The 5 Most Overrated Jobs Of All-Time
Whatever happened to the real men? The gunslingers and swordsmen who charged into adventure on horseback?
Well, it turns out they all quit, because being a real man kind of sucked. All of those badass jobs they made movies about were all pretty much worse than the job you have now. Such as...
Pirate: Boredom, Disease and Uncontrollable Shitting
Recently, Disney and Johnny Depp have reassured us that pirates were the awesomest people ever. They lived on the seas, they had monkeys and wenches and giant squid that did their bidding.
Real piracy has been around since about the 13th century BC, and it's likely that every single pirate in all of that span was less effeminate than Orlando Bloom. The Vikings were the most badass of the bunch, with a reputation for taking what they wanted and burning the rest. So if you had nice stuff, you didn't want to hide it in anything flammable because then no one would get to enjoy it.
When the New World was discovered, pirates branched out and started stealing loot, or booty if you will, from exotic new places like the Caribbean. There they were apparently forced to deal with skeleton warriors and family-friendly fights to the death.
Why it Sucked:
Despite what you may think after seeing Kiera Knightley's extremely well-groomed piratess, the real world of pirates tended to involve a lot more wallowing in filth and near-starvation.
They didn't exactly have refrigerators on the boats, so basically they were restricted to eating the kind of shit that can sit in a barrel for months without rotting into slime. Hard tack was a staple of a pirate diet, dry biscuits made of flour, water and salt. They were often eaten in the dark, tapping them on the table a few times to make the weevils crawl out. When even that was unavailable, they'd occasionally resort to eating leather or slaves, if they had some handy.
That's a weevil. That's what a weevil is. It was in their food.
Day to day routine consisted of ship upkeep, the same tedious physical labor over and over, all day, every day. Also, uncontrollable shitting.
That part is thanks to scurvy, which is what happens to somebody who doesn't get enough Vitamin C in their diet. Your teeth fall out, blood runs freely from your gums and nose, and shit runs freely from your ass. If your pirate friends don't rush you to get medical care (and they won't), you'll basically diarrhea yourself to death and they roll your putrid corpse overboard.
"Did I just shit out a tooth? Aaarrr!"
Your only consolation would be the knowledge that later Disney would make an amusement park ride out of your life.
Cowboy: Boredom, Low Pay, Uncontrollable Cow Shitting
Most men, having watched a few Clint Eastwood movies, have probably thought to themselves that being a cowboy would be the coolest thing since God invented the burrito. You have a wicked hat, you have guns, you have a horse. It seems like most of your life is gambling, drinking and shooting assholes. How bad could that be?
Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Billy the Kid and whoever the hell Leonardo DiCaprio was supposed to be in that Sharon Stone movie, all made us think cowboys were king shit of the wild west.
Why it Sucked:
Cowboys were called cowboys for a reason. You're a dude who works with cows. There wasn't so much gunslinging and adventuring as there was riding alongside cattle as they slowly lumbered their way toward trains, to be loaded up and shipped north. These cattle drives were sometimes up to a 1,000 miles long, and the task of trotting along and making sure your mass army of cows didn't decide to up and head east to become sea cows, was about the most boring and smelliest job in history.
"What are we doing today, cows? Walking, and shitting? Oh, awesome, terrific."
The closest most cowboys got to excitement was wrangling cattle to be branded or castrated, because nothing says excitement quite like forcing a dim-eyed beast into a corner to have someone saw off its balls. The rest of the time the cowboy performed mundane ranch duties, stomping through ankle-high piles of cow turds the whole time. The pay was about the equivalent of working at Taco Bell.
Eventually the era of the cowboy ended. Did a new gunslinging sheriff ride into town and restore order through the barrel of a six gun? No, ranchers just figured out that the job could be done better by a few dollars worth of metal wire. The invention of the barbed wire fence pretty much rendered the cowboy obsolete, since cows have subpar fence climbing skills at best and once they were fenced in, there wasn't much need for round-ups.
Then the railroads expanded, so cattle didn't need to be walked 1,000 miles to the nearest station for shipment. The last cowboys were forced to play sad songs on the harmonica out on the open range before riding off into the sunset, which we assume means they went to join some kind of cabaret show.
Knights: Petty Thievery, Subsistence Farming, Shitty Armor
The gallant medieval knight stands as a paradigm of heroism and manhood. King Arthur and his big round table full of knights are at the heart of the romantic genre that started way back in the 1130s, with references to the characters coming even earlier than that.
The idea of riding into battle on a steed while fully encased in metal and waving a sword is such an astronomically manly act that we're surprised anyone ever actually did it without their balls exploding from the testosterone. Knights made lumberjacks look like hair dressers.
Why it Sucked:
Ever wonder how a guy in over 100 lbs of steel and iron removed all that crap if he had to piss? More often than not, they didn't, and just had somebody else clean out the piss and shit later.
That part never gets mentioned in the stories, because that's all they are: stories. The romantic tradition in tales like Morte D'Arthur or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight neglect to point out that many knights started as little more than teenage mercenaries hired by land owners to defend against other neighborhood punks.
According to some scholars, chivalry was more idea than a reality, the way you say you're not going to not download porn at work but then accidentally spend five hours a day doing just that. Actual codes of chivalry were mostly ascribed to military knights, in the same way our modern military has rules and guidelines that occasionally are forgotten when someone wants to take photographs of naked prisoner pyramids.
Many pre-chivalric knights were illiterate and lived in small castles or homes built by the people who lived on the land they owned. They tended to roam the countryside looking for people of lesser status and simply taking their shit. Knights were the precursors to every aggressive douchebag you've ever run into in a bar.
Other knights who were able to restrain their asshole behavior lived simple lives of farmers and their knightly deeds were only called upon in times of need. If there was no Crusade to go on, they plowed fields and tried to farm enough food to feed themselves and their families while their armor got rusty.
That guy's the doctor, too?!?
If they ever did wind up in battle, they probably preferred instant death to wounding, since even minor wounds back then would become septic. The victim would languish in agony for days, dying while the "doctor" screamed, "None of my magic spells are helping! Add more leeches!"
Samurai: You Will Get Stabbed
If you need any confirmation of how cool the Samurai warriors of Japan were, look no further than the film The Last Samurai. These people managed to survive and kick ass even with Tom Cruise in their midst. It'd be like running a marathon while dragging a dead cow behind you.
Samurai warriors followed the bushido code and were men of honor, believing in loyalty to their masters and the importance of fulfilling their duties even if it meant death. Outfitted in some insanely kick-ass looking armor, they'd rip their enemies six or seven new assholes with a razor sharp sword.
Samurai were noble and, unlike many knights of Western culture, literate and educated. They were patrons of the arts and aspired to be as skilled in them as they were in the ways of war. Samurai were basically Batman, only there were armies of them, on horseback.
Why it Sucked:
The downside to any code of honor is what happens when you step out of bounds, even if it was unintentional. Samurai had to invent the practice of seppuku (ritual suicide via cutting your own guts out) to account for fuck ups in the day to day life of being an aristocratic, ass kicking machine.
Warriors could not be shamed by falling into enemy hands, so any time a battle went awry and a warrior was going to be taken captive, the answer was to spill his own intestines. If the warrior had the time to perform the full ritual, he would bathe, dress in white robes, eat a meal then pull out a knife and slice his guts open from left to right. If he was in a hurry, like on the battlefield, he'd have to settle for a Snickers or whatever was handy, then gut himself on the spot.
Seppuku wasn't just a means of escaping capture, it was also a punishment for pretty much any major infraction committed by a samurai, and was used to redeem lost honor. In the 1860s, French sailors entered a Japanese town unannounced and caused a ruckus as Frenchmen are wont to do. Samurai warriors came to escort them out, but a fight broke out and the sailors were all killed. This pissed off the French who demanded something be done about it. Then, in a move they totally didn't expect, the men responsible committed seppuku, which freaked the French representative out so badly he requested the ritual be stopped and the remaining men spared.
Other reasons to off one's self included being an out of work samurai, fleeing from battle, engaging in battle without permission, and presumably diddling the local shogun's wife. They'd also do it as a form of protest, meaning a disagreement with their master meant the master had a nasty mess to clean up afterward.
So, in a nutshell, your choice was to fight honorably and be stabbed to death by an enemy, or run away and be forced to stab yourself to death as punishment. The fact that they got any recruits at all indicates the other benefits must have been awesome, considering the retirement plan brochure was just a bunch of pictures of guys getting stabbed.
Private Investigators: Low Pay and Naked Fat Guys
Back in the 40s, if Humphrey Bogart was any indication, being a PI didn't take much more than the ability to wear an overcoat and look cool while shooting people. Through decades of gritty novels and grittier films, private dicks played by their own rules and went where the cops couldn't go.
Sure the world was full of dames and Peter Lorre-looking weasels and everyone was going to try to double cross you. But being a PI at the end of the day you were going to come out on top and retire to your office to have a nice, warm glass of Scotch and wait for the next dame to walk in with a sob story.
Why it Sucked:
While real life PIs could find themselves getting into some hairy situations (Allen Pinkerton got famous for stopping an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln), most movies overlook certain aspects of their lives. Either that or the editors were on the ball when they decided to weed out the countless hours of sitting around doing just short of jack shit.
Many private investigators work for insurance companies or collection agencies, tracking down deadbeats and people trying to scam their way into a disability claim. So you're basically spending hours and hours trying to track down an address, or following some fat guy around who claims his back is too injured to work, waiting for him to pick up something heavy so you can snap a picture of it.
There's also the adultery cases, wives wanting to catch husbands in the act to force a better divorce settlement. This means following the same fat guy around town while he goes about his tedious routine, with the goal of getting photos of him having fat sex with some lady who isn't his wife, praying the whole time that this does not in fact happen.
You'd follow him around. All day.
In reality very rarely do private investigators investigate or solve crimes, since, you know, that's what the cops are for.
Investigators starting out in the industry with an agency can expect to earn around $30,000 a year and will likely only resemble Magnum PI if they elect to grow a giant mustache. The likelihood of a rich benefactor wandering in to ask a PI to find her husband's killer and handing over an envelope full of cash is about as likely as Jessica Biel walking in and asking for a boob massage.
For movies that are depressing for a whole other reason check out Rick's look at 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes. Or find out about some action stars whose careers had a less than happy ending in 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity.More of Fortey's stuff can be found at Scenic Anemia.
For the people who they should be making movies about check out 7 People From Around the World With Real Mutant Superpowers. Or for horse shit you learned even before you could use the internet, read about The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught In History Class.