Text Review: The Office “Diversity Day”

One episode of The Office that talks about injustice and ethnic identities would be season 1 episode 2 called Diversity Day. In this episode, Michael, the branch manager, decides that he wants to hold a diversity day to talk about diversity in the workplace with his employees. Michael addresses several issues with stereotypes of people from different ethnicities, however, he does not go about them in the best ways. He creates a game of headbands and each person is wearing a different ethnicity, the game does not go the way that Michael intended. He confronts Kelly who is Indian and starts speaking to her in an Indian accent, then Kelly slaps Michael. Michael realizes that this was not a very good idea.

Although this show does not properly discuss stereotypes and ethnic identities, it does show how hurtful these stereotypes can be to someone who is from that ethnic group. From the episode, it is clear that Kelly took great offense to Michael talking to her like that, so she slapped him. I think that this can be compared to Simone de Beauvoir’s theory of One and the Other. I believe that in this scene Michael views himself as the One and impersonates an Indian person as the Other, and when Kelly hears how Michael makes Indians sound, she is hurt by it. I believe that it is hurtful to call somebody out as the Other and make fun of who they are.

This show is meant to be a mockumentary sitcom, which is very comical, however, this is a very sensitive topic to be joking around with. I think that the creator of the show wants the viewers to think about the importance of diversity by asking the following questions. Were Michael’s actions an appropriate way to discuss ethnic identities? Is making fun of or copying someone’s accent rude and hurtful to that person, or is it funny? Were Michael’s ideas of a diversity day an effective way to approach the topic of diversity and talk about injustice and ethnic identities?

Here is the link to a video about the episode: https://www.nbc.com/the-office/video/diversity-day/3839859

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