28 Aug 2009 9:00 am   //   Filed under: Hard times, Movies

We need to talk about your flair

The other day at work I was coding an e-mail newsletter while listening to Dr. Dre and realized: I am pulling a total Michael Bolton.

Ten years ago, Mike Judge directed a movie set at a dot-com company in the generic American suburbs. It flopped in the theater. But time has been good to “Office Space.” It’s actually gotten funnier and even more devastating as the trends this movie dryly observed have become more widespread. For people of a certain age, this movie is as much a cultural touchstone as “Star Wars” and “Back to the Future.”

Gawker uses “The Bobs” as slang for “consultants.” The Wikipedia entry on TPS report includes half a dozen pop culture references. Web sites sell red Swinglines and Initech T-shirts. The “Pieces of Flair” Facebook app has 4 million users. Call “Office Space” a cult movie if you must, but it’s one heck of a big cult.

You could lump “Office Space” in with Dilbert and the two TV iterations “The Office.” But the themes of “Office Space” are even darker. It casts the world of work as fundamentally unjust. Initech isn’t just a bad workplace, it is an evil to be vanquished.

Since the economy blew a tire last year, I doubt a week has passed at my office when somebody hasn’t made reference to “Office Space.” I am not saying this to disparage my company. But work is full of baffling stuff, and jokes help make sense of it.

It’s OK to hate your fax machine. Didn’t you get that memo?