Gender Role Reversal

Who Needs a Man?

In the hit television show The Office there is a characters who hides their sexual orientation for fear of public ridicule from his boss and co-workers.  Oscar Martinez is the only gay member of the Dunder Mifflin office, a fact about himself which he chooses to keep secret.  He is not outed until Season 3, Episode 1 “Gay Witch Hunt” in which Oscar’s sexual orientation is made known to his boss Michael Scott, a man who can not keep a secret.  The episode progresses with Michael telling the rest of the office that Oscar is gay, not allowing Oscar to “come out” on his own terms.  A “gay witch hunt” then occurs while Michael and his sidekick Dwight try to identify the rest of the office “gays.”  The episode ends with Dwight receiving a package containing “gaydar”:

When interviewed about his character in The Office for Star Pulse, Oscar Nuñez (who plays Oscar Martinez) describes his interpretation of playing a gay man:

Mike: You play a very grounded, voice of reason, type character. Your character is also gay. Do you feel any responsibility to that community with how you portray the character?

Oscar: I don’t know, that’s a good question. I don’t think of it. That’s not the first thing that struck me when I get a character like that. It’s whatever the character is. So, if it’s a gay character that’s a homicidal maniac, then, what are you going to do? If it’s a gay [character] who’s the President of the United States, then that’s the kind of guy he is. I think the sexuality of the character is maybe the fifth thing in his personality trait that you’re thinking about.

Nuñez takes the stand that the sexual orientation of his character is not the defining characteristic of Oscar Martinez.  Being gay is only a part of the character, and not even the most important part at that.  Oscar Martinez is also an accountant, very level-headed, and arguably the smartest man in the office.  In an article in Rolling Stones Nuñez’ character is listed as one of The 15 Most Groundbreaking Gay Roles on Television which shows that Oscar’s defining characteristic is not his sexual orientation.

This trend of hiding lesbian, gay and bisexual tendencies for fear of the repercussions is unhealthy.  During the episode “Gay Witch Hunt,” Oscar is constantly repeating the line “I’m not gay” until finally he becomes tired of hiding who he really is: No, I’m not gay. And I don’t understand why anyone would think, that I’m gay… if… [sighs] Uh… yeah I’m gay.”  This rejection of homosexual desires is a common occurrence known as non-gay-identified in which a homosexual will acknowledge that they are gay, however, they will try to change these feelings or hide their true self before they can accept who they truly are.  The process of “coming out” is an important step for any LGB person.  They must first come out to themselves and then later to those around them.  There is always the fear of coming out to others as you can never know the reactions that your news will receive   In “Gay Witch Hunt,” Oscar is outed by his boss, and is therefore not given the opportunity to come out to his colleges on his own time, in his own way:

Toby: OK, Michael, are you aware that you ousted Oscar today?

Michael: What? What does that even…

Jan: Coming out, is a significant moment for a gay person, and they should be allowed to select the timing and manner of announcing it.

Michael: Well, gay pride, right? Gay pride parade? It’s not like gay… shame festival.

Toby: All right, now Oscar’s feeling discriminated against by his co-workers, primarily Angela, and um, that’s your fault.

After being outed, the episode focuses on the different reactions of Oscar’s colleges to the news that he is gay.  By presenting this sensitive topic in such a blatantly offensive scenario, the producers of The Office are proving the point that being a homosexual is not the defining characteristic of a person and should not be how they are associated.  LGB peoples should be allowed to decide on their own time who and what people should know about themselves.  The episode also shows how little is known about the LGB community and the inappropriate comments these peoples must deal with on a daily basis.  Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute, Oscar’s boss and fellow co-worker, are two of the worst people to work for or with, however their role in the sitcom is to act in the stereotypical way and say the stereotypical lines so as to show the stupidity of their beliefs to the rest of the world.

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In the world outside of Hollywood, real people are experiencing the stress and grief of being LGB.  One such person is Alison Bechdel, author of Dykes to Watch out ForFun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother?.  Alison is openly homosexual after many years of repression from her family.  Fun Home is a memoir of her father, as well as a story of her coming out process.  Through the use of flashbacks in the novel, Alison was able to reexamine moments in her young life in which she was beginning to acknowledge her homosexual desires.  An example of this occurs on pgs. 118-119 in which Alison is with her father on a business trip and she sees a bulldyke for the first time:

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Alison spent her entire childhood being forced to perform a role that she did not associate with.  Her father especially tried to force her to act more like a “girl” by wearing dresses and pulling her hair back in clips.  What Alison later learns however, is that while her father was forcing her to perform a role she did not like, he too was performing a role he did not like.  Bruce Bechdel was a closet homosexual, living a life that was considered “normal” but not what he wanted.  He had extramarital affairs with Alison’s babysitter and the gardener, however he was never able to acknowledge his gay or bisexual nature to his family, forcing himself to constantly be living a lie.  It is not until Alison is a grown woman that she becomes aware of her father’s repressed life and how similar the two of them really are.

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Works Cited

Bechdel, Alison.  Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.  United States of America: First Mariner Books, 2007.

Chhokar, Nicole, Emily Larkin and Ashley Rockafellow.  “About the Book.”  Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.  Powered by Segue.  2 April 2013.  <https://segue.atlas.uiuc.edu/index.php?&site=elarkin2&section=4923&action=site>.

Drescher, Jack M.D.  “The Psychology of the Closeted Individual and Coming Out.”  Paradigm.  Fall 2007.  2 April 2013.  <http://www.sequeltsi.com/files/library/Closeted_and_Coming_Out.pdf>.

Ryan, Mike.  “Oscar Nuñez Discusses His Character From ‘The Office’.”  Star Pulse.  10 March 2009.  2 April 2013.     <http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2009/03/10/oscar_nunez_stops_by_to_discuss_his_char>.

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