Why The Office’s Dwight Schrute is Our Favourite Fool

Pop Culture

Why The Office’s Dwight Schrute is Our Favourite Fool

Illustration: Arati Gujar

“Nostalgia is truly one of the great human weaknesses, second only to the neck.”
~ Dwight Schrute

I discovered Dwight Schrute, the highest-ranking salesman of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company’s Scranton branch in Greg Daniels’ The Office at a time when I didn’t have much exposure to American sitcoms. Adapted from the eponymous British sitcom, the show’s reputation has managed to transcend the distractions of Netflix’s breathless offerings, lending it a cult following that it enjoys even today. The crowd favourites are almost always the romantic flawlessness of Jim and Pam or the idiosyncrasies of Michael Scott. But for me, Rainn Wilson’s provocative portrayal of dorky megalomaniac, Dwight Kurt Schrute III remains the most sharp-witted portrayal of a socially awkward anti-hero that I’ve seen.

Dwight’s dorky glasses, mustard yellow shirt and borderline sociopathic personality traits — he hides weapons in the office and owns a wig to imitate each of his coworkers — only bolstered the The Office’s enduring popularity. As a Reddit thread points out, “Even though Michael found love and acceptance with Holly, he had to leave the people of Dunder Mifflin and the job he loved so much. Jim married his soulmate and even landed his dream job eventually. But he had to leave the job that he had grown so fond of. While Dwight never had to compromise for what he wanted.” Imagining The Office without Dwight is near impossible: If Michael was the evil, albeit bumbling scientist who conjured up wildly amusing experiments, Dwight was his loyal, almost equally bumbling sidekick without whom none of those experiments would ever see the light of day.

A polar opposite of Michael’s tryhard cool boss, Dwight’s intense respect for authority and paranoia over being viewed as an alpha male make him the show’s most intense entity. Growing up on his family’s beet farm, he has limited social skills apart from beets, bears, and Battlestar Galactica. Passionate about martial arts and hunting, he is inherently naive and ends up being the victim of many of Jim’s pranks.

While he maintains that Pam married his “worst enemy”, Pam and Dwight remain an endearing example of #BFFGoals.

In many ways, Dwight before the show’s third season, is a lot like the disgruntled PT Sirs of our childhood: stern and rigid to the point where they become caricatures of themselves. Which is why even Dwight’s love life suffers the brunt of his stubborn nature. After all, how does one wander the treacherous and emotional routes of romance when he’s spent the majority of his life around farm animals rather than actual humans?

And yet he begins to learn and unlearn his own emotional capability when he begins a tumultuous affair with a coworker, Angela Martin, that was followed by his subsequent feud with office tool, Andy Bernard and an eventual camaraderie. It’s this strange love triangle that exposes a softer side to his personality. In fact, the Jim-Pam-Dwight dynamic is also crucial in revealing the most vulnerable aspect of Dwight’s personality: Despite all the bravado, all he really craves is acceptance and love. Through the nine seasons of the show, while he maintains that Pam married his “worst enemy”, Pam and Dwight remain an endearing example of #BFFGoals.

In a scene where Pam is weeping over her unrequited feelings for Jim, Dwight instinctively adopts a tone akin to a protective elder brother asking, “Who did this to you? Where is he?”, which is telling of the empathy that Dwight is capable of. In another, he deliberately lets Pam believe she’s saved the building from his atrocities. The wry smile that comes over Dwight’s face as he watches Jim and Pam embrace happily is further proof that he probably understood Pam’s deep-seated insecurities over her career even better than Jim at times.

It’s also worth noting that Dwight has one of the most compelling backstories of any character on the show. And if they’ve done spinoffs for Carrie Bradshaw and Sheldon Cooper, imagine the possibilities of a spinoff on “Young Dwight Schrute”. Who wouldn’t want to witness the birth of Mrs Schrute’s 13.5-pound baby boy who rendered his mother incapable of walking for three months or following adolescent Dwight and cousin Mose raise hell on Schrute farms?

Fourteen years since the first episode of The Office aired, Michael Scott’s catchphrases are now part of the pop culture lexicon and Jim and Pam gave us all kinds of #CoupleGoals. Meanwhile, all Dwight trained his gaze on was rising from Assistant to the Regional Manager to Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, a goal he accomplishes in the show’s last season. And yet he stands out. For it’s his growth as an individual, from the pilot to the finale that makes Dwight Kurt Schrute the most lovable anti-hero of our generation.