Splitsider

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

The Office's Gay Caricature

The office on The Office is a fairly inclusive place — African-American, Indian-American, alcoholic, or evangelist, all may work together more or less harmoniously. Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling), for instance, is one of the most fully realized minority characters on television right now: a woman whose obsessions with celebrity gossip and Netflixing romantic comedies far outweigh the practically insignificant fact of her race. With Kelly undergoing business training, practically anyone could take over the office, once manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) departs at the end of the season! Anyone, that is, but the show’s token gay man, Oscar, who has been marginalized and mocked over seven seasons.

Oscar (Oscar Nunez), one of the three accountants, is a cartoon gay man. He’s fussy, prissy, aesthetic, and cruel — a sketch of a certain type of homosexual drawn by writers who seem to know the type at which they’re aiming. He is a member of the office’s “Finer Things Club”; he and his sometime boyfriend cruelly criticize Pam’s (Jenna Fischer’s) artwork; he is obsessed with one-upping his co-workers. He doesn’t smile –- he smirks. He doesn’t have hobbies –- he has an orientation.

Oscar himself doesn’t respond to his coworkers’ barbs, but the entire conversation around him is about homosexuality. In a recent episode, “China,” Oscar’s joyless attempts to prove he knew more about geopolitics than Michael were foiled by the entire office working together. This was hard to take as anything but a team effort against the group’s most different member: Jim (John Krasinski), that charming rogue, bizarrely referred to Oscar as a “smug gay Mexican.” Having triumphed over Oscar, Michael called his foe a “Latina.” While Kelly can take her coworkers to a Diwali celebration and still retain Kelly-ness, to be Oscar is to be a double helix of other, a racial minority compounded with homosexuality, the strangest trait the Office writers could possibly imagine. (Perhaps this has something to do with Kaling’s prominent role in The Office's writers’ room –- she has the power to define her character however she wants. Nunez doesn’t.)

It was ever thus: Oscar, never a breakout character, did little, other than don wig and housedress for Halloween, until his homosexuality was revealed, in the second season (like so much else about Oscar, this costume is so clangingly obvious, his drag so much a straight man’s notion of what a “smug gay Mexican” would do on Halloween). The reveal was treated as a delicious moment of dramatic irony. The obtuse Dwight (Rainn Wilson), staking out Oscar to see if his sick day was legitimate, discovered him on a daytime date and didn’t even process that the man-on-man ice-skating he’d seen was more than malingering. One, even in those early and delightful days of the series, had a hard time caring, but the show seemed to think it was a pretty big deal.

In the third-season premiere, entitled “Gay Witch Hunt,” Oscar outs himself to the entire staff after filing a complaint against Michael for using a gay slur. What happens in this episode -– a gay-panic plot that culminates in an Oscar-Michael kiss -– is far less important than what came after it. The show was unwilling to write for a gay character for a while, so Oscar took a leave of absence; like Sal Romano (Bryan Batt) at Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper, Oscar at Dunder Mifflin can be made to disappear when convenient. When he returned, his deskmate Kevin asked after Oscar’s “gaycation”: cute enough, if that had been where it ended.

Instead, Oscar has run up against an almost ludicrously unfriendly environment since coming out; if he’s unable to be other than a stereotype, it’s in part because his coworkers won’t allow him. In season 5, when Michael, his boss, “roasted” each employee with a one-liner, he tells Oscar, “You’re gay.” This is a good joke to Michael; a good joke to the writers of The Office is when Michael tells Andy (Ed Helms), the effete Cornell grad, “You’re gayer than Oscar.” The Oscar who filed a complaint against Michael in season 3 grits out an uncomfortable smile in season 5; by season 7, he’s no longer a part of the daily life of the office at all, except when he’s what the office defines itself against, with murmurings of how he thinks he’s better than all of them for some reason no one wants to put into words.

At least the tone-deaf Dwight has the decency to be open in his repulsion. During the Dunder Mifflin-bankruptcy subplot of season 6, a character mentions Oscar’s potential for making serious change at Dunder Mifflin (he is, recall, an accountant), asking what Oscar might tell his grandchildren. Dwight replies, “How is he gonna have grandkids?” The scene ends, Oscar’s skills and potential forgotten. Dwight landed the joke, as everyone knows gay men can’t, shouldn’t, have kids! (That the season saw the much-heralded birth of Jim and Pam’s child is a nice coincidence.)

The show, which can act as a lampoon of straight-white-male privilege –- Michael Scott is too silly to take seriously, much of the time -– too often, lately, takes on that attitude itself. Unlike, say, the emotionally complex Michael, Dwight, Jim, and Pam, Oscar’s otherness is everything he is. In this year’s Christmas episode, he receives a pair of Uggs and looks delighted (after cruising Angela’s boyfriend). A pair of Uggs: tailor-made for a gay joke made flesh, and at least better than an insult.
Any man at Dunder Mifflin who isn’t defined by heterosexual sex –- because they are the show’s central figures, Michael and Dwight have sex with women regularly, and Jim is the theoretically pleasant, utterly straight manifestation of cuddling in a bubble bath after watching a Nancy Meyers movie –- may just be gay. Michael spreads a rumor that Andy is gay that even Andy believes, and the sexuality of new corporate overseer Gabe is constantly cast into question. In this year’s Halloween episode, Gabe dressed as Lady Gaga, and a whole episode was devoted to his Glee viewing party. In this year’s Christmas episode, he asked the camera why no one believes he’s dating his girlfriend.

Gay panic greases the wheels of The Office’s comedy: not since Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’s “Those aren’t pillows” moment has so much been made of straight men’s fear of the unstraight. This season, after Gabe changed the rules on commissions, Jim manipulated an audiobook by CEO Jo Bennet to make it sound as though she is calling Gabe, and not David Geffen (?!), a “gay bastard.” That Gabe is in a relationship with a woman makes no difference -– calling someone gay is a fair prank that Jim can pull, like hiding Dwight’s stapler. Michael’s admiration for temp-cum-boss-cum-temp Ryan verges periodically into the physical, which is more grist for humor. We know Michael’s straight, because he doesn’t act like Oscar does.

What makes The Office so particular? After all, gay men are a standard source of comic relief. On NBC’s Thursday schedule alone, there are recurring gay characters on 30 Rock (the would-be executive Devon Banks) and Parks and Recreation (April’s hip gay boyfriend, and his boyfriend) -– and that’s leaving aside the master’s thesis that could be written on Saturday Night Live’s treatment of gays. But those other shows, to varying degrees, are absurdist –- the character of Devon Banks isn’t a realistic portrayal of a gay man, and he isn’t meant to be. He’s an often scantily-clad striver whose one weakness is Kenneth the Page; he’s about as realistic as the (literally) two-dimensional original gay man in TV comedy, The Simpsons’s Waylon Smithers. April’s boyfriends don’t resemble anyone’s idea of a gay couple, and -– again -– they aren’t meant to. And for all Seth Meyers’s barbs at Weekend Update’s gayish club promoter, Stefon always gets the last laugh. He’s the object of the joke, but for party predilections so zany they have nothing to do with sexuality.

The Office’s sell, from the beginning, has been its un-Stefonian relative realism in depicting characters and situations each of us goes through at work, and the sorts of people with whom one would actually work. That Oscar has no identity other than identity politics is both a missed opportunity and tremendously problematic. As the Los Angeles Times recently noted, a moment in which Michael and Dwight speculate as to where Oscar has sex (“flowers shops,” “the swamp”) is most akin to the much-maligned trailer for The Dilemma, in which Vince Vaughn calls environmentally friendly cars “gay.” In both, the prejudices of the man talking -– Steve Carell’s character or Vince Vaughn’s -– are on display, but in both, the protagonist is the one who gets to tell the joke.

The show used to have a clearer view of what about its characters was funny and what was slice-of-life dreadful. In the first season’s rightly praised “Diversity Day” episode, Michael lampooned Indians to Kelly’s face, pretending, for an uncomfortable length of time, to be a convenience store owner and speaking gibberish. Kelly slapped him –- a satisfying moment, as the show knew Michael was being awful and retrograde. Michael is by now a popular television character, and the writers are on his side. His attitudes are the show’s, and Oscar –- whose character development further into stereotype restrained both by his supercilious “gay” nature and what the audience wants to see –- will never get his Kelly moment. He’ll just ride out his time in the office quietly, trying not to make waves. Maybe The Office is too realistic for its own good.

Daniel D'Addario is a contributor to sites including The Awl, Capital, and The Daily Beast.

  • http://iquitwriting.com M. William Rice

    Re: the commissions episode: I don't think Jim was using the audiobook to call Gabe a "gay bastard". I believe he was just using the term to form the word "Gabe".

    All other points are valid, sorry for the nitpicking. Great read.

    • http://iquitwriting.com M. William Rice

      Upon revisiting the scene, I redact the above statement.

      Carry on.

  • umlaut

    No.

  • http://popcornapocalypse.blogspot.com colinfisher

    This reads like a weird antithesis to all the Republican talk of a "gay agenda."

    What I find most interesting is that Oscar wasn't even gay in the first season. Look at the scene in the parking lot during the fire alarm, when he eagerly chimes in with everyone else that he'd have sex with Pam. He became gay when they either a)needed a gay character or b)realized he had no other defining characteristics.

  • JoshUng

    I think you are reading into some of the jokes too much. The "smug gay mexican" is supposed to be sarcastic, as in there are no stereotypes for "smug gay mexican." Also, the office teams up against Oscar in that episode because he's a smug know-it-all, not because he's gay.

    Now, if those jokes fall flat, that's a different story, but at no point in that episode did I get the impression that any office members were supposed to be thinking, "I'm taking Michael's side because Oscar is gay."

    The other jokes, like when Michael and Dwight list the places they think Oscar has sex are more of a grey area. To me, the joke is more about showing Michael and Dwight to be ignorant, rather than making fun of gays, but I will concede that when you venture into jokes like that, you do run the risk of it coming off bigoted.

    • http://twitter.com/petegaines petejayhawk

      Yeah, I always interpreted the jokes as being ON the other characters, exposing their ignorance, than they were on Oscar.

  • Harpo

    I'm going to agree with JoshUng on one of his points – in the Glee episode, Oscar is defined as the IMDB of watchers, he points out everything. Then when he goes up against Michael in "China" everyone gangs up on him because he is an "actually," he buts in on everything to correct them. They've written him into someone not exactly likable and since everyone that works at Dunder Mifflin isn't a witty writer for a television show (even though they are being written by witty television writers) – they resort to the easy gay jokes.

    I'd also like to point out that I believe Oscar Nunez was written out of the early part of the third season because the actor was filming Halfway House, his improv show for Comedy Central, not because the writers didn't know how to write for a gay character.

  • Sean Patrick Jackson

    This site is such a complete bummer. There need to be more sausage-making articles and less of this type of opinionated, misdirected bullshit. If an article isn't 'hey, look at these gawker-tv clips we put up' or 'check out these HILARIOUS tweets!' or 'here is my opinion on this here Comedy Thing, heh' OR 'you should tote's WATCH this MAN, cmon, RATINGS!' then it's this Potemkin 'Pro Gay' trash, which isn't even as Pro Gay as it is Anti Comedy.
    Chapelle was at the Laugh Factory (recently? couldn't be…) and talked about the Michael Richards fiasco and summed up my feelings pretty well: "When I seen Kramer's tape…you know what I learned? I think I'm only 20% Black and like 80% comedian…The Black dude in me was like 'Kramer, you Mother FUCKER!' and I was hurt, but the Comedian in me was like 'Whoo…niggas having a bad set! Hang in there, Kramer! *laughs*"
    This website is honestly a terrific idea. It really is. Comedy, but with a more substantive edge that only solid writing can provide; because anyone can put up a website and link to youtubes and tweets, but who can accurately talk about this whole Comedy thing?
    But can we get more articles about the nuts and bolts of shows, more articles featuring great comedy writers (and not just someone's thoughts on them coupled with youtubes we could find ourselves) and what ACTUALLY makes them tick, or the groundwork that goes into a great bit or a routine, beyond the usual hagiographic sort of pandering or a top-ten list?
    You wan't to talk about the portrayal of gays in comedy, then let's have that discussion, but don't point the finger just because you think you see an opportunity to do some finger pointing; it does much more harm than good both short and long term and infringes on everyone. It's also disingenuous and superficial as hell.

    • http://splitsider.com Adam Frucci

      So you're saying there should never be any criticism of any comedy on this site? No opinion pieces? Only comedy writers writing about themselves and their work? Look, I'm sorry you aren't a fan of the site. It's new! I am still figuring things out! But you obviously have no idea what goes into running a website. I do appreciate the feedback, but if I only did what you say you want I would run 3 pieces a week and the site would die in about a month. Hopefully you'll find more stuff you like on here in the future.

      • http://www.allnightpictures.com KidPresentable

        Come on, that's a pretty childish reaction to what he's saying. I'm a big fan of the site and a fan of other opinion pieces Splitsider's writers have done, but D'Addario did not make his case well here.

        He either missed or intentionally ignored that being priggish and condescending are Oscar's main character traits, not being gay (Remember his "Rational Consumer" costume? Where'd they get that one, a Pride parade?). He pulls in unrelated points, like Oscar's first Halloween costume and Oscar's leave of absence from the show, and conveniently ignores the explanations for those because they don't support the point he is tenuously trying to make (Oscar's character wasn't gay back then, and the actor needed some time off to develop a show of his own).

        Don't take your ball and go home just because people are criticizing a bad article. I think we'd all love an intelligent discussion of gay characters in comedy. This wasn't it.

        • http://splitsider.com Adam Frucci

          How was it childish? I don't necessarily agree with everything in the article; I didn't write it. I was trying to defend the site as a whole rather than this piece. I mean, look at the first two lines of his comment. He dismissed the site entirely for having "opinionated, misdirected bullshit." I just take issue with the idea that the only valuable stuff this site can run are Inside Baseball pieces by working comedy writers and the like. That stuff is great, to be sure, but just because you disagree with an opinion piece doesn't devalue the entire site.

          • http://www.allnightpictures.com KidPresentable

            "How was it childish?" Go back and read your first few lines again. You're getting hysterical and taking his comment to an absurd extreme I'm sure he didn't mean. "You do this thing best and should do more of it" does not automatically mean "I demand you only do this thing forever."

            I'm not defending everything in that comment – I didn't write it. But you need to chill out and stop acting like people criticizing this article are hating on the site in general. It's a strawman argument that does nothing but allow you to ignore the fact that this article was, sadly, pretty lazy and flimsy.

            You have a really good thing going with this site, which is generally excellent, but you're going to run it into the ground if you sulk like a teenager on DeviantArt at any commenter who forgets to put his kid gloves on.

          • http://splitsider.com Adam Frucci

            His comment said almost nothing about this article and was about the site in general. I read it again, and it still reads as not wanting opinion pieces or anything that dares to criticize anything comedic. I don't think my response was all that unreasonable? Certainly more reasonable than the original comment.

            I certainly am not hysterical or sulking, I'm not sure how that tone is coming across. I'm just defending the site against a comment that essentially rips on everything this site's posted that isn't that Bill Oakley Simpsons piece. I mean, the first two lines of the comment state a pretty universal distaste for the entire site. I'd categorize it as "hating on the site in general."

            I'm not even sure what we're arguing about here. I should be writing posts! So, I'm sorry for coming across like a whiny bitch. Not my intention!

          • saythatscool

            @Adam: "Never respond to the comments." Choire Sicha

          • Sean Patrick Jackson

            Let me apologize–I did not mean to impugn the entire site with my initial comment. I honestly meant it more of the way you tell a friend to 'fuck off' and but of course you mean more along the lines of 'oh, come on', and it's implied because of your friendly relationship that you would never mean the full extent of 'fuck off' in the basest sense, at least not the same way a hobo would as he yells it at your back while you cross the street. When I said the site was a bummer, I meant I was bummed coming to the site again and seeing another phony debate piece calling-out What Others Find Funny.

            I don't find most gay-jokes funny. But many of The Office's jokes are not actual gay-jokes–they use Oscar being gay as the vector for social commentary or character based humor.

            Check out a random example from the article above. Like the one about Oscar not having kids. The audience laughs at the fictional character and fictional scene, AND THEN feels bad about how stupid their very-real laws are that get in the way of non-hetero-normative couples having kids and enjoying life to the fullest. That's the actual joke here: you laugh because it's Horribly Sad, and Unfair, and Discusting, especially because on some level you realize that 30 seconds from now, you're going to go back to focusing on the show instead of thinking about what You could do to Fix This Situation, and all this just makes you laugh Even Harder. It's not a 'gay joke', it's a Gay joke, and it's entirely on us.

            As several other commenters have said before I posted, there are definitely other examples in this piece that are made to fit a certain agenda. And, so yes, let's have a debate on the ways gays are portrayed on TV. But let's not witch hunt just to appease that liberal angel on our shoulder (we all have one–anyone with a brain has one, so be thankful for yours, then learn to ignore it because it will scream DONT LAUGH AT THAT, IT'S WRONG instead of allowing you to make the Choice of asking Why Is This Funny and What does this actually Mean?).

            This piece was why I brought up Dave Chapelle at the Laugh Factory talking about Kramer. Because it's EASY to criticize. It's easy to say That's Wrong because you see something Not Right and then demand it never happen again. Then you have Kramer doing Leno with Seinfeld just so they can both cover their ass and he can apologize and who actually learns anything?

            Chapelle was right, because hes has the experience to understand you can't believe what you See all the time. You see Oscar being made fun of and Oscar is gay, it must be because he's gay. No, Oscar is a dick. Kramer drops the N-bomb to some hecklers, he must be racist. No, Kramer was trying to just freak the fucking audience out to wrest back artistic control, setting himself on fire pretty much to maintain attention and get back to his act.

            You know why I applauded Anderson Cooper for his takedown of that stupid-looking movie coming out and it's gay-joke ripped straight from the 80? Because it's Bad Humor. We need to be 80% Comedians, here. I myself was offended by it, by the implication that I am part of the audience (if I were to see the movie) that would find something like that funny; by the idea that the propagation of that type of joke style deserves to continue beyond growing out of it in elementary school; by the shear pandering of it by everyone involved, especially in light of Galifianakis getting Mel Gibson kicked off of The Hangover 2.

          • Sean Patrick Jackson

            Just because you can compare two things does not mean you should, especially when it's totally disingenuous. Also, it's not fair to really compare The Office to The Dilemma because it will always come out in a ridiculous doctrinaire styling.

            Consider this: we know who the characters on The Office are. We know which audience each is supposed to appeal to and each actually appeal to. It's a show, so we have the luxury of knowing who they think they are and what they really are not. So when someone makes a joke involving Oscar being gay, it ties into a character–the joke does many things on a story telling level.

            When you drop the very-not-funny 'I mean gay THIS way' (or I HAVE TONS OF X FRIENDS SO I CAN SAY THAT) in a Movie Preview, the 'joke' does very little work. The joke is just that: the joke, and that's it.

            It's not Jim knowing Oscar for 5 years and saying this to Oscar in a way we assume he and Oscar are cool with; instead, it's 'Here is a random guy–Vince Vaughn Every Man–saying something you've probably said when you were 14, this is funny, still, right?'

            The entire joke relies on stigma, suddenly.

            We also make fun of Oscar because we Know Him. Like knowing a friend. Which is another reason you could compare it to The Dilemma, but you'd be really disingenuous to do so.

            Line up 14 people and Chris Rock, and have them all recite Rock's bit about Blacks versus Niggers. Go ahead, I'll wait.

            You were offended by some of their re tellings weren't you? Wanna know why? Because context matters, understanding matters, history matters, and even if you 'get what the joke is', you could really not GET what the joke is.

            Instead of doing this micky-mouse sort of Should We Be Laughing, I think a general sort of Why We Laugh would be a lot more honest, a lot more fun, and a lot less contentious.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Coates/7801871 Tyler Coates

          "I'm a big fan of the site and a fan of other opinion pieces Splitsider's writers have done, but D'Addario did not make his case well here."

          I disagree, but I will add that I read this first on The Awl before realizing it was cross-posted. It reads very much like Dan's other pieces on The Awl (which I love!), as well as other essays I've seen on that site. I admit that I don't make it onto Splitsider much, but I was certainly surprised to see this posted here, if only because people who like comedy tend to get a little annoyed when other people say that the jokes they like are a bit offensive. I think Dan did a great job making his case – I didn't have much of an opinion before, but afterward I thought, "Yes! Yes! All of this! Yes!" At the very least, his point comparing the jokes on The Office to the gay joke in The Dilemma: even if the protagonist is a shit head who makes offensive jokes, he's still the protagonist, the one you're rooting for and getting a majority of the screen time and most of the jokes.

          • http://www.allnightpictures.com KidPresentable

            I'm not objecting to him objecting to the gay jokes that actually occur in the show – I'm objecting to him making up additional gay jokes because the ones he really did find apparently didn't make his case for him. This is a really bad reading of the character and his place in the show, since he ascribes everything about Oscar to his sexuality when that's actually a pretty small part of his interactions and motivations. And some of the stuff D'Addario says is just flat-out wrong, like his imagined motivation for Oscar being temporarily written out of the show.

            Like I and others have said, it would be awesome to have some intelligent analysis of gay portrayals in sitcoms, but being intentionally obtuse and resorting to making up sinister motives for things that can be explained with a minute's fact-checking is not doing anybody any good.

          • Sean Patrick Jackson

            Yo, thanks for defending my right to make a point today, I really appreciate it.

            I can see how Adam might think I was shitting on the site as a whole if my initial comment was taken on its own; in the context of the proceeding comments, though, I'm glad you, agree or disagree, understood the argument I was making: that weak articles–deemed weak by the proceeding comments–that cherry-pick the latest social-ill add nothing to the site (IMO), and that if we look at things asking 'what does this mean' instead of 'should we', we'd have a much more honest, less straw-man filled debate.

            I'd sing to you if I could.

          • http://splitsider.com Adam Frucci

            Good arguments, all. No hard feelings guys. I'd get involved in this conversation more but, uh, I haven't really watched The Office regularly in a while. They kind of lost me around that wedding special, so I am not personally familiar with a lot of these examples. Which is why my comments were more defending Splitsider than this piece specifically.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Douglas/69100171 Nick Douglas

            Oh man, you've been missing out on a great comeback season. This is one of the most important things happening in TV right now! A long-running series with a definable star and a long-running love story has managed to survive the consummation of the love story and (I bet) the imminent departure of its star, by building up its supporting characters until we're just starting to care as much about them as we used to care about Jim, Pam and Michael.

  • grovberg

    This article reflects more of the author's prejudices than that of The Office's writers.

    P.S. I like the site just fine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Felix-Molina/2000761 Felix Molina

    Ooh, two topics to comment on…

    First:

    The site needs writers to ask these questions because no one else is. I'd much prefer hearing these points from people that are as invested in comedy as I am, or better yet, as much as the people writing for these shows are, than I would want to hear these opinions from TV critics, like that idiot Ken Tucker.

    I disagree with a ton of this article and I think the evidence doesn't support the argument, but it still made for an interesting read. This is the place to have these conversations. If this site was all show/movie mechanics, we'd miss out on following current trends in comedy. Identifying these trends, commenting on them, and analyzing their impact, among other comedy writers, will in turn lead to progress in our future writing.

    This site is great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Felix-Molina/2000761 Felix Molina

    As for the article itself:

    Oscar is gay AND uptight AND smug AND Mexican. He's not painted as uptight, and smug, and Mexican BECAUSE he's gay. This character is more real than most on television. I agree that making a gay joke about him should be treated as offensive as making a black joke about Darryl is, but on the Office, all the characters exist in this world. They choose to. If you have an issue with Oscar's treatment on this show, then you have one with Darryl's and Kelly's. How about Phyllis? Stanley? This show frequently places one character's ignorance up against a variety of differences (race, gender, weight, sexual orientation, alcoholism, age, etc., etc.).

    If you want a character on TV that is ONLY what makes them different, try Gloria on Modern Family. The fiery Latina has never had an arc that wasn't based in traditions from her country. My mother is from a country similar to Gloria's and I can guarantee you the complexities of women can't all be traced back to where they were born. In fact, here's a fun game to play while watching Modern Family. Anytime there is a joke about Latinos, change it to be about African Americans and see if it's still acceptable. Example from the episode "Not in my House": Cam has allowed a bunch of stranger into his house to have a wedding there. Mitchell's chief complaint is that he has "a house full of Latinos." Go ahead and change the word "Latinos" for "blacks." I'll wait… … See what I mean?

    Ok, so I obviously feel a bit strongly about this Modern Family issue and needed somewhere to air that out. Still, it's got a bit of a connection to this topic, right? Right? Eh, forget I said anything.

    -Latino out.

    • Sean Patrick Jackson

      I would love to read your thoughts on Modern Family, and I'd post a long ass type question thing here, but I've posted waaaaay too much today. I would def have Audience-Type questions for you though.

  • hughman

    I read this and wondered if the author was gay because I am and found it to be incredibly tone-deaf about how the other characters treat Oscar. I find their handling of Oscar funny (and I do think it's funny, not at all homphobic) because they have such stereotypical expectations of Oscar when he's far from stereotypical at all. He's not flamboyant or clever or a gym bunny or that concerned with his outfits yet they still assume he thinks like Jack from Will and Grace. To me it points out how incredibly ignorant people some people can be when expressing their opinion of gay people. Example :

    "Dwight replies, “How is he gonna have grandkids?” The scene ends, Oscar’s skills and potential forgotten. Dwight landed the joke, as everyone knows gay men can’t, shouldn’t, have kids! "

    The joke here isn't "ha ha, gay people can't have kids", the joke is how incredibly dumb Dwight is for not knowing (like any intelligent person) that plenty of gay people have grandkids all the time. And when that scene played, I laughed because yeah, I see dumbasses make assumptions like that all the time.

    "Michael’s admiration for temp-cum-boss-cum-temp Ryan verges periodically into the physical, which is more grist for humor."

    It is humorous not because of the usual "thought of two men being sexual together is funny" but because of how clueless Michael is that he says things that have double meaning without realizing them.

    So I think Oscar is a great gay character if for no other reason than he's not like all the other gay characters we see on every other show.

    And he wasn't cruising Angela's boyfriend. I don't know where you even got that from. He was taunting him to slip up and show he was using Angela for a beard.

    Maybe we watch different "The Offices" and if we do, I feel bad for you because the one I'm watching is a lot funnier than yours.

  • Shannon
  • Shannon

    The author has valid points.

    I sense some of you are denying the fact that The Office characters deliberately make "gay jokes" against Oscar. Of course, they mock him for his personality traits, but you can't deny that they also mock him for being homosexual. However, I don't automatically think of Oscar as the token gay male character(or even token Mexican character). He adds a "know it all" factor that allows him to be more than just a stereotypical character. Look at Stanley and Darryl. Two black men- Both are very different, but fall victim to Michael's offensive/ignorant banter. Yet, they aren't assumed to be "token stereotypical black guys". The writers are doing a great job with these characters.

    "Oscar is gay AND uptight AND smug AND Mexican. He's not painted as uptight, and smug, and Mexican BECAUSE he's gay."

    I agree with Felix Molina!

  • brijazz

    If I remember correctly, Oscar was not outed until the series' 19th episode, in the second season. Many of the character traits that this article defines as caricature had already been established, well before the character was revealed to be gay.
    Unless the writers were running a 19-episode "long con", I don't think the author has a valid point here.

    Also, Michael making "gay jokes" is akin to Archie Bunker making racist jokes: the intention is that the viewer laugh at the joker for being ignorant or classless (oh, the wacky things they say!), and not to laugh at the content of the joke itself.

  • http://www.weirdocracy.com Weirdocracy

    This article is quite silly. Replace the name "Oscar" with "Kevin", the word "gay" with "fat" or "nerd", and the anecdotes demonstrating that the writers are homophobic with ones demonstrating that they have no sensitivity toward fat people, or… nerds. See? I don't think this is mock outrage, but it is outrage that should be mocked.

  • joeclark

    Oscar isn’t “prissy,” and this posting would have worked better had it avoided sounding like a leftist grad student’s screed (“privilege,” “other”).

    What you really should have discussed is Oscar’s unrequited love for Matt, the gorgeous dumbass stockboy. If that isn’t comedy gold, I’m Lady fucking Gaga.

  • Jake Wolfson

    I'm glad that we live in a world where a gay man can write an article like this one, even though he is so wrong about the whole thing.

  • Just Some Guy

    Well-written article, but there's one Oscar plotline that should have been discussed: the Shareholders' Meeting episode, where Oscar makes a big deal out of the need for someone to stand up to the "people in charge," then backpedals when he gets the opportunity.

    Oscar is definitely a full character outside of his orientation and ethnicity, it's just a subtler character than, say, Stanley or Kelly. Oscar is mostly a "straight man" who also has a poorly justified superiority complex. Sure, the writers are mean to him sometimes, but they're mean to all the characters from time to time.