Saturday, May 5, 2007

Powerful Images in "The Office" and the Messages They Send

Many images from “The Office” send messages that are very powerful. These messages are sent through images regarding topics such as gender, race, and sexuality. Two very different kinds of messages can be sent by these images, depending on the audience. An audience that views “The Office” as just a show and takes its contents at face value will receive messages that reinforce social norms and stereotypes. However, if the show is viewed as a satirical comedy a very different message is portrayed, one that counters social norms and stereotypes. For my final post, I will discuss these messages and how they depend on the audience that receives them.

“The Office” sends very powerful messages that reinforce social norms and stereotypes if the show is taken as it is. If the show is not viewed satirically, but rather as just a show, then the messages that the show sends reinforce social norms regarding gender, race, and sexuality. Most of these messages are portrayed through Michael Scott, the boss of the office. He readily sends messages, especially those regarding gender, race, and sexuality, that reinforce social norms and the hegemonic hierarchy. I have discussed several examples of these messages in previous posts. In “Hegemonic Messages in ‘The Office’” I discuss an episode entitled “Diversity Day.” In this episode, Michael creates a very blatant image that sends a very powerful message. After having everyone play a different race and interact with each other based on stereotypes that go along with those races, he sends the message that racial stereotypes should be used to label people. In an attempt to educate the office on the subject of diversity, he instead shows how prevalent racial stereotypes are in today’s society, and that people should be judged by these stereotypes.

Another very powerful image that reinforces social norms is related to sexuality. In the same post as the one mentioned above I discuss an episode entitled “Gay Witch Hunt.” In this episode Michael finds out that one of his employees, Oscar, is gay. The image that results is one in which Oscar is treated very differently by all of his coworkers because of his sexuality. This image sends a very powerful message, one much like the message sent in “Diversity Day.” This message reinforces the social norm that homosexuals are significantly different than heterosexuals, and therefore need to be identified. This episode very clearly placed homosexuality below heterosexuality on the hegemonic hierarchy.

Another very powerful image is one that I tried to recreate in my collage, “Patriarchy in ‘The Office’.” This image involves a hegemonic hierarchy in which women are below men. As can be seen in the collage, all of the men are placed above the women, as they would be in a hegemonic hierarchy. This image also sends messages about gender roles. As I discussed in “Patriarchy in ‘The Office’,” men and women portrayed on the show have very different roles. The men are seen as aggressive salesmen who have control over the office. The women, on the other hand, are seen as passive and are not portrayed as very valuable employees. Even Michael’s boss, Jan, is below him on the hegemonic hierarchy because of her gender. Although she is in charge of Michael, he rarely listens to her and never gets in trouble when he makes mistakes, which is quite frequently. She is reduced from his boss to someone who has little control over him because she is a woman. The message sent by this image is that women should be passive, powerless, and should have little control over anything. As Douglas Kellner has stated, “Media Spectacles demonstrate who has power and who is powerless, who is allowed to exercise force and violence, and who is not” (Kellner, 9). All of the power in the office, besides party planning, is reserved for the men. And in being in control they are all placed above women in the hegemonic hierarchy.

While in “The Office” there are many images that reinforce social norms and stereotypes, there are also images that counter them. The most powerful of these images deals with the way that Michael Scott is viewed by his employees and the people he interacts with on the show. Michael is viewed by others as someone who is very ignorant and inappropriate, with very little self awareness. Almost everyone on the show, with the exception of his assistant, Dwight, would agree with this description. It is in the way that Michael is view by others that sends a very powerful message. However, this message can only be seen if the show is taken as satirical comedy and not just a show. If it is taken as satirical comedy, one can see that the butt of the joke is in fact Michael’s ignorance and misunderstanding, and not the stereotypes and social norms that his actions reinforce. The message that is sent in this image is that social norms and stereotypes, such as those reinforced by Michael, are products of ignorance and misunderstanding. This is a very powerful message that counters norms related to gender, race, class, sexuality, and the hegemonic hierarchy. This message is exceptionally powerful, as it places a single factor as the cause of so many social norms and stereotypes.

Although “The Office” constantly portrays images that reinforce social norms and stereotypes, it also portrays a very powerful image that counters these norms and stereotypes. Numerous examples of images that reinforce norms can be seen in almost any episode of “The Office,” and I have discussed several of these in previous posts. However, if the show is viewed as satirical comedy, the most important message that is sent by any image portrayed in “The Office” is that ignorance is the main fuel behind the social norms and stereotypes that are so prevalent in today’s society.


Kellner, Douglas. Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text Reader. Chapter 1.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Feedback from Lauren P, Author of "Nooch's Net Nook"

All of your blogs provide thorough and concise analyses of "The Office" and the gender stereotypes present in the show. In your blog entitled, "Violence as a Technique of Social Control in 'The Office,'" you present a solid thesis, and continue your analysis by providing multiple detailed examples from various episodes; you manage to remain concise and clear throughout the entry.

I enjoyed your most recent blog entry, "Violence as a Technique of Social Control;" the topic of analysis was specific and original. In your analysis on violence in "The Office," the reader learned how gender stereotypes are directly connected with social controls such as violence. For your final blog post, you could analyze other specific aspects in "The Office" which are connected with gender stereotypes. You could also compare how gender roles and stereotypes are enforced in the show, and how it compares/contrasts with the real business/office environment.

Your topic is the subject of analysis in all posts, with the exception of the post about "Girls Next Door."

Your blog posts reveal that you are well-informed on your blog topic. Your detailled examples infer that you have watched the episodes, most likely for entertainment. You also mentioned that it is one of your favorite T.V. shows in the post, "Hegemonic Messages in The Office."

Your blog posts are entertaining and insightful; you present your theses for each post clearly and concisely. You focus on gender as your primary category of analysis; however you also analyze sexual stereotypes such as in "Gay Witch Hunt." I like how you acknowledge stereotypes like these in addition to gender stereotypes.

As I have already mentioned, all of your posts are concise and clear. You never stray from the argument you are trying to make in your post. In "Violence as a Social Control," you clearly present the thesis, and then support your thesis by presenting examples of both physical and verbal violence.

The sources you cite are revelant to your blog topic, help to further prove and solidify your arguments in each of your blog posts.

You use quotes from a broad range of course readings from the semester, showing your ability to draw from articles of various subjects, and then tailor it to apply to your own blog topic.

In your most recent post, you use a quote by Kupers; I thought that this quote in particular clearly supported your argument. It is difficult to find quotes from the sources that directly apply to our blog topics. I feel that you successfully utilized the sources provided.

I thought it was great when you also focused on discrimination and stereotypes other than gender, such as the discrimination of homosexuals in "Gay Witch Hunt" and the subordination of males by males, such as the situation between Michael and Dwight. It shows that you remain open minded and are analyzing your topic not only through a gendered lens, but through other lens as well.

I didn't find anything about your blog to be confusing; I feel that your blogs always get right to the point without straying from your thesis.

You're really great at providing examples from the show that vividly depict the essence of your argument. By providing these examples, the reader can comprehend your argument better.

Your blog is great, but maybe you could post some more video clips of the episodes that you mention in each of your posts. It may be fun and insightful for the reader to view the clip before or after reading your analyses. Also, maybe you could ponder over whether "The Office" is enforcing or mocking stereotypes, or both.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blog Buddy Work With Lauren P, Author of "Nooch's Net Nook"

1. Where has your Blog buddy shown strong analytical work (be specific—is it a particular post, a type of analysis, a site for analysis that seemed to click more so than others, etc)?

2. How could your Blog buddy use this strength for the final Blog post and presentation?

3. Think about the following statements in relation to your Blog buddy’s Blog and then provide feedback on each area (constructive praise/criticism):

The Blog is on a topic that has been clearly evident in the Blog posts throughout the semester

The Blog is on a topic that seems to interest my Blog buddy

My Blog buddy’s topic is one that has produced a good set of posts that were analytical used gender as a primary category of analysis

The posts make analytical arguments. The posts are understandable and each post logically outlines and supports the argument presented. The posts were clear, provided insight, evidence, and analysis to connect the topic with the assignment for each of the posts

The sources cited in each post are relevant to the topic and help to aid the understanding of the argument and/or assisted in proving the argument.

The quotes used illustrate a broad range of course readings throughout the semester.

The quotes were clear and succinct; additionally, the material was presented so that I could differentiate the Blog buddy’s ideas from that of the author cited.

4. Finally, complete the following:

I thought it was great when you...

I found it confusing when you…

You’re really great at…

I wish you could focus (more) on/alter/edit/explain/expand on/etc these three things…

(Basically, when you read the Blog posts, what do you wish your buddy had done differently, more of, etc?)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Violence as a Technique of Social Control in "The Office"

“The Office” often portrays violence as a technique of social control. Whether they are physical or verbal, violent actions are frequently used as tools to gain superiority and make others feel subordinate. These tactics are employed especially by Michael Scott, who is the manager of the office. He commonly uses verbal violence against his employees to boost himself up in the hegemonic hierarchy and keep them below him. In one episode in particular he uses physical violence to accomplish this same task.

Verbal violence as a tool for gaining social control is evident in many episodes of “The Office.” This verbal aggression is portrayed mostly through Michael Scott towards both male and female employees. One example can be seen in the Episode, “The Alliance,” in which Michael discusses a party with the party planning committee, which is made up of three of his female employees. During this discussion he refers to them as his “party planning biatches.” In doing this he is using verbal aggression to subordinate them, and therefore gain social control over them, in two different ways. First, he is identifying them as his. He is bringing to light the fact that they are below him in the hegemonic hierarchy, both as females and as his employees, and are therefore his property. Second, he refers to them as “biatches,” something other than human, something below himself. In referring to them as both his property and something less than human, he is making sure they know that they are his subordinates and he has social control over them.

Other examples of verbal violence can be seen on several occasions when Michael uses terms like idiot and stupid to put down Dwight. As his second-in-command, Dwight is closest to Michael on the hegemonic hierarchy of the office. Therefore, to maintain social control over Dwight and make sure that he stays below him, Michael needs to constantly use verbal aggression to put him down. Calling him stupid no doubt makes Dwight feel subordinate, which is exactly what Michael intends to do. He needs to make sure that Dwight knows that he is well below him on the hegemonic hierarchy.

Another technique of social control that is portrayed in “The Office” is physical violence. Physical violence as a technique of social control is especially evident in one particular episode, entitled, “The Fight.” In this episode Dwight brings his karate belt to the office to let all of the employees know that he can physically dominate them. As a result, everyone starts to tease Michael, saying that Dwight is tougher than he is. This causes Michael to feel that he is physically subordinate to Dwight, and consequently his social control over Dwight is challenged. To regain control over Dwight by proving that he can physically dominate him, he challenges Dwight to a fight. They go to Dwight’s dojo to prove once and for all who is tougher. Michael ends up beating Dwight, and Michael returns to the office feeling physically dominant, while Dwight returns feeling subordinate. After having his physical domination challenged, Michael needs to prove that he is stronger than Dwight. In accomplishing this he maintains social control over the office by showing his physical toughness.

Verbal and Physical violence are often used in our society as techniques of gaining and maintaining social control. As Terry A. Kupers states, “Free men do a lot of toughening, too. If it is not the physique it’s the mind, or it’s the reputation or the financial empire, but men are always building something that they believe will keep them off the bottom of the heap, out of range of those who would ‘shaft’ them” (Kupers, 500). This toughening is frequently portrayed on “The Office,” as is evident in the previous examples. To stay on top of the hegemonic hierarchy, Michael uses both verbal and physical violence towards his employees. Through these tactics he is able to maintain social control over the office by making others feel subordinate.


Kupers, Terry A. (1992). “Homophobia in Straight Men” from Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power. Guilford Press.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"Diversity Day" Clip

Here's a clip from the episode, "Diversity Day," which I discuss in a previous post, "Hegemonic Messages in 'The Office'."

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Patriarchy in "The Office"

“The Office” embodies many of the hegemonic norms pertaining to patriarchy and gender roles. As Alan Johnson describes patriarchy, “It’s about the standards of feminine beauty and masculine toughness, images of feminine vulnerability and masculine protectiveness, of older men coupled with young women, of elderly women alone. It’s about defining women and men as opposites, about the ‘naturalness’ of male aggression, competition, and dominance and of female caring, cooperation, and subordination. It’s about the valuing of masculinity and maleness and the devaluing of femininity and femaleness” (Johnson, 94). These views make constant appearances in “The Office.” In the show, the men are seen as aggressive and outgoing, while the women are seen as gentle and passive. The men are in control of almost everything that goes on in the office, besides the all female party planning committee. Although Michael Scott has a female boss, she has minimal control over him and is portrayed herself as being somewhat emotionally unstable. There is only one saleswoman working at the company, and the one time she is portrayed making a sale, she makes it by relying solely on her looks. These few examples help show that the men and women in “The Office” are on different ends of the patriarchal hierarchy, and there is no attempt to hide this. As seen in the collage, the men are on top of the hierarchy, with the women below them.


Johnson, Alan G. (1997). Patriarchy, the System. An it, Not a He, a Them, or an Us. The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Temple University Press.

The pictures of Michael and Dwight playing basketball and Pam sitting on the sideline are from:;episode_stills

The pictures of Phyllis in a tiara and Michael between Jim and Kevin are from:

The pictures of Phyllis sewing, Angela reading a card, Jan on the phone, and Michael and Stanley sitting next to each other are from:

The picture of Michael in front of Phyllis, Angela, Pam, and Meredith is from:

The photo of Jim, Dwight, and Michael is from:

The photo of Pam at her desk with Jim, Dwight, Ryan, and Michael is from:

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hegemonic Messages in "The Office"

My topic for this blog, NBC’s comedy/mockumentary series, “The Office,” was first introduced to me by a friend and has since become one of my favorite TV shows. As a popular prime time TV show it is a major part of popular culture. Aside from being extremely funny, it is also a strong source of the hegemonic messages that are so prevalent in popular culture today. The messages portrayed, whether they are about gender, race, or sexuality, deal mostly with oppression, hegemonic hierarchy, and the stereotypes by which they are perpetuated. Most of these stereotypes stem from the ignorance of the main character, Michael Scott, who happens to be the boss of the office. Although there is a vast amount of hegemonic messages portrayed on this show, two examples stand out to me in particular. One pertains to race, and the other to sexuality.

In an episode entitled, “Diversity Day,” Michael tries to educate the office about race and diversity through the use of stereotypes. He has each employee play a different race and make stereotypical comments to each other about the races they are portraying. This failed attempt at diversity education brings to light the prevalence of racial stereotypes, not only in popular culture but society in general, and how carelessly they are thrown around. Racial stereotypes, as evident in this episode, can be used to raise the social standing of a racial majority by subordinating someone of a racial minority. “But hegemony is more than social power itself; it is a method for gaining and maintaining power” (Lull, 61). This power is maintained in a hegemonic hierarchy, in which race is significant factor. The messages sent in “Diversity Day” do a good job of showing this.

Another episode whose hegemonic messages stood out to me involved the topic of sexuality. In the episode, “Gay Witch Hunt,” after finding out that one of his employees is gay, Michael tries to devise a way to find out who else in the office is gay so he does not offend anyone in the future. His assistant, Dwight, suggests that wearing women’s clothing defines someone as gay. This episode sends a message common in popular culture, that gay men are more feminine than straight men, with “manhood and masculinity most associated with being human and womanhood and femininity relegated to the marginal position of ‘other’” (Johnson, 94). In trying to identify any homosexuals in the office Michael casts them aside as different, people who need to be separated from everyone else. Through messages like this, “The Office” places homosexuality, femininity, and racial minorities, as seen in the previous example, at the bottom of the hegemonic hierarchy.

At the same time that these hegemonic messages are being disseminated, “The Office” also counters them simply through the way they are presented. These counter-hegemonic messages can only be seen, however, if you take the show as satirical comedy and not as “just a show.” For, if you do take it as “just a show,” you pick up all of the hegemonic messages and leave behind the fact that the show is purposely making fun of the ignorance behind these messages. By poking fun at this ignorance, especially that seen in the character of Michael Scott, “The Office” challenges hegemonic norms and ideals. In challenging these norms it becomes a more meaningful source of popular culture and not just a television show.


Lull, James (1995). Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach. Columbia University Press.

Johnson, Alan G. (1997). Patriarchy, the System. An it, Not a He, a Them, or an Us. The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Temple University Press.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

"The Office" Analysis by Pritak

"I am actually quite the avid fan of NBC's The Office. My roommate and I regularly DVR the show, and more often than not, watch each episode twice. I felt the Diwali episode really stood out in the season for this comedic quality, and showcased yet another moment when Micheal (Steve Carrell) failed to understand the nuances of various cultures. When I found out that Mindy Kaling actually wrote the script for the episode, I was completely shocked. I actually had no idea that the entire caste was so talented. I had no problem imagining "Kelly Kapoor" was played by someone no more complex than just another actress. Now having learned that Kelly actually wrote the episode, I think it demonstrates again what we have been discussing in so much detail in class. When taken in a comedic perspective, the show becomes less offensive. I think one particular aspect of The Office in general, and why it offers no reason for one to take offense, is that the show is an equal-opportunity offender. The characters played on the show are meant to be ignorant, and they are ignorant to all things foreign whether it be homosexuals, African Americans, Asians, South Asians, females, etc. The thing that I love about the show is the fact that there is no question that ignorance is directly related to stupidity. For viewers, I do not think anyone could ever take the stereotypes presented (the actual festival celebration of Diwali) and believe that that is all there is to the Indian culture. However, I do understand the fear of other South Asians that they are constantly being represented as Indian. Nevertheless, I believe The Office actually makes substantial progress in pop culture for it shows the very many misconceptions held by the ignorant, and even if one may identify with Micheal, the likelihood of one replicating his actions after having seen the show could be minimized."

My Response:

Very well put. I agree with everything you said. The Diwali episode was definitely a great one, as they all are. It’s hard to believe how ignorant of a character Michael is, although he is extremely funny at the same time. I think the show does a great job of showing just how ignorant people can be. I agree that it would be hard to believe that someone could take seriously the stereotypes and misconceptions presented on the show. I also like your thought that the show could possibly function as a sort of ignorance-minimizer. After all, the first step towards minimizing ignorance is identifying that it exists, which “The Office” does a great job of doing. Overall, great analysis!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Masculinity and Femininity as Portrayed on "The Girls Next Door"- Part I

I recently watched an episode of “The Girls Next Door,” entitled, “Mutiny on the Booty,” in order to analyze the concepts of masculinity and femininity as found in popular media. On this show these two concepts stand out in particular. The concept of masculinity can be seen by examining the role of the male character, Hugh Hefner, while the concept of femininity can be found in the roles of his girlfriends, Holly, Kendra, and Bridget. It is not difficult to see the messages being sent about the normative definitions of masculinity and femininity, as well as the traits that are left out from each idealized view.

On this show, Hugh Hefner is a perfect example of the view of masculinity that is portrayed in today’s media. According to this view, men are supposed to be the dominant figure in a household. Although they are his girlfriends, one gets from watching this show the feeling that Holly, Kendra, and Bridget are merely renting rooms in Hef’s house.

Men are also supposed to take control. In an episode where his girlfriends are in charge of photo shoots for a magazine, Hef still takes control of all decisions made about the publication of the photos without any input from them. This show in general also shows that men are supposed to make a living so that they can support themselves and their wives/girlfriends.

It is because Hef embodies these masculine ideals that so many men look up to and even idealize him. Another factor that contributes to this idealization involves the non-masculine traits that are omitted from the show and public view. One trait that is clearly left out of the portrayal of Hef is emotion. He never shows any type of emotion that might make him less than the man that he is. However, the editors of the show make sure to show Bridget crying when she is upset at her photo shoot, because being delicate and showing emotion are characteristics of the normative definition of femininity.

Masculinity and Femininity as Portrayed on "The Girls Next Door"- Part II

In this, and probably every episode of “The Girls Next Door,” Holly, Kendra, and Bridget all portray perfect examples of a feminine figure as portrayed by the media. Women are supposed to have a certain appearance. The three girls are all slim, with dyed blonde hair and large, fake breasts. For the individual shoots that they are doing for an upcoming magazine they all choose very feminine roles. Holly is a Marilyn Monroe-type movie star, Bridget sits in the clutches of King Kong’s giant hand, and Kendra is a football player in a cut-off jersey. Although Kendra’s may not be the most feminine role, she has the other two girls dressed as cheerleaders to accompany her. Women are also supposed to be submissive to men. In an industry where they are already objectifying themselves for the pleasure of men, they work for the approval of Hef instead of for their own personal growth as professional models.

The trait that is missing from the portrayal of these idealistic women is the depiction of any sort of thought that would show that they are intelligent human beings. Although in this episode they are all planning their own photo shoots, including sets and costumes, the focus is instead on the actual shoots themselves, which more or less involve them simply standing around naked.

This episode is a clear example of how the normative definitions of masculinity and femininity are portrayed by the media. Masculinity, as seen through the role of Hugh Hefner, is embodied by dominance and control and lacking in any sort of emotion. Femininity, as seen through the roles of Holly, Kendra, and Bridget, is characterized by submissiveness and an appearance that is appealing to men. What is lacking is the depiction of any kind of thought that would show their intelligence.

These ideals of masculinity and femininity are perpetuated in popular media by shows like “The Girls Next Door,” because people watch these shows and look up to and idealize the main characters. “The problem isn’t society and it isn’t us. It’s the relationship between the two that we have to understand, the nature of the thing we participate in and how we choose to participate in it and how both are shaped in the process” (Johnson, 97). We all participate in the media and pop-culture, and we need to understand that we have a choice about how much and what way we participate in it.


Johnson, Alan G. (1997). “Patriarchy, the System. An it, Not a He, a Them, or an Us. The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Temple University Press.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Blog Topic

For this blog assignment I have decided to discuss gender and popular culture issues found in the comedy/mockumentary TV series, "The Office." Besides being a great show, "The Office" deals with a lot of issues regarding gender, race, class, etc...

Here are some links:

This is a link to the Wikipedia page on "The Office," for anyone who wants to learn more about the show.

These are blogs done by some of the actors on the show.

And these are some more blogs on the show.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Blogging in College: The Gender & Pop Culture Blog Experiment

The Professor's Page! The ringleader of this crazy project! My 28 students and I will be blogging all Spring Semester 2007 on many forms of pop culture. This site will link to all of their sites, and provide the evolving dialogue we will consciously be intervening in via the technology of the blog and through critical analysis. Please visit often as it will change rapidly! Provide links, feedback, anything is fair game right now...