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How The Characters On ‘The Office’ Represent The Seven Deadly Sins

Updated October 11, 2019 59.1k views7 items

The American version of The Office aired for nine seasons on NBC between 2005 and 2013. During that time, the show earned a dedicated following thanks to its lovable characters and the way they faithfully represented what working in a dreary office is really like. Incidentally, those same characters can also be interpreted to represent a variety of other things, one of the most infamous being the seven deadly sins. 

The central cast of The Office is undoubtedly a sinful bunch, but a particular septet of supporting characters truly embodies the egregious and most infamous sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Their personalities, behaviors, and one-liners provide ample evidence of their connection to the very worst of humanity’s nature, making this one of the most compelling Office fan theories out there.

  • Photo: NBC

    "I love going to the bars with Bob. I wear a tend to wear something low cut, get men to flirt with me. And Bob beats them up."

    To say that Phyllis Vance thinks highly of herself would be an understatement. Phyllis clearly thinks she's better than the vast majority of her co-workers, and she’s not afraid to brag about it, either. Her list of accomplishments may seem meager to the outside observer, but that hasn’t stopped her from flaunting everything she’s got at every opportunity. Phyllis embodies the sin of pride because she doesn’t just enjoy looking down on others - she thrives on it. 

    Chief on Phyllis’s list of bragging points is her marriage to Bob Vance and the refrigerating empire that comes with it. While Phyllis displays a meek and unconfident exterior in the series’s earliest seasons, her passionate courtship with Bob unleashes a new arrogance she can barely contain. Gradually, she allows the smallest amount of power - like control of the Party-Planning Committee - to go to her head and starts exploiting every opportunity to tear down her co-workers.

    Phyllis is so full of herself that she doesn’t see any issue with essentially stealing Pam’s abandoned wedding plans for her own nuptials. She becomes upset when others are chosen for promotions or even to serve as the office Santa Claus - no matter the job, Phyllis always seems convinced she’s the best candidate. Phyllis can be an absolute sweetheart at times, but only when she’s not being challenged by those she deems her lessers. 

  • Photo: NBC

    "Maybe we weren't right together, but, it's weird. I'd rather she be alone than with somebody. Is that love?"

    In a show filled with salespeople, Ryan Howard is the only one that resembles Gordon Gekko of Wall Street fame. From the moment he joins the Dunder Mifflin staff as a temp in the first season, Ryan only seems to have one person’s interests in mind: his own. He's greedy with money, with love, and with anything else he can get his hands on. Ryan embodies the sin of greed because self-interest is his one and only motivator.

    Though Ryan starts out as a temp with little agency to speak of, he becomes more assertive when he joins the sales team, allowing his true nature to emerge. Seemingly addicted to power - and potentially some other stuff, too - Ryan begins to climb any corporate ladder he can, running the gamut from Dunder Mifflin manager to CEO of his own company, On his way up, he steps on every necessary head, and his inevitable fall from grace does anything but humble him. 

    Nowhere is Ryan’s greed more apparent than in his relationship with co-worker Kelly. Throughout their series-spanning romance, Ryan is emotionally manipulative and controlling, using Kelly for whatever he needs and frequently refusing to return even the slightest affection. Ryan’s antics may seem funny in the context of a comedy series, but in reality he’s practically a monster, one driven by greed.

  • Photo: NBC

    "Like my mom always says: talk classy, act nasty."

    Shame is an unfamiliar sensation for Meredith Palmer. In the end, there’s really nothing wrong with Meredith’s unbridled sexuality, except for her apparent inability to respect the boundaries of her co-workers when discussing it. She likes to get down, isn’t picky about who her partners are, and is never afraid to put herself out there. Meredith embodies the sin of lust because she appears to feel it all the time - and she isn’t shy about sharing.

    Meredith’s love of drinking and her habit of sleeping around are frequently played for laughs in The Office, but she doesn’t seem to care. Half of the time, she’s providing the punchlines herself by describing her unconventional dalliances in painful detail, despite the vocal disinterest of her workmates. She also isn’t averse to a little inter-office romance, having made moves on most of the male cast members at various points throughout the series.

    If Meredith’s own retelling of her adventures is to be believed, she has a lengthy history of appearing in amateur adult films - in fact, she seems to treat it like a hobby. If that doesn’t qualify Meredith as lustful, there’s also the time she slept with Creed - easily the sketchiest Dunder Mifflin employee.

  • Photo: NBC

    "My [New Year’s] resolution was to get more attention."

    Kelly Kapoor isn’t comfortable with the spotlight being on anyone besides herself. She constantly acts out to attract the attention of her workmates, especially that of her romantic partner, Ryan. In fact, the relationship between Kelly and Ryan is largely defined by her jealousy and his apathy. Kelly embodies the sin of envy because she cares deeply - and almost exclusively - about comparing herself to others, badly damaging her self-esteem in the process.

    Kelly doesn’t just feel jealously, she acts upon it. She doesn't hesitate to give other women in the office, like Pam, intentionally bad advice about their appearance so she can move up in the "cuteness rankings." Though she’s well-liked by her co-workers, Kelly never seems to be happy with what she has, always casting her eye to others, perpetually judging them, and judging herself against them.

    No moment better illustrates Kelly’s inherent enviousness than the time she wears white to Phyllis's wedding. Instead of being glad for the happy couple, Kelly can only focus on her own inability to achieve true love, thus commiting the ultimate wedding faux pas to put herself at the center of attention once again. Envy is a consistent theme in Kelly's story from the first season to the last, so it’s no surprise that, at the series's close, she can neither settle down with a perfect partner nor move on from Ryan's toxic love.