Transmedia Storytelling: The Office and Subtle Sexuality

The American version of The Office, an NBC comedy, drew a large following over the course of seven years.  In terms of transmedia storytelling, The Office is a perfect example of expansion of a story through the use of webisodes.  Transmedia, as described by Henry Jenkins in his article is “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels.” (Jenkins)  In terms of The Office, characters of the show were able to show audiences a more in-depth insight into their personalities within the webisodes.

The Office had a number of webisode series: The Accountants, Kevin’s Loan, The Outburst, Blackmail, Subtle Sexuality, The Mentor, The 3rd Floor, The Podcast and The Girl Next Door.

“Transmedia storytelling practices expand the potential market for a property.” (Jenkins)  The market for The Office was expanded from television to the web, giving devoted fans a chance to learn more about their favorite characters or see lesser known characters in another light.  Urging the audience to move from television to webisodes was done by means of something described as a migratory cue—something that directs an audience from one form of media to another.  During the 6th season of The Office, the characters of Kelly Kapoor and Erin Hannon started a girl group called ‘Subtle Sexuality.’  Their first music video ‘Male Prima Donna’ was briefly mentioned in an episode and then an advertisement ran, suggesting audiences go online to catch the music video.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/11018654″>Subtle Sexuality – Male Prima Donna (Music Video)</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3619339″>happy_system</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Henry Jenkins touches on world-building, which The Office has done incredibly.  The term world-building refers to “complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories.” (Jenkins)  While Dunder Mifflin exists in a world that is extremely familiar to American audiences—a neutrally colored office setting in a decent sized town where blue collar warehouse workers and white collar office employees work together; nothing too outrageous for audiences to relate to or comprehend. Take a regular town with nothing ridiculously exciting, focus on characters that emulate ‘that guy’ at your job and you have an insanely relatable sitcom.  Fans have come to know the layout of the office, the popular after-work bars where the ‘Dundies’ are held and other local businesses in the area. The Office doesn’t create an unrelateable fantasy world, but rather a relatable one.  One where fans can now take Office tours of Scranton, PA.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 9.07.24 AM

Migratory cues can lead audiences to another platform of the same story, in this case, multiple webisode stories.  These webisodes demonstrate the “ability to keep in mind multiple alternate versions of the same fictional world.” (Murray 40)  Audiences are exposed to more than just the main storyline of the television show, with the ability to explore further into subplots.  The webisodes are supplemental, adding to the fictional world of Dunder Mifflin and its employees; but never detracting from the main television series, meaning that audiences won’t miss anything if they don’t watch the webisodes.

Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an AcaFan. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2014.

Murray, Janet Horowitz. “Harbingers of the Holodeck.” Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free, 1997. 27-64. Print.

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One comment on “Transmedia Storytelling: The Office and Subtle Sexuality

  1. The post does a great job incorporating links into the text, which describes the content of the link to the reader; however, the Jenkins link might be improved by using the actual title of the text to distinguish it from his other works. The post does a good job applying terms like migratory cues to specific examples, which will allow the reader to better understand these terms. The placement of videos and images in the text helps illustrate your concepts to the audience and provides them a gateway to learn more about the topic; just be sure to clean up code embedded in the text of the blog post. There is an opportunity in the text to address hypertext fiction, especially in the last paragraph when describing how the webisodes may add to a reader’s knowledge of the show but aren’t necessary. Ending on a sentence or two that capture your main ideas would leave the reader with a better sense of what you want them to take away from the post.

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