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Moments in The Office that didn't age well

Before The Office had even finished its iconic nine-season run, it had already gained considerable clout in the streaming-sphere. Picked up early on by Netflix, the workplace-themed sitcom kept right on gaining momentum, even after it had officially ended in mid-2013. And when we say "gaining momentum," what we really mean is it dominated.

Michael, Dwight, Andy, Pam, Jim, and the rest of the lovable crowd of professional misfits continued to remain a top-tier streaming option for year after year in spite of the show's termination. All the way into early 2020, it was still ranked at the top of Netflix's list of most-watched acquired shows. And by that point, the series had already found a fresh generation of viewers as Millennials increasingly welcomed Gen Z'ers into the ever-growing ranks of Office fandom. And it makes sense that the show would continue to resonate even with a new generation. It's full of humor, drama, and a healthy dose of down-to-earth whimsy that keeps old and young alike binging far into the night on a regular basis.

The only problem is, while the show has a certain immortal flare to it, it isn't immune to the effects of age. We decided to take a quick dive back into the archives to see how Greg Daniels' brainchild has held up over the years, and it turns out that there are actually quite a few scenes that haven't aged very well. Let's break them down, shall we?

Wait ... is that a $400 video iPod?

Way back in the first half of season two, fans were given their first dose of Dunder Mifflin at the most wonderful time of the year. The tenth episode of the season, "Christmas Party," features Michael Scott at his all-time jerkiest as he tanks a Secret Santa event, boozes up the entire office, and inadvertently rubs everyone's face in the fact that he got a big fat bonus for firing one of their coworkers.

The episode is iconic for a million different reasons. Among them, it showcases Dwight's kiss-ass behavior, Jim's teapot gift to Pam, Bob Vance's first appearance ... and Michael's obsession with Ryan. And it's that last bit that we're picking on right now.

In an attempt to ameliorate his guilt over getting a bonus during downsizing, Michael foolishly decides to ignore the $20 gift limit for Secret Santa by splurging on his secret gift for Ryan. What does he buy? A $400 video iPod. Back in 2005 when the episode aired, the gift was enough to elicit gasps from viewers. Now, though? Does anyone even know what an iPod is anymore? Coming in at the staggering price of a complete smartphone these days — and not a bad one at that — modern viewers are likely nonplussed at the thought that anyone would ever spend that much moolah on a device that you can get in app form for pennies on the dollar these days.

The way The Office treats Toby is unsettling

The penultimate episode of season six opens with Dunder Mifflin's resident gloomy Gus, Toby Flenderson. In the sketch, the HR rep is running a supremely boring meeting about radon test kits. He specifically picks on Michael Scott for throwing away the test kits on purpose. This evokes an aggressive response from the ticked-off manager.

At one point, Michael drops a joke about dying of boredom instead of radon, getting a general laugh from the crowd. Lighting up like a father who actually got a response from a bad dad joke, he immediately segues into another wisecrack. He boldly declares that if he had a gun with two bullets and was in a room with Hitler, bin Laden, and Toby, he would shoot Toby twice. Now, the initial response from the group is one of disapproval, and if the scene moved on from there, everything would've been hunky-dory.

Except that it doesn't. Michael invites feedback for his uber-violent recommendation, and everyone gets in on planning Toby's hypothetical double murder via curving a bullet, using a curtain rod, and stabbing with an icicle. By the end of the morbid scene, Michael bullies the HR rep into acting out his own death as Dwight efficiently describes a triple murder with a single bullet. While it's worth a few laughs, the scene — along with 90% of the other Michael/Toby interactions — cries out "over the line," especially in an era where glorifying bullying has been called out as a serious problem.

Things get uncomfortable in 'Diversity Day'

For this one, we had to go all the way back to the second-ever episode of the show, "Diversity Day." The installment was a big hit with the first wave of Office fans, and in many ways, it still has some pretty deep truths. For instance, the entire story perfectly showcases the concept of the color-blind, entitled white male boss making a token attempt to come across as both racially inclusive and aware.

However, for all the deeper meaning, when someone sits down and watches "Diversity Day" now, there's no doubt that there are going to be a few moments that make you cringe. Scrap that, try a ton of moments that make you cringe. From one end of the episode to the other, pretty much every time Michael Scott opens his mouth, something shockingly insensitive and profoundly racist comes out.

If you had to pick one scene that stands out above the rest, though, it's the moment towards the end of Michaels' highly offensive diversity day training when he accosts Kelly in the door of the breakroom. Using a melodramatic accent, Michael pretends to be an ethnic convenience store owner who's aggressively selling her a "gookie-gookie." The scene was already uncomfortable when it aired, and in the modern climate with protests and racial inequality at the front of everyone's minds, it's only gotten that much worse. At least the scene ends with an embarrassing slap in the face.

Too heavy for Santa

For some reason, The Office really loves to save its most unsavory content for its Christmas specials. For example, in the season six episode "Secret Santa," we find yet another moment that has become increasingly distressing to watch in the woke era. This time it isn't racial slurs or hyper-aggression that's the issue, though. It's weight.

The episode takes place during the brief stint when Michael Scott and Jim Halpert are co-managers. It features a Santa duel when a costumed Michael runs into Phyllis, who unbeknownst to himself, got the nod from Jim to play old Saint Nick during the office Christmas Party. At one point Michael, desperate to prove that he's the better Santa, invites Kevin to sit down on his lap and tell him what he wants for Christmas. The following 30 seconds consist of Kevin absent-mindedly mulling over his Christmas list while Michael squirms in compressed agony beneath him. Eventually, the manager kicks his employee off of his lap and proceeds to make a dramatic scene over the crushing ordeal that he invited onto himself.

The scene is the poster child for a pattern of fat-shaming that would never fly in a modern sitcom. In an era where Fat Thor nearly broke the internet — and not in a good way — the carousel of fat jokes sprinkled throughout the show simply wouldn't stand. From Dwight suggesting his coworkers get liposuction to Kelly trying to swallow a tapeworm to lose weight, the flippant attitude towards obesity and weight-related concerns is a blight on The Office's record.

The entire 'Hot Girl' episode hasn't aged well

The Office addresses sexism early and often throughout its nine-season run. However, while the overtly sexist jokes taper off to a degree over time, early on, they tend to show up on a regular basis. Case in point — the entire "Hot Girl" episode.

Closing out season one, "Hot Girl" follows the men of Dunder Mifflin as they vie for the hand of a random saleswoman named Katy who shows up in the office selling purses. Their primary reason for doing so? She's attractive. That's it. Dwight and Michael trip over themselves as they lay out their courting plans and do their level best to soak up as much time with Katy as possible. Even when Jim the romantic jumps in on the action, the sexism isn't alleviated. See, while Jim eventually wins Katy's favor and the two start dating, it ultimately turns out that even heartthrob Halpert isn't really interested in anything more than a pretty set of eyes. It only takes 11 episodes before Halpert dumps his new "prize" in one of his most cold-hearted moves in the entire show.

The point is, no matter what way you slice it, "Hot Girl" is the perfect example of how often the women of Scranton are objectified by their fellow men, especially in the earlier seasons of the show. It's a pattern of behavior that would be a tough sell coming from "the good guys" in any modern piece of entertainment.

There's no working from home in The Office

Alright, let's take a step back from the heavier stuff to point out a little present-day inconsistency in how the Dunder Mifflin office functioned during the 2000s. It's a point that back in the day made perfect sense, but in the post-COVID-19 era, it just doesn't compute. We're talking about the lack of remote-work capabilities. From the pilot episode back in 2005 on to the finale in 2013, Dunder Mifflin's Scranton office consistently operates with an old-school, boots on the ground mentality. Everyone rolls into work early each morning, put in a solid eight hours or more at their desks, and then Stanley Hudson ensures that everyone heads out at 5 PM sharp.

When the show was on the air, that was the reality of most of the working world. People had to physically be present every day in order to get their jobs done, even when they were 100% performed on a computer, phone, or another tech device. Within a few years of the show wrapping up shop, the reality of the virtual workspace was already changing the physical office paradigm, though. And then, once the coronavirus sent businesses great and small scampering online, the world learned to embrace the virtual workspace in a wholehearted way. But not The Office. The show will forever remain a sitcom mired in the "ancient" ritual of full-time employees driving to work each and every day, no matter what kind of tasks they're engaged in.

Michael Scott is incredibly racist

No matter how little time you give him, Michael Scott always finds a way to insult everyone in the room. When it comes to racist comments, in particular, the man always has a misguided, ill-timed, or straight-up belligerent racial slur to throw out into the conversation. Again, if he wasn't a protagonist half of the time, it might work, but coming from a lovable character, the racism just doesn't jive.

One of Michael's most abhorrently insulting characters of all is Ping. Michael first puts on his Ping impression when he hosts the Dundies way back in the first episode of season two. However, it isn't a one-time affair. Nope. He trots the persona out as a regular in his improv toolbox and even sneaks it into his otherwise heart-melting farewell episode "Goodbye Michael" in season seven. At least during that final outing, the reaction from the crowd is a universal moan followed by Stanley walking out of the meeting.

Nevertheless, Ping underscores another, even deeper racial question. Apart from the stereotyped impression, why are there nearly no other East Asian characters in the show? Sure, there's the Japanese heart surgeon turned warehouse worker Hide, but even he feels like a plot device. Maybe, at the end of the day, the show just wanted us to think like Jim's actor friend Steve and give everyone a "hats off" for not seeing race. To us, though, it just feels a bit like another moment that didn't keep up with the times.

Michael's Cosby impression makes us cringe

Michael Scott shows up a lot on this list. In fact, with all of his racist, sexist, fat-shaming, and bullying scenes, it's hard to even believe that the guy exits the show on top. That said, this next moment can't be held against the man in quite the same way as the rest of his over-the-line commentary. We're talking about Michael's obsession with the 20th-century comedy icon Bill Cosby — an obsession that definitely hasn't stood the test of time.

While Cosby had been accused of his crimes earlier, it wasn't until after the show ended that the case was reopened and the full extent of his behavior came out. While Cosby was eventually sentenced to jail time and his victims finally received justice, the entire issue had the uncomfortable effect of leaving Michael Scott's infatuation with the comedian just awkwardly hanging out there.

It's not even like Michael made a passing jab or even quoted the man before proceeding straight on to his next failed impression. He dwelled on Cosby — a lot. Perhaps the worst moment to feature the disgraced actor comes in the season three episode "Initiation" when Michael proceeds to quote multiple Cosby lines, leading to Pam simply recording the event for the snooping Jan as "Cosby Impression." Yeah, that's a big no-no now, guys.

The Office and female un-empowerment

Jan Levinson is about as insane a character as has ever graced a television sitcom. It's not even that her behavior is consistently over the top in an "in your face" kind of way. On the contrary, the erratic Dunder Mifflin executive slowly but surely descends into a state of absolutely terrifying mental instability. Her self-destructive behavior, inappropriate sexual preferences, and clear abuse of power are all on full display for multiple seasons of the show. That said, perhaps her lowest point comes in the season three finale "The Job" when she gets a boob job, has a mental breakdown, and loses her employment all in one crash-and-burn episode.

If you're wondering why Jan's season three debacle made a list of moments that didn't age well, that's because it's the perfect way to highlight one of the show's least attractive features — a lack of capable women in positions of authority. On the whole, the most powerful women in The Office are the mentally unstable Jan Levinson, the absolutely eccentric Nellie Bertram, and Kelly Kapoor after she finishes up her minority executive training program ... before running off with her toxic ex (who abandons his baby in the process). Granted, Pam does eventually become a saleswoman, and Karen Filippelli is a bright spot on show, although Jim does her dirty. There's also the incredibly powerful Jo Bennett who buys Dunder Mifflin, but she only shows up for eight episodes.

The woeful state of competent female representation at Dunder Mifflin has only become more concerning as time has passed. Even worse, the perpetual jabbing and mockery made of the few women that actually crack that glass ceiling feels like a dated concept that has quickly aged along with the show.

Kelly's over-the-line excuse

Kelly Kapoor is the queen of dramatic statements. From her celebrity news updates to her dysfunctional relationships with Ryan and Darryl, the customer service rep is always looking for the limelight. The problem is, every once and a while, the character crosses lines that are simply too dark and relatable to laugh at — especially as time has passed.

For example, in one episode, Miss Kapoor thinks that she's ingested a tapeworm that Creed gave her. In that same episode, we also see her going on multiple crash diets and passing out in a weight loss-obsessed fervor. The flippant attitude towards weight-related issues like anorexia and a desire to be unrealistically thin was unsettling, to say the least.

The truth is, though, that isn't even Kelly's lowest moment. That comes in the season five episode "Customer Survey." When Kelly is caught tampering with Jim and Dwight's performance reviews, she conveniently throws out the excuse that she was raped in an attempt to get out of trouble. To make matters worse, the typically gullible Michael actually catches the lie and tells her that she has to stop using that excuse — implying that it's a regular occurrence. Using rape as an excuse to get out of trouble has never been okay, but in the #MeToo era, there's little doubt that the joke comes across as casual and insensitive.

Nate in blackface didn't age well at all

Perhaps the moment from the show that has aged the worst of all is a blip-of-a-scene that was placed into yet another Christmas special. We're talking about the season nine episode "Dwight Christmas." The episode follows Dwight Schrute as he throws a Pennsylvania Dutch-themed (or, more accurately, a Schrute-themed) Christmas party for his coworkers. Dwight dresses up as the Belsnickel and provides oodles of laughs — unsurprisingly interspersed with bone-breaking and beatings — for everyone in attendance.

However, there's one brief scene that quickly takes a quirky Christmas party to a very inappropriate place. At one point, Dwight is briefly shown shooing away warehouse worker Nate who's dressed up as the Belsnickel's assistant, Zwarte Piet. The big issue? He's wearing blackface. Even though it's a brief glimpse and it shows Dwight nixing the use of the character at the party, the scene immediately screams racist. In fact, it's bad enough that Netflix felt the need to remove the tone-deaf scene from its streaming platform. The action just goes to show that it only took a few years (the episode aired in late 2012) for an already controversial scene to become straight-up unacceptable. Not only that, but out of this entire list, Nate's blackface scene is the only one that aged so poorly it had to be physically edited out to keep modern viewers happy.