As you all know, the Office is not like most shows on television. Most of you probably believe the Office is groundbreaking for its revitalization of the sitcom genre on American television but I’m betting you haven’t considered the other ways the Office has broken boundaries. Well, I have (mostly in the shower). I’ll be posting a series of essays (ramblings) on the subject.
First up is Oscar.
While gay men have become increasingly present in American television shows over the past fifteen years, none of them have been quite like Oscar. Oscar is not stereotypically flamboyant and shallow (Jack from “Will & Grace”). He does not have a glamorous life with a high paying job (Will from “Will & Grace”). He does not live a large metropolis (the men of “Queer as Folk,” Stanford and Anthony of “Sex and the City”). He isn’t the sidekick of some sassy single gal (Will, Stanford, Anthony). He isn’t closeted (Geoffrey Jellineck and Chuck Noblet of “Strangers with Candy”). He doesn’t go clubbing (men of “Queer as Folk”). He doesn’t appear to have any strange kinks (Mr. Slave and Mr. Garrison of “South Park”) but who really knows what goes on between him and Gil. He doesn’t do drugs or drink excessively (men of “Queer as Folk”). As Dwight pointed out, Oscar doesn’t wear women’s clothing (Michael Novotny of “Queer as Folk”). Oscar isn’t in prison (the men of “Oz”). Oscar isn’t young (Marco of “Degrassi: the Next Generation, Jack of “Dawson’s Creek”) or incredibly handsome (Brian of “Queer as Folk”) or even stylish (Marc St. James of “Ugly Betty”).
The most starling difference between Oscar and most gay men on American television is his economic status. Most gay men on TV are either poor, AIDS afflicted drug addicts or rich, corporate sexpots. Oscar is middle class. While he is by no means the first gay accountant on American TV (I believe that honor goes to Ted Schmidt of “Queer as Folk” although Ted was paid much better and was a different type of accountant), Oscar is the first to wear the title with such a lack of enthusiasm. Like one imagines a real accountant would.
Oscar also shows a real dissatisfaction with his relationship with his partner, Gil. Most gay men on TV either have no love life (Will of “Will & Grace”) or have romantic, whirlwind love affairs (Justin and Brian of “Queer as Folk”). Oscar has a very normal relationship with Gil except for the fact that Oscar can’t figure out a way to get out of it.
Oscar isn’t out there fighting for his rights He’s too tired from dealing with his job and too emotionally exhausted from dealing with Gil. Oscar lets Michael’s slights and Angela’s glares and Kevin’s giggles go. He doesn’t make a big deal out of his sexual orientation nor does he deny it. He’s just Oscar—that’s why he’s ground-breaking and that’s why we love him.