Heroes #2: Peter Gibbons

28th June 2005

All too often, Hollywood heroes are from another world entirely. Sure, John McClane is the business, and if your large corporate tower is ever taken over by terrorists led by a bearded German, he's pretty much the only man for the job, but he sure as shit ain't from my neck of the woods. Hollywood needs more heroes like Peter Gibbons. Who is this mysterious figure? A lightning-fast ninja from an ancient Japanese order? A wisecracking urban cop who shoots first and asks questions later? A strangely muscular scientist with an important and revelatory theory that might just stop the end of the world? None of the above. Peter Gibbons is just a man, but a man who stopped caring about the pointless bullshit of office life, a man who rose up against his oppressors, a man who fought hard to follow his dream: to sit on his ass all day and do absolutely nothing.

The phrase 'cult favourite' was invented for movies like Mike Judge's Office Space. The creator of Beavis and Butthead wanted to distance himself from the moronic pair (uhhh hur hur... you said pair) and instead resurrected one of his old Saturday Night Live skits called Office Space. Chronicling in painful detail the depressing familiarity of office life, it told the story of one Peter Gibbons, a cubicle slave who's life is made worse by his total lack of motivation and a nonsensical printer that didn't know the meaning of the words 'Paper Jam'. The company was Initech - a soulless, faceless corporation, run by the oily Bill Lumbergh, a man whose drudging tones were so boring they could make an aeroplane fall out of the sky. When Peter's girlfriend suggests they go to a hypnotherapist to inject some sparkle back into their relationship, Peter opens the floodgates ("ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it") but before the good doctor can finish his relaxation mantra, he drops dead, leaving our office monkey in a permanent state of contentment. His new philosophy? "I don't like my job, and I don't think I'm going to go anymore." Now that's something we can all relate to.

We've all been where Peter Gibbons has been; the unmatched feeling of dread arriving at work on Monday, walking down the same corridor, seeing the same grey faces, sitting down at your cereal box-sized cubicle (the walls of which close in more and more every day), the cursory glance at the watch, which, to your utter disgust, tells you it's only 9:15 in the morning. It's a much more terrifying prospect than squaring up to Eastern European terrorists, that's for sure. This is why Peter Gibbons is a hero for the common man. Prior to his life-changing hypnotism, Peter was the same as the rest of us - raging quietly at the monotony of office policies, the needless paperwork and the flat, lifeless puppet people he shares his floor space with. Post hypnotherapy, Gibbons is a changed man - characterised by super long lie-ins, flagrant abuse of the dress code and outright refusal to do any work. The management consultants brought in by Initech to sort the wheat from the chaff are dumbfounded and mistake Peter's workplace apathy for straight-shooting brilliance, so promptly recommend him for upper-management. Sod those 'how to get ahead at work' self-help pamphlets: true success can only be reached by kicking down your cubicle partition, gutting freshly-caught fish on your desk and installing Tetris on your work computer.

"But hey!" I hear you cry. "I sit on my ass all day at work, don't do one iota of work and flip off my boss when his back is turned. Why aren't you featuring me on your site?" Because you didn't go the extra mile like Peter did, friend. Simply not caring about your job is not enough, oh no. If you want total satisfaction, you've got to give your company the royal screw job. Together with his equally despondent friends Michael Bolton (no relation) and Samir Nagheenanajar ("no one in this country can ever pronounce my name right"), they hatch a plan to shave the fractions of pennies off the company accounts straight into their own, giving them a nice little nest egg to squat upon. Years and years of Initech banality must have blunted their key hacking skills, because, inevitably, they balls it up and end up with ten times the money they wanted. Only the pyromaniac tendencies of softly spoken office drone Milton saved them from a hefty sentence in a federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison, but then, Peter wouldn't have been a hero if he had pulled it off. He'd have been a rich guy with a lot of time to kill, and no one respects them - just ask Neil Hamilton.

With Initech no more than a few smouldering lumps of rock, a rejuvenated Peter decides to work as a construction worker with his porn-tached neighbour Lawrence, free of the confines of the office environment and away from the lumbering requests of his semi-mongoloid boss - after all, what could be finer than working out in the sun, with not a TPS report or Swingline stapler in sight? Peter Gibbons' story is one we should all heed, a true hero in a world full of yes-men and lowlife schmucks. Hollywood needs to radically rethink its heroes. No one cares if John McClane caps a few more terrorist asses - what the world really needs is Bruce Willis unsuccessfully requesting his cubicle workmate turn his radio down, while rallying against the discontinuation of Hawaiian shirt day. Gosh Bruce, didn't you get the memo?

More:  Heroes  Office Space
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