If you’re familiar with my channel you know I usually reveal the subversive nature in films that are pumping propaganda into the soft little minds of the audience and while in some ways this video is no different, in fact it is probably has the most effective propaganda in terms of compelling the audience to action than any other film I’m aware of, but I hesitate to call it a subversive film.
This film when I first saw it I was working for a large computer company that had grown too big too fast and the boomers in management, in classic boomer capitalist fashion became so blinded with greed despite record profits they decided to put all of their focus and energy on enriching themselves and the shareholders at the expense of the employees and the customers who had made the growth happen. This would lead to the company eventually imploding in on itself, but not before they hired efficiency experts to come in and try to squeeze every penny of profit out of their employees by tracking every second of their time, literally every second, and their customers by nickeling and diming them for services that had once been free.
The working conditions became so unbearable that many of the best and brightest left the company, and in an effort to stave off the brain drain that had begun in response, the company instituted carefully timed and condescending corporate team building activities like pizza parties and movie lunches.
It was during such a movie luncheon that my manager made a fatal mistake. She brought us into the conference room and we gathered around the TV and watched this film we’re about to discuss and the very next day, completely independent of each other the three most senor employees failed to show up for work, never called in and were never seen or heard from again.
I was one of these employees and the movie, if you haven’t guessed already was “Office Space.” I have actually spoken to several people who have their own variation of this story after watching this film. In fact the lead actor was interviewed about the film recently about “Office Space” becoming a cult classic he remarked that to this day people come up to him on a regular basis to tell him that they quit their job immediately after seeing this film.
Changing jobs is one of the most stressful things a man can do yet this film, after telling a story for 90 minutes motivated countless Americans to do just that. And not just quit but in many cases just stop showing up for work completely and burning bridges with their former employers.
So what made this film so powerful? What was it about “Office Space” that could account for this phenomenon. Well, it’s because it told the truth. It told the truth about corporate America but also a truth about an aspect of white men that makes many people who write films uncomfortable.
“Office Space” wasn’t written by the people that write most films, it was written and directed by Mike Judge, a white male who didn’t come from Hollywood, or money, and had worked in the real world. He understood white men better than most of Hollywood and an aspect of their behavior that is relevant today.
Lately I’ve heard people say the phrase, and I have said it myself, that “white men are nice, until they’re not.” Now, to some people that might sound like a passive aggressive threat but it’s not. It’s descriptive of how many white men process conflict.
Some people, when they attempt to describe this behavior, they will conjure up the image of a kid getting bullied, and bullied, and bullied until one day he snaps. They make it seem as if the kid, who is a metaphor for white men, is like a canister of volatile material that gets shaken, and shaken until the pressure makes it explode. This is misunderstands the process.
“Office Space” walks us through the real steps of what is going on in the minds of white men faced with conflict. It acknowledges that the extreme reaction to the outside danger isn’t something that slowly develops, it’s not the product of pressure being applied over time that makes their solution to the conflict more and more extreme as the pressure builds until they snap but instead, if you really understand the the thought process you know that the initial solution in the minds of these men is extreme and there is no snap. There is simply a slow erosion of the self control that is containing that initial instinct to deliver a devastating response.
This initial extreme solution is rarely acted upon because it’s typically so extreme and so severe that given the time to rationally weigh the consequences of carrying it out and assessing the collateral damage, the rational mind often concludes that enduring the problem and tolerating the danger seems safer than executing the extreme solution.
From the very start of the conflict that is the equation. These men will table what seems like an extreme solution to a problem in the hopes that the problem will resolve itself or that a less extreme solution presents itself later and they will delay acting, delay, delay, delay, until the stress generated by the conflict or perceived danger outweighs the perceived collateral damage that might come with being assertive and taking action.
If this seems confusing it will make more sense as we walk through the film because this is at the heart of the film. Its white men faced with conflict who come up with extreme, but effective methods of resolving the conflict but wait until they can no longer justify waiting or sense that danger might be eminent and then they enact these extreme solutions. So let’s dive in.
The movie starts out immediately building up to the ultimate conflict that the main character has, the dehumanizing conditions that existed for people unlucky enough to work an office job in the 90s that was being micromanaged by profit centric boomers. The first challenge of this life is of course being stuck in traffic with countless other office workers going to their various office spaces. Changing lanes and then watching as the lane we were just in begins to move and then changing again only to have traffic stop for seemingly no reason. We are introduced to the protagonist, Peter, and briefly some of his coworkers.
Next we see an establishing shot of the office space in question, a place called initech, a buzzwordy generic name typical of the countless tech companies that sprung into existence in the 90s. Peter’s boomer boss, Bill Lumbergh, of course has a reserved parking spot and drives a porsche. The massive wealth inequality that we see today is something that has been in the making for along time. We see the inane modern corporate art that adorns the outside of many of these office buildings and while i’m not certain if it was intentional, it’s interesting to note that its a square peg that has been put through a round hole.
Peter, wearing his security badge and business appropriate shirt and tie starts his day dreading opening the doors to the office thanks to the static electrical shock he recieves when he touches the handle.
He works in a bland grey room full of cubicles that looks identical to many offices in the 90s, including the office where i worked, each cubicle is like a drab prison cell that features all the negative aspects of being surrounded by walls with none of the benefits. Benefits like blocking out the voices of everyone else around you or stopping your boss, Bill Lumbergh from just dropping in.
Bill tells Peter that he forgot to include a cover sheet on his TPS report and we can easily infer that whatever that means and whatever a TPS report is, it is clearly some mundane micromanagement busy work that is likely completely pointless.
Next we meet Milton. Milton is the first and a clear cut example of the extreme problem resolution strategy we discussed. Also, many don’t know this but, Milton is modeled after a cartoon character that inspired the entire movie. Milton is also very close to encountering his conflict and generating his initial extreme solution.
Peter now encounters another boomer boss, Dom, who berates him about the same TPS reports, followed by a phone call about the exact same reports. This is highlighting the source of the inefficiencies that existed in these offices. All too often micromanaging was wielded as the favorite weapon of those who lacked tech skills and had to justify their existence at a tech company managing tech workers.
We now meet Samir, an H1B visa holder back when there were so few of them we could still have a sense of humor about it and back when our culture was still dominant so we could make fun of the cultural differences without anyone losing their minds. Now I think it’s important to note that Samir is reacting differently than the white characters do to conflict. Instead of coming up with an extreme solution to be acted upon later when all other options have run out when the printer has a paperjam, or when he is driving into work, he reacts instantly with violence. This is part of the honesty of the film, his violent reaction is the joke and it’s funny because it’s foreign and believable.
We also meet Michael. Peter, Samir and Michael go to a chain restaurant called Chotskies to get some coffee. The chain restaurant is the unbearable workplace for wage slaving corporate gen xers of the blue collar variety. The environment might seem different than the office at initech but as we will see it’s just as dehumanizing and micromanaged by the same kinds of people.
This is where Peter reveals the theme of the movie, everything we’ve been discussing about extreme responses to problems. He jokes that his solution to his problems at initech is coming into work and shooting the place up. Obviously this is a joke, but this is what I mean by white men coming up with the extreme solution first. He didn’t slowly build up to this solution, his initial reaction to this bad day he’s having is to shoot the place up and obviously the risks heavily outweigh the benefits so there’s no chance he’ll act on this extreme solution but it’s the first one that came to mind. His rational mind accessed it as ridiculous so he laughs it off and continues to endure the problem rather that act on his extreme thought but it doesnt change the fact that he had the thought.
The three complain about work and this is where we are introduced to Michael’s extreme solution to the problem of initech. He mentions he could program a virus that would rip the place off. Just like Peter, however, the rational part of his mind sees this as too risky a response given the current situation so it’s simply repressed until conditions change.
We also briefly see a very young Jennifer Aniston, who plays a waitress named Joanne that Peter has a crush on but is afraid to approach. We also learn Peter has a girlfriend who is likely cheating on him and who wants him to see a hypnotherapist to help him get out of his rut.
On the way back from Chotskies the three run into Tom, another white guy who later deals with problems with extreme solutions. He tells them that efficiency experts are coming to streamline the office and he’s afraid they are going to lose their jobs.
At the end of the day, Peter comes home and we see the typical shitty 90s apartment. After working all day in your cubicle prison cell, you go home to your IKEA furnished apartment prison cell. Peter’s neighbor, Laurence, is a blue collar worker. The kind of guy that the popular culture likes to present as uneducated, uncouth, and dirty. You don’t want to do jobs like Laurence. That’s for people like him, although in a few years those jobs will go to hordes of illegal immigrants. Pop culture looks down on this kind of work and would rather you work in a soulless office so you can have all this nice IKEA furniture.
Peter reveals his extreme solution to Laurence and tells him that if he had a million dollars he would just do nothing.
The next day the efficiency experts have arrived with a huge banner that reads “is this good for the company?” all the employees are gathered around Bill Lumbergh to listen to his condescending corporate pep talk about not wasting post-it notes and working extra hours for free.
Next we see Milton and Milton reveals his extreme solution to Lumbergh pushing him around. He says he will burn the building down. That’s Milton’s initial extreme response to the stress he is under. If he reaches a threshold where he perceives the consequences of burning the building down as having less of a negative impact on him than the humiliation he suffers at the hands of Lumbergh, he will execute this initial extreme response. Again, this is not a situation where Milton is slowly pushed off the edge and then snaps and decides to burn the building down. His starting point is burning the building down and he will go with that extreme solution if certain conditions are met.
Lumberg catches Peter before he can sneak out for the weekend and tells him he needs to work both Saturday and Sunday. This was something Peter was trying to avoid because he wanted to go fishing. Dejected and depressed he accepts the commands from Lumbergh and then goes with his girlfriend to the see the hypnotherapist later that night.
The therapist gets Peter to forget his worries cares and inhibitions but before he can move on beyond that, he drops dead of a heart attack. Peter is now stuck in a state of hypnosis. He no longer has the ability to accesses the risk of acting upon his initial extreme reactions to different situations. In a sense. Peter’s brain has been hacked, he will now just act immediately on his first impulse when faced with problems.
He wakes up the next morning, but instead of going to work, he listens to his first impulse, to go back to sleep. He also ignores the several phone calls that Bill Lumbergh makes. When he finally gets up at 3 in the afternoon his girlfriend calls. She’s complaining to him for missing work and acting strange so the first solution he comes up with is to just hang up on her and so he does and then goes back to bed where he stays the rest of the weekend.
Monday morning comes and they are having another soul crushing corporate ethics meeting on how to save money for the company at initech. Peter is nowhere to be found because instead of going to work his first impulse was to go next door to Chotskies and ask out Joanna.
While that’s going on, Tom and Michael are forced to defend their jobs in front of the new efficiency consultants.
Joanne and Peter seem to hit it off. The idea of course is that Peter is being direct and unflinchingly confident and women find that attractive. Because he is no longer tied up weighing risks and consequences of every little thing that he does and he’s simply acting on his first impulse unapologetically, he has taken on the traits of an alpha.
This is a part of the film that explains with simplicity something that connected on a deep level with myself and several other people who would later act out this fantasy in their own lives.
Peter says matter of factly “I don’t like my job and i dont think im going to go anymore.”
Joanna seems surprised and asks doesn’t he think he’ll get fired? Which really illustrated the ever present paranoia of the gen xers working pointless jobs living paycheck to paycheck with no savings. They took the humiliation for one reason and one reason alone, the fear of being fired and unable to pay the growing stack of bills.
Peter responds “I don’t know, but I really don’t like it and I’m not going to go anymore”
So you’re going to quit she asks?
Not really, im just going to stop going.
Joanna is impressed and They make a date for that night.
Now we get back to Milton, who remember, is the character that the film is really based on. He has decided that his solution is to burn the building down but not all the conditions have been met yet. However, one of the boxes get ticked off when Lumbergh takes his favorite stapler.
Peter comes into the office get his address book. Michael is shocked to see him because he’s been gone for 2 days and just walked in at noon wearing casual clothes. He tells Peter that he’s supposed to be meeting with the consultants. Peter thinks this sounds fun so he walks into the conference room where they are waiting and behaves the same way that he did with Joanne. Instead of constantly calculating and trying to say the right thing or what he thinks they might want to hear, he just confidently tells them the truth. He tells them that he sneaks in late all the time, spaces out at his desk, and doesn’t do much work. Once again we see the power of being an alpha. The consultants respond positively to his straightforward approach as he tells them why nobody cares about their jobs and why they work just hard enough to not get fired. He then excuses himself from the meeting and ignores Lumbergh on his way out
We now go to Joanne’s demeaning workplace and her manager complains that she only has the minimum amount buttons on her uniform. He suggests that “she express herself.” He mimics the corporate mind games that management would often play on their employees. He wants her to wear more buttons but instead of just telling her to wear more he wants her to make the choice to go above and beyond. He cant just raise the minimum, he has to make her think that it’s her idea but at the same time shame her if she doesnt have the idea. This is a bizarre management tactic i saw often in the 90s. You would be shamed for meeting minimum requirements of pointless rules like the number of buttons on your vest but your only reward for exceeding these pointless guidelines was the absence of the constant shaming. Big corporate workplaces were dehumanizing and cult like no matter where you worked.
Back at inatech the consultants tell Lumbergh to lay off Tom, they also inform him that Milton was actually laid off 5 years ago but has been still receiving checks through a glitch so they fixed the glitch. The scene is comedic because like most of the comedy in this film it’s honest. The complete lack of human compassion they have for the workers is obvious. Things get awkward when the consultants, to Lumbergh’s surprise tell him that they like Peter and want to give him a promotion.
This is followed by a montage of Peter behaving without fear of consequences at the office. He parks in lumbergs spot, unscrews the door knob that keeps shocking him, tears down the corporate propaganda banners, cleans a fish at his desk, takes the walls off his cubicle, his alpha behavior with the consultants makes him immune from interference from management. That’s another truth this film reveals. The power that just being honest and a assertive has. So many people, intelligent people, make the mistake of thinking that the way to success is through constant plotting and manipulation and don’t understand the power of just being unflinchingly honest. It doesn’t just attract women but, because it is the characteristic of a true alpha, it changes your relationship with men too. Men don’t like other men that are always plotting and scheming, because quite frankly it’s kind of feminine behavior. A man’s man is always someone who is honest and confident, not cocky, but sure of themselves, and this movie does a great job of showing the difference in how people respond to Peter the beta and Peter the alpha as well as showing that he didn’t change who he was, he simply stopped letting the fear of consequences change his behavior.
Now we go back to Milton, he is no longer receiving paychecks and Lumbergh plans to just keep making his life uncomfortable until he stops coming in because he’s too much of a corporate coward to actually fire him. Milton of course is getting closer and closer to executing his extreme measures.
The consultants tell Peter that they are going to lay off Samir and Michael and replace them with entry level people that will work for nothing and outsourced overseas labor. This movie is 20 years old; the current crisis has been going on a long time.
Peter tells Michael that initech is going to lay him off and just like that the conditions have been met for the extreme solution Michael came up with at the beginning of the movie. There is a virus they can install that will slowly syphon money from each transaction their banking software makes and it will eventually after a few years earn them lots of money. Peter, Michael and Samir install it on the mainframe, the extreme solution has been sent into motion.
To celebrate the execution of this extreme solution the three are now feeling reckless and execute another extreme solution, by executing the printer that kept jamming on them.
Now we get to Tom’s extreme solution in response to getting laid off. He tries to commit suicide to get insurance money for his wife but then his wife finds him. Tom changes his mind only to be hit by a drunk driver. He survives and wins a big settlement and throws a party.
On the way to the party Peter tells Joanna about their plan and she disapproves because it is stealing. Also while at the party, Tom’s lawyer makes Samir and Michael nervous by talking about prison.
Peter’s friend Drew tells him that Joanna has slept with Lumbergh and they get in a fight.
The next day, Peter nearly has a heart attack when he checks the account balance on the account they setup for the virus. It has over 300,000 dollars in it already when there should be closer to 300. Peter tells Samir and Michael and they close the account before it can get bigger.
Meanwhile Milton is pushed closer to executing his extreme solution when he is the only one not to get a piece of Lumbergh’s birthday cake and forced to work in the basement.
After thinking about what he got his friends into, Peter once again decides to do the alpha thing and take responsibility for the heist gone wrong. He decides to return the money and take all the blame.
He makes up with Joanna and leaves the money along with a confession note under Lumbergh’s door.
He’s ready to face the music but then, something unexpected happens. When Peter goes into the office the next morning the building is on fire.
Milton has finally executed his extreme solution to his problem. The solution that he didn’t slowly form over time, but the solution he came up with immediately. A solution he placed on the back burner as he searched for another way out. Exhausting all of his options until eventually he was able to justify taking the action. Just like Michael, whose initial solution was to write a virus, he eventually got to a point where the unreasonable seemed reasonable.
With the building burning down Peter realizes that the evidence is gone. Through a twist of fate he is off the hook.
In the last few moments of the film we discover that Michael and Samir go get jobs at another tech company but Peter has learned a valuable lesson. He has learned that his quality of life is more important that the status of having your own cubicle. He no longer wants to be a cog in a huge global machine. A cog that globalist bosses view as a tool, subject to arbitrary rules and to be replaced on a whim when the globalists think it might make them more money. Peter decides that he’d rather work construction. The sad irony of course is that in real life the globalists will do the same thing to construction over the next few years. Slowly replace working class skilled American tradesmen with cheap illegal immigrant labor all so that they can enrich themselves.
In the last scene we discover Milton must have found peter’s envelope before he burned down the innatech building and is living it up on a beach somewhere. He’s unhappy with his service and once again his mind goes straight to extreme solutions from trying to get the resort condemned or putting strychnine in the guacamole and we are left to imagine whether or not Milton will eventually reason that taking these extreme measures are justified to solve his problem.
The movie is a comedy and the ending is a bit formulaic. Nobody just lives happily ever after in real life, but I can tell you one thing. After watching this film I never again worked in a cubicle or memorized a mission statement or met with an efficiency consultant. This film made me understand the humiliating reality of being a corporate america beta cuck and prevented me from ever again becoming a wage slaving for the Bill Lumbergh’s of the world and taught me the value of understanding your instincts, understanding that the mind comes up with solutions almost immediately and the only reason people don’t act immediately is fear of the consequences. But if you’re honest and forthright with your intentions and have nothing to hide. People will respect you and eventually you will learn to trust your instincts and most importantly, respect yourself.