The cubicle humor of popular comic strips like Dilbert finally made it onto the big screen in 1999’s Office Space. This film by Mike Judge, the creator of the popular Beavis and Butt-head, delves deeply into the corporate hell that many young to middle-aged Americans struggled through to make end’s meet throughout the 1990s. While the media loved to focus on the energy of Microsoft and the playgrounds that were dot-com workplaces, Office Space instead makes a comedy of the absurd based around the drudgery faced by the
thousands of workers who weren’t playing in brightly colored ball pits on their lunch breaks.
If you’ve ever worked anywhere that matched the grey carpets to the grey padded walls of a cheap office divider, then you can immediately empathize with the trio of Peter Gibbons, Samir Nagheenanajar and Michael Bolton, young men beaten down by the dull monotony of their dead-end software jobs. They are joined in the office by a cast of equally downtrodden workers led by Milton, an overweight psychopath who continues to come to work despite having been fired months beforehand. When a team of efficiency experts show up with the goal of downsizing the company, Peter, who has had his entire worldview changed after a visit to a hypnotist, enlists Samir and Michael in a scheme to both get even with their employer and strike it rich in the process. Of course, things never seem to work out how they should, and by the end of the film everyone’s lives have changed – well, almost everyone.
Office Space perfectly captured the animosity felt by those trapped in a job that left them with few options, illustrating the nuances of the torturous existence that often goes hand in hand with sitting at a desk all day crunching numbers, spreadsheets or lines of code. It also provided some of the most memorable comedic moments of the decade, and years later the film has fully achieved cult status. Whether it’s an imitation of Peter’s monotone-voice boss saying ‘m’kay’, or a play on the deranged stapler-related mumblings of Milton, Office Space has inspired millions of fans to quote, copy and imitate its incisive humor.