4You Wear Either a Suit or a Uniform
Not only does Hollywood have a baffling idea of how most people work, they also seem to have a disproportionate idea of what most workers wear. There's plenty of high-ranking characters wearing suits: Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, American Psycho's Patrick Bateman, Bruce Wayne, whatever Richard Gere's character was named in Pretty Woman, the list goes on.
Apparently his name was Edward. An obvious Twilight rip-off.
Meanwhile, blue-collar workers wear uniforms even if they manage the plant. Office peons get to wear a tie just like the boss, but they must have their forearms exposed for at least part of the workday for some reason.
Everyone who works for a "company" has to wear something restrictive. If anyone goes to work in shorts or jeans, they're a surfer, an artist, an off duty or undercover cop or a stunted man-child hacker.
Mix and match two casually dressed professions and your job is done: The Point Break law of screenwriting.
In real life, 55 percent of workers report that their workplace has no dress code, and tech companies in particular commonly have workers of all ages wandering in at 10 or 11 a.m. wearing shorts and sandals. Not little quirky companies, but giants like Cisco, Google and Microsoft.
Microsoft workers on the company bus going to their office near Seattle. No suits, but you may be required to wear flannel once a week.
Companies have even started hopping on board a trend where they encourage their employees to wear shorts in order to save money on office air conditioning in this economic crunch.
Yet you would probably be hard-pressed to name a movie where a well-adjusted 9-to-5 worker and father of two shows up to the office in a T-shirt.
3Any Stressful Office Job Revolves Around "Presentations" and "Accounts"
Watch any movie where a character's company duties are in conflict with something else (family, finding love, being a good person) and you'll almost always find their source of stress is a "big presentation" or an "important account." Maybe they need to develop a campaign for Nike (What Women Want) or make a big presentation on a merger plan (RV) or land an important client (Dinner for Schmucks).
Sometimes we get so hung up on Mel Gibson's anti-Semitism that we forget about his misogyny.
The reason Jim Carrey's character in Liar, Liar fails to spend enough time with his kid is because he's always got an important case to get to, and a important client to coddle. Sarah Jessica Parker's greatest challenge to finding time for family in I Don't Know How She Does It is having to dash about pitching an important deal about retirement funds.
She is standing in front of five computer screens because she is five times busier than you slackers.
But seriously, how many of you out there have a job that constantly revolves around big presentations and landing important accounts? Don't most of us have jobs where we have to process X number of records a day, or fix cars, or process claims, or ring up customers, or answer calls? Jobs where we don't have one really big thing to do, but just a set of duties we carry out every day.
Hollywood can't imagine those kinds of jobs being stressful enough to cause a dramatic career-family crisis, but they easily can be. Is the job tearing the main character away from his family? Maybe his company just laid off a bunch of claims adjusters, and as one of the few remaining, he has to work double the hours. If he's an accountant, maybe it's tax season. The average overworked person who needs to rethink her priorities isn't someone who's moving from exciting presentation to exciting presentation, she's just a person who's got too few hours.
All this lady has to do is go through all her case files and the files of her coworker who just got laid off. Why would she be stressed?
Even if they need a plot point where the character has to get something done by a specific date, we all have those. They're called deadlines. The end of a project or a quarter, or just some arbitrary deadline your boss sets, which works great for a plot where the workplace is supposed to be oppressive and unfair.
So why is it that Hollywood thinks clients and presentations are what the face of overworking looks like? Well, because that's what it's like in Hollywood. Work there is always about a big project (a film), or a big presentation (a pitch), or a big client (for agents). That's what being busy and stressed out looks like to them.
Their experiences pitching projects to studios gets translated into an advertising executive character trying to sell a campaign or slogan to clients. After all those sleepless hours they've spent getting a movie ready to put on the silver screen, they'll naturally invent a character frantically putting together a flashy Powerpoint to project in the boardroom.
They've managed to translate their experiences into the settings most people work in without translating them into the way most people actually work.