I want to start this by saying that growing up with a lazy eye is not an easy thing. It isn’t an easy thing to explain, and I’m one of the lucky cases. I had surgery and can hide my eye, but it still exists. If I’m not wearing glasses or contacts, my eye crosses and sits there unless I’m looking out of it.
Part of the problem is that my brain doesn’t compute to my eyes that I’m supposed to be looking out both eyes, a fact that I didn’t realize was strange until I was in my 20s and asked my friends what their dominant eye was. So whenever I see someone with crossed eyes being a joke in a movie, it doesn’t necessarily sit the right way with me.
That’s mainly because we’re often seen as characters who seem to be of lesser intelligence and, in the case of Milton from Office Space, I’m not sure whether or not it’s just from his frames, or if it was a conscious choice, but I feel like many tend to feel bad for him or mock him for his appearance, and I don’t like it.
If you don’t know the film, meet Milton.
Portrayed by Stephen Root, a man known for playing out-there characters (like Barry’s hitman guide in the HBO show Barry, most recently), the character represents a lot of different things: people who fear change, those who won’t stand up for themselves, and those who are self-conscious. For me, looking at Milton meant looking at my lazy eye and seeing how people viewed me.
So, hearing that Milton is often laughed at, often seen as the kind of character we can all make fun of, hurts because he suffers from the same thing I do (or at least it looks like he does onscreen). He’s a man who is forced out of his space, continually moved because no one cares about him, and his coworkers don’t take him seriously.
Do I think the film wants us to view Milton as a joke? Probably, but I don’t, especially because he’s often depicted as being “the worst,” and even Stephen Root has compared him to nerdy men. I see him as someone who no one believes in, and that’s sad to me. I don’t necessarily like that him having a lazy eye (again, from what I can tell) is seen almost as him being undesirable and weird, but I also don’t view him as less-than because of any of his “ailments.”
Having an eye disability isn’t fun, and to be quite frank, you don’t understand how much it sucks unless you have one. Having to wear an eye patch as a kid probably sounds cool, but all you want is to be able to run around outside without glasses or something to fix your eye.
So when I see Milton, I see someone who knows that struggle and who maybe didn’t have the backing I did to give me confidence, even though I still suffer from a lazy eye. I see someone who is just trying to do his job and is constantly taken advantage of. So, I guess, don’t make fun of Milton—at least not around me.
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