The Rhetorical Situation
The Office is an American television series that was filmed from 2005 to 2013 in a mockumentary style to simulate a real documentary of what life is like at an office. The series focuses on the relationship between coworkers at an office that sells paper and how they turn an average, boring workday into something fun. This was generally done by coworkers playing hilarious pranks on one another utilizing the known annoyances of each other. The juxtaposition of hilarious pranks at a boring office creates great comedic situations, like the example below. The overt story, which is not the primary focus of the show, is the story between Jim and Pam which viewers see grow as the show progresses.
Parasocial Relationship Theory
Due to the show’s mockumentary style and form, The Office works to create a parasocial relationship between the show’s characters and its viewers. Parasocial relationships are “… one-sided relationships where one party knows a great deal about the other party, but not vice versa” (Sellnow 276). Here, the relationship is between the various characters in The Office and viewers. The show achieves this through the one-on-one interviews the producers of the mockumentary (I guess these are also characters of the show) insert during situations like the one above. This works to give viewers insight on how each character thinks and what their world view is. Creed, a darker more mysterious character featured in this clip above, claims to have an alternate identity. This information was only given to viewers – not to the other characters. Thus, a bond of intimacy is formed between viewers and the characters as they get to know them better.
As our textbook describes, the parasocial relationships formed because of the style of The Office has made many fans to refer to characters, like Jim, Dwight, and Michael, by their first name as though they personally know them. It has also led many of the actors to be typecasted, or only cast in roles that reflect characteristics of those they had in The Office. For instance, Kevin is probably most well known for spilling the beans, literally. Below is a gif from The Office when Kevin spilled a whole pot of chili. Below this image is a clip from a commercial the actor, Brian Baumgartner, was recently cast in because of his role in The Office.