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.