Who is the Biggest Asshole on THE OFFICE (US)?
Every night before I go to sleep I turn Netflix on my computer and start an episode of The Office (US version). Being mostly dialogue without a lot of music cues it’s the perfect thing to fall asleep to. I also have been using the Office as a kind of experiment. I am always curious at the exact moment a person falls from consciousness to unconsciousness. Due to knowing the episodes backwards and forwards I use it to pinpoint the exact moment I feel asleep by what the last moment of the episode I remember is. Needless to say the Office is stuck in my brain
In my many rewatchings of the show I have come to one interesting conclusion. The character of Phyllis Lapin-Vance is a real asshole. Not only that she such a jerk at times she is the biggest asshole amongst all of the characters on the show.
Before I get into why Phyllis is such a jerk I want to point out that I like Phyllis as a character. Everyone of the characters that make up the background of the office pace of Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s offices has had their own nice arcs as the series progressed. Phyllis starting with a little meek personality but always having fun energy leading to her marriage with Bob Vance to become a stable couple with a healthy sex life has always been fun coloring for the show as well as her back and forth with Angela and Stanley. I also have nothing personally against Phyllis Smith the former casting director turned actress that plays her. I also want to point out why other characters are not ahead of her in the asshole race.
First lets start with the absolute crazy assholes. These are the people who are borderline psychopaths, completely removed from reality, and just overall bonkers. Jan Levinson is this. Robert California is this. Nellie Bertram is this. Deangelo Vickers is this. I would argue that Creed and Meredith also fall in this category but they aren’t really assholes to anyone – they’re just nuts. When there is a level of crazy added it becomes hard to separate any action away from this notion. The fact that they are crazy is there excuse. It is not a good excuse but it explains behavior. Assholes want to purposefully cause harm. A crazy person will cause harm but they will have different motivations behind the action.
Then there are naïve assholes. Michael Scott is this. Roy Anderson is this. When they do something assholish they are not trying to be an asshole and are just perceived as such or are acting from a place of emotion. In both Roy and Michael’s cases they are both too – for a lack of a better word – dumb to realize what they are doing. They literally cannot perceive it.
There are blind assholes. Andy Bernard is this. Todd Packer is this. Ryan Howard is this. Kelly Kapoor is this. Dwight Schrute is this. Blind assholes don’t are blind to the fact that the external world around them is not the way they perceive this. Because of this they behave in a way that seems irrational and at times assholish. However there are few times when they actually mean to cause harm, and that is key here. When Dwight slashes benefits to the health plan in “Health Care” (season 1 episode 3) he is not doing it to anger or annoy his co-workers. He is doing it because in his mind the company is the most important thing and this services the company.
You can (very easily) make the case that Todd Paker is the worst from this bunch he has poisoned people, sexually harassed women, and has DUI. However Todd (who also jumps the fence with the crazy side) is not a real person. He is a heightened reality of that jerky guy who makes weird sexually offensive jokes at you job. Because of his cartoonish behavior it is hard to examine him as a true asshole. It’s like you are trying to say who is more of a villain Hannibal Lecter of Ernest Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld is a cartoon Lecter is a person which makes Lecter all the more scary, dark, and a true overall cannibalistic dick.
Finally we reach the final tier of assholes. These are intelligent people who act like dicks and are fully aware of what they are doing to a somewhat sociopathic level when comes to certain people. Jim Halpert is this. Pam Beesly-Halpert is this. Angela Martin is this. Clark Green is this. Charles Minor is this. Cathy Simms is this. Josh Porter is this. Most importantly Phyllis Lapin-Vance is this. Jim is never trying to hurt Dwight’s feelings; he is doing it to balance out the fact that Dwight (coming from a place of blind assholery). He is also doing it to service his need to ignore the job he feels is beneath him, but we don’t need to deeply examine Jim right now. But all of this is very important as to why Phyllis is just like awful.
The main reasons she is the biggest asshole is because Phyllis is an intellectual person who knows what he words mean. When she opens her mouth and says something condescending she means to hurt someone’s feelings. When she blackmails Angela and takes control of the Party Planning Committee she is doing it not only to rise to a position of power but because it also feels good to see Angela suffer. This is seen in full effect in the “Moroccan Christmas” (Season 5 Episode 11) when she embarrasses and constantly orders Angela around with dictatorship like rule.
When Pam comes back to work as a salesman at Dunder Mifflin having had defected to The Michael Scott Paper Company in “Casual Friday” (Season 5 Episode 26) she and Phyllis are seen in a confrontation which Phyllis belittles Pam for trying to steal clients while they were competitions. Watch the interaction again, Phyllis takes aim and pulls the trigger to make Pam feel shame, regret, and uncomfortable.
In “New Leads” (Season 6 Episode 20) she refers to Michael as “numb nuts” clearly showing a complete disrespect for him. While the characters in the office show Michael little respect they are never this much of an asshole to him to his face. The gall of a person to actually do this.
I could go on and on relaying why Phyllis is an asshole but rewatch the series, you’ll see it. They may be offhanded jokes and they may happen in the background, but most of her actions are just total dick moves. So, who is the biggest asshole on The Office? Answer: Phyllis.