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Wednesday, January 20, 2010  

Up in the Office

I came to kind of a startling realization last week. It's one of those epiphanies that hits you out of the blue, when you're thinking of two unrelated things at the same time and you realize that they're actually related, and suddenly nothing in your life is the same again. And it's this:

Ryan Bingham, the suave, handsome protagonist played by George Clooney in Up in the Air, is actually Michael Scott from The Office.

Now, obviously this analogy stands up best if you are completely blind, but even if you're not, stay with me.

Both of them love their perks. Michael's in heaven every time Dunder Mifflin sends him on a business trip, whether it's to Philly or Winnipeg. Part of that may be the novelty of it, but then Ryan never seems to get tired of hanging out in the Admiral's Club or playing with his decks of hotel-room card keys, either. That scene where Ryan complains to his assistant about not having a Sebring waiting for him could have easily been Michael whining to Erin.

Both men are deficient in personal relationships, valuing the most superficial connections in their lives. The only difference is that Ryan wants it that way (or thinks he does), while Michael is too clueless to see that that's the only way he's ever going to get it. In a speech from the trailer, Ryan says, "Fast friends aren't my only friends, but their my best friends." Michael's best friends, meanwhile, are Jim and Pam, who can generally only stand him when he's just been kicked in the metaphorical nuts.

But that's not to say that they're completely inept, especially when it comes to getting girls. Ryan's able to land Vera Farmiga rather speedily, while it does take Michael rather longer to rack up the likes of Melora Hardin, Amy Ryan, Nancy Walls, Linda Purl, and that Benihana waitress. But I'll put that moment when Ryan's relationship with Alex...uh, resolves (spoiler) up against anything Michael Scott's been through on the romantic front.

Both are, to put it kindly, geeks. This is not apparent at first glance, because Ryan looks like George Clooney. But when you see him dorking out about the St. Louis airport or his frequent flyer status, just close your eyes and try not to think, What a loser! For examples of Michael's geekiness, please see The Office seasons one through six.

And although Ryan doesn't share Michael's pathological fear of delivering bad news, both are, when it comes down to it, very good at the core function of their jobs. Michael sold his own worthless company back to Dunder Mifflin for a sweetheart deal, while Ryan was able to sell unemployment to a despondent J.K. Simmons, among untold others. And both of them are in a struggle against money-driven changes in their industry, each claiming that cost-saving measures are no match for the personal service they provide. The difference is that Ryan sits there and takes it; it never occurs to him to quit, even when the job takes away his entire raison d'ĂȘtre. Michael Scott was way too cool to put up with that shit.

You still think I'm crazy. I can tell. Even when you admit that they both dress identically and fancy themselves talented public speakers. That's fine. Next time you watch The Office, imagine Michael's final talking-head speech as a mellifluous voice-over heard during breathtaking aerial footage. And if you haven't already seen Up in the Air, just imagine Ryan's mellifluous voice-overs as Michael Scott babbling in front of his office window. It's easier than you think.

posted by M. Giant 7:16 PM 1 comments


I totally see it!

Their entire lives are their jobs.

By Blogger erin, at January 25, 2010 at 12:06 PM  

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