Office Space as a Cultural Artifact

Topics: Office Space, Gary Cole, Bill Lumbergh Pages: 11 (4358 words) Published: April 16, 2011
Culture is ever changing across time and space. People study artifacts to better understand cultural norms as well as what the people went through on a day-to-day basis. An artifact can be interpreted in many different ways since they have multiple meanings. These multiple meanings may be hard to understand if you, as the viewer, do not know anything about the culture prior to viewing this artifact. Office Space is an example of a cultural artifact of the United States in the 1990’s. It takes us into the world of an American white-collar office and introduces us to complexities of office life. Additionally, it shows the many ways that American’s jobs influence the other parts of day-to-day life. When broken down, the movie Office Space offers a humorous and realistic view into the diversity and intricacy of the American ways of life. The people implicated in Office Space are the American workers, their bosses, and their coworkers. Office Space looks at the typical and not so typical workweek for the average white-collar worker. It deals with cubicle life and the resentment a lot of people have towards their jobs, which can reflect directly on their overall lives. It looks at the “slacker” who is the one who gets away with everything, the employee who works all the time and doesn’t receive credit for the job they do, the “helicopter” boss who is always looming over your shoulder, and those annoying coworkers you just do not want to interact with sometimes. Many people in America as well as around the world have dealt with similar people at work. Mike Judge, the writer and director of the movie, obviously understands the mundane workweek and sought to help the viewers look at their jobs differently. By making the characters relatable to the audience, Judge helps to further pull the viewers into the story. The movie is driven by a humorous look into the American cubicle life; intended for anyone who has dealt with similar work conditions and relatable feelings, which adds to the comedic level. For people of other cultures, the humor in Office Space may be understood but not to its full effect. One thing that must be understood about this particular culture in order to understand the artifact is the economic reasoning. Money steers the wheel for many American lives and it is the backbone for the comedy; it is the difference between blue and white-collar workers and the amount of happiness brought to life through our careers. Social economic status factors into every decision we make, and many events that take place throughout our lives. The idea of hierarchy in the workplace plays a direct role into how employees see themselves and their significance to the company. Peter Gibbons, a dissatisfied Initech employee, is the epitome of a bored and unchallenged employee. It is a physical pain for him to come to work every day, which is metaphorically displayed through the shock he receives from the door handle when walking into the office. He is at the mercy of eight different bosses, who all regularly interject their authoritative input, even when unnecessary. Peter’s bosses display hierarchy with the constant nagging about the TPS report mishap, despite the issue having been resolved. This constant nagging also displays the cultural need to show authority as a means of importance. Another lowly and seemingly unimportant employee, Milton Waddams, is constantly being taken advantage of because he is seen as having little to no status in the company; shown directly through his constant change of desk location and the kidnapping of his beloved Streamline stapler. These two, along with a multitude of other employees are a perfect example of corporatism, shown through the corporate social interaction roles in the office. The idea of a hierarchal system ends up being the demise of the company when the employees who are negatively affected by it are the ones who ultimately turn and destroy Initech.

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