The Big Short taught me one thing: Michael Scott pushed the wrong kind of paper

I found The Big Short difficult to watch, not because it does a poor job both man- and womansplaining complicated financial instruments, but because whenever Steve Carell is on screen I can’t help seeing Michael Scott.

And the confusion, in this case, was not purely a figment of my imagination. Indeed, my main takeaway from the Big Short is that the big banks that caused the financial collapse were more oblivious than the World’s Best Boss himself. Don’t believe me?

Compare, The Big Short, around the one hour, nine minute mark:

Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling): Didn’t I say when we made this deal that the rating agencies, the SEC, and the big banks were clueless? Didn’t I say that? . . . Now their foot’s on fire, they think their steak is done, and you’re surprised?

Mark Baum (Steve Carell): That’s not stupidity, that’s fraud.

JV: Tell me the difference between stupid and illegal and I’ll have my wife’s brother arrested . . . I guess you just don’t realize how clueless this system really is. Yes, there’s some shady shit going down, but – trust me – it’s fueled by stupidity.

Contrast, The Office, Season 2, Episode 12, “The Injury”:

Michael Scott (Steve Carell): I enjoy having breakfast in bed. I like waking up to the smell of bacon — sue me — and since I don’t have a butler, I have to do it myself. So most nights before I go to bed I will lay six strips of bacon out on my George Foreman Grill. Then I go to sleep. When I wake up, I plug in the grill. I go back to sleep again. Then I wake up to the smell of crackling bacon. It is delicious. It’s good for me. It’s the perfect way to start the day. Today I got up, I stepped onto the grill and it clamped down on my foot. That’s it. I don’t see what’s so hard to believe about that.

But unlike the big stupid banks, Michael Scott did not think for even a moment that his “steak was done”:

Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer): You missed two big conference calls today . . .

MS: Oh, did you explain why?

PB: No, I didn’t mention that you cooked your foot.

MS: Burned my foot, Pam.

If only Michael Scott had pushed paper on Wall Street instead of sold paper in Scranton, he could have saved us from one big mess. Unless, of course, Toby decided to follow along.


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