Dwight Schrute (The Office) and Autism
Dwight: “Wait, is this a joke? I’m getting that queasy feeling that sometimes accompanies jokes.”
Michael: “Do I look like I am joking?”
Dwight: “No, but that’s sometimes part of it.”
(Season 5, Episode 6: Customer Survey)
It’s about time for a blog post on one of the great loves of my life. No, I’m not talking about J, as I’m sure you, and he, will be relieved to hear. Instead, this blog post is an ode to a TV show that has kept me going through my darkest times and whose characters have grown to provide the warm familiarity of friendship when I don’t want the company of others.
‘The Office’ (US version, despite my being British) holds a special place in my heart. Its characters are flawed and idiosyncratic and loveable and I return to them again and again in the knowledge that they will always make me laugh. Of course, being autistic, I return to them again and again in precise chronological order, missing no episode out, appreciating the comfort of predictability as well as all the joys the show brought me the first time around.
Here's a selection of Dwight best quotes - obviously *spoiler alert*!
Really, what I’d like to write about today is about autism in ‘The Office’. It’s never mentioned by name, but if you’re reading this and you’re an avid fan like I am, you’re may already know where I’m going with this.
One of my favourite characters in the show is Dwight Schrute. Dwight is one of those ‘obvious’ favourite characters – the ones that everyone loves so much that you risk overlooking if someone asks who your favourite is. I think that’s because he is so synonymous with the show and so integral to its appeal that after the first few episodes, you take him for granted. But Dwight holds a special appeal for me. He is dedicated, fastidious, and eccentric, and sometimes considered by fans, including myself, to be autistic.
Dwight’s logical processing of social situations, his desire to know and obey rules, and the level of detail that he applies to activities that appear inconsequential to everyone else, as well as the other many examples I could give, make me confident in the assumption of his autism
Aside from the quote up top, here are a few brilliant moments from Dwight which I feel speak to his autieness:
Dwight: “As a volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy I’ve been doing surveillance for years. One time I suspected an ex-girlfriend of mine of cheating on me, so I tailed her for six nights straight. Turns out… she was. With a couple of guys actually, so… mystery solved.”
(Season 2, Episode 13: The Secret)
Dwight:“I did not become a Lackawanna County volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy to make friends. And by the way, I haven’t.”
(Season 2, Episode 20: Drug Testing)
Jim: “It reminds me of those lists Dwight used to make.”
Dwight: “This is if we were all on a cruise ship and had to divide into lifeboats. This is if we were on a cruise ship and had to divide into life rafts. Here’s something. Who would eat who in an ‘Alive’ situation.”
(Season 8, Episode 1: The List)
(Of course, you really need to watch Rainn Wilson’s delivery of these lines to fully appreciate them in all their glory.)
Dwight is often misunderstood by his colleagues. We laugh at his eccentricities. But we love him for who he is. And, once they get to know him, so do the other characters in ‘The Office’. Some people argue that Jim (and sometimes Pam) take their practical jokes too far and are mean to Dwight. I’m not the best person to comment on this because I hate practical jokes and think they’re all mean. But whatever your opinion on the practical jokes, it’s certainly true that, over time, Jim and Dwight develop a friendship and truly care for each other. It seems to me more of a brotherly relationship most of the time – they drive each other crazy but ultimately are very close.
I love Dwight’s portrayal in the Office, not just because he’s hilarious but also because he is loved for who he is. I recognise parts of myself in him and it’s fun to see some of my own quirks played out on TV. He is generally, whether due to confidence or obliviousness, happy to be himself and doesn’t bend to social norms. And he reminds me to do the same.
P.S. Michael Scott is also quite clearly, to me anyway, neurodivergent. But that’s a post for another day.