Opinion: How we went from ‘The Office’ to ‘Severance’
The critically acclaimed Apple TV+ sci-fi thriller, renewed for a second season, revolves around Adam Scott’s character, Mark, who underwent a procedure called “separation” at his company, Lumon Industries. His brain has been altered with an implant that renders him unable to remember what happens during the workday, halving him into what the characters call an “innie” office worker and an “outie” à la home.
In one of the show’s scariest scenes, Helly (Britt Lower), the estranged new recruit who has repeatedly tried to leave – including threatening to cut his fingers with a letter opener – watches a video of her “outie” telling she has no right to stop.
“I’m a person. You’re not,” Outie Helly told him. Bizarre intra-company illustrations appear, depicting what appears to be one department trying to eat another. And the company’s “break room” is a darkly comedic play on the term, with employees sent there for long, torturous confessional sessions. Of course, all of that is forgotten once the laid-off workers leave the building.
Could “Severance” creator Dan Erickson really have had his finger so firmly on the pulse of America’s post-pandemic workplace?
Pop culture, always a mirror of our real lives, reflected this growing darkness.
Traditionally, on American television, the workplace was a safe space. In both sitcoms and dramas, the job was to build a life, make lifelong friends, and even fall in love. Even in its most dysfunctional form, the television workplace was, until recently, a reflection and amplification of the American dream. The work had a purpose; people were elected family.