© NBC Universal, Inc.

Pretty much everyone who has Netflix watches The Office.

The US version of The Office is known for its savage moments, from paper salesman/romantic lead Jim Halpert's (John Krasinski) constant pranks on beet farmer/bear expert/"assistant to the regional manager" Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) to temp-turned-CEO Ryan Howard's (B.J. Novak) biting one-liners. But while plenty of the characters have their share of savage moments, it's always the quiet, reserved ones that surprise us the most.

Enter Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith, originally a casting director for the show), the sweet Mother Goose-esque saleswoman who also happens to be The Office's ultimate savage.

Phyllis starts off as a complete pushover, frequently under the control of shrewish, bossy Angela who heads the party planning committee. In the beginning, she never raises her voice and usually keeps to herself. But as the series progresses, we start to see more of Phyllis' personality, along with hints at some juicy secrets: She has sex with her husband in the bathroom of an Italian restaurant during a Valentine's Day double-date with Pam and Jim. She had a baby who she gave up for adoption in high school. And, more shockingly, she might, possibly, be into bestiality. Matronly Phyllis Vance isn't as innocent as she seems.

Photo of Phyllis Vance The Office © NBC Universal, Inc.

Phyllis has some great passive aggressive lines throughout the show, but the best moments are the ones proving that no one messes with Phyllis Vance. For instance, when Pam joins the Michael Scott Paper Company, before Dundler Mifflin buys them out, and then returns as a saleswoman after taking Phyllis' clients, Phyllis confronts her directly. When Pam is in the kitchen complimenting Phyllis on her outfit (they're wearing the same one), Phyllis retorts with, "I wished I had more time to talk to my clients. Isn't that what you told a bunch of my clients when you were stealing them from me?" When Pam tries to defend herself, Phyllis whips out this iconic comeback: "Close your mouth, sweetie. You look like a trout." Pam was shook.

Pam Beesly shook © NBC Universal, Inc.

This isn't the first time that Phyllis lays down the law. In another memorable scene, Phyllis interrupts Pam and Jim's lunch date soon after they start publicly dating. Phyllis enters the rec room, double-checking that they weren't getting "handsy" underneath the table (Phyllis is very scandalous). She then tells Pam, "It's great that you're dating. But when a new client calls, you just have to randomly assign them to a salesperson. You can't base who gets new clients on who you're sleeping with that week." It's an especially savage burn considering Phyllis has always been supportive of Jim and Pam. Then again, this is the same Phyllis Vance who takes all of Pam's wedding ideas from her prior relationship with Roy and uses them for her own wedding with Bob. Later, when Pam and Jim actually get married, Phyllis deliberately ignores Pam's humble request for cash/financial donations, instead opting to give her a homemade birdhouse that no one wants.

Phyllis and Bob Vance getting married © NBC Universal, Inc.

Phyllis and Bob might even be considered the resident "power couple" of The Office. Bob is definitely Phyllis's muscle, and she uses him as a threat when things aren't going her way. When Michael tries to upstage Phyllis' Santa role at the Christmas Party, Bob shows up ready to throw down. Phyllis even reveals that she deliberately wears low cut shirts to get attention from other men at local bars so Bob can beat them up.

But, hands down, the most savage thing Phyllis does is blackmail Angela and indirectly cause Michael Scott to quit his job. Now, Angela isn't exactly an angel either and gets pretty upset when Michael replaces her as head of the party planning committee with Phyllis. Michael asks Phyllis to step in and plan Toby Flenderson's going away party. Naturally, Angela destroys all her vendor contacts so Phyllis has to plan the whole party from scratch. When Phyllis catches Angela in the act with Dwight, she decides to blackmail her as revenge, threatening to out their secret tryst if Angela doesn't do as she says.

Phyllis bossing Angela Martin around at the Christmas Party © NBC Universal, Inc.

This predominantly plays out in the Christmas episode where Phyllis orders Angela to wear an ugly hair net, forcefully shoves all of her Christian decorations in her desk drawer since they're not "in theme" with her Morrocan Christmas party, and spends the whole day assigning Angela "grunt work" like moving the Christmas tree. Finally having had enough of Phyllis's shenanigans, Angela stands her ground and tells Phyllis that she's tired of being her maid. So Phyllis makes good on her threat, shouting that Angela is having an affair with Dwight to the entire office and ultimately ruining Angela's engagement to Andy. After the hubbub, Michael appoints Jim and Dwight as temporary heads of the party planning committee. They later forget to plan a party for Kelly's birthday, and Phyllis is the one who lets them know that's the reason Kelly is upset. This implies that she purposely let Kelly's birthday be sabotaged out of spite, even though she could have reminded Jim and Dwight beforehand.

Michael Scott not happy about Charles Miner's arrival © NBC Universal, Inc.

But this isn't the only time she gets revenge on the party planning committee over her dismissal. When the new VP of Sales Charles Miner starts working at Dunder Mifflin and notices Michael, Pam, Jim, and Dwight spending time in the conference room, he asks Phyllis what they're doing in there. In classic snitch fashion, Phyllis tells Charles that they're the party planning committee and that they spend hours planning parties. It's a brutal thing to do, since up to this point it's clear that Michael feels threatened by Charles. Phyllis' "confession" leads to Charles disbanding the committee, prompting Michael to quit his job and start the Michael Scott Paper Company. It's an awful way to thank your boss after he gives you a six-week paid vacation for your honeymoon trip (which Phyllis proudly manipulated Michael into doing by allowing him to be a "part" of her official wedding party).

Michael pondering about his new paper company © NBC Universal, Inc.

All in all, Phyllis Vance proves to be a smug mean girl underneath her "grandmotherly" exterior. She might knit, enjoy rainy days, and read 50 Shades of Grey, but she will shut it down if need be. Not to mention, just like tightly wound Angela, Phyllis is a little freak. She's all about public PDA, being proud of her "jugs," ordering exotic cakes, and letting everyone know that she has a gym at home and it's the bedroom. We see you, Phyllis Vance.

Phyllis cackling to herself knowing she's a savage © NBC Universal, Inc.

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CULTURE

Mindy Kaling: "In This Country, American Means White"

Kaling quoted Toni Morrison and called out the academy for attempting to exclude her from a list of "The Office" producers.

Mindy Kaling told Elle that when The Office was nominated for an Emmy, the organization in charge of the awards attempted to remove her name from the show's list of producers.

At the time, Kaling was the only woman of color on the team.

"They made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer," Kaling said. "I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed, when my actual record stood for itself."

In response, the academy delivered a statement that completely denied that racial bias had any part in the claims. "There was an increasing concern years ago regarding the number of performers and writers seeking producer credits," it read.

"I *was* singled out," Kaling responded this afternoon. "There were other Office writer-performer-producers who were NOT cut from the list. Just me. The most junior person, and woman of color. Easiest to dismiss. Just sayin'." She continued to Tweet, "The point is, we shouldn't have been bailed out because of the kindness [of] our more powerful white male colleagues," she added. "Not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story. This was like ten years ago. Maybe it wouldn't happen now. But it happened to me."




Kaling was quick to emphasize the fact that this is a systemic issue. Though recent diversity initiatives may be improving things, the fact is that writers and producers of color in Hollywood—specifically women of color—still face steep barriers to success. "In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate," Kaling said, quoting Toni Morrison. She added, "It really doesn't matter how much money I have ... I'm treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble."

While Hollywood has made a conscious effort to perform and prioritize diversity in the past decade, many Hollywood TV writers still face an uphill battle. A March 2019 report from the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity stated that diverse writers—a term that includes people of color, queer and nonbinary people, and people with disabilities—are "routinely isolated within writers rooms, often relegated to lower levels where writers possess little agency or power to contribute."

The report found that the "diversity hire" position, a staff writer position typically reserved for a person of color, is almost always an entry-level position at the lowest pay grade. According to WGA West's Inclusion Report for 2017-2018, while people of color made up 45% of TV writers' room staff, they made up only 12% of executive producers and showrunners.

Some writers of color who have been given this position have complained of feeling stigmatized for being chosen for it. Recently, writer and actress Amanda Idoko told the Chicago Tribune that "There's definitely an implicit bias in the system. There are shows that have a revolving door diversity slot — they hire a new diverse writer from one of the diversity programs every year, immediately let them go as soon as they are no longer free, and repeat," she said. "Instead of actually investing in the diverse writers they hire, these shows cycle diverse writers, usually POC, in and out, with no intention of actually promoting them, slowing down the advancement of their careers. It's a disgusting abuse of a system that was put in place to promote diversity, and it needs to stop."

And let us not forget that even these "diversity hire" positions came after intense struggle and protestation from people who had been systematically kept out of the industry since its inception, as Mindy Kaling was during her years spent helping The Office become the beloved if poorly aged phenomenon that it was and is.

Hollywood can't use the excuse that women of color aren't writing and producing great content, of course, and things are changing for the better. With shows like Jane the Virgin and Black-ish knocking ratings off the charts and star producers like Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay making waves in every aspect of the industry, it's clear that times are changing. But as Mindy Kaling reminds us, it's taken us a long time to get there—and there's a very long way to go.