Jung at "The Office"

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Jung at "The Office"

Post  kara on Sun Jan 30, 2011 3:56 pm

The American production of “The Office” is a good candidate for Jungian analysis as many of its characters have clearly defined personalities. One can expect each character to behave a certain way in any given situation. This allows for an accurate analysis without detailed knowledge of every episode.

“The Office” follows the employees of “Dunder-Mifflin” Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It features Michael, the well-meaning, but ill-informed boss, Jim, the gangly good guy, Dwight, Jim’s nemesis, an order-loving beet farmer, Pam, Jim’s love interest, an art-school drop out, and now the “office administrator”, and a host of others. While mostly focusing on the shenanigans of the paper company employees, the show also deals with stereotyping.

Symbolic Archetypes:

“The Office” contains the symbolic archetypes “Battle Between Good and Evil”, “Naivety versus Sophistication”, and “Parent versus Child”.

“Battle between Good and Evil” occurs when “two primal forces are constantly in opposition”. In “The Office”, this occurs in the form of Jim and Dwight. Jim represents the good, as he has socially accepted morals and is a family man. Dwight represents the bad, as many of his beliefs do not fit in with those of the viewers. There are countless examples of Jim versus Dwight. One that strongly shows this archetype occurs when Dwight literally bullies Jim, throwing snowballs at him at unexpected times. This snow-ball fight occurs after Dwight suggests that it’s not really snowing, as there is only a light dusting, and Jim jokingly throws a snowball at him. Dwight does not let this go, and continuously pelts Jim with snowballs, to the point of causing a nosebleed, and even psychological distress.

“Naivety versus Sophistication” is also seen throughout the series. This explores the characters’ understandings. An excellent example of this archetype occurs when Michael discovers that Oscar, an office accountant, is gay. He feels the need to inform the office of Oscar’s sexuality, and even goes so far as to kiss Oscar on the lips in an attempt to prove that he is comfortable with homosexuality. If this isn’t naïve than nothing is; Michael completely misunderstands the situation, refusing to let Oscar keep his sexuality private, and then indelicately, and completely inappropriately kisses him. Pam and Jim represent the sophistication as they are the only characters (aside from Oscar) who have a grasp on how socially inappropriate Michael’s actions are.

The final situational archetype consistently seen in “The Office” examines the relationship of “Parent versus Child”. Throughout the series, characters alternately play the part of parent and child. Michael acts both as a parent and a child. For example, in one episode, Michael does not understand the concept of a surplus. He states, “Explain this to me as if I were five”. Oscar explains the concept to him using the metaphor of a lemonade stand. Oscar is parenting Michael; he is using an analogy to simplify an “adult” concept. This situation is turned around when Erin, the new receptionist, confronts Michael about his dislike of Gabe, who has become his boss. Michael is irritated to find that his employees esteem Gabe more than they do him. Erin demands to know why Michael doesn’t like Gabe, and demands that Michael like him. This situation mirrors one where a daughter asks permission of her father to date someone. The two of them acknowledge this parent-child relationship, and the conversation ends with an improvised father-daughter scene. (Michael tells Erin to get in the house, while Erin spews nonsense about how she hates his house and his car. It is really quite entertaining).

Situational Archetypes:

Situational archetypes are also present in “The Office”, and encompass common situations seen throughout literature.

“Nature versus Mechanistic World” is represented through Dwight. This archetype occurs when “Nature is good while technology and society represent evil”. Dwight is very suspicious of technology, and uses primitive hunting techniques, lives on a farm without electricity, and offers strange and irrelevant advice for these times. One example of this occurs when Dwight encounters a goose, which is the victim of road kill, and brings it into the office to cook, claiming that nothing should be wasted.

“The Unhealable Wound” is also present in the series and is defined as “a wound that may be physical or psychological and drives the sufferers to desperate measures”. It is precisely this that Michael is suffering from. Michael’s unhealable wound is his loneliness; he desperately wants a family and a wife. For example, Michael always talks about being married and having kids (despite how unlikely this seems given his extraordinary naivety). When Holly (Michael’s love interest) gets mad at him because he vandalizes a gift given by her boyfriend, Michael inappropriately states that one day they will laugh about it when they tell their kids. This shows how desperate Michael is for a family, and how strongly it plays in his thoughts.

Character Archetypes:

Part of the humor of “The Office” comes from the character archetypes. Amongst others, the show features the “Friendly Beast”, “The Outcast”, “The Trickster”, and “The Star-Crossed Lovers” character archetypes.

Darryl represents the “Friendly Beast”. While seeming rough on the exterior, Darryl is a kind and sensitive guy. His “beastliness” comes from his large size, his work in the warehouse, and his tough attitude. However, throughout the show he demonstrates sensitivity to others. One example occurs when Darryl asks for a raise. In doing so, he realizes that Michael receives a pittance related to his position, and facilitates Michael’s raise as well. By recognizing Michael’s naivety, and choosing to help him to understand his economic situation, Darryl qualifies as “friendly”.

“The Outcast” is seen in Toby, a red-headed Human Resources representative, whom Michael hates. According to Jung, “The Outcast” is “a figure who is banished from a social group for some crime (real or imagined) against his fellow man. The Outcast is usually destined to be a wanderer.” This description seems as though it was made for Toby Flenderson. Michael hates Toby; his crime, according to Michael, is trying to make the office lame. As a result of this, Toby is exiled to the annex, a remote area of the office, where he does not come into contact with Michael or others much. Finally, Toby fits the third requirement of “The Outcast” as he eventually leaves the office, but returns some months later, making him a wanderer. For these reasons, Toby represents “The Outcast”.

“The Trickster” is clearly Jim; his role is, as Jung says “generally to make trouble”. Jim does this on countless occasions; from putting Andy’s calculator in jello, to learning Morse code to secretly insult Dwight. Jim does nothing if not make trouble.

The “Star Crossed-Lovers” are Michael and Holly. They perfectly fit the description of “two characters engaged in a love affair that is fated to end tragically for one or both due to the disapproval of the society, friends, family, or some tragic situation.” Due to Corporate disapproval the relationship is ended, by moving Holly to a Nashua Branch. The relationship ends tragically for Michael, while Holly moves on and eventually finds another.

Many Jungian archetypes are incorporated in the American Series “The Office”. This includes the symbolic archetypes “Battle between Good and Evil”, “Naivety versus Sophistication” and “Parent vs. Child”, the situational archetypes “Nature versus Mechanistic World” and “The Unhealable Wound”, and the character archetypes “The Friendly Beast”, “The Outcast”, “The Trickster”, and “The Star-Crossed Lovers”. The sheer number of Jungian archetypes found in “The Office”, and the clear correlations between the show and these archetypes indicate that Jung’s theories are still relevant today.


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Re: Jung at "The Office"

Post  krissology on Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:46 pm

I don't think I can agree with some of your statements.

With the battle between Jim and Dwight, they cannot be related to the battle between good and evil, although at times it may appear to be. In many episodes Jim and Dwight altrenate between who initiated their “battle”. From memory, Jim has instigated many, including the episode where he dressed exactly, and acted like Dwight just to mess with him . If anything, Jim should be the depiction of “evil” with his pranks, and Dwight the ignorant victim. A better depiction of Good vs Evil could be Phyllis, and Andy. Andy has serious anger problems and when pranks are pulled on him, he goes truly insane, where Phyllis is extremely submissive and docile and never gets upset. Below is a list of some of the pranks pulled by Jim:

Michael, Dwight, Andy, and Jim are at Benihana's sitting at the sushi bar. But there are only 3 seats together so Dwight ends up at the other end of the table where he can't hear. Finally, he yells to Jim to find out what their talking about. Jim tells him that the waitress is trying to explain how to correctly butcher a goose but she's having a hard time coming up with. Dwight starts yelling at the waitress to get her attention and come to him. When she does, to her horror, Dwight begins explaining the correct way to butcher a goose.
For the past few months, Pam has been sending Dwight letters from the CIA. And the CIA is considering Dwight for a top secret mission. She has made a classified file which has the application she made him fill out along with the list of every secret he promised he never ever tell.
Secret: Last year my boss Michael Scott took a day off. He said it was because he was sick but really it was to go to Magic Camp.
Jim, as the CIA, contacts Dwight and tells him that he is needed in Langley immediately for training and an ice cream social with the other agents. A helicopter will pick you up. Dwight is waiting at the helopad when he gets a text message: You have been comprised. Abort mission. Destroy phone. And with that Dwight throws his phone in the river.
Jim stares at Dwight's forehead making him think at first he's got a smudge. When Jim refuses "to meet Dwight's eyeline", Dwight gets completely flustered and bumps into his desk.
Jim stole some stationary from Dwight before he left Scranton and now he faxes Dwight "messages from future" with warnings about what's going to happen. He Faxes Dwight:

At 8 AM today someone poisons the coffee. Do NOT drink the Coffee. More instructions to follow.
Future Dwight

Dwight receives this and then tackles Stanley who is about to sip his coffee
Jim and Pam would hum in a high pitch and get Dwight to make an appointment with a doctor. Pam called it "Pretendenitis".
Jim "allegedly" put Dwight's stapler in Jell-o. When questioned about it, Jim was eating Jell-o.
Jim and Pam submitted Dwight's resume to Monster.com, Craig's List, and Google.com. They were hoping Dwight would find something out of state.
Jim had convinced Dwight that it was Friday when really it was Thursday.
Jim replaced all of Dwight's pens and pencils with crayons.
Jim makes Dwight think that it is a cool trend for men to carry purses. And since he is smitten with the lady selling them, he should go buy one. Dwight comes out with a black reptile skinned purse.
Jim put all of Dwight's desk supplies inside the vending machine. Things like his name plate, stapler, pen cup and of course his wallet. Dwight goes to get a snack and notices this. Pam walks in and decides what she really wants is a pen cup. So she buys it. Without his wallet, Dwight can't buy back his supplies. Helpful Jim gives him a bag full of nickles.
He paid all the other employees $5 to call Dwight "Dwayne" all day.
Jim placed a bloody glove in Dwight's desk drawer and tried to convince him that he committed a murder.
Jim has Dwight's badge read "Security Threat". He also has Dwight's middle name as "Fart" instead of "Kurt". When Dwight has his badge redone, Jim suggests they get their picture taken together. That way, they could meet in the parking lot every morning and come through the door together.
He told Dwight that there was an abandoned child in the women's bathroom. When Dwight went in to save the child he saw Meredith on the toilet.
He slowly placed a bunch of nickles in Dwight's phone headset over a period of time so that Dwight would get used to increased weight. After a few days he took them all out so when Dwight lifted the receiver using more force then required, expecting it to be heavier, he hit himself in the head with it.
When Dwight wins salesman of the year, and has to give a speech, Jim offers to help explaining he majored in Public Speaking. He tells Dwight that history's best speakers were not joketellers but passionate. He should wave his arms in the air and pound his fists many times. As examples, Jim has downloaded a bunch of speeches by famous dictators, including Mussollini...just to help Dwight get started.
Jim placed a computer macro on Dwight's computer to type "diapers" instead whenever Dwight tried to type his name.
In classic form, Jim moved Dwight's desk an inch every time he went to the bathroom, so that at the end of the day it was two feet closer to the door.
He also moved Dwight's entire desk into the Men's room. When Dwight finally found his desk, Jim called him with questions about the specials the company is running. So Dwight sat down and started to work.
Michael and Dwight are desperate to know who is gay and who isn't in the office once it is learned that Oscar is gay. Jim once told Dwight that there was a devise called a "gaydar" that would let someone know who was gay or straight. When Dwight calls Jim to find out how to get the product, Jim tells him that the store is sold out. A few days later, a package arrives for Dwight in the mail. Jim has sent him his very own "gaydar". It's completely inaccurate and when Michael waves it over his "manly" area it beeps as if to say, you're gay.
Jim tells Dwight that ever since he was a kid he could move things with his mind. Obviously Dwight doesn't believe this and Jim must prove it. So Jim turns his chair and stares really hard at the coat rack then starts wiggling his fingers at it. All of a sudden, the coat rack begins to move. Pam winks at Jim and Jim continues his prank. Dwight is shocked and now begins to try to move things on his desk with his mind.
Michael tells Jim to hire a male stripper from Banana Slings for Phyllis' office bridal shower. Jim flatly refuses and calls the Scholastic Speakers of Pennsylvania instead. Ben Franklin comes to the party.
The guy who comes to the party portraying Ben Franklin doesn't go out of character. So Jim tells Dwight that he is the "real" Ben Franklin. Dwight continually quizzes the guy but fails to get him to mess up. Dwight is 99% sure that it is not the real Ben Franklin but can't prove it yet.
While going on a sales call together, Dwight gets in the backseat of Jim's car. Jim questions this and Dwight explains it is the safest place in the car. So Jim slams on the breaks on Dwight bangs his head into the back of the driver's seat.
During Casino Night, while Jim and Dwight are playing poker, Jim coughs whenever he has a good hand. This makes Dwight believe that he has a sure fire tell on Jim. Of course Jim is just messing with him and eventually takes all of his money because of it.
Jim's find's Dwight's wallet in the parking lot and brings it to Pam to decide what they should do with it (possibly buy a horse). Pam persuades Jim that they should do nothing with it and just give it back. However, Dwight doesn't believe that they haven't tampered with it so he cancels all of his credit cards.
While Michael is on vacation, Jim is running the staff meeting. Dwight brings out a recorder claiming that Michael wants a transcript of the meetings. Jim begins the meeting normally and then says: Dwight, what are you doing? You can't take your pants off in the office! It's making me uncomfortable. This is sexual harassment. (Dwight looks as the recorder horrified) Oh my God! He's got a knife! Let the record show that Dwight K Shrute is now completely nude holding a plastic knife to Stanley's neck. There goes the recorder.
I also don't agree that Pam and Jim represent sophistication, as they constantly play immature pranks, and are not the “only characters who have a grasp on how socially inappropriate Micheal’s actions are”. All the characters in the office are aware and bothered by Micheal's behavior, as his behavior at some point has been directed inappropriately at them with Phyllis's weight, Stanley's weight and race, etc.

Dwight and Pam could also be considered tricksters alongside Jim, as all three are strongly involved in the pranks pulled. lol! lol! lol! lol! lol! lol! lol! lol! lol!

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Character Archetypes

Post  kate.lich on Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:25 pm

There is a huge range of women figure archetypes represented in the office. Phyllis, the older, married office worker is the earth mother of the group. She is very patient and understanding and is a full bodied women. There are two office temptresses: Kelly and Angela. Kelly is always wearing heavy make up and flashy clothing. Ryan gets into a very messy relationship with her and she won't let go. Angela tempts Dwight but will never be true to him, she will always be on the look out for someone better. Pam falls under the platonic ideal category. She is a faithful and inspiring wife to Jim. She is a hard worker and still happily looks after their baby. Holly is a damsel in distress. She is very vulnerable and needs to be rescued by a hero but it turns out it won't be the office manager, Micheal Scott.


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Post  Mr. C on Sun Feb 06, 2011 9:07 pm

Kara - an thorough and excellent analysis. Well done! I particularly appreciated your creative symbolic archetypes of naivety vs. sophistication and parent vs. child (although adult vs. child might work just as well). You have demonstrated that the concept of the polarity or duality is just that - a concept, and that the listed ones of good vs. evil, light vs. dark etc. are just the more common ones. Whenever a duality can be explored, we have a symbolic archetype. And I would also say that one doesn't need to have the polarity always black and white. Therefore, your example of good vs. evil is valid and so is Kris's example when she points out other variables. In a sophisticated piece of irony/parody, the polarities themselves will often be picked apart and played against themselves. Cheers!
Mr. C

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Re: Jung at "The Office"

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