1999 Movie Office Space, Written and Directed Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2425 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Management

1999 movie Office Space, written and directed by Mike Judge, although a zany comedy intended for purposes of providing humor value, actually offers many interesting insights into organizational behavior. It is a broad satire, and the satire genre traditionally uses humor and exaggeration to comment incisively on real-life situations, in particular those that have bearing on ethical, political and social questions.

In this case, the film focuses on American corporate culture, critiquing this environment for its inefficiency, indifference to right and wrong and lack of concern for the well-being of its employees. In the scenario elaborated by Judge, the relative lack of purpose and inefficiency of a corporation are exaggerated to the point of absurdity: Initech, the software company where the protagonist works, seems to exist only to perpetuate itself, and the task with which it occupies its employees -- preparing for the computer-system meltdown that was supposed to occur on Y2K -- is clearly intended to appear to the audience as fundamentally meaningless.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on 1999 Movie Office Space, Written and Directed Assignment

The protagonist, a young programmer named Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston), works under pressure to finish his task before the Y2K deadline, with no help from his stupid, lazy, and arrogant boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), who glides purposelessly through the cubicles he supposedly oversees, perpetually holding a coffee mug in his hand, smarmily abusing his direct-reports while periodically trying to motivate them with jargon-laden speeches that they hate. Lumbergh's idea of management involves constant repetition of the same statements and demands and the sending of many repetitive emails in lieu of actual one-on-one interaction with his employees. Peter does, however, get plenty of help from his friends and co-workers, Samir and Michael, who are extremely good at their jobs and therefore frustrated at the boss' insistence on the constant filing of TPS (Test Procedure Specification) reports and his constant needling over small matters. The TPS reports keep coming up in the film and end up becoming symbolic -- they represent the fact that surface replaces substance at Initech, that the appearance of work is far more important than work itself. TPS reports are concrete expressions of inefficiency. The employees talk about them constantly, rather than thinking about how to actually produce a saleable product.

The three programmers are all demoralized, since their motivation is totally external rather than internal, they are constantly undermined and having their time wasted while performing their tasks, and are not rewarded for achievement. The injustice here is that Lumbergh takes all the credit for the work done by Peter, Samir, and Michael, while pinning any blame on them. Peter expresses his dissatisfaction by tuning out and giving in to distractions while staring at his computer. He estimates that he accomplishes on 15 minutes' worth of work in a typical work day.

Things start to change, and the plot kicks into action, when the company announces one morning that management consultants are being brought in to assess the efficiency of the office and to determine which employees will be eliminated. All are nervous about being let go, except for Milton Waddams, a socially inept, withdrawn file clerk who was actually fired years ago but continues to report to work and receive his paycheck (due to a software error), obsessing over his most prized office supply -- a red stapler. Milton only worries that his desk will once again be moved to a less pleasant, more remote location and that his stapler may be taken away. Milton is a symbol of the ultimate deracination and loss of purpose that can occur when an individual is completely isolate and unrewarded within a corporate structure.

Soon thereafter, Peter attends a session with an "occupational hypnotherapist" (perhaps a bit of satire at the expense of the organizational psychology field) who dies of a heart attack while Peter is still in a trance. As a result, Peter remains in an unusual mental state in which he is in touch with his true feelings about work and feels free to express them. He announces that he will fulfill his ambition to "do nothing" and therefore takes the next day, a Saturday, off from work, even though Lumbergh had made a special point of telling him to work that day as punishment for his attempt to leave early on Friday. He sleeps through Lumbergh's repeated angry messages, in open defiance of authority. The following Monday, he again skips works and goes on a date with a waitress he's been interested in, Joanna (Jennifer Aniston). We soon learn that Joanna is also unhappily employed in a dysfunctional workplace, a restaurant called Chotchkie's in which the intrusive manager, Stan (played by Judge himself), demands that the wait staff express themselves by wearing as much "flair" -- whimsical pin-on buttons and the like -- as possible. The irony, of course, is that self-expression is mandatory and is evaluated by someone other than the person supposedly expressing herself.

He then goes into the office, fully intending to clean out his desk and quit, when he runs into Michael, who tells him the management consultants -- two men both named Bob -- are there and that Peter should avoid even talking to them. However, in his new mood of self-empowerment Peter decides to meet with the two consultants and tell them what is really on his mind and what is really wrong with Initech.

In "the Bobs" Peter meets with a pair of sympathetic ears. Surprisingly, instead of being put off by Peter's casual tone, informal and unprofessional posture and absolute self-assurance, they take him seriously and decide there is something to what he is saying about Initech's lack of efficiency and fairness. Soon they are quizzing Lumbergh on his management practices and suggesting to him that Peter be promoted instead of downsized. Using his trademark locution, Lumbergh replies, "Ahh, I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on that one." They also decide to correct the system error that was paying Milton for the past five years and then wait for him to figure out that he's really being fired this time. As this action shows, the Bobs are also quite unethical in their business practices, affirming the value of secrecy and underhandedness in dealing with clients and their employees. They make light of the suffering their actions bring upon others, and appear completely callous. In short, even the management consultants, whose role is to be a foil to the hidebound inefficiency of Initech, turn out not to follow any coherent codes and to lack a moral center. When both sides are equally -- it might be argued -- wrong, it appears that the movie's view of the world of business organizations is thoroughly cynical. The only answer, it would appear, is to opt out, as Peter does in the end.

After spending the next few days relaxing, utterly indifferent to work, Peter returns to find out that he's been promoted but that his two best friends are being fired, replaced by cheaper workers from overseas. Here, the topic of outsourcing, a major concern in the realms of contemporary economics, management consulting, and politics, is briefly touched upon but not developed. Outraged, Peter joins with Michael and Samir in hatching a plan to sabotage Initech, using their knowledge of systems to defraud the company and enrich themselves in a way that they believe will never be noticed. The programmers create a computer virus and introduce it into the laughably vulnerable Initech network; it will have the effect of subtracting a tiny fraction from each transaction in Initech's system and deposit it in a bank account they set up for themselves. They believe that the missing amounts will never be noticed by the company's accounting procedures. Just before Samir and Michael are escorted out of the building, they activate the virus. Then, as a final, crowning gesture, Peter steals the malfunctioning printer that has been the bane of their existence and gives it to Samir and Michael as a going-away present. In a parking lot outside the offices, the three disgruntled workers savagely attack the printer, beating it up as if it were a human being, hitting it with a baseball bat, and eventually destroying it completely. In this section of the film we see the effects of unethical behavior by the company on its employees: In reaction to it, they become unethical themselves and are brutalized; they end up committing brazen acts of theft and destruction.

Meanwhile, Milton is dealt one indignity after another in his final days at Initech. His desk is moved to a storage unit in the basement, where he is inappropriately tasked with eliminating roaches; his red stapler is confiscated by Lumbergh, and he is once again denied a slice when a cake is divided up at an office birthday party.

Peter soon begins having doubts about he scam he and his friends orchestrated. Joanna, who has just quit her job after becoming fed up with the regime at Chotchkie's, tells him that in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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