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From the Wire: A Brief History of Employment Onscreen

From the Wire: A Brief History of Employment Onscreen

Movies aren’t just simple entertainment; under certain circumstances they can operate as a cheap alternative to therapy, and that’s sort of what they’re doing for Julie (no last name given), the proprietor of the delightfully titled Misfortune Cookie blog.  Julie’s story will probably sound familiar to many people (and by “probably” i mean “definitely” and by “many people” I mean “me and everyone I went to school with”): she graduated from college with a film degree in 2009 into a dreadful recession and found it almost impossible to land a job.  Eventually she got a position as a page at Paramount Pictures.  But in the interim, there were tough times.  And during the tough times, there were movies — and in particular, movies about employment:

“One of the many reasons I love cinema is that is gives you a glimpse not only into the more exciting and prominent aspects of a time and place (war, culture, social customs, etc.), but the mundane as well. From an anthropological standpoint, I love watching people in older films go about their everyday business. So as someone who has frequently felt the hopeless, infuriating frustration of unemployment, I have particularly latched on to depictions of work acquisition in films.”

Julie then goes on to list and discuss a variety of movies about the American workplace from the last century of motion pictures, from “My Man Godfrey” to “Ace in the Hole” to “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” to “Tootsie” to “Margin Call.”  The piece is brief and far from comprehensive — How about “Dirty Harry,” “Taxi Driver,” “Working Girl,” “Do the RIght Thing,” “Bad Santa” and on and on and on? — but it bears a clear knowledge of cinema history and it really expresses how movies can speak to us in ways that have as much to do with what we feel in our hearts as what we see with our eyes.

Sadly for Julie, it seems her employment at Paramount is temporary.  Fairly soon, she says, she’ll be back on the job market.  Hopefully with this experience under her belt she’ll find a new gig quickly.  If not, here is my advice: you’ve found a fascinating topic for a dissertation.  Maybe it’s time to consider getting a Ph.D.  

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