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Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999) - Alienated Labor and the Pursuit of Happiness

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  • Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999) - Alienated Labor and the Pursuit of Happiness

    “Office Space,” a film with the tagline, “Work Sucks” is unsurprisingly a film that tells the story of a group of workers who hate their jobs. It’s protagonist, Peter Gibbons, is an IT programmer who struggles day in and day out at a job that both annoys him terribly and leaves him feeling unsatisfied. In Marx's Das Kapital reading from this week, Marx describes the alienated worker. An alienated worker is a laborer in a capitalist system who suffers as a result of being unable to identify with the products of his labor. Peter hates his job because he’s constantly critiqued about TPS reports that mean nothing to him and his superior's impersonally ask about memos instead of small talk while co-workers make asinine comments about "having a case of the mondays."

    At the end of the film Peter takes on a new job as a construction worker. At this new job he might not be free entirely from being alienated in his labor, but he is at least able to affirm himself in his work now more than he had been at the office. His labor is still being exploited under a capitalist system but he is less obviously miserable at this new construction job and at least there, according to Lawrence, nobody will ask him if he had a “case of the Mondays.” While the film does not posit that blue-color work is the type of labor that will lead to a happy life, the film does ask the viewer to consider their own personal relationship to their labor and question if it is affirming work or not.

    Another thing that stood out to me about this film is the possible symbolic significance of Milton’s red stapler. At the beginning of the film, Milton is seen venting on the phone about his frustration over his frequently moved cubicles and how they switched out all of the offices staples. Milton is very fond of his red stapler through, which he views as ‘superior’. He is usually a pushover in the office but he states that he would quit if they tried to take the stapler from him. When his stapler is stolen once again at the end of the film, Milton goes to retrieve it. However, Milton goes above and beyond the stealing the stapler and ends up stealing the money Peter had stolen and he sets the office aflame. In contrast to just brightening up an office that was primarily dull and grey, I believe the coloring of the stapler has represents something more. Red is a color that is said to induce desire and impulsivity in people. It’s the reason why so many stores, like Target & K-Mart are designed to feature lots of red. I think the red stapler might symbolic of the desires and impulses that alienated laborers must works to suppress. Milton following his desire to hold on to the stapler can be seen as him acting against the forces trying to alienate and repress him. Milton ends up following his desire and retrieving the stapler and he then flees to an island to take a vacation. While on vacation he doesn’t appear to be any happier than he was working in the office though. I think that this is another example of the film following with Marx’s critique of capitalism, that it is not simply the accumulation of money that leads to happiness.

  • #2
    Your commentary about the significance of the red color for the stapler was very interesting and I hadn’t considered that element of film thinking. You said the color represents “desires and impulses that alienated laborers must work to suppress,” which makes sense, as Milton first described the stapler’s personal importance to him as being a consolation when he moved his cubicle from his beloved window-view. I think the stapler serves as a way for Milton to maintain a sense of control and stability in a situation where he doesn’t have any real autonomy. When Lumbergh takes away Milton’s red stapler to assert his authority, Milton escalates in rage to the point of violence. The redness of the stapler was a salient detail that emphasized Milton’s self-expression.

    This interaction mirrors Joanna’s situation with her boss’ insistence that she needs to express herself, but only by his chosen mode of expression in the form of “flair.” He goads her by saying, “You do want to express yourself, don’t you?” Meanwhile, because Joanna is completely disassociated from her work, she is also alienated from her own essence. Her desires and creativity belong to someone else, which is demonstrated by her boss dictating to her how she must express herself. Similarly, Milton is separated from the last kernel of his essence when his red stapler is taken away. It was already clear that Milton’s autonomy was lost because his time was insignificant to his bosses, as they didn’t even bother to tell him they were going to stop paying him. Then, his body is controlled, as they physically moved him from cubicle to cubicle and eventually to the basement. The stapler was “the last straw,” as Milton put it.

    The hierarchy of the work space is emphasized by the angle of the camera during conversations between boss and employee. Lumbergh is always shot from below, so the viewer seems to be looking up at him from a seated position, whereas the workers are shot at a downward angle. When Peter finally asserts his authority to Lumbergh by leaving mid-conversation to meet with “the Bobs,” the camera finally turns down on Lumbergh. To save face, Lumbergh then turns to Milton and the camera flips back to its original angles to illustrate how the hierarchy is re-established between these two. Lumbergh is back in control. The film thinking is demonstrating a sort of oppression in the work place, which occurs because of the capitalist system that entails a hierarchy to begin with.

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    • #3
      Like Jperry, I also think that Milton’s relationship with the red stapler and Peter’s reaction to the offensive phrase “having a case of the Mondays” are very noteworthy for the film’s messages about alienated labor. It seems that a constant theme in the movie is corporate domination of people’s sense of self; office work creating a space or separation that divides workers between their free self and their subjugated self. They are free at home and in their imaginations, but dominated in their daily lives and tasks. Caught in an illusion of success, corporate life has sucked away their freedom and self-creation.

      For Milton, his red stapler is a way of clinging onto a sense of free self- creation. In an office where everything he has and identifies with is constantly being torn away and commanded elsewhere, Milton’s red stapler is his last thread of self-dignity. Surrounded by tasks and creations that find no connection to his internal being, Milton can only find the slightest bit of power over himself in holding the red stapler. Furthermore, it seems as though Lumbergh -- the enforcer of corporate domination -- is doing all he can to keep power out of the workers’ hands. He must stop them from taking back their power and freedom or the corporate kingdom will face a revolt. Thus, he must stop Milton from claiming his scepter of power: the red stapler. However, that is just what happens, Milton seizes his red stapler, reclaims his freedom, and sets the corporate castle aflame. Although all the other pawns were duped by the corporate illusions, Milton lead his own personal revolution, and his red stapler was the secret key to self empowerment and freedom.

      In a similar manner, “having a case of the Mondays” was such an inflammatory statement to Peter because he was also awakened to the same domination as Milton. For Peter, it is the equivalent of someone telling him “Of course this life is horrible, but there could never be anything else so stop dreaming.” Which is entirely false and thus completely infuriating -- especially because all of the other workers seem to be under the same spell. In a free life, Mondays would not implicitly be a case where they are associated with gloom and dread. By telling someone that they have a case of the Mondays they are basically admitting to the fact that they are submitting their life force to something they hate. It hints that they are aware of their subjugation but still caught in the corporate illusion of happiness and uninterested in getting out.

      Both of these events reinforce the film’s Marxist message that humans desire to see themselves in the work and their work in themselves. Thus, by neutralizing, standardizing and impersonalizing work in a corporate setting, humans are deprived of their selfhood and human dignity.

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      • #4
        Through watch movie Office Space (1999), I also see the “aliened labor” theory of Marks of the film. In the film, Peter’s and his friend are the workers of Ititech who represent the notion of workers that defined by Mark. The reason I say that because Peter’s position in Ititech corporation is the propertyless workers who either cannot own his working achievement nor accumulate his values. According to Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844: “the worker is in inverse proportion to the power and volume of his production” (Marks, 1), Peter actually at the process of losing his value as he continually works in Ititech. More important, Mark’s claims do confirm that the longer workers contribute their labor the less valuable worker’s products are. A typical example, Tom works for III 40 years and he is the most anxious about losing his job. The fact is company indeed concludes Tom doesn’t worth to stay in the company anymore. Examine the whole film, Peter is the only one who became aware of the work he doing is meaningless. Especially, when Peter questions that what he will do if he got one million dollars he figures out the wage is not his internal happiness. So that he doesn’t care about his job anymore and he starts his journal to pursuit his meaningful thing. In the capitalist corporation like Ititech, each worker in their position seems to be one part of machine components. Therefore, workers seem to be mechanized during the process of working under the capitalist system that also a process been aligned labor. At the same time, humanity also lost of this process.
        The red stapler you talk about is one symbolic detail beyond my expectation in the film and I do agree that the red stapler represents something when it connects with Marks' aligned labor theory. At the same time, a character like Milton does play a significant role. I see a continually been oppressed working machine under Ititech capitalism system, which never been respected as a human who with humanity. Ironically, people like Milton who been oppressed for a long time will beat back more violent. The fire Milton set is a symbol that he lights up to get back his loss.

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        • #5
          Office Space represents the common struggle of employees trying to make a living at a job which brings them no personal fulfillment. The red stapler is somewhat representative of this struggle as jperry suggests – a small, seemingly insignificant object that Milton has become identified with as Initech has essentially taken away his sense of self. The repeated desk changes show Milton’s inability to root himself in any place in the office, and so the only thing that seems to stay with him is the stapler.
          On the other hand,

          Joanna is continually being ordered to add ‘flare’ to better ‘express herself’. While this is clearly at attempt to add some personality into the workplace, the specific manner in which this is to be done takes away the authenticity. Does adding pins really allow Joanna to bring more of herself into her job? Her boss does not want Joanna to be more herself, he just wants her to fit the mold of the restaurant that feign authenticity to better attract customers. Further, Joanna’s boss who is insistent on his idea of self-expression outfits a tie with dollar bills, in a restaurant with its form of self-expression in walls covered in various brand products. This seems to bolster the idea that the identity Joanna is supposed to fulfill is not her own, but one which serves the company’s image and earns profit.

          Samir and Michael, while they are not necessarily happy at work, seem to have maintained the best held onto the illusion that they still have their identities at work. Their cubicle depicts several items of their personal life and they both do not share Peter’s hatred for Initech. Peter shatters this illusion, informing them that despite the fact that they are the office’s best programmers, they are about to be fired. The film represents their reaffirmation with themselves through the scene following their hacking in which they smash the computer copier that they had all hated. Non-diegetic hip hop plays while the take bats to the copier as the vantage point from this scene is shot from directly behind the copier, looking upwards at the three men. This seems to be symbolic for Michael, Samir, and Peter taking back from them what Initech stole.

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          • #6
            Office Space portrays the epitome of modern proletariat oppression, as described by Marx. Instead of poor work conditions and dangerously low pay which were prevalent in Marx’s time, we now see patronizing behavior, and dehumanizing tones of employers in the office. In a day where earning a wage is so important and necessary for survival, workers are forced to submit their essence as a person in order to making a living. The protagonist Peter Gibbons and his coworkers all work in an exploitative environment that alienates them from the world and their own humanity.

            Peter is truly miserable at his job. In his psychotherapy session, he provides a couple quotes that explain exactly what Marx claims is the issue for the working class. He claims that every day is the worst day of his life, and asks the therapist if there is anything he can take that will “zonk [him] out and make [him] think that [he] is not at work. He does not feel himself at work, and as work takes up a huge portion of his life, he leads a miserable life. Therefore, the statement “having a case of the Mondays” is so ridiculous to him. He is incredibly unhappy and work makes him feel even worse, so there is no case of the Mondays for him, it is just the life that he leads that makes him unhappy, and stating that is just affirming that his discontent is clear and visual.

            I did not think of the red stapler as a symbol of Milton’s desires, however that is an interesting thought. I thought of it as his last little scrap of a sense of control. That red stapler was the last thing that attached Milton to a life of control, and without it he would absolutely lose the reigns. I think, however, that his desire was to have a bit of control in his life, so perhaps the two theories are not mutually exclusive.

            The office space that we see in the film is one of exploitation, where hard work goes unrewarded and punished, whereas poor work ethic is rewarded and given positive light. I also think the idea that the camera shots being a symbol of authority for each of our characters is an accurate thought. Speaking down to people is often a move of authority and power, and as Obi-Wan Kenobi believes, having the higher ground ensures victory.

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            • #7
              Office Space is a film that many people can relate to. When you hate your job, the feeling of dread never leaves you. Day by day, you become more unhappy with your situation and you never look forward to the next day. Being locked up inside a building, inside a cubicle every day obviously makes Peter unhappy, and depressed. This is similar to Marx’s theory that we are not ourselves when we are working, and when we are working we cannot be satisfied.
              Peter is lifeless and unhappy until he gets a new job as a construction worker. He begins to be happy there. He gets to be outside and breathe the fresh air. Peter symbolizes that you can be satisfied when you are at work, only if you like where you are. He changed his situation not to get more money, or to get a promotion, but to just be happier. Many people would hate to work construction and would rather work in an office setting. However, Peter is content with it. This shows that it is dependent on the person, and what your idea of labor is. Before, when Peter was working at Initech, he was alienated and depressed. When he thought of the question “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” he desired to do nothing. This coincides with Marx’s theory of being a forced laborer, and never being satisfied or using it to satisfy a need. However, when he was changed his job, he was happy again. Peter’s idea and relationship with labor, is being outside and doing something other than sitting in a cubicle.
              Contrarily, after Milton set fire to Initech, he stole money from Peter. He went on vacation, yet he was still unhappy. This symbolizes that you have to have a purpose in life, and if you are unhappy, money is not going to make you ultimately happier. You have to find what it is that makes you happy, and do that. Just as Peter did when he started working construction.

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              • #8
                I agree with your final thought on Milton’s character, the accumulation of money does not always equal happiness, which we see at the end when Milton is clearly still just as unhappy. Though I think we see the connection between money and happiness more than once in this film, with the high school guidance counselor’s question regarding a million dollars and how that was supposed to tell you what to do. We see Peter Gibbons’s character struggling with this idea quite a bit, because he would rather do nothing than work at all. Only once he was hypnotized do we see him actually happy with life, before that he was illustrating Marx’s idea of alienated labor perfectly in the way he was denying himself to do forced labor, it was never voluntary. When he finally starts doing voluntary labor we see him excel in his happiness as well as his career, while when Michael and Samir continue to do forced labor it is clear their hearts are not in it and they do not move forward in their happiness or their careers.
                In the end we see Peter working a new job that requires manual labor, rather than sitting at a desk doing work that he doesn’t believe in, where he is connected to the actual work he is doing. While this isn’t his ideal doing nothing, it is seemingly more fulfilling than his pervious job.
                I think an interesting character that was so alienated from himself via his work was Tom Smykowski, who was going to commit suicide over a job that he didn’t enjoy one bit, it was his wife who saved him and helped him remember that he was a person outside of that career. I think that plays into Marx’s idea that after alienation of labor goes on long enough you do lose the things that make a person human, in Tom’s case he had work for over thirty years at jobs he didn’t care for and he forgot how much he actually had to live for.

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                • #9
                  Office Space provides the viewers with an exponential number of tropes that touch upon socio-political issues. These issues are apparent in the portrayal of the characters that work within the confines of the office. It can be said that there are not only mental factors to consider, such as exhaustion and frustration with pay, but also in the structure of the office which relies heavily upon cubicles. These cubicles in themselves can act as an oppressing force as they separate individuals from one another and in more way than none, act as barriers to communication with co-workers. This may be an aspect of the film that is central to the way in which alienated labor is at play within the film. These conditions are not the worst possible working conditions that an individual may be subjected to, but it is apparent that the working conditions do take a toll on the employees within the office. The main character, Peter Gibbons is forced to give himself to these conditions and appears to have to “grunge” through the daily routine.

                  These conditions are made apparent from the very start of the film with small aspects of life being a nuisance to the quality of life that Peter is able to provide for himself. Pay, although not apparently a large issue, can have the ability of either creating or alleviating small stressors. The beginning of the film, which starts with a car traffic jam, is something that each viewer with a license may be able to relate to and identify with as a struggle that becomes explicit on days that are particularly “dreadful.” It’s made immediately apparent that Peter’s job is not one in which he thoroughly enjoys and the above post “hits the nail on the head” by referencing the therapy session that Peter is subjected to. This is where Marx’s idea of alienated labor is made explicit from character to audience and brings about an interesting perspective on both desperation and the wish for change. Peter isn’t capable of identifying with himself in a way the is proud and true within the confines of his office or cubicle for that matter and this is the central idea of Marx’s alienated labor. As the worker (Peter) can’t find his true happiness and is forced into a position to provide for himself, he is a prime example of alienated labor at work.

                  The red stapler is another aspect of the film that is essential to the idea of alienated labor in a concrete, physical, and symbolic way. I take this to be the only form of control, power, and true manipulation that Milton is tangibly able to access. His life appears to be spiraling out of control and this is something that when thought about in terms of mechanical workings, necessitates the need for an external force to cause action (in the stapler). There needs to be an external desire of action in order to make a stapler work and this external force when considered in light of Milton’s life, could metaphorically be the pressures that build and fissure as the result of workplace stressors. The ‘supremacy’ of the stapler may relate to the symbolic nature of power that the office space holds over the worker’s head.

                  Office Space provides the audience with an environment that tends to the reversal of traditional work ethic roles and the ability for advancement within a company. This appears to be something that the audience can relate to (if having ever felt the same way as the characters) and provides a space that is relatable. This says something about the sociopolitical nature of capitalist enterprise and interpersonal relationships that surround a hierarchy - both in the workplace and within society as a whole.

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                  • #10
                    Milton’s attachment to the stapler symbolizes, as you mentioned, “desires and impulses that alienated laborers must work to suppress,” but I believe it also stands to represent one of the few things that Milton was able to control while he was at the office. Having the one “superior” stapler that was seemingly quite special and being able to control how it was used shows Milton’s desire to feel as though he had some sort of authority. Milton is constantly shown complaining about having to switch cubicles, and many other little things around the office, so when the one thing he could control is taken from him, making him feel as though he’s been stripped of any power, he finally loses it. Milton’s case leaves the audience with the notion that if they are unhappy in their current occupation, then they should get out before it belittles them to a point of misery.

                    Peter, too, is visibly miserable at his job. Another instance of being miserable in his line of work, particularly in his current job, Peter is driven to the point of making a horrible decision before realizing that he must find something else to do. Not only does working somewhere he hates makes him miserable, but he obsesses over it causing those around him to also be miserable. He becomes jealous and insecure, feeling that he has no worth. The film shows the viewer that dragging on at a job you hate can only get worse, and that rather it’s better to find something you truly enjoy, regardless of pay-grade, so that you can bring passion to what you do and brighten the lives of those around you, as he is shown doing working construction with Lawrence.

                    I believe that Samir and Michael, on the other hand, are simply placed in a position with a demeaning boss and an unconstructive work environment, inhibiting their growth and potential as employees and as individuals. Both are seen at the end of the film offering Peter a job at another software company that they are clearly much happier at. This encourages viewers that feel hindered by their current work setting to follow their gut and find somewhere that fits their needs as employees and encourages them to reach their potential. The movie depicts a topic that many people struggle with day to day in an extreme and humorous manner, though it includes very important themes for those who can relate to the characters. It uses comedy and drama to inform those viewing that being miserable at work can affect many aspects of your life, so to find something that brings you joy and inspires you to be passionate toward can improve not only your own life, but that of those around you.

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                    • #11
                      You hit the intro on the dot. The film “Office Space” portrays a group of workers who dislike their jobs but continue to do them. It is interesting to see why people continue to do their jobs despite the fact that they hate them. Going back to Heidegger, I believe that issues regarding labor stem from calculative thinking. People who have not taken the initiative to think in a meditative manner become instruments for others who have a broader experience of calculative thinking. What I mean to say, is that some people have not taken the time to reflect upon their current state of being as well as the potentials for the future. This inhibits their ability to grasp the meaning of who they are. Throughout time mankind has noticed that it is difficult to ask questions like, who am I? What do I want to do with my life? What do I enjoy that brings me fulfillment? These are the fundamental questions that give us identity and purpose.
                      When Peter Gibbons’ co-workers ask him what he would do with a million dollars, he does not know what to answer. He ends up coming to the conclusion that he would do nothing at all. Peter tries to do nothing the first few days after his hypnosis, but even doing nothing is actually doing something. The conclusion of the film suggests that Peter wants to do what he considers fulfilling. Although he is not certain that he will enjoy construction work forever, he has decided that he can do this work willingly and not dread it. I want to tie this in to meditative thinking because if Gibbons had taken the time to ask himself primitive questions about his personality and nature, he could have created a fulfilling path from the start.
                      As Marx outlines, the problem is estranged labor. There are a number of ‘bullshit’ jobs like the one Peter has at Initech because the lack of meditative thinking has led a number workers to be tools for their company. While being interviewed, Peter admits that he spends about 15 minutes of real work during the week. The rest of the time he spends spacing out. He is essentially wasting his time doing nothing because he is an alien to the work. He knows that he is just a tool. At least if the job interested him he would probably put in more effort to go beyond the 15 minutes required of him.
                      People are not enjoying themselves because they do not spend enough time thinking about what could bring them fulfilment in life. I am not claiming that it is easy, but that it is essential if one wishes to pursue things that evoke desire and satisfaction. The longer one falls into the trap of merely calculative thinking which involves motivation solely for gaining material wealth or finding the easiest way to avoid dedication or conflict, the harder it is to overcome the personal issues that will continue to arise. By meditating, one can establish basic principles that they wish to follow and then develop a life that fits according to their goals. If a person that has already established these goals gets trapped in a position like Peter Gibbons, they will notice that they are diverting from their source of fulfillment and then take action to find their way back to a better life.

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                      • #12
                        “Office Space”, directed by Mike Judge, tells the story of Peter Gibbons who is portrayed as a programmer unsatisfied with his current position at work. I believe the initial development discussed in “Alienated Labor and the Pursuit of Happiness”, in which the tagline of the film is first noted, successfully relates the ideals of the film and the main protagonist to those of most audience members as it is the most direct message from the film itself. I agree with the sentiment stated in which individuals feel like “work sucks” and believe it’s the most important point in understanding the film’s message of the shifts in dynamic between one's work and one's home. How someone is not themselves to the fullest extent while at work because they are governed by a set of regulations that are applied by a hierarchy while the individual is the highest form of law in the comfort of their own home. I agree that the film is also able to incorporate the work of Karl Marx in regards to the idea of a person becoming alienated from their job through their work. It is important to point out that Marx referred to the means of production when discussing alienation though the main protagonists displays alienation more through the interactions with his superiors. I thought this was interesting as well because it shows how true Marx’s words are despite the obvious time gaps in his studies and the making of this film, showing that we are participating in an endless cycle. Peter Gibbons is able to relate to me through his body language and the way he carries himself when interacting with coworkers and his boss I believe that the filmmakers are unique in their approach of conveying their message because for them it's not enough to simply relay the core message through the actions of their protagonist but they insist in stating it as straightforward as possible. When Peter is talking to Joanna about where he works he does do in an uninspired way and midway through explain he says that he really doesn’t like his job and he’s just going to stop showing up. The quote “having the case of the mondays” was mentioned numerous times and I too believe that it is a perfect example because it expresses the distance that people but in between other individuals and work. It is able to demonstrate once again that they understand they are part of a larger cycle where everybody is forced to go to work in some capacity and experience the estranged relationship between themselves and their place of work, varying in different degrees of comfortableness. This idea is even shown in the conclusion of the film as Peter begins his new job working in construction which is somewhat of a positive ending for him because his improvements in happiness and satisfaction is alluded to yet common sense and hints throughout the film show indicate that Peter will always have a sense of alienation while at work though it will be to a much lesser degree.

                        I found the idea of the red stapler as symbolic was clever because this was aspect of the film that I did not take into account. This forced me to rewatch scenes in which the red stapler is mentioned or displayed and I could understand why it may be viewed as a representation of alienation in the work force. This is able to coincide with Daniel Frampton’s “Filmosophy” ideals as well as the initial thoughts, specifically the director using the color of the stapler to symbolize the alienation nature that people attempt to suppress. I also noticed that in regards to color the film uses many bland colors such as grey as well as light blue and green, which I believe signifies the lack of connection between most workers and their place of work. It is similar to moving into a new home, there is no character to it because it is not truly your yet, not until you create a connection and beginning setting up home. I also believe Framing is used in order to distance the characters from themselves and do so by showing numerous shots with people in their cubicles, sometimes from a distance showing many people and sometimes individually. This is able to let the audience understand that each person is a pawn in a larger game of work and once again highlighting the cycle we are all on and show how cut off and alienated people are from the product and one another despite being in the same work environment and working towards a common goal.

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                        • #13
                          Milton’s Stapler
                          In Office Space directed by Mike Judge the mundane aspects of office life come about to illustrate the error in corporate cultures and the lives they create. Milton serves as an aside to the main story but serves as the ultimate scapegoat for the plotline. His role as a symbol of corporate culture serves as a metaphor throughout the story for what kind of people corporate culture can create. Milton is squished into an undersized, over stuffed cubicle and has been moved around several times. As the story goes we learn that he isn’t even supposed to be getting paid and was fired but no one is willing to confront him. Milton ends up coming out on top in the end of the movie when the money that the main characters conspired to get falls into Milton’s lap.
                          Milton Illustrates the bottom of the barrel at Intech and the way in which corporate worlds treat the people that they don’t value. The stapler represents his dignity and in a way his job at Intech when he loses his stapler he soon after loses the last of his dignity and his job. In his conversations, he discusses how it’s the final thing he has to hold on to and Lumbergh takes it away in a fashion to in which implies he tried disrespecting Milton on purpose and in a fashion facilitated by Lundbergh’s position within the company. I think the message behind the stapler is found in what Milton gets when he loses the stapler. When he finally loses the stapler, he is forced into confronting the things that are causing his demise like Lundbergh and his job which does not bring him happiness. This makes the stapler a symbol and a catalyst for the plot that permeates through the whole story with meaning.
                          I think Milton exchanges his stapler for freedom in something that represents his liberation from the workplace and a seeking of a better situation for himself. I think in relation to Marxism this is Milton’s end of alienation he no longer has to see his worth through something he uses for work. Milton no longer get’s his dignity from work which is the is what Marxism suggests we should be looking to relinquish. As an aspect of this we find that Milton is still miserable and dysfunctional in his new-found freedom which may suggest that Mike Judge was hinting at the way in which capitalism creates a uncomfortable and alienated being even outside of work. Overall I think Milton’s relationship with his stapler was an allusion to that ways in which our labor makes us feel and the ways in which we find false uncreative meaning in it.

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                          • #14
                            The original post hit the description of Office Space, directed by Mike Judge right on the nail. The movie follows around three main characters; Peter, Michael and Samir and their daily frustrations with the company they work for; IniTech. Their main frustrations stem from their overbearing and all too powerful boss, Bill Lumbergh who is constantly making changes they must all conform too. Due to the recent downsizing, the employees know they must do as they are asked as they are afraid of losing their jobs. The amount of power that upper management has is where we see how miserable the employees are. With no incentives, Bill knew he had total control over his employees and took advantage of it. Only after Peter was hypnotized, did he started resisting the power, and started to truly allow his own opinions and thoughts to be heard. See by being an individual, and allowing his own personality to shine through did he finally realize he could be happy. This film goes beyond creating a good laugh for its viewers, it is about helping people realize that you are allowed to be yourself and do whatever it is that makes you happy in life. Often too many people are in jobs that are alienating and they find themselves unhappy. Office Space shows us how Peter finally realized he was able to maintain his identity and find a job that allowed him to be happy. Even if construction wasn’t his end goal, he finally was able to be himself and he was happy about that. This film directly shows how even if it's not your dream job, there are other jobs that can result in much more happiness.
                            I enjoyed how the original post referenced the Marx reading. The Marx reading referring to someone who becomes less and less connected to nature the more hours they work. They become alienated to their own identity as the things they are creating begin to have more power than those who make them. I think a great scene in this film where the Marx reading can be referenced is when Joanna, played by Jennifer Anniston, finally protests as to why she needs all the added 37 pieces of flair vs the 15 she already has. In that moment she stands up for her identity and against the capitalist structure her work has created. Finally calling out her manager after he asks her what she thinks of someone who only does the bare minimum. He even goes as far as telling her that he had thought she wanted to express herself. But Joanna doesn’t feel that flair represents her identity in anyway. This can also tie back into the original post when it points out the film is calling upon its viewers to ask themselves if in their own careers the labor being done is affirming or not. This scene shows the lack of emotional support and encouragement that upper management all too often shows those below them. Again, the film points out that we are all individuals and being treated as if we are not, isn’t okay and sometimes it would be better to just quit then allow yourself to be treated as less than what you are.

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                            • #15
                              Office Space, directed by Mike Judge, tells a story of a group of employees in a typical office like environment for some big corporation. I think the film brings up important existentialist questions. Most of the characters in the film harbor some sort of depression, mainly from the job they are working at. Throughout the film, the lack of rich colors helps the viewer visualize a sense of bleak and meaningless work environment. Hence-forth bringing up the statement that the characters are disillusioned with there purpose, and lack of identity with the superficial job. Karl Marx’s opinion on forced labor of the worker can be defined as a form of slavery and a job that will only erode a persons psyche and self being. Which to some extent is shown throughout the film? I actually never thought of the red stapler representing the office workers oppressed purpose. It can be noted that the stapler is painted an a bright rich red, yet the apartments and work place of the employers is constantly grey.
                              The biggest criticism this film bring is the pointless job life of capitalist white collar workers, thus it could be a call for people to change the system of how a common office is structured. What is more troubling in the film is the constant fear of losing your job, even though you are inputting large amounts of energy to a heartless capitalist corporation? This issue has been constantly being brought up in the media with newly graduated college students when entering the workforce. It has supposedly been hitting generation Y the most. In idea that how could we commit ourselves to doing a job for the sake of just paying bills, but without having any love for the labor being put.
                              I also believe that the usage of space plays a big part in the film. The compacted work area of employees working in cubicles allows them to be close to each other, but a lack of human interaction and separation is given with the cubicle walls. Consequently, it continues the theme of a soulless work area. I do wonder if peter’s alienation with work is only temporary or that his new ‘job’ will give him a sense of purpose. What is surprising is that when peter admits to only working a proper 15 minutes in work, it contradicts Karl Marx statement that workers lose vast amounts of there energy for the sake of a dead end job. Therefore, it seems that when an individual is at a soulless job, a lack of actual energy is put in it. It brings up the question is it more efficient to allow a more soothing welcoming work environment for its employees for the sake of creating a better craftsmanship from the workers?

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