‘The Office’: Some Fans Think Michael Scott Almost Did Blackface

Fans of The Office know the show is no stranger to controversy. In the Season 9 episode “Dwight Christmas,” Dwight dresses up as an old German folklore character in order to help Dunder Mifflin celebrate a Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas. Dwight’s folklore sidekick, Black Peter, is Nate from the warehouse. Nate is in costume, complete with blackface when he gets a text from Dwight not to come.

The re-editing of this scene by Netflix comes in the wake of national protests for racial and social justice. Steve Carell, The Office’s own Michael Scott, even admits the show wouldn’t work in today’s climate.  

Did Michael Scott do blackface?

Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Steve Carell as Michael Scott | Chris Haston/NBC/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

But is that Christmas episode the only one with potential blackface? Debates in Reddit forums regarding the subject have raged for years. Many think that Carell’s character attempted blackface in the season seven episode “Costume Contest.”

The episode has Michael Scott (Steve Carell) dressed up as warehouse worker Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson). Reddit users argue that Scott’s neck clearly shows brown markings, and argue that he initially tried to use blackface to imitate Philbin’s skin color.

Others claim the mark on his neck is simply grease, a common smudge that might happen in a warehouse setting. While we may never know the true answer, it’s clear fans of the show never tire of talking about it.

‘The Office’: A popular, cringe-worthy show

RELATED: ‘The Office’: Jenna Fischer Explains Why Pam Beesly Stayed With Roy Anderson as Long as She Did

The Office premiered in 2005 and followed a “mockumentary” style. Based on the British show of the same name, the clever storylines, along with awkward and cringe-worthy moments, made it a success.    

According to Screen Rant, the show was almost canceled after its first season, but the success of Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin brought in viewers and increased the show’s popularity.  Carell’s portrayal of the tactless, yet endearing Michael Scott, along with a talented multi-faceted ensemble cast, meshed laughable moments with awkward, cringe-inducing scenes.

It ended after nine seasons but has found renewed popularity with another generation thanks to its run on Netflix. 

Why fans love ‘The Office’

It’s easy to see why fans loved the show so much. The office setting was relatable, along with the minutiae of the work. But the cast of characters, its script, and the show’s improv is what made it succeed.

While a Michael Scott type may not be your boss, you probably know someone like him. Desperate to fit in, cracking offensive and over-the-top jokes, he’s equally able to produce eye-rolls and laughs. Other familiar types include the funny prankster Jim Halpert or the rigid, uptight Angela Martin.

While the office has plenty of hilarious scenes and quotable quotes, it also includes sweet moments like falling in love and getting married (Jim and Pam), awkward relationships (Michael and Jan or Dwight and Angela), and the hilarity that ensues when you put a group of diverse people together.

Other controversies from ‘The Office’

The question surrounding blackface isn’t the first time the show’s come under fire. In one of the first episodes, titled “Diversity Day,” a routine training session gets out of hand. Michael wants everyone to guess which race is on the post-it note stuck to their forehead. Full of insensitivity and cultural stereotypes, it ruffled a lot of feathers.   

Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) explained that show creator Greg Daniels thought the idea of Michael Scott offending everyone was comic gold. He even made a point of putting Kaling in the scene since it would be even funnier if the training included minorities.

Love it or hate it, The Office carried on for nine seasons and now lives in TV syndication and Netflix streaming.