The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

College and ‘The Office’


With the rise of Netflix, The Office has become as much a part of the college experience as easy mac, ramen noodles, and regrettable relationships. The NBC comedy show hasn’t seemed to dip in popularity since its finale in early 2013, which is remarkable considering many believe it petered out after Steve Carrell left in 2011. Retaining their old fans and gaining scores of new ones as the younger generation gets older, The Office may benefit more than any other show by word of mouth. Frankly, it’s strange if someone is not familiar with the show at any university, where specific references to random episodes are commonplace, even among strangers.

The Office and other shows of that ilk, like Parks and Rec, Friends, and That 70’s Show have had a second life on Netflix. They have possibly become even more prevalent now, on the streaming service than when they were airing new episodes on cable. The common thread between these shows is re-watchability, something to mindlessly put on while doing homework, writing something for the school’s paper, or while surrounded by pizza rolls and good friends. There is just something comforting in all of them, but none more so than The Office.

So, why exactly is it that a mockumentary show about a mundane work place has amassed such a loyal cult following? Why, across college campuses of all places, where most people have never even worked in an office, has it become such a damn hit with so many people?

Perhaps the answer lies within the psyche of a late teens and early 20’s student. College, at least the traditional four-year on campus experience, is essentially the beta version of life. Away from home for the first time and on your own for nearly everything without immediate access to a parental bailout; it can be downright horrifying. Even more horrifying is the fact that every single one of them is one more graduation from the real thing.

Maybe The Office is something of a best-case scenario for students. It is not portrayed as an idyllic place to work, but it’s wacky, fun, and genuine relationships get formed by unlikely people. The world we all live in can be cruel and unfair, but maybe, just maybe, we can find an environment where we can be completely ourselves. Maybe we can find solace in those around us, regardless of the size of their role in our life, even if they work a few desks away.

Two of the show’s fan favorites (there are many) are Jim and Pam. Jim and Pam, or PB&J as coined by lovable oaf Kevin, represent the ideal relationship in a way that is relatable to so many people. They started off as friends, not realizing they were falling for each other. But, circumstances forced this match to stall until finally Jim asked Pam on a date in the season 3 finale. Their relationship was not always easy, but they persevered and found happiness in each other, which is all that anybody can really ask for in a relationship.

What makes this relationship so appealing might be that so many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation. To meet someone that is love at first sight is almost entirely unrealistic. The divine intervention of a soulmate magically appearing before someone is not the typical story of any relationship. However, falling for someone that was right under your nose the whole time? That could happen. That does happen, all the time. After all, who makes a better partner than a friend? We all want the Pam to our Jim, whatever form that takes. It is so hard to find that though, and even harder to keep that. But, if Jim and Pam could make it happen, why can’t you?

Another fan favorite, Michael Scott, is an absolutely ridiculous character. Anybody would be hard pressed to think of any real person who mixes in the same amount of cringe and insanity to everyday life on the scale of Michael Scott. Though, he does emulate moments of us. We have all done something embarrassing, but maybe not as a bad as falling into a koi pond  on a business trip. Or, done something stupid and ruined a relationship, or made promises we couldn’t keep. Maybe if Michael can get through life just the way he is, it won’t be so bad for the rest of us.

The Office has something for everyone, because, well, it has so many different characters in it. It’s not necessarily that we relate to the characters ourselves, but Dwight might remind you of your strange co-worker. Creed might remind you of your weird neighbor, who you were pretty sure spent the 60’s in a weed-fueled daze, or Oscar might resemble that know-it-all you had a class with. Watching The Office is like being at home; it’s comfortable, it’s safe, and I mean that in the best way possible. For college students, it reminds us we have a good life, and that it will be good down the line, no matter how mundane or uninteresting it may seem, because life is about the characters we meet and the relationships we form. None of us will work for Dunder Mifflin Scranton, but we will all forge plenty of relationships in some of the unlikeliest of places.

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