The Office: Embrace The Cringe

The Office: Embrace The Cringe

ah here we go fast easy votes nicely but big enough for you you fat bastard over and paid for in it hey I'll say I'm not saying he's fat but when he jumps in the air to get stupid look Jim Carrey words were you know everybody that you know including yourself is a mind reader at least we all think we are we act that way because really there's no other way to act we see someone do something like look at a camera and attribute to that act an invisible mental state a desire and intention a feeling like disbelief this is called the theory of mind but there's a paradox at the heart of this ability that we all have because while we know that body language conveys meaning and that we can interpret that meaning and even be roughly correct a good amount of the time we also know that it's impossible to see the whole picture that we can misinterpret and be fooled because both of those things have happened to us don't just want to nicely with Lee would you let's come up with gent with me I haven't split up with him no god no I know yeah I meant as a friend so I didn't mean as a friend this paradox in the theory of mind our attribution of thoughts to action and our knowledge of the unreliability in that drives all of us to perform ourselves so that we can try to shape other people's theories of our mind and it's this performance and the reading of this performance that the office created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant spotlights so well the people who work at Warren M Hogg comprise a spectrum of competence on this scale on one side you have Tim and Don who are quite sensitive mind reader's able to navigate the environment of the office with a strong sense of what others are feeling and on the other side you have David Brent and Gareth who are really really weak mind reader's if you do go the way Tim and you expect me to go in there afterwards make sure he wears condom all right sort of a rule in the case of Gareth it may actually be that he's unable to read others Gervase explored this idea again years later with Derek a character who falls somewhere on the autism spectrum a condition that's marked by inherent difficulties with theory of mind but in David Brent we have a character so invested in the performance of himself that he's blocked his own access to others feelings I think Brent could become more receptive and there are rare but achingly poignant flashes of that in the series Chris what you fuck home but to really do that would require compromising his self-image which is clearly something that he's not willing to do the irony is that Brent can't see that a weak theory of mind always makes for a weak self performance you can't brute force your preferred personality on to another's consciousness it takes two to build an identity indeed this is what makes Tim the most successful performer of all on the show and the clearest evidence of this is the cruel but hilarious way that he toys with Gareth could you give a man a lethal blow if I was forced to I could if I was absolutely necessary he's able to map Garrett's mental states so well and take advantage of his weak theory of mine that he can ridicule him without Gareth even knowing that it's going on this is a kind of psychic superpower and we all use it when we tell someone for example a white lie we're trying to decode that person's mental state so that our performance of the lie will be successfully received in other words a believable performance is one that reflects back at your partner something that's in support of their own performance of themselves what makes the show even more impressive I think and absolutely true to life is the way that it handles the other side of the paradox no matter where the characters fall on that spectrum of mine reading or performance none are spared from mistakes it's this essential defect in the theory of mine that's a cause of deep anxiety for all of us and every time that unreliability has violently revealed to us the world for a brief moment becomes gibberish and the people around us opaque because this is the only tool that we have and for the most part it's done like breathing as done without conscious attention so when it fails there's just no recourse it's the unflinching focus on these failures that made the office revolutionary a lot of people say that cringe humor like this is hard to watch and certainly it is but in the same way that under our confidence in theory of mine lies and anxiety I think that under our cringing there's actually a deep feeling of relief cringe humor privileges the moments when body language speaks in a way that is totally transparent in that moment the embarrassment is not only palpable it's also palpably honest it can't be doubted it's a kind of trauma a rupture that discloses a real moment of connection then my movies engine please look David I don't change my I don't want redundancy I don't want that I haven't signed anything so well a bit unfortunate it's already up to you okay sorry alright then what I'm asking okay please don't like you didn't I don't think the show would be nearly as effective if it wasn't cast as a fake documentary as opposed to simply watching the characters fail and embarrass themselves as an omniscient observer the employees of the office are aware of being filmed which is to say that they're aware of you but not only performing for one another they're performing for us this is the phenomenon of the documentary and the mockumentary you can observe human behavior mind reading you and performing at you without having to reflect back your own performance you can be alone with someone Jason merchant exploit the situation to activate our empathy in a uniquely powerful way so that when you laugh at the office it's a laugh that rings out in the heart of moment of cringe-worthy truth hey everybody thanks for watching I really wish I could be recording this on a camera right now but it's a little bit too late and my office is so really incomplete in Los Angeles and it's just just very frustrating thank you so much to Squarespace for sponsoring this video I'm really fortunate to have square space helping to fund this channel they make a really really great product it's a professional sleek looking intuitive websites that you don't need to know coding to make just really easy to do and you can get a free domain if you sign up for a year and you can start that free trial today at and if you do and you use the offer code nerdwriter you can get 10% off your first purchase so thanks Squarespace for that and also thank you guys I'll see you next Wednesday and maybe 8-bit

34 thoughts on “The Office: Embrace The Cringe

  1. You’re right. I love the American Office but this has the cringe on another level and the realism of it makes it special.

  2. This is where the American office fails for me. It has no social awareness making a lot of the jokes too ridiculous and out of place.



  5. I feel as though this is one point where the UK version trumps the US. The characters here always seem aware that they are being filmed and we are constantly reminded of this with their embarrassment. However the US version after the second series seems to ignore the fact that it is a documentary. Nobody hides anything and they all act as though no one else in the office watches the show. It really separates the two in terms of the comedy being realistic or relatable and is also why I’m thankful British comedies rarely run for longer than they deserve.

  6. This series is hilarious, and is so British too. It's honestly a masterpiece Sitcom, and it's a shame the US Version gets so much more recognition.

  7. I hate the British Office. I know it came first and it's supposedly more "real", but it's all just so unpleasant. I also think Ricky Gervais is a twat and have never found him funny, instead he just seems rude and arrogant.

  8. You can always guess what a person is thinking. But remember, you'll never really know. Fucking working memory.

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