Office Slaves to Yuppie Scum

A List of Cubicle Comedies & Workplace Satires

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Manhattan Sharks continues a tradition of (often satirical) business novels and office fiction.  Here's a list of such books, and films, in no particular order...

Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe

The ultimate satire of 1980s New York excess. The darkly hilarious downfall of a Wall Street bond trader, a self-proclaimed "Master of the Universe." A huge bestseller, and rightly so.

Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney

A 1980s literary classic, tracing the drug-induced downfall of an aspiring yuppie. He's well educated, but entry level, so he hasn't far to fall. Told entirely in the second person, yet it works.

Clockwatchers, directed by Jill Sprecher

A cubicle comedy set in the 1990s, among pink collar workers with more modest goals than 1980s' yuppies. A film about office temps whose big dream is to become permanent. Parker Posey and Lisa Kudrow -- what more can you ask?

The Office, BBC TV

Britcom about the dreary lives of office workers. Not really a sitcom, but a very dark, black comedy.

Best of Temp Slave, edited by Jeff Kelly

Satire, cartoons, artwork, and true stories from the world of office temping. Read the review in the Weekly Universe.

Wall Street, directed by Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone's dark tale of insider trading by Wall Street's elite. Featuring Gordon Gekko's (played by Michael Douglas) memorable line: "Greed is good."

Boiler Room, directed by Ben Younger

A dark tale of insider trading (of non-existent companies) by Wall Street's rejects, in their offices located on Long Island. Film pays homage to Wall Street, as when the characters watch it on TV.

The Virtual Boss, by Floyd Kemske

Floyd Kemske calls his novels "corporate nightmares." Here, an office is run by a computer AI program that adapts to, and exploits, every employee's weakness. Imagine HAL 9000 running an office.

Lifetime Employment, by Floyd Kemske

Another of Kemske's black comedy "corporate nightmares." Due to this company's paternalistic policy of "lifetime employment," the only way to open up a spot for promotion is to murder your superior. Office politics, Mafiosi style. A surreal Darwinian climb up the corporate ladder.

The Last Days of Disco, directed by Whit Stillman

It's early 1980s, and these aspiring yuppies don't realize that disco is already dead. In this film, we meet the same "Ivy League educated, yet entry job level" social strata as Bright Lights, Big City. A thoughtful film that grows on you with repeated viewing. Fans of Stillman's films (Metropolitan, Barcelona) may enjoy reading Doomed Bourgeois in Love, a collection of essays about Stillman, edited by Mark C. Henrie.

Fight Club, directed by David Fincher

A yuppie rebels against corporate dehumanization and emasculation through a fight club. A place for society's male losers (clerks, wage slaves, unemployed) to gather for the joy of fighting, to reconnect with their authentic, primal masculinity. After they reject consumerism, lose fear of pain, and stop caring what polite society thinks, they widen their agenda ...

The Dilbert Principle, by Scott Adams

Wall Street and Bonfire of the Vanities examine high-powered yuppies and Masters of the Universe. Winners who were the 1980s' role models for the losers in Bright Lights, Big City, Manhattan Sharks, Boiler Room, and The Last Days of Disco.

By the downsized 1990s, losers had no such illusions.  The office workers in Clockwatchers, Temp Slave, and The Virtual Boss had more modest goals -- best epitomized by Dilbert.

Office Space, directed by Mike Judge

This satire by Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead) lacks the subtlety, incisiveness, or poignancy of Clockwatchers, but it has its moments. Commendable understated performances and wry insights.

Company Man, by Brent Wade

Corporate stress from a black perspective. A buppie (black upwardly mobile professional) tries to conform to white colleagues, while also feeling pressure from blacks who think he's "acting white."

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, by Sloan Wilson

Arguably the father of the modern "corporate slave" genre. Its "men in gray flannel suits" and "corporate men" were to the 1950s what yuppies became to the 1980s.

Executive Suite, by Cameron Hawley

Classic 1950s novel -- basis for a 1954 film and short-lived 1976 TV series -- about power struggle in a corporate boardroom.
 

Kings of Infinite Space, by James Hynes

A literature professors falls from grace and is forced to work in a cubicle. Then he discovers that some of his co-workers employ zombies to do their work (the perfect office drone), and he is invited to join in their 'devil's bargain.'

Working for the Man: Stories From Behind the Cubicle Wall, by Jeffrey Yamaguchi

Humorous true-life vignettes in cubicles. Similar to Temp Slave.

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