What is Stanley’s motto in The Office? The best way to understand Stanley Hudson’s motto is to understand Michael Scott’s motto – because it’s the exact opposite.
“I’m sick of the little disapproving head shakes. If you think that’s going to have any effect on me, it will not,” an exasperated Michael says to his employees.
Anyone who knows Michael Scott knows this is just a front. In reality, his employees’ disapproval of his love life does have an effect on him – especially as evidenced by his current disgruntlement.
Enter Stanley Hudson
If Michael’s general insecurity wasn’t abundantly clear already, the writers emphasized it even more by creating perhaps the most self-assured character known to man: Stanley Hudson.
Whether he’s doing crossword puzzles during meetings or grumpily avoiding conversations with coworkers, Stanley cares less about what people think of him than a dog relieving itself in public.
In literature and comedy, this juxtaposition is known as a “foil.” In other words, the character with traits that contrast with the main character is called the “foil.”
When most people think of Stanley, they probably think about Pretzel Day or Stanley Nickels, but aside from these humorous anecdotes, Stanley probably drives them crazy. From cheating on his wife, to cheating on his mistress, to generally being rude to his coworkers, most Office fans are probably wondering why they have to watch such disdainful behavior that, frankly, hits a little too close to home.
Well, I’ll tell you why: The “foil” is one of the most brilliant comedic devices – when the audience recognizes it as such. They might not know the terminology, but when they see the stark difference between two characters within the context of a scene, audience members are typically quite tickled.
Stanley’s Motto in The Office
One scene that is darkly comedic but illustrates the use of the “foil” is the scene referenced earlier where Michael confronts his employees about their judgmental attitude.
After Michael’s big speech, Stanley says, “Oh, Michael, will you drop it? Everybody’s spoken their mind, and no one’s changing their mind.”
At first, you might think, what a hypocrite! Stanley is involved in an affair himself.
I thought that, too, but upon further inspection I realized that he isn’t chastising Michael for the affair itself but for complaining about people’s judgement. He’s saying that if you’re going to do bad things, you need to stop caring what people think.
And therein lies his motto.
Put simply, Stanley’s motto is, “Don’t care what people think.” In contrast, Michael’s motto is, “What people think of you is the most important thing in the world.”
Both mottos are too extreme to be practical, so they’re comedic in themselves. When juxtaposed, they become even more so.
A Purposeful Character
While Stanley may be infuriating to watch, his purpose is clear. In relation to Michael (and often to Dwight Schrute), he is hilarious; and Michael in relation to Stanley, is simply side splitting.
For this reason, I like Stanley, not as a person, but as a character.
Why do People Hate Fictional Characters?
I’m always shocked at how many “character hate” posts I see in The Office Facebook groups. I feel like people are missing the point. Characters aren’t real people, so their merit lies not in their morality but in their contribution to the story, the depth of their character development, and in the case of comedy, your enjoyment of them.
I guess it’s not all that surprising that people are treating characters like real people. The best stories draw you in to the point where the characters seem real. This is how many people interact with fictional stories.
I admit that I too often write about the psychology of the characters rather than the literary and comedic value of the story itself. For example, I write about the psychology of Pam in my post, Is Pam Beesly a Good Role Model?
While this virtual Finer Things Club explores both perspectives, in the case of Stanley, I thought the best perspective was literary.