I’m the Boss, Ha Ha

We continue to watch The West Wing, now a little past the half-way point in season one. We also continue to be aggravated by the portrayal of the lower level staff, particularly the women. Oh, wait, all the lower level staff are women.

One way that the show seems to attempt to diffuse this rather antiquated power structure (which feels bizarre for such a liberal show from the not too distant past) is to have bosses and underlings – chiefly staff and their secretaries – have hilarious, jokey relationships.

Thus, you have the President (world’s most powerful man) scolded by his secretary for being snippy, and he chuckles and takes the hit. Likewise, the surprisingly idiotic secretary of the deputy chief of staff constantly “gets the upper hand” on her boss, giving him cold coffee or making him wear a silly outfit. And he takes the hit, banters with her and so on.

Except that these interchanges serve to emphasise the power distance, it seems to me, rather than reduce it. These men-in-charge who banter with their underlings are so clearly letting the banter happen. The President chuckles when his secretary won’t let him have a banana at least in part because he is the President and her superior. We know this because the next moment one of the men will be saying something along the lines of…

“Get me a sandwich.” And off they go.

6 July 2010
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