Sympathetic Viewer Awkwardness; The Office, American Pie 2, etc.

Michael Scott (The Office)

There’s something I dread when I watch comedies, and it’s even more prevalent in certain black comedies where they are played seriously, dead-pan. I like to term it “Sympathetic Viewer Awkwardness”, which happens both when the character feels awkward, but much more commonly, when we feel awkward for the character.

Take for instance the American version of The Office, starring Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the boss at a small office where they sell paper. Michael will not miss an opportunity to be rude, racist, sexist, and offensive. His staff obviously pays him no mind, and don’t take him seriously. I do remember the scene where he asked every person in the office to talk as if they were someone from another “group”, and he drew the “Indian” card (India, not Native American), and then Kelly, the Indian worker, had walked in and had slapped him, since she thought he were mocking her.

The thing is, watching The Office is almost a physically painful experience for me, as I can’t help but go, “Oh gawd, he didn’t just do that, did he? He did!” and of course the show actually plays and gives social commentary, by showing you these ridiculously offensive things, and having a character who truly means well, he just really doesn’t know any better. If you watch the show with people who think Michael’s behaviour is legitimate, BTW, know that you are not in Kansas anymore¬†;) Continue reading