation of privacy and sounds ridiculous to people who are watching. Once again, taking the joke off of being gay and on to Dwight’s complete disregard of his ignorance.
All in all, this episode of The Office has good intentions to show how much that Michael wants to change his and others views of the LGBTQ+ community. However, it could be dangerous in a way that if someone doesn’t understand the sarcasm the episode it could have the complete opposite effect that the writers had in mind. To quote the great Michael Scott, “That’s what she said…or he said.”.