Five Career Paths That Hollywood Has Ruined Forever
Ask any quarter-literate whipper-snapper what they would like to be when they’re older and you will quickly glean that they are as delusional as they are completely unoriginal – be it Jedi, princess or Big Brother contestant, they have an answer for every day of the week. And no wonder. The mainstream media has been fronting a smear campaign against the traditional 9-5 for years now, with Hollywood in particular spending most of its time liberating unfulfilled desk-jockeys from their office jobs so they can better fight crime, ‘find’ themselves on globe-trotting adventures and save Zion from the machines.
That said, there are exceptions, and every so often Hollywood breaks the mould, inadvertently creating characters with something approaching a recognisable vocation. Not that anyone wants to watch their heroes fill out paperwork, search for spare staples or empty the office bin, so filmmakers, TV executives and video game designers heave learnt to crack out the creative license in the name of good, old fashioned suspension of disbelief. Whereas once upon a time (preferably in a galaxy far, far away) nobody had a hope in Disneyland of making their dream job a reality, today’s preferred professions are a little too attainable for their own good.
Ever since Indiana Jones raided his first ark, schoolboys everywhere have wanted to be archaeologists – with career paths promising adventure, mild peril and a new girl with every outing, it really did seem like the world’s excavationists had it all. Hollywood remains keen to exploit the box-office pull of relic hunters the world over and the studios have returned to the subject again and again, sending Rick O’Connell off to dust mummies, Lara Croft to raid tombs and Alan Grant to gawp in awe at a herd of grazing Brachiosauruses. It’s not even like you have to find anything of archeological worth along the way. After all, better men than you have lost the lost city of El Dorado, sunk Hamunaptra and destroyed the Cradle of Life.
For any young and intrepid undergraduates looking to flex their whips, slim into their Croft-top and send away for their complimentary weapons license, the reality is invariably going to hit like a centuries-old Egyptian curse. These popularist portrayals of treasure hunters tend to ignore the painstaking graft that goes into unearthing pottery and metal detecting Coca Cola pull-caps; in actual fact it’s the surveys, excavations and humdrum data analysis that makes up the bulk of an archaeologist’s workload. As any textbook will quickly reveal, it’s more Time Team than Temple of Doom… and that’s after the eight or so years of study.
The Armed Forces
So your platoon’s Black Hawk is down somewhere behind enemy lines; and thanks to some weapons-grade luck, you weren’t with them when it happened. After arguing with your grizzled superior, you mount a heroic rescue attempt along with a group of maverick soldiers who – as the application process required – have only one character trait apiece. Along with Fat Soldier, Black Soldier and Rookie Soldier, you set off on a top secret mission that will see you lose men, scuff your boots and inevitably front a daring one man attack on the enemy compound. You may have been shot in the lung, but, dammit, you’re going to carry those survivors back to base so you can fulfil that promise you made to your pregnant wife! All in a day’s work.
There’s just one thing to consider – you’re pretty unfit, inconveniently flat footed, and before you can single handedly win the war you will first have to make it through the dreaded beep test. Serving your country straight from school? That’s the entry level jobs for you then, soldier. Having finally completed training and survived boot camp, you will then be posted to the middle of nowhere (Marham, probably), given a batch of those spreadsheets you were trying to avoid and – if you’re very lucky – eventually find yourself deployed on detachment so that you can be shot dead on your way to the shops. I know, right: and you didn’t even get to kiss your personalised dog tags goodbye.
Crime Scene Investigation
You’ve just landed a job as a universally renowned detective, aged 24, and you’re investigating your first case. Congratulations. Arriving at the crime scene, you begin finding evidence faster than you can point your torch: a dead body is covered in partially complete fingerprints, your UV light has picked up traces of the deceased’s semen and the room is helpfully coated in platypus hair. With little more than a Bunsen burner, a microscope and one of those whirly test tube things, you deduce that the murderer is in actual fact that butler you met earlier – you know, the creepy taxidermist who specialises in sub-aquatic mammals. Elementary, my dear idiot. And doesn’t the city look simply darling at night?
While I realise that television is the natural home of the crime procedural – where everyone is an expert on everything, not to mention attractive, athletic and a formidable shot – it doesn’t take Guy Richie’s reinvented Sherlock Holmes to spy a slight discrepancy between real life and the likes of Zodiac and Se7en. The reality somehow even less glamorous, with many of the technologies and techniques portrayed in these instances nearer to science fiction than science fact. You could probably get through an entire season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation while waiting for one test result, and even then it would only tell you what you already know: that this isn’t what you signed up for.
Fun-loving free spirit? Check. A little bit eccentric? Check. Bad with children? Check. Welcome to teaching! Close those exercise books, drop that pencil and go fetch the class hamster, it’s time to teach your inner-city down and outs about Rock ‘n’ Roll, get everyone ready for the school musical and demonstrate how basketball is just like life – providing you both squint and lose. They may loathe you at first, but before you can slam your fist dramatically on the headteacher’s desk and scream “These kids NEED me!” you’ll not only have won them over but championed the entire school to success. Being a teacher is great, you get to inspire the next generation, genuinely make a difference and aid them in their dilemmas with your uncanny book choices.
You’re kidding, right? That one hour you get to spend with your class a day is barely enough time to teach them algebra, let alone brainwash them into thinking you’re actually worthy of their respect and personally tutor each one of them in the ways of the world. Hollywood has anthropomorphised the little brats, put intelligent things into their mouths and mis-sold them as upstanding pillars of society. With paranoid legislation preventing you from providing due support to the younger years, and endless spending cuts ensuring that you earn slightly less than that older student with the paper round, you’ll soon abandon all attempts at validation and use those precious moments locked in the stationary cupboard by your unruly maths class to have a good long cry.
Whether it’s Contagion impressing the influence or bloggers, Tintin patrolling the known world for stories or Carrie Bradshaw wistfully turning her latest bowel movement into a best-seller, it’s a small wonder than anyone should want to be anything else. Why teach lessons or solve crimes when you could simply write about them instead? After all, the hours are great, you can do it in your pants, and the deadlines are all the way on the other end of the phone; all you really need is a typewriter, a taste for coffee and something to do with the other 23 hours of the day. The story may come first – but first just happens to be a little after noon (and come after your alcohol addiction, your doomed love affair and your next tussle with Lex Luther). It’ll be on your desk by Tuesday, unless the girls are free for lunch.
But wait, what do you mean “print journalism is a dying industry”? The unfortunate truth is that the blog you’ve spent months customising is about as original as the words with which it is comprised, your dreams of bringing the black market to its knees are deluded at best and your novel is doomed to fail – the country’s editors are practically lining up to lose interest half way through your description of the sky and throw your beloved manuscript into the bin. Your one column a week won’t be anywhere near enough to cover dinner, let alone a fancy flat in the big city. And even if you do somehow manage to get an eBook published, it hardly counts as a career. No, if you do ‘make it’, you’ll be taking crotch-shots of Katie Price or writing copy for one of Have I Got News For You‘s guest publications.