In Which Bloggers Discover David Hume
It's written by Alex Danco, by the way, not Michael Scott, and it's kind of like arguing George Lucas was brilliant for discovering the monomyth and then proceeding to describe the world in terms of Luke Skywalker.
The core issue with the essay is it presumes that the middle ladder isn't self-aware and it presumes that the middle ladder serves no function. Historians going back to Gibbon have pointed out the essential nature of the middle class in that it provides fluidity. Without middle managers you are doomed to your lot as a bricklayer or, much less frequently, secure in your position as Barron of Oxenfurt with no reason to do anything other than enjoy your boons. A viable middle class increases societal allegiance because while you might be stuck, your kid might not be. It also increases innovation because a blacksmith who invents a new alloy will never make the jump from peasant to royalty but peasant to royal armorer? Absolutely.
English-speakers are also at a disadvantage because generations of anthropologists have been happy to talk about registers of speech in any culture but their own. Sociolinguistically, "legal" English is very different from "street" English is very different from "business" English and despite the fact that every 80 years or so we need to retell The Taming of the Shrew, let's call it "The Michael Scott Theory of Social Class" as if we've invented something.
Alex fundamentally misses the point of The Office: the three "ladders" can be good and bad and if you're on a bad ladder, the smart move is to find another. Alex Danco on Darryl:
Darryl is a smart loser; he’s wise to how the world works, and successfully rules over his little kingdom of the warehouse, but generally understands he’s staying where he is.
Darryl in the show:
After the finale, it is revealed that Darryl is now the V.P. of Athlete Relations at Athlead. He reconciled with his ex-wife Justine, who moved with their daughter Jada to Austin in order to be with him.
Darryl isn't the only one to unchain himself from the Wheel of Karma. Roy suffers from all sorts of self-inflicted problems at Dunder Mifflin but as soon as he's out, and away from Pam (who always wants more, always thinks she's better, yet somehow never accomplishes anything) he starts a successful gravel business and learns to sing and play piano. David Wallace is fired from his comfortable position where he keeps things running, more or less, but then sells a patent to the Air Force for $20m. But I mean, Alex's essay really goes off the rails with Toby:
Once The Office gets really established by Season 3, the central drama of the show takes form, which is the Struggle of the Clueless between Michael, Dwight and Andy. Every other character in the show (except Toby in HR, whose explicit isolation from the rest of the group in both the org chart and the office floor plan is flawlessly executed) is at peace with reality to some degree; but not these three.
Toby in real life:
He is portrayed by Paul Lieberstein, who was also the show's writer, director, producer and showrunner. He is the human resources representative at the Scranton branch of the paper distribution company, Dunder Mifflin. Toby is an original character with no counterpart in the original British series.
Greg Daniels, in adapting The Office from the rigid, slavish societal structure of the British to the fluid, sub-rosa societal structure of The Americans decided a Thornton Wilder-grade stage manager was necessary in order to make the satire accessible to Americans. Toby is our Greek Chorus. He is the clear-eyed insight into the events that allows us to appreciate the tragicomedy of social striving for its own sake. The characters that do best in The Office are the ones who leave, either by accident or on purpose. The characters that do worst in The Office are the ones who focus on the petty goals of the org chart. THIS is where "assistant to the assistant" comes from - Dwight is a highly-accomplished farmer and intellectual with no shortage of resources or skills who squanders it all on meaningless titles and petty palace intrigue. The tragicomedy of Dwight is how badly he wants something that is utterly alien to his actual place in life, going as far to dumping the woman who he is clearly suited for in favor of the office romance that has never been more than ambivalent.
The Office is a parody about the perils of our social class. Nowhere does it assume that these structures are unchanging and inescapable - by contrast, it highlights what they look like at their unhealthiest, and shows the tragedy of the unexamined life. None of us aspires to be Jim and Pam, we pity Jim and Pam because they make the safe choices that leave them only slightly uncomfortable. I don't know that Michael Scott would have taught himself how to use chopsticks. Far more likely, Michael knows how to use chopsticks innately because he was babysat as a kid by a Hmong refugee who gave him a number of interesting traits and skills that he neither uses nor thinks about because they do not align with his chosen perception of the world. This would be delivered in half a sentence and then the subject would be changed because Michael doesn't find it interesting and neither should you.
The writers of The Office were better at it than the commentators of The Office. It says a lot of stuff in a lot of directions because as a team, they were self-performing a parody on normalcy. I think if all you get out of it is "we all become assholes when we examine things" you are, in fact, being Michael Scott.