Until Malcolm the Cynic’s comments on (the American version of) The Office, I had forgotten what I thought about that show. Spoilers follow. In fact, if you haven’t watched the show through the first five seasons, then a lot of what I say below probably won’t make sense.
The mockumentary conceit is a clever ploy because it gets the audience to celebrate casual disdain for everyday people by disconnecting the audience. Most people rightfully attempt to suppress such feelings. Every so often, the show’s vice pays tribute to virtue with short bursts of compassion, but Jim and Pam’s ironic disdain for bourgeois life is the hipster-nihilist heart of the show.
Pam should have ended up with Roy. She doesn’t because the writers wanted Pam to stop being meek, shy, nice and to become the sort of empowered derelict enabled by the Jims of the world.
Roy will probably never be middle-class. He will never make as much money as Jim. That’s pretty much all Jim has over Roy. Otherwise: Roy is handsomer. He has friends. He isn’t a twerp. Roy doesn’t spend every day trying to make himself look good for the skanky receptionist by putting down his earnest and capable coworker. Roy actually moves wares around the warehouse in his job as a warehouseman.
Meanwhile, Jim steals his paycheck by pretending to work. He only attends so as to steal another man’s betrothed. He mocks his coworkers, and with blank stares he mugs ironic disdain for them directly into the documentary cameras; just to make sure we don’t mistakenly get the impression he is, you know, one of them. Otherwise, he spends his time scheming how he can be among the dupes without becoming one; how to suck up the privileges of middle class economics without actually becoming his horror. Hence his move to the corporate office must be offset by commuting to work on a bicycle. Think of it as trading bourgeois credits.
The Office seduces members of the audience into disdaining everyone; that respect, joy, and love are only illusions in a world composed of selfish pursuit. It is of a piece with the works of The Office’s cynical and atheist creator Ricky Gervais. We–the audience–are the Roys, Michaels, Dwights, Phyllis’, and Merediths of the world. But like Michael Scott we pretend that the Jims of the world are our friends; that like Jims we too are in on the joke. The truth is we are all the joke to Gervais.
There were some really funny scenes in The Office, and I enjoyed it for awhile. But it would be foolish to ignore the overall messaging.
By playing both sides of the suspension of disbelief; if you follow.