Lately I've been watching a lot of episodes of The Office and overall I find it to be a fairly comical television show. While I love to follow the office romance between two of the characters, Jim and Pam (who are in season two something equivalent to star-crossed lovers), I cannot help but be slightly disturbed by the portrayal of the token Latino, Oscar Martinez. Oscar is not one of the "main" characters and as this show is somewhat of a sitcom or situation comedy show there is no real story line, only small details cross over between episodes, but there are several facts that the audience can hold on to in understanding the characters background.
What the audience knows about Oscar is that he comes from an immigrant background, he is Mexican, and a closeted homosexual. Everyone knows he's Mexican because that is one part of his identity that everyone associated him with. This is no different for the other ethnically diverse characters, such as Kelly Kappor the "Indian" or Stanley Hudson the residential "black man." His sexual orientation on the other hand is a secret to all but the audience. This is evident in the Valentine's day episode his lover sends him a gift and when the office asks who it is from he says "my mother." Prior to this one of his co-workers had gone to his home to confirm he had a valid reason for calling into work sick and saw him with his lover (but was oblivious to the situation) and promised not to tell the boss that he had lied. For the duration of the episode he and his lover exchanged loving looks and caresses when the nosey co-worker had his back turned. As Michael Scott, the boss, makes it known he likes to make fun of different ethnicities or sexualities in the name of equality characters who this type of harassment pertains to are forced to brush it off and take Michael's ignorance as part of his character. While this may be true it is not right.
I am not disturbed at the fact that Oscar is portrayed in very real situations, such as coming from an immigrant background or wanting to keep aspects of your identity private. In fact I think that this show does a good job at presenting their characters in an authentic way. For example, the writers could have put Oscar in the warehouse doing some sort of manual labor they chose not to. What I do not appreciate is that this is all seen as comical or something that can and is to be made fun of. I feel that serious topics are in this show not satirized but help perpetuate particular ideologies about how certain individuals should act. I understand that this show is meant to entertain, and as I've said I find it entertaining myself, but this is putting aside all of the things that I see wrong with the way the characters are constructed to interact and identify themselves.