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Michael Scott Quotes That Haven't Aged Well

The American version of "The Office" stills holds up as one of the most popular and beloved sitcoms of the 21st century – Rotten Tomatoes pegs it at 81% Fresh among the critics and 89% Fresh among the fans. On the surface, "The Office" was an exercise in cringe comedy. Most episodes revolved around boss Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) and his lack of self-awareness, which frequently put his employees in uncomfortable situations. Despite all the awkwardness the mockumentary still had genuine heart, whether it was the genuinely sweet relationship between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), or the way it made unlikable people like Michael and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) seem sympathetic.

"The Office" often relied on controversial subjects like race, sexuality, and political correctness to mine laughs. Since 2021 is obviously a very different time than 2005, many of those jokes just wouldn't fly if they were aired for the first time in 2021. 

Even Steve Carrell admits as much. In 2018, Carrell told Esquire that a reboot of "The Office" probably couldn't happen. "There's a very high awareness of offensive things today—which is good, for sure," Carrell said. "But at the same time, when you take a character [like Michael Scott] too literally, it doesn't really work."

Michael Scott said something cringeworthy in pretty much every episode of the show. Even so, here are some Michael Scott quotes that really haven't aged well.

The entire Diversity Day episode

Where to even start with this one? "Diversity Day," the second episode of Season 1, is both one of "The Office's" most signature episodes as well as one of its most controversial. In it, Dunder-Mifflin corporate sends Mr. Brown, a sensitivity trainer (Larry Wilmore), to the Scranton branch after Michael made an off-color remark. When Michael isn't happy with Mr. Brown's presentation, he leads his own diversity workshop ("Diversity Tomorrow"). It culminates with an ill-advised flashcard game in which the Dunder-Mifflin Scranton employees have to put flashcards on their foreheads, each with a different race written on them, and then have conversations with each other revolving around the stereotypes associated with that race.

This episode is so controversial that Comedy Central has been skipping "Diversity Day" in reruns in recent years. While some speculated that this might be the network caving to pressure from "the woke mob," Snopes pointed out that Comedy Central skips several episodes of the show. Comedy Central hasn't given a reason why it doesn't air "Diversity Day," but it's not hard to come up with one.

"We'll auction people off like in the olden days!"

This quote happens in the fifth episode of Season 5, "Crime Aid." In it, Michael and the branch's new HR rep Holly (Amy Ryan) have begun dating. During an office tryst they accidentally leave the door open, allowing thieves to ransack the branch. To cover for his mistake, Michael holds a charity auction to cover the cost of the stolen items. While pitching the auction to his skeptical employees, Michael suggests the different things they could auction. At one point, he says, "We'll auction off people like in the olden days!" The show then cuts to Stanley (Leslie David Baker), one of the branch's few African-American employees, who rolls his eyes.

That joke is obviously about America's history of slavery. What makes it particularly egregious is that it's not an accident. Michael often says things that are unintentionally offensive, but in this case he's fully aware that he's referencing slave auctions and thinks he's making a good suggestion. Wouldn't fly today, barely flew in 2008 when the episode aired.

A meme based on this quote was the cover image that Redditor u/AJ-Naka-Zayn-Owens used to illustrate a post titled "What quote would get Michael canceled in 2021?" The post has received over 11,000 upvotes so far, which should tell you all you need to know.

Making fun of Phyllis after she gets flashed

This is another one where the entire episode hasn't aged well. In the 22nd episode of Season 3, "Women's Appreciation," the story kicks off with Dunder-Mifflin salesperson Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith) getting flashed in the company parking lot. While everyone else offers their sympathies, Michael turns it into a joke. He puts his finger down his pants and pretends to flash his own employees, to no one's laughter.

Everyone else's reactions make it clear that Michael's behavior is unacceptable even when the episode aired in 2007, but this is a joke that never would have made it past the censors in a post-#MeToo world. The rest of the episode isn't much better, either. After his ill-advised gag, Michael assembles the staff for a "Women's Appreciation" meeting, which is really just him saying a bunch of sexist and demeaning things that he tries to pass off as complements. When that flops, he takes the women from the Scranton branch to a local mall as a treat. That quickly turns into a group therapy session about his romantic relationship with his boss Jan (Melora Hardin). Michael caps off the day by getting all the women gifts from Victoria's Secret. Yikes. 

"Is there a term besides 'Mexican' that you prefer? Something less offensive?

Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nuñez) is a frequent target of Michael's bigotry, related to both Oscar's race as well as his sexuality. Michael made Oscar uncomfortable so many times that eventually the writers had to let Oscar sue the company for discrimination, because otherwise the show would have gotten too unrealistic.

One of the most egregious examples comes in the same "Diversity Day" episode covered above, but before the fireworks start flying. Early on, when Michael tells the employees that a sensitivity trainer is coming for a meeting, he attempts to show sensitivity. A cynic might say he does this just so he can create plausible deniability in case the sensitivity trainer tries to call him out. 

During the talk, he asks Oscar, "Is there a term besides 'Mexican' that you prefer? Something less offensive?" Oscar points out that the term "Mexican" isn't inherently offensive, and Michael responds that it has "certain connotations." When Oscar asks him to elaborate, Michael tries to backpedal, and the cringe is on.

The moment was one of the most popular replies on that Reddit thread, netting over 600 upvotes. Even when Michael is trying to be "nice," he still winds up being offensive.