Psychoanalyzing Michael Scott: A Christmas Carol

Psychoanalyzing The Office’s (US) own Michael Scott within the context of the entire show could take years of professional work. Michael is such a psychologically damaged character that his time on the television program The Office could prove to be an interesting case study for anyone brave enough to plunge into the depths of his psyche. While I am not currently the one to explore the farthest reaches of Michael Scott’s mind, I would like to pick apart a moment in Michael Scott’s history.


The scene I intend to discuss comes from season 3 episode 10, A Benihana Christmas. For context, Michael has a girlfriend named Carol who has two children from a failed marriage and he is very excited to invite her to an all inclusive trip to a resort in Jamaica over Christmas. Carol has appeared a few times in the show and has never seemed particularly happy to be with Michael.


In the scene, Carol comes into the office clearly upset and demands that Michael see her in his office. She pulls out a Christmas card and demands that Michael explain it. It is a picture of Michael, Carol, and her two children on a ski trip, but we learn that Michael had actually photoshopped his own face onto that of Carol’s ex husband. Carol attempts to explain why such a thing is not okay but Michael can’t seem to understand the problem so Carol promptly breaks up with him. As a response, Michael takes the opportunity to invite Carol to the resort in Jamaica. Carol, of course, responds by leaving and Michael spirals into a deep depression.


The children in the card are roughly between the ages of nine and twelve. Divorce is an extremely stressful event for everyone inside the circle of a family, especially children. Children must cope with the fact that their parents no longer love each other, understand that they will have to divide all of their time and energy between two households, and that they will have to see their parents in separate settings for the rest of their lives. It can make kids angry and scared and upset, having lasting consequences for years.


Children are predisposed to dislike step parents, especially ones who were brought into their lives soon after their original parents divorced. These new entities are like parodies of their original parents. To a child stepfather is like an imposter father, a man brought in to replace the original father. The stepfather typically parents differently and acts differently toward the child, making the child harbor resentment already. If this parody father were to do anything to prove to the child that he were in any way bad, the child would only allow it to build up his or her own dislike.


It is the responsibility of the parents to take care of their children and to advocate for them. During and after a divorce, it is important that a parent make sure that his or her child is okay mentally and emotionally, especially if the parent is choosing to date again, as bringing in a step parent can become a new stress for the child. In Carol’s family circle, Michael would be acting as potential stepfather.


The fact that Michael sees no initial problem with putting his own face over the children’s biological father in the first place is key to his personality. To Michael, nothing he does is wrong. Carol has only been divorced for one year by this point in the show and her children have not even moved out of adolescence and yet he has decided it is okay for him to take their father out of picture and memory and put himself in their father’s place. When Carol attempts to point out how weird it is that he might do such a thing, he explains it away by saying that he was “in her heart and next to her kids.” Michael is so invested in the idea of being the father of her children that he sees nothing wrong with cutting their actual father out completely.


By the time Carol has realized that she needs to break up with Michael, he extends the invitation to the resort to her, which reveals to us another point of Michael’s psychology. He doesn’t realize that Carol can’t go to a Jamaican resort over Christmas because she has two children. She is simply advocating for her own children’s needs, ridding herself of a man who cannot respect her family’s boundaries as he continues to disrespect them.


This scene reveals to us that Michael is a rather self involved individual who feels that all of his ideas are brilliant. He lives without responsibility and without consequence so he automatically assumes that everyone around him lives without responsibility and consequence, even when it should be clear to him that this is not true. Michael is not bound by children so he does not see Carol’s children as binding or even important. He sees no fault in assuming the role of their father, or in inviting their mother to a resort which is not child friendly over Christmas vacation.

After Carol has had enough and chosen to break up with Michael, he has a breakdown in his place of work. He cries at reception, listens to sad songs at full volume, and even uses a company credit card to go to lunch so he can cheer himself up, all while trying to convince various women to go to the resort with him because to Michael Scott all that really matters is that he can make sure his plans don’t fall through.

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