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20 Years of “Office Space”, Celebrating a cult classic!

In a scene in “Office Space”, Actor Ron Livingston waltzes in his own office after attaining a sense of awakening and right in his office cubicle, he rips the gut out of a raw fish he just caught from a nearby pond in “his office hours” with a song “Damn it feels to be a gangster playing in the backdrop”.

In yet another scene, Initech’s ( the company where Livingston works) VP and local boss Bill Lumbergh announces in a big office meeting that “Friday is Hawaiian shirt Day” after introducing an efficiency expert who basically is there to fire a lot of people. And the employees look angry and non reactive to these announcements depicting people don’t have enough interest in the job or the company.

The above scenes gave the viewer a sneak peek into the working of a tech start up/ company in the time when internet and venture capital was just in its infancy. It also talks about the various shifts in human behavior purely due to the nature of the industry.

“Office Space” is Mike Judge’s cult comedy about the perils and misadventures of a tech professional who hates his job at a company called Initech. The inspiration for the movie came from the “MILTON” short films which were popular on “Saturday Night Live” and “Liquid Television”.

Made in 1999, the movie stars Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Stephen Root, John C McGinley and Gary Cole in starring roles. The film was a box office sleeper and frankly didn’t scratch much on the box office but attained cult status by building millions of fans across the globe and ended up selling millions of VHS, Blu-Ray and DVD’s.

This essay talks about the film, its relevance in popular culture and the impact it made on films in general.

What is “Office Space” about?

“Office Space” talks of the life and times of Peter Gibbons and his fellow employees who work at Initech which is a computer software company. The company has Peter’s best friends Michael Bolton, Samir, Tom, Milton and Bill Lumbergh who is the company VP and head of their office. Peter is doing ok in his job but somewhere he realizes that the company’s hierarchy and senseless politics is wasting his time and energy. He realizes in a counselling session that his life, his every day routine is a total waste and that he needs to get out of it as soon as possible. So he starts taking things easy and relaxes, but due to the unstructured and political environment which fosters wastage of time, Peter catches the fancy of some efficiency experts in the company who like the way he looks at his job and points some flaws in the process. And they end up promoting Peter and fire Michael, Tom, Samir from their jobs. This doesn’t augur well with Peter and decides on leading a revolution against his job and somehow Initech gets burnt down by some strange accident. Milton is the actual perpetrator who punishes the company as his “Swingline” stapler is stolen. In the end Peter ends up doing a construction job which he loves and life is better off for him. He also finds love in Joanna who works in a nearby fast food joint and loves Kung Fu!

What are the iconic moments of “Office Space”?

Slaughtering the company printer which gives ridiculous messages (PC Load Letter) and gets paper jammed regularly by baseball bats by Peter and his gang!

The yawning, uninterested, sincerely racist, predator, shark, Porsche Boxster owning VP Bill Lumbergh and yelling “ Come On Monday and send those TPS Reports”. Lumbergh will essentially hone his weekends skills by getting employees to come on weekends.

The TPS Reports (God knows what it stands for) is a symbol of useless systemic problem created by the autocratic style of Lumbergh who himself doesn’t have much work.

The assessment interviews conducted by “efficiency” experts to lay off people who are useless. The interview with Tom Smykowski ends by Bob Slydell (John C McGinley) asking him “What is it exactly that you do here”.

The Jump To Conclusions mat ( a mat on which you have various conclusions written and you can literally jump on to each of them) of the fired Tom who makes millions because of fatal accident courtesy his insurance coverage.

The attainment of Nirvana when Peter meets a Dr Swanson shrink who suddenly dies while conducting a hypnotic meditation on him.

The ripping out of a raw fish in the office cubicle by Peter Gibbons

The unassuming names of “Michael Bolton” and Samir “Nayinanajaad”

“Damn it feels good to be a Gangster” song by Getto Boys

“What will you do with a million dollars ? I will do two chicks at one time” , quoted by Peter’s neighbour.

Sounds like somebody got a case of “The Monday” referring to the Monday Morning syndrome.

The Swingline stapler of Milton which he keeps losing.

Why is Office Space important ?

Very few movies in Hollywood have managed to capture the nuances of corporate life. Office Space was the first movie which actually shows life at a corporate set up and the excess baggage what people who work carry with them everyday. The film also questions the lack of out of the box ideas and innovation in the technology space at that time in 1999. But at the centre, the film puts focus on ‘pursuit of your dreams rather than just making money’. As in the film, a top rate talent in a software firm finds more solace with a girl working at a fast food restaurant and doing a ‘mundane seeming’ construction work. “Office Space” doesn’t actually hinge on hardcore business logic and numbers. It in fact it gives the lead characters enough creative outlets to de stress in their own ways. Eg. The office printer massacre scene in the film is shot like an epic and is a symbol of anarchy of sorts in a typical job environment.

Office Space and Beyond!

“Office Space” became a cult classic as it voiced the stressful career complications of the tech industry. It also became a sleeper hit of sorts and advanced the careers of Jennifer Aniston, Ron Livingston, Stephen Root, John C McGinley and the legend Mike Judge. Mike Judge now is the creator and Director of the TV Show “Silicon Valley”.

Swingline staplers introduced a red colored version given the fact the one used by Milton was red in the movie.

This little film is a gem of an idea and I highly recommend you should watch it!

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