6 ways Hollywood lies to us about the workplace

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6 ways Hollywood lies to us about the workplaceThe ever-popular HBO series “Sex and the City” is rarely thought of as a workplace show, but if we take a closer look, we can see it is riddled with workplace clichés.

Carrie Bradshaw, our main gal, somehow makes an extravagant living from one weekly newspaper column she often writes in her underwear while smoking what seems to be a smokeless cigarette inside her New York City apartment. Miranda Hobbes, a “busy” corporate lawyer never seems too busy for lunches, parties, shopping or long walks around the city with best pal Carrie. Charlotte York is a museum curator who rarely curates anything but her obsession with finding Mr. Right and having Mr. Right Jr. Finally, but certainly not least in any sense of the word, Samantha Jones is a successful public relations practitioner despite a reputation the size of New York City itself. How ironic.

Recently, over on the humor website, Cracked.com, one writer was fed up with the annoying clichés about women that keep popping up in movies. Tired of seeing gorgeous actresses playing the supposedly unattractive sister and an unrealistic emphasis on the glories of shopping, Christina H. penned “6 obnoxious assumptions Hollywood makes about women.” The list is not only funny but also accurate if you stop and think about how many movies these annoying tropes occur in.  It also got us thinking that Hollywood’s not just inaccurately portraying women in movies or on TV – it’s off the mark about what it’s like for the average worker in today’s economy.

As a result, we bring you 6 ways Hollywood lies to us about the workplace…

1.      All the beautiful people
Ever notice all the long-legged, luscious haired, model-types walking around your office? What about all of the strapping, buff and impeccably dressed men? We didn’t think so.

Hollywood can often make it seem like unattractive, overweight or simple-humored people don’t work. Skills? Who needs ‘em, right? As long as you look good and utter funny, clever remarks all day, you’re bound to grow business and make bushels of money.

Sure statistics exist regarding attractive people getting hired over, promoted instead of or paid more than unattractive ones, but these people also have skills, education or the ability to move business in some significant way. A pretty face might help, but if that’s all you got, it’s not going to cut it in the real world.

Hollywood examples: The In Crowd, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Grey’s Anatomy

 2.      Executives work? Nah…
The recent Sarah Jessica Parker movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It” in which she plays the role of an international fund manager, wife and mother, portrays an unrealistic schedule for such an executive-level job.

Christina Gombar, author of fiction, memoir and literary criticism says, “No way, no way, no way, would an international fund manager get into work at 9 a.m. She would be working around the clock with her terminal from home. She wouldn’t have time to shoot snarky emails to her female work mates. My pals who are traders can’t talk to me on the phone and can only send the shortest texts.”

Beverly Solomon, a marketer, creative director and author based in Austin, Texas believes Hollywood portrays executives and entrepreneurs as “rich, uncaring crooks who made their fortunes by stepping on the regular people.”

Solomon, having worked for Diane Von Furstenberg and Ralph Lauren, looks down on this cliché, noting “both were great entrepreneurs who built their businesses with vision and tenacity, and are good people.”

Hollywood examples: You’ve Got Mail, Be Kind Rewind, Wall Street

3. Your outfit? Anything goes!
A suit? Slacks? Minimal cleavage? That’s crazy talk. According to Hollywood, club wear is quite suitable for the workplace, and even welcome. How else do you plan to get that big promotion or spark up that all-appropriate office romance?

Christina McCale, marketing academic, career coach and co-editor of “Start Your Internet Business: 36 Things You Need to Know” says, “While Millennials are changing a lot of things about the way we dress in the workplace, the reality is there is still a level of professionalism expected, and usually, that isn’t reflected in ‘Britney-esque’ outfits.”

McCale cautions you should always remember who your boss is. “They’re not likely to appreciate you wearing club wear to the office meeting. And even more likely – they won’t take you seriously.”

Hollywood examples: My Boss’s Daughter, View from the Top, Legally Blonde

4.      Work is so easy
“The common [so-called ‘webpreneurial’] storyline on TV shows or movies goes like this: person gets idea; they set up a website; next day money is rolling in,” says McCale. Citing another unrealistic example, she adds, “Crime scene investigators strategically hold up flashlights, miraculously evidence appears. The reality is CSIs across the country aren’t exactly running around in Louis Vuitton shoes. CSI work is hard, and many crime labs are not nearly as well equipped as the ones you see on TV.”

On TV and in movies, people make more witty remarks than they complete important projects. They hang out all day, barely ever sitting at a computer or on a phone call. Pranks are a regular part of the work day, and talking to the boss in the same way you talk to your poker buddies is acceptable. In today’s economy, it’s hard to imagine anyone’s workday is that carefree.

Hollywood examples: The Office, 30 Rock, Clerks, Will & Grace

5.      Money is no object
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a movie or TV sitcoms where you can be an out of work-actor, waitress or writer and still live in a lavish New York City apartment, buy $500 Louis Vuittons, sip on warm delights in a coffee shop all day, and barely ever go to work? TV shows like “Friends” and “Sex and the City,” and characters like Rachel Green, Joey Tribbiani and Carrie Bradshaw give us the false hope that we can actually work little and live a lot. In a post-recession economy, many workers are deciding how often they can afford to buy coffee each week, but you don’t see that on TV.

Hollywood examples:  The 40 Year Old Virgin, Cheers, The Real Housewives [of any city], Modern Family

6.      Your boss is a horrible person and/or an idiot
You’ve probably had a boss that wasn’t the brightest bulb or even the nicest person you’ve ever met, but he or she wasn’t necessarily worthless. In fact, unless you’ve had an unfortunate run of luck, your bosses probably ranged from OK people to great leaders. Your average Hollywood bosses, however, either exist to make your life miserable with outrageous demands and endless piles of work, or they’re incompetent fools who can barely tie their own shoes much less manage a team.

“While there are always going to be bosses who are – “clueless” – [it’s] not a good idea to point that out to them,” says McCale. “Worse, don’t make how you – “feel they are clueless” – obvious in front of others.”

Hollywood examples: The Devil Wears Prada, Horrible Bosses, Nine to Five 

Why it matters

“The shame is, many teens and 20-somethings base career choices on what they see on TV, and TV just isn’t a great career counselor because shows aren’t meant to do that,” says McCale. “TV and movies are entertainment. They are geared for a shorter attention span, and to use elements of truth to propel a storyline forward.”

While work can be fun, and some companies might have a more informal working environment than others, you might not want to model your workplace behavior after what you see on TV and in movies.

What other ways can you think of in which Hollywood lies to us about the workplace?

  1. A nice complement to this article would be an examination of Hollywood workplaces themselves — studios, production companies, and talent agencies. I worked in the entertainment industry for years, and it was NOTHING like what’s portrayed in the stories we see. I never worked at a place where people wore “club clothes” to work. It’s an extremely cut-throat environment draped in extreme casualness (jeans and t-shirts are de rigueur). The veneer is glamour is undercut by people who work really hard at chasing their creative passions, and very few succeed. It’s not fun.

  2. You’re bang on with #3, anything goes when it comes to your outfit. More and more fresh college graduates just don’t know how to dress because they’re taking their image tips from Gossip Girl. As a result, they aren’t taken seriously or recognized for the value they bring to the table. We need to change this. -Sarah

  3. Related to #4, the crime dramas always have clerks or witnesses who keep the details of a case at the forefront of their thoughts, often triggered by some quirk they observed about a person. Then, the clerk or witness proceeds to recite observations that are key to the case, to the detectives. I suppose I could do that, too, if I had only one issue to work in a week. I could learn and memorize every detail about a matter, and then offer it at the drop of a hat, without having to refer to any data.

  4. I am a disabled veteran with psych and physical ailments from my military accomplishments between 1990-1993 I was on 7 psych medications and chose to stop taking them over a year ago. I have a service dog (MARLEY) she helps with my anxiety levels but without me using “Black-market” marijuana its harder for me to control, without marijuana the ARTHRITIS in my back would be more painful. I have a young friend (24yrs.old) of mine who is diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) he too benefits from the effects. I say to you the readers KNOW-THE-FACTS…..If it’s legalized it too would stimulate the economy by shutting down unneeded prisons and government spending on prison guards , low-level law officials and programs like” NARK” , “DARE” and the “BLACK CAUCUS COMMITTEE” ( I don’t believe in or promoting segregated government (MLK “EQUALITY”) it needs to be 1 BODY, 1 VOICE(the peoples voice)) each eats at local community budgets. These are local programs formed by the government. This would put the MONEY back where it came from SOCIAL SECURITY, HEALTHCARE and WEL-FARE. why do you think we all want to know now “WHERE DID THE MONEY GO ?” The budgets are done every year the money is hidden in programs!!! Have we forgotten we gave IRAQ “GRANTS” to rebuild(just like we’re gonna do for IRAN and Afghanistan) not LOANS ? How about the tsunami $$ for Japan to rebuild or for Indonesia to rebuild OR HAITI $$$ after their earthquake to rebuild ? I have an IDEA use US tax dollars to help the U.S. TAXPAYER$……….The sad part is we the people didn’t vote on that $$$$ congress did for us. when we have a crisis we don’t have the money .The raise they are considering for SSDI is a joke compared the the gas$ increases over the past 3yrs. WE keep writing laws that keep LOW-income, LOW-income. Not to mention the new STATE “regulation” on pain medication means I now have to drive to my doctors once a month instead of once-every 3. wall-street has the gas market cornered their job is to make their investors money, it’s congress that’s spending our money and draining the purse not WALL street. Try sleeping at night knowing the country i was injured protecting is the same country I’m now fighting to legalize an” alleviation” from my symptoms.

  5. Pingback: It’s Just Movie Magic

  6. was reading this article while at work. At the end of the article all I could think is ” why would anyone want to watch a TV show/ Movie that was realistic to the real work place”. I work in a office and when I am at home watching TV/movie I really don’t want it to reflect my job. I like the fantasy! “many teens and 20-somethings base career choices on what they see on TV” If this is the case, then those teens need help. The teens and 20 something year old are smarter then you are giving them credit for. I know many that want to become hard working people. Just thought this article was a waste of my time, and didn’t think much thought went into it. Thanks for taking the time to read this email. Have a great day!!

    •  @kaylee.brinton
       Exactly!  If Hollywood was accurate, I’d never watch a single show or movie again.  If you want the ‘truth’, walk out the front door, go to college, read a book (between the lines being necessary at times), or simply go to work.  TV and movies are my escape from real life, which would be impossible if the entertainment industry didn’t lie.  Apparently this is far to complex for some people to figure out on their own as proven by articles just like this one!  Let’s hope the complexity is less so from this point on.

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