Office Space as a Commentary on Values Clarification
Office Space, I LOVE this movie. Of course, transparently and cliché enough, because I identify with it so closely. I’ve felt the pain of its characters. I’ve hated the same things the characters hate. I’ve settled as some have settled. And once again I find myself at crossroads of choice between settling and striving…daring to risk failure over mundane quasi guarantees that turn out to be thinly veiled lies of security wrapped in setting my security in the hands of other mortals who could give two rats asses about my fulfillment as a finite human with let’s face it, some pretty awesome talent…yeah, yeah I’m full of it, but I like to think what I have to offer is unique and may help others, even though it may not be worth a 6 figure income. What would I do with 6 figures anyhow? Anyway…what was I saying…oh, YES… this is an awesome movie about the felt futility of working in cubicle infested warehouse size spaces with mostly other people who seem crazy to you as their values and yours do not match.
The opening scene where the movie introduces the main characters sets up the attentive viewer with perfect cues saying, “PAY ATTENTION!!!” to the paths of these characters, their approaches to life and their perceptions of their place in the story/culture, universe.
Lundberg with his Porsche, personal parking spot with his name on a sign designating it as his own.
Peter the main “hero” who ducks in at the last second, tentative of the static electric shock, setting the tone for the day he knows is waiting. He receives this “Shock Therapy” everyday from the door he has to pass through to venture into Initech. I particularly identify with this, as it mirrors identically my experience with my first job out of college from the dreaded commute… all the way to the daily shock therapy from an identical door handle…which honestly should have triggered some type of ah-HA moment for me catapulting what my subconscious knew into my conscious…this job was killing me, spiritually speaking, with depression and complacency. And yes, I sat in a cubicle, gray, fabric, moldy musk stuck in my nostrils…and of course…paperwork as far as the eye can see, and my mind numb but moving through the needed motions to complete the “TPS Reports.”
Sidekicks, Michael and Samir are introduced via their commute in their cars stuck in rush hour traffic, beginning their day angry. Angry with traffic, listening to angry music, all to arrive and deal with the possessed fax machine…which anyone who’s worked in an office knows that all fax machines are in fact posessed….their demons spurring the demons of the humans into a blood pressure boiling frenzy…a stroke waiting to happen.
Then the “unusual suspect” type character who has the coup d’etat in the end is of course Milton, who we see sitting at the bus stop, with his thermos and sack lunch resting lightly atop his black plastic, 1970’s attaché case… avoiding the traffic, waiting…and appearing completely, well…clueless. Such camouflage for such brilliance!
In the end Peter is the only one who gets out of the maze with clear vision regarding contentment with unknowing and gratitude for simplicity and freedom to choose even if he’s not sure which way he’s headed…and no guarantee in hand or mind, with his perspectives on life and it’s trade-offs or value, all altered for the better via his experiences all catalyzed by the occupational-hypnotist who departs the earthly realm after giving Peter permission to not be enslaved to the system of obligation.
Interesting to me is Peter’s dream where he hears the sentencing of himself and his friends. His friends are sentenced to 4 years in a Federal Pound Me in the Ass prison, while he is pronounced to be a “very bad person” having lived a “trite and meaningless life.” His solution is to take responsibility for the attempted fraud against Initech. With which his valiant self-sacrifice and rescue are rewarded by Milton to keeps his promise to burn down the building freeing Peter of culpability and retaining the “goods” for himself.
Milton gets the money, but his neural net still runs the same programs of, “That’s the last straw,” and “I’ll burn the building down,” albeit he gets to do it on a snow-white sand beach at some posh Mexican resort with an alcoholic beverage and a umbrella festooned drink.
So which character am I? Which have I been? Which do I want to be? What about YOU…who are you, have you been, will you be?
All this is not to say there is anything inherently wrong with these working environments. Some species of human minds work wonderfully in these cubicle environments. I am simply not of this species. I’ve come to know…finally…which species I belong to. Perhaps I’m part of the less adaptable species. Perhaps those who can go to and from the cubicle jungle day in and day out in contentment with still reality of the insecurity of the future, not caring what they are doing in the present. Part of me is jealous of this species. The species I see as blissfully unaware and able to continue without struggling against themselves…as I do.