A Theological Account of a Mockumentary

October 9, 2009 - Leave a Response

Bears. Beats. Battlestar Galatica.

An American imitation of the British Office has grown in popularity since its debut episode in 2005. Since it’s first appearance it has won several awards and has even inspired NBC to create similar sitcoms that follow closely the same format as The Office; such as, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. This far from realistic, dry, slapstick comedy takes on the form of a Mockumentary or Satire, which follows around the workers of The Dunder Mifflin Paper Company from Scranton, Pennsylvania on a day-by-day basis. The cameramen allow you to feel as if you are actually in the show, watching these characters in real life. They almost have an Omni-present role since they are the ones (including yourself) who always know what is going on. Even the darkest secrets of the characters are revealed to you and only you on screen. In a sense you are playing the role as God in this series, constantly watching and observing (without the power of God of course). Sometimes you are shut out from certain conversations from behind closed doors, but somehow you are still able to hear mumbled words as you peak through the window blinds. However, not always are you the person following the characters around, there are times when they confide in you and tell them what they are really thinking, exciting news, or even an explanation of what is going on in a scene. For example, after the Fun Run episode, the boss, Michael talks about his intense 5k run.

“Finishing that 5K was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I ate more fettuccini alfredo, and drank less water than I have in my entire life. People always talk about triumphs of the human spirit. Well today I had a triumph of the human body. That’s why everybody was applauding for me at the end. My guts, my heart and well I eventually puked my guts out. I never puked my heart out, and I am very proud of that.”

Usually, Michael has the most “inspirational” quotes of all and is mostly underestimated for the depth some of his confessions or thoughts are to the cameras. While he may not even know the profundity of his quotes, they are in no-doubt ones you can ponder over and apply to your own life. For instance, Michael displays patience when trying to court Holly at the company picnic in the finale episode of season five,

“I didn’t find the perfect moment. Because I think that today was about just having today. And I think that we are one of those couples with a long story, when people ask how we found each other. I will see her, every now and then, and, maybe one year she’ll be with somebody and the next year I’ll be with somebody. And it’s going to take a long time… and then it’s perfect. I’m in no rush.”

While The Office tends to have humor many people do not understand, it is however a sitcom that offers a depth of wisdom to its audience. Each character offers their own form of wisdom throughout each episode. Though you may not catch it right away, or it even goes straight over your head, it is there. Sometimes you just have to look a little deeper in this show than in other shows.

If you are into this kind of show it might make you feel warm and bubbly inside when you flip your television to NBC at 7:30pm on Thursday evenings. Not only is it the excitement of a new episode but the overall happiness feel the show displays. There have only been a select few episodes of The Office that seem to have a gloomy feel about them due to bad news or a cliff hanger ending that leaves you wanting to know more. But, for the most part the writers try to portray an always smiley, cheerful, office space for the audiences viewing. Whether its through the positive attitude of Michaels laughter, Jim and Pam’s always questioning relationship, or Dwight’s bobble head, the writers like depict an almost fantasy work world for the viewers to venture into once a week. It is an escape from the troubles and complications the world may place on your shoulders, but for those thirty minutes you forget them all as you are sucked into the lives of the Dunder Mifflin workers.

Perceptions of a Scrantonatian

The people of Scranton, according to the show, are not ones to overlook. While this might be a small town it makes up for it in spirit. Few of them come together to work in a paper company even if they do not like their job. This might just be the common denominator throughout all of the characters. While they are dedicated to their job, do they really take pride in doing what they do? Pam even shows her detest for her job.

“I don’t think it would be the worst thing if they let me go. Because then I might… [pauses] Its just, I don’t think it’s many girls’ dream to be a receptionist.”

Most of the other branches make fun of them but somehow they stay afloat. They have faith in the jobs they dislike. This holds over for all of them except, of course, Michael and Dwight. They never seem to back down and always rise up for a new challenge. Viewers may think that Michael doesn’t have what it takes to be a boss of a paper company and sees him as a complete and utter failure. Nonetheless, Michael does not think so…

“What is the single most important thing for a company? Is it the building? Is it the stock? Is it the turnover? It’s the people. The *people*. My proudest moment here wasn’t when I increased profits by 17%, or cut expenditure without losing a single member of staff. No, no, no, no. It was a young Guatemalan guy, first job in the country, hardly spoke a word of English, but he came to me and he went “Mr. Scott, will you be the Godfather to my child?” Wow. *Wow.* Didn’t work out in the end. We had to let him go. He sucked.

Michael Scott, the big boss of the Scranton branch has his own unique style of humor almost to the point that it is “so-bad-it-is-hilarious.” He is constantly being picked on and most people are not entirely honest with him. The mouth of Michael always invites a beating. He says what he wants to whomever he feels like it and this causes him to take many verbal abuses back at him. In the episode, Performance Review, Michael responds to taking a verbal abuse by saying, “…when people say something was mutual, it never was. But this was mutual.” He is blinded to the point he laughs at himself and doesn’t take a hint when somebody is trying to be real with him or give it to him straight. However, despite all of this, Michael is himself. There is a real genuine sense of Michael without putting on a fake façade while around his co-workers. Maybe this is why most people like Michael so much. Through all the abuse and pain people put on him, he lets it go in one ear and out the other and usually has something positive to say about it.

Real World Travesty? Or Cultural Phenomenon?

The Office has taken the world by storm and has become a cultural phenomenon. It not only depends upon its slapstick, no laugh track, comedy, but it mostly relies on the making fun of the characters and the pranks they pull on each other. Comedy has taken a new form. No more using the fake laugh track. The interpretation of humor is left up to the viewer. If he or she finds it funny they will laugh without it being suggested for them. All of the characters seem to be never against any of the pranks that occur within the office. If anything they always seem delighted when someone is getting the blanket pulled over their eyes. Jim and Pam play the biggest role in prank pulling on other office co-workers. They are always conjugating up some new way to get at Dwight, who is usually their number one target. Poor Dwight has felt the sharp blade of numerous pranks that include staplers in jello, fake future memos to himself, the CIA, and classical conditioning (probably my favorite). The pranks never cease to amaze the watcher with the creativity it displays. This suggests a connection between the real world and the show through its use of “bullying” on the characters. While some of these pranks may be a little exaggerated they do indeed offer harm to a person’s emotions in sacrifice for our laughter. Real work place, real world problems and real world heartaches (Hence the name The Office). Is this what grabs our attention or is it the exaggeration the events in The Office portray?

Many conservative Christians would tell others to steer clear of this kind of humor because they do not understand comedy, but they must realize that our God is a humorous God. There must be laughter in our lives in order for us to enjoy it. Jesus offered a lot of mockery and irony in certain situations. Jesus was human and displayed human-like characteristics, so therefore he laughed just like every one of us.  Luke 10:21 says, “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” On the other hand, the joy that Jesus was talking about in Luke probably wasn’t from the prank he pulled on one of his disciples. This is where our “Real World Travesty” comes into play. We take every chance we can to make fun of somebody less fortunate than ourselves and do not realize how that person is going to react to our jokes. They could be like Michael and let it go in one ear and out the other or they could be like Toby and take it to heart.

I am Michael, and I am part English, Irish, German, and Scottish, sort of a virtual United Nations.

The diversity of this show does not solely focus on the outer level of diversity but diversity in heart. While the characters of the show love to poke fun at each other there are times when they show they all have a great heart. Whether it’s a hug here and there, a birthday party being thrown with the best intentions, quitting a receptionists job to work for a boss you believe in, or always having m&m’s at your desk for all to enjoy, they usually have the best intentions at heart. Possibly due to their lack of enjoyment in their job do they strive to have fun and seldom encourage each other? Most of them are lost. The idea of being lost and unsatisfied is prevalent throughout the office. They all seem to be stuck and in the same place. This amplifies throughout the seasons when Jim leaves for another branch, Toby leaves for Costa Rica, Michael quits and starts his own paper company as Pam follows. No matter how much they tried to leave they are drawn back into this world and are unable to escape its grasp. They are like the chips in a chocolate chip cookie. Most of them try to keep it together but every now and then their personality melts and sinks to the bottom, blending in with the cookie, and blending in with the world.

You can’t outrun your problems in the workplace or in life. Sometimes you have to open and let them out of the cage in order to move on in your life. Toby, the human resource man, can’t even help you with your deepest problems. All he does is listen and forgets about your complaints right away and your problems grow and become bottled up inside of you. Yet, through Christ you can have a new hope (Heb. 7:19). This is a man that never forgets.

Theme of a Fool

In most of our sitcoms, movies and even books have the theme of the fool protruding throughout their plots. We realize that it is our real life, not just our cubicle life, or trucker life; it is our own real life. We are the fools. The show actually feels more painful and close to our hearts because some of the characters actually remind us of ourselves. Everything is agonizing and is not as different or unique as we would like to think. Ecclesiastics 1:2-4 talks about how nothing in this world matters; not our work, not the pranks we pull, not the things we possess or even the food we eat.

“’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.”

In our world we want everything we can see, touch, and pick up. Our minds are never at rest for the worldly possessions we say we “need” in this world. This goes with wanting to have a special place in this world. There is a strong want in the souls of people to be liked by everybody and to feel as if they are needed in this chaotic society. God calls us to be like Christ but our desires (just like the characters in The Office) are not pressed into the goal of being like Christ, we are simply striving to be “liked.” The most thought provoking quote from Dwight talks about how the world should be like his “second life.” “Second Life is not a game. It is a multi-user, virtual environment. It doesn’t have points or scores. It doesn’t have winners or losers…” Even in the confidence of Dwight’s demeanor he still searches to be loved by others.

A Scoffers Realization

Through all the turmoil Jim causes through his pranks and trying to make a fool out of Dwight, in the end he is no better than the fool. “He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin (Proverbs 10:10). Jim even comes to a realization in an episode when he says, “That’s how I spent my entire day…” Jim is conscious of his environment and knows he is one of the smarter ones in the office so he picks on the people he views to be more dumb than he. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).” Jim then realizes he is wasting his life away and starts to do something about it. He takes steps to be a better person, but then is quickly pulled back into his former prank-pulling ways.

In comparison to The Office and Christianity, they find that we both suffer from the immense pressure of the world pressing down on their shoulders into the hard ground. The church is no different. The Office is filled with fools with dreams they never reach. The church is also filled with fools who never try and obtain the full potential of the church. They mock the outside world for their ungodly ways and end up being the “scoffers” instead of the compassionate people they should be. Proverbs 19:9 says, “Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And beatings for the backs of fools.” And 2 Peter 3:3 says, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” Christians are called to be compassionate, loving everybody and not passing judgment on one another, no matter how foolish some people may seem. We love to see people who are fools, but that makes you worse than a fool. In our Christian walk let us not make every effort to be the scoffer like Jim. Let us be who God called us to be.

If we laugh, lets not laugh at others (or The Office), let us laugh with them so it is not as if we are looking down upon them. God has allowed us to have laughter in our lives. By His grace we are able to watch and enjoy laughter in a good comedy sitcom and take something from it.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:1-5)

Give me Jesus.

April 15, 2009 - One Response

I feel as thought I’m slowly decaying from the inside out. My body is weak and weary and feels like the world is pressing all her immense weight down on my shoulders. It’s a time of hardship. A time of pain. A time of questioning.

I take a step back and examine my life where I am right now and how I am living a lie. It is hard putting on a tough facade every day, knowing no one understands what is going in your life. Knowing, no one even has a clue how you are feeling, how stressed out you are, how you just want to speed up the next two years. I want to do just that. My future scares me. In every aspect of my life, my future absolutely, 100%, terrifies the living daylights out of my soul.

But, with help, I will overcome all obstacles.

Dear Lord, give me peace in my decisions. Give me Jesus. I am lost with out you. I’m so desperate for you. You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.

good enough?

December 14, 2008 - Leave a Response

am i good enough?

good enough to enter the real world?

good enough to have a great job?

am i good enough to succeed?

i’m scared. scared of the next year and half. wondering what the future holds for me…

am i good enough for you?

good enough for my future love?

good enough to be what you’ve always wanted?

would i be the one you love forever and never regret?

i’m scared. scared of not being able to please you…hoping and praying i will be.

am i good enough for God?

good enough to be his child?

good enough to help others?

am i good enough to live in eternity with you?

i’m scared. scared of being wrong…not being prepared to be who you want me to be.

am i?

i’m scared…terrified…afraid.

grant me peace, dear Lord….

Better

December 5, 2008 - Leave a Response

When I would play my song
You used to sing along.
I always seem to forget
How fragile are the very strong.
I’m sorry I can’t steal you
I’m sorry I can’t stay
So I put band-aids on your knees
And watch you fly away

I’m sending you away tonight
I’ll put you on a bird’s strong wing
I’m saving you the best way I know how
I hope again one day to hear you sing

You know we’re not so far away
Get on a boat, get on a train
And if you ever think you’re drowning
I’ll try to slow the rain
In two years or so
Drop me a line
Write me a letter
I hope to find you’re doing better, better than today, better everyday

I’m sending you away tonight
I’ll put you on a bird’s strong wing
I’m saving you the best way I know how
I hope again one day to hear you sing
I’m saving you the only way that I know how
I hope again one day to hear you sing
I hope again one day to see you bring your smile back around again

tree-in-forest-idea

Grace like rain

November 24, 2008 - One Response

For the past few days I have had too much free time to handle. It’s unreal. During this free time I have had the opportunity to think, think, and think some more. My mind has wandered through everything that has happened in the past few weeks and things that might happen in the future.

God really has changed my life dramatically recently. I’m unsure about everything. I’m lacking the confidence in the recent decisions I’ve made and have been seeking comfort in them. I’m afraid of failure. I’m terrified of the obstacles I might overcome in the future. I cannot ponder the immensity of the idea of something small deciding my future. I believe I try to leave myself empty because of this. I’m afraid to get too close, and when I do I run away, scared of what it might become. Scared of what or who I might hurt. I often wonder who can relate to the magnitude of such emptiness?

This is when I go back and re-read the story of Job. Job suffered more than any of us could ever imagine. There was pain beyond belief, both physical and emotional. He questioned God, but in the end, bowed down before Him in surrender to His immeasurable greatness and power.

I want to be like Job. I want the confidence he had in our Lord.

God, grant me the patience, wisdom, and confidence to carry on in your will.

forest

Amen.

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

Nehemiah 8:10

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