Main Character of the Week is a weekly column that tells you the most prominent “main character” online (good or bad). It runs on Fridays in the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.
The internet is a stage, and someone unwillingly stumbles onto it weekly. This makes them the “main character” online. Sometimes their story is heartwarming, like the Gordon Ramsay frozen lasagna at Walmart; usually it’s a gaffe. In any case, that main character energy flows through the news cycle and turbo-charges debate for several business days.
Here’s the Trending team’s main character of the week.
It’s office potlucks.
Maybe it’s the holidays, but folks are debating the ethics and decorum of taking side dishes to their office potluck. Perhaps because younger workers don’t have too much experience with this sort of gathering because they work from home and have no friends, but this Great Depression-era ritual is all the rage. Its discourse pertains to the fact that maybe potlucks are actually a health hazard and preserve the status quo.
It started with a TikTok user saying that he was suspicious of somebody bringing in an oyster casserole. Yes this is a real dish that is commonplace. But the idea of eating seafood outside of a controlled environment near the waterfront will always give people pause. One commentator on this video said they only ate store-bought items brought to office potlucks to avoid illness.
This whole ordeal stirred the pot (no pun intended) on long-simmering gripes pertaining to these events. Are they really cost-effective when you need to make one large dish for several people? Do I have to participate if I would prefer to eat in my car alone? Does this build a healthy office culture or does it really just perpetuate the existing social hierarchy and allow for non-hard workers to get ahead with a good Texas queso recipe? After all, everybody plays out their family dynamics at the office and office potlucks are the Thanksgiving table.
As we wrote recently:
Office potlucks continue to be a popular talking point on TikTok. Another office worker took viewers on a food tour of items her co-workers brought, including mac and cheese topped with blue cheese. She was so horrified that she also avoided eating any of the items her co-workers brought and opted to eat Takis instead. Another office worker was tasked with bringing chili to his company gathering. He bought several containers of chili from Wendy’s, poured them into a pot, and passed it off as homemade. Viewers who have also done this in the past said the dish was a major hit, even winning them cook-offs.
I’ve offered up terrible macaroni side salads in exchange for mouth-watering homemade goods on several occasions, and the truth is that office potlucks are an opportunity to build culture and make others feel included. At a certain point, you have to trust human nature to take root and win the day. But certainly, I’ve also observed try-hards win the office chili cook-off and parlay that day in the sun into a suspicious, personality-driven promotion.
I get it: At the office, every decision is an intentional political chess play.
With all that said, we’d love to hear from you! Do you participate in your office potluck? Do you try to stand out or get by? What’s a great office potluck anecdote that really ruffled some feathers at your workplace? If you work remote or no longer work in a beige office, do you miss these forced interactions? Shoot us an email here.