The characters in your average TV shows and movies aren’t usually that average. First, they’re usually doctors, lawyers or some generic professionals who wear nice clothes. That’s not to say that doctors and lawyers aren’t average people, but the ones portrayed in movies seem to be extraordinary because they’re either saving lives in the middle of a flood (as seen on “E.R.”) or they’re defending bizarre clients (as seen on any David E. Kelly show).
But you and I, if I may be so presumptuous, don’t have flashy jobs that a Hollywood executive wants to dramatize. Yet, watching footage of the Chilean miners being rescued and hearing about their jobs made the world more aware of how interesting and dangerous the job is. “Scrappers,” a recently released documentary, is about people who patrol streets looking for scrap metal they can trade in for cash. Almost every neighborhood has one of these “scrappers,” and the documentary shows how difficult life turned for them after the recession began. Another new documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” shows the ongoing struggle educators are having in communities throughout the U.S.
Many movies and TV shows cast aside the professional lives of characters and focus on the more interesting personal lives, but every so often a movie gets made that looks at unglamorous workers. The people who don’t have the super chic offices with glass walls and desk chairs that look uncomfortable but stylish.
For fun, we decided to make a list of films and TV shows that focus on overlooked workers. Even if that particular job isn’t the basis for the entire movie, it’s nice to see it highlighted for a change.
“The Perfect Storm”
Who: Commercial fishers
Why it’s interesting: Aside from being a nail-biter inspired by a true story, it also sheds some light on the danger of being a fisher. We don’t often think of how hard someone has to work to bring seafood to us at supermarkets and restaurants.
Who: Convenience store retail clerks
Why it’s interesting: The movie doesn’t necessarily paint clerks in the best light, as much of the film focuses on how boring these characters find their jobs. At the same time it shows the colorful characters (aka difficult customers) that retail clerks have to deal with on a daily basis.
Who: Building cleaning worker
Why it’s interesting: Although this movie doesn’t rank among one of John Hughes’ greatest, it focuses on a young man who gets a job cleaning a local Target at night when the store is closed. Of course, zany mishaps occur and he meets a beautiful woman while thwarting crime. But it’s a nice reminder that someone is cleaning our favorite stores when the doors are locked.
“Six Feet Under”
Who: Funeral directors
Why it’s interesting: Like it or not, we’re all going to employ a funeral director at some point in our lives — well, shortly after the conclusion of our lives. It’s a job that many people dismiss as spooky or weird, but, like any other job, it comes with its own ups and downs. For five seasons we got a dramatized glimpse of what life is like as a funeral director.
So, tell us what shows and movies we left off our list. Finding a Hollywood representation of overlooked workers isn’t easy. (After all, that is what makes them overlooked.) We surely missed some, so let us know where you’ve seen a refreshing look at workers.