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Everyone's An Architect
February 10, 2014 8:34 AM   Subscribe


 
I imagine most people think of romcom occupations as something to keep the characters vaguely busy whenever they need a break from obsessing over their destined partners.

Kind of grim how many of the ones on the list are poor-paying, no-growth options tho.
posted by psoas at 8:45 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Wake me when there's a romantic comedy about a software QA engineer.
posted by octothorpe at 8:46 AM on February 10 [17 favorites]


When I read this earlier this morning, I realized that in HIMYM, three of the five main characters are currently an Architect, a Journalist and (essentially) a Gallery Curator.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:47 AM on February 10 [13 favorites]


I agreed with a lot of that -- I thought the points about women needing to be impressive/career-driven but non-threatening were especially good. There's often this idea that if you're hard-working you're trapped in a man's world and just waiting for some charming fella to allow you to express the femininity you feel but have had to keep under wraps for so long and isn't it a relief to be able to act like a girl?

Besides the gender dynamics, this also adds to the myth that everyone is or should be following their dream, that you're a better or more interesting person if you have a professional passion that drives you. Many, many people take jobs because they need the money or the health insurance or the job just needs to be done and that's okay! There's nothing wrong with having your job be your job and your life be your life, but having everyone be creative-professional-meaningful stuff like bakers and architects and book owners establishes this idea that you SHOULD follow your dream and that there's something wrong with you if you settle into an office job that affords you the opportunity to live the life you actually want.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:49 AM on February 10 [12 favorites]


Wasn't Mike Brady an architect too?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Fucking Sports Marketing.

If I'm watching your movie and one of your protagonists is introduced as a sports marketer, I'm turning it off.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:57 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]


I always smile when I think of the young woman from the romcom "Letters to Juliet" who dreams of breaking out as a writer but has to settle for now on being just a fact-checker for the New Yorker.
posted by steinsaltz at 8:57 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Hallmark movies feature a lot of financial planners.
posted by Jpfed at 8:58 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Mike Brady was indeed an architect.

But Steve Douglas was an aerospace engineer! How ridiculous is that? They don't even have those in Rom-Coms anymore! Suspension of disbelief can only go so far, I guess.
posted by Naberius at 8:59 AM on February 10


All the bookstore owners I have ever known have been a) alcoholics, b) at least a bit crazy, or c) both. There is plenty of room for comedy there, but little room for romance.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:00 AM on February 10 [12 favorites]


And I remember a thing years ago, when The Bachelor or one of those shows had just started a season where the Bachelor in question was an architect, and a study came out right around the same time showing that straight women found architects to be the least datable of men in all white collar careers.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:01 AM on February 10


All the bookstore owners I have ever known have been a) alcoholics, b) at least a bit crazy, or c) both. There is plenty of room for comedy there, but little room for romance.

Ah, Black Books.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:01 AM on February 10 [36 favorites]


Even when the numbers are jiggered to include decrepit operations like The A.V. Club, the number of working writers and editors in America amounts to less than 200,000 employed.

Well that's my daily dose of pessimism taken care of.

(Re: GenjiandProust, so you're saying Black Books is the down-to-earth, realistic version of You've Got Mail?)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:02 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Jinx!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:02 AM on February 10


The first rule of Slav Club is - don't talk about Slav Club. The second rule of Slav Club is - talk about Pushkin. Or Gorecki, maybe - he's fabulous. There are really a lot of nice Slavs you can talk about, though, so don't waste time talking about the silly club.
posted by koeselitz at 9:02 AM on February 10 [9 favorites]


I knew a guy once who made a living by traveling from bar to bar as a sales rep for a beer company. His job was basically to schmooze and drink beer with people. He was as awesome a guy as you'd expect for a guy lucky enough to get a job like that and be able to do it well; so much so that when our friend dumped him, everyone (even those who had known her for decades and him for months) went nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. I always thought his job sounded like something from a romantic comedy.
posted by davejay at 9:03 AM on February 10 [8 favorites]


Even as a kid, I noticed that advertising was the go-to occupation for male protagonists in 1980s comedies. I'd have to check my facts, but I believe Tom Hanks played an ad guy 36 times in that decade alone.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:04 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


I remember reading here or cracked (or somewhere) that a lot of jobs in movies are written by people who don't understand how jobs work, or can only relate it to their own Hollywood job, hence why every 'office worker' always has a big 'presentation' they're always preparing for.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:05 AM on February 10 [57 favorites]


Ah, Black Books.

Honestly? That show brings back bad memories. Like "turn it off after 2 episodes because of the memories" kinds of memories. It's a bit too close to the truth....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:06 AM on February 10


hence why every 'office worker' always has a big 'presentation' they're always preparing for.

Funny you should mention that; I have a big presentation on that very subject I'm preparing for as I write this.
posted by davejay at 9:07 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


When I read this earlier this morning, I realized that in HIMYM, three of the five main characters are currently an Architect, a Journalist and (essentially) a Gallery Curator.

And the Gallery Curator used to be an Elementary School Teacher, which is almost unheard of as a profession in most TV shows and movies I'm aware of, much less rom-coms.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:07 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I'd read this post, but I'm too busy assembling a massive architectural model for the presentation this afternoon. If we can land the Henderson Account, I'm a shoe-in for that long deserved promotion!
posted by Iridic at 9:08 AM on February 10 [22 favorites]


Didn't George Costanza always say he wanted to be an architect? And in fact impersonated one on a few occasions (in addition to marine biologist, latex importer/exporter, etc.)?
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:12 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Iridic, I'm tired of looking longingly over my glass of wine in a bar lit by twinkling lights while you stand up articles for work; we're through until you make some sort of creepy grand gesture!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:12 AM on February 10 [8 favorites]


Wake me when there's a romantic comedy about a software QA engineer.

You've Got 4,392 Critical Issues

Starring Ryan Reynolds and Jennifer Aniston
posted by chasing at 9:12 AM on February 10 [61 favorites]


One thing I'll give to HIMYM, though (and honestly I love that show) is that the lawyer character doesn't do courtroom practice, which might be the only case of that in fictional history.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:15 AM on February 10 [8 favorites]


And the Gallery Curator used to be an Elementary School Teacher, which is almost unheard of as a profession in most TV shows and movies I'm aware of, much less rom-coms.

New Girl, at least.

For some reason I'm thinking that Ben Stiller's fiancee in Meet the Parents was an elementary school teacher, too. Definitely Rick Moranis's wife in Parenthood (the movie, not the TV show) was one (fun fact: that actress is now a mystery novelist).
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:16 AM on February 10


And the Gallery Curator used to be an Elementary School Teacher, which is almost unheard of as a profession in most TV shows and movies I'm aware of, much less rom-coms.

Really? What about New Girl or Meet the Parents which I saw ten minutes of on a plane but enough to get that? That's just off the top of my head. I think it's another thing that fits the criteria of:

1) Job that doesn't need an explanation because we all know what it is
2) Creative and potentially quirky but not so much that the woman is a weirdo
3) Non-threatening stereotypically female job

It's a lot like baker or bookstore owner in that way. There's nothing wrong with being an elementary school teacher (hell, I used to be an elementary school teacher) but I think that it's another job that female romantic interests can have frequently because it demonstrates that they're legitimate and respectable enough to date, but not so career-focused as to be uptight or threatening. Just what you want out of a woman!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:16 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Oh, man. Jinx.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:17 AM on February 10


Also Mary (Amy Adams) in The Muppets, but I think Cash4Lead was being sarcastic.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:17 AM on February 10


Yeah, that's twice for me in this thread. Oops! Going to leave the internet alone for a few hours!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:18 AM on February 10


I completely forgot about New Girl! Thanks for mentioning it.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:18 AM on February 10


I worked in a project with architect/marine biologist who also was an exact namesake with the most over-the-top character in Arrested Development. Haunted by sitcoms.
posted by Free word order! at 9:19 AM on February 10


One thing I'll give to HIMYM, though (and honestly I love that show) is that the lawyer character doesn't do courtroom practice, which might be the only case of that in fictional history.

I have a friend who is a lawyer, and, when I feel like she could use a jolt of irritation, I describe what the lawyer characters are doing in some TV show I am watching. "Hey, remember that lawyer who was doing the criminal defense? She's doing contract law now. And maybe copyright!" I hear the teeth gnashing through the chat window. Then she tells me how librarians sit around and read books.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:20 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Speaking of HIMYM, Lily was an elementary school teacher for...six years of that show? Seven?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:20 AM on February 10


I thought we all knew that " Gallery Owner/Curator" was one of those polite euphemism kinda jovs?
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


"Hey, remember that lawyer who was doing the criminal defense? She's doing contract law now. And maybe copyright!" I hear the teeth gnashing through the chat window. Then she tells me how librarians sit around and read books.

One of my favorite things they do with Marshall is when he's telling a story from doing legal work at GNB and mentions the report he's working on, which is super realistically boring and minute, and the rest of them have him just refer to it as "The Ninja Report" for the rest of the story for their benefit.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:24 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


New Girl's running gag of Shmidt being a marketing analyst and nobody knowing what that entails is pretty fun.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:24 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I worked in a project with architect/marine biologist who also was an exact namesake with the most over-the-top character in Arrested Development.

What project were you working on? The set of The Abyss?
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:25 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Bernard Black is the fictional character I most want to be. Now hand me my lolly.
posted by Diablevert at 9:31 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


New Girl's running gag of Shmidt being a marketing analyst and nobody knowing what that entails is pretty fun.

It's an homage to Chandler career on Friends, isn't it?
posted by The World Famous at 9:40 AM on February 10


What jobs should romantic comedy people have? What are actually common jobs that people have? I don't know things.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:41 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Everyone should be unemployed I guess?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:41 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


What jobs should romantic comedy people have?

Just look around! Mortician. Librarian. Professional plagiarist. Webcommunity moderator. These things practically write themselves!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:43 AM on February 10 [15 favorites]


Well my job is pretty cool and ripe with potential rom com fodder.

I work at a cheese factory. I cut cheese and write procedure and policy. I also got to help write a radio spot the other day. It had a mooing cow in it.

Heh
posted by Jalliah at 9:45 AM on February 10 [9 favorites]


What jobs should romantic comedy people have?

If we want to have some verisimilitude, how about nurses?
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:46 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


What jobs should romantic comedy people have?

Hard-bit Private Eye and naive Exotic Dancer. I don't know why Hollywood has so much trouble with this.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:48 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


I was always irrationally pleased that Jeff from the TV show Coupling was an accountant.
posted by Sequence at 9:50 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


So on Full House, by the time their were in their early 30s, Danny Tanner was the host of a morning show in a major US city, Jesse owned a night club, and Joey was a children's television show host.

I found this out last night at around 10 PM, when I was eating cereal and sitting on the couch in my underpants watching Supernatural wondering what it is I grew up thinking I would be doing at my age.
posted by griphus at 9:51 AM on February 10 [20 favorites]


Even as a kid, I noticed that advertising was the go-to occupation for male protagonists in 1980s comedies.

My first thought after reading the article was that they forgot working in advertising (particularly as a "jingle writer") as a job heavily overrepresented in TV/movies vs. how common these jobs are held in the real world. I always figured, as noted earlier in the thread, that people who write for TV/movies likely haven't held a wide variety of non-entertainment industry related white-collar jobs, so advertising is the one industry they vaguely know exists.

Another clue that whoever is writing for a TV show or movie has never actually held a job other than as a writer: Any work related scene where someone refers to trying to land "The Johnson account". I've worked in sales for close to 20 years now, for multiple companies, and have never heard anyone talk like that, ever
posted by The Gooch at 9:56 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


In addition to the factors mentioned above, one of the things these jobs have in common is a perceived flexibility coupled with demandingness/deadlines. Because for rom-com purposes, it's good if your characters have a crazy busy career that doesn't leave them time to meet a nice boy to take home for their sister's wedding, but also really important that they can totally go to Starbucks at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then spend the rest of the day having a romantic montage with the gorgeous architect they accidentally dumped a venti mochaccino on. It's not every career where you can have a bunch of daylight dates but also be married to your work such that you have to really struggle with whether to go to your big career-making presentation or to the airport to declare your love for your soulmate before his career takes him to France.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:57 AM on February 10 [18 favorites]


So on Full House, by the time their were in their early 30s, Danny Tanner was the host of a morning show in a major US city, Jesse owned a night club, and Joey was a children's television show host.

And yet they all still lived in the same house? Man, San Francisco real estate must be even more expensive than I thought!
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:57 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Didn't George Costanza always say he wanted to be an architect?

Actually, he said he always wanted to pretend to be an architect.
posted by mach at 10:04 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Wake me when there's a romantic comedy about a software QA engineer.

Nah, what I want is the QA testing techno-thriller.
They tried to terminate his process, and now he's escalating to Tier 2. Coming this fall: Known Shippable, starring Jason Statham as The Tester.
posted by kmz at 10:05 AM on February 10 [31 favorites]


Next y'all will be telling me that TV and movie characters live in extremely improbable abodes which (a) don't exist and (b) if they existed would be $10,000 every five minutes to rent.

(Speaking of which, exactly how much money would Nathan Fillian [Rick Castle] need to have to live like he does in NYC? In addition to his insanely spacious "loft" he owns a huge waterfront house somewhere out in the Hamptons, plus the Ferrari, etc. And yet when his daughter was held by kidnappers, the amount of cash he could come up with was $3M, which seemed...light?)
posted by maxwelton at 10:05 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Something in the back of my mind was whispering "Brian Keith in Family Affair was an Architect". Turns out he was a Civil Engineer. Close but not quite.
posted by achrise at 10:08 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Next y'all will be telling me that TV and movie characters live in extremely improbably abodes...

To be fair, a lot of these houses are missing at least one major load-bearing wall, which brings the asking price down at least 10-15%.
posted by griphus at 10:09 AM on February 10 [24 favorites]


Wait, Danny Tanner had a job?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:17 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I've had black books ecommended me by people saying you have to watch it whelk it's a chilling vision of your future
posted by The Whelk at 10:18 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


In addition to the factors mentioned above, one of the things these jobs have in common is a perceived flexibility coupled with demandingness/deadlines.

I think a related factor is that they want something that's creative and theoretically semi-meaningful but also a career that plausibly involves going to an office so you can do office stuff and have characters who are co-workers and so on. I'm guessing that's why there's relatively few writers and artists, since that work tends to be more solitary, and also why there are so goddamn many architects and people in advertising, since that just about hits the sweet spot. Basically they want the thing that most seems like a white-collar job without having the actual downsides that most white-collar work has, like schedules and pointless drudgery.
posted by Copronymus at 10:18 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Cursory googling shows Stephen King, James Patterson, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham all have net worths in the hundreds of millions. So the swag lifestyle seems appropriate if Castle is supposed to be that level of Famous Popular Writer. Maybe the $3M is all the cash on hand he could come up with in short order?
posted by Panjandrum at 10:19 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Jalliah: I cut cheese

Actually, I'd say your life is every Eddie Murphy family film ever made.
posted by dr_dank at 10:20 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Yeah, given Castle's lifestyle it seems a reasonable assumption that most of his net worth is tied up in things like enormous Manhattan apartments, Ferraris and that bar he (still?) owns.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:21 AM on February 10


To be fair, a lot of these houses are missing at least one major load-bearing wall, which brings the asking price down at least 10-15%.

Not to mention: wacky-neighbor contingent property value depreciation.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:22 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Actually, the most common office job for women is - still - secretary/administrative assistant/etc. It's just that "secretary" is the job you give the wacky comic relief friend in the rom coms.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


> "What jobs should romantic comedy people have?"

It's not that no character should ever have these jobs, it's just that certain jobs are ridiculously overrepresented compared to their actual numbers in the population as a whole. There are a number of reasons, probably including:

1) Plot convenience. As has been mentioned, the ideal romcom job has co-workers (for secondary character purposes) and flexibility (for scene scheduling purposes.)

2) Character shorthand. One common romcom character type, for example, is affluent, although not rich, and is work-focused, but has an artistic side. Why bother to actual write dialogue expressing this when you could simply make them an architect (for an artistic side perceived as "masculine") or gallery owner (for an artistic side perceived as "feminine").

3) The lemming effect. This one really popular movie was about an architect, so ...
posted by kyrademon at 10:29 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who is a lawyer, and, when I feel like she could use a jolt of irritation, I describe what the lawyer characters are doing in some TV show I am watching. "Hey, remember that lawyer who was doing the criminal defense? She's doing contract law now. And maybe copyright!" I hear the teeth gnashing through the chat window.

I would love the chance to hear what she thought of Ally McBeal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Also having your leads be ad execs or fashion mag editors allows for a lot of lucrative product placement. (I think it was How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days which became just a straight-up DeBeers ad for a while, getting around DeBeers' restrictions about advertising in the U.S.)
posted by Navelgazer at 10:35 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


> "Iridic, I'm tired of looking longingly over my glass of wine in a bar lit by twinkling lights while you stand up articles for work; we're through until you make some sort of creepy grand gesture!"

Wow, that's harsh, MCMikeNamara. Perhaps I should step in and show Iridic that life can be quirky and fun and you can live in the moment over the course of a couple of days before I die quickly and painlessly of a terrible illness that isn't gross or anything.
posted by kyrademon at 10:35 AM on February 10 [13 favorites]


No elementary teachers in rom-coms? How could you forget Kindergarten Cop?
posted by ckape at 10:36 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Also, in fairness to the folks writing these characters, I have basically no idea what most people actually do at their jobs on a day-to-day basis. I know what I do, obviously, and I have a pretty decent idea what a couple of my very close friends do, but other than the friends I have at work, I have only a vague idea what most of the people I know actually do during the day. Like, I probably have a job title/field in my head, but hell if I can turn that into an 8-hour work day. I can sympathize with just saying, "Fuck it, he's an architect, and he spends his days designing buildings, because I sort of know what the hell an architect is."
posted by Copronymus at 10:40 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Basically they want the thing that most seems like a white-collar job without having the actual downsides that most white-collar work has, like schedules and pointless drudgery.

Which is why Office Space (kind of a rom-com?) is one of the only realistic movies ever made about work.

The first time I saw it, my mouth was just hanging open at the things Judge got right about office jobs. I never worked as a waitress, but I did work retail, and Jennifer Aniston's horrible boss was also a type I recognized.
posted by emjaybee at 10:41 AM on February 10 [13 favorites]


Perhaps I should step in and show Iridic that life can be quirky and fun and you can live in the moment over the course of a couple of days before I die quickly and painlessly of a terrible illness that isn't gross or anything.

Honest to god I can't tell if this is meant to satirize Manic Pixie Dream Girl movies or We Adopted A Rambunctious Dog movies.
posted by griphus at 10:41 AM on February 10 [11 favorites]


Scriptwriters would do well to read through Gig or similar works.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:43 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


why there are so goddamn many architects and people in advertising, since that just about hits the sweet spot. Basically they want the thing that most seems like a white-collar job without having the actual downsides that most white-collar work has, like schedules and pointless drudgery.

**dies laughing/ of despair**

Actually, it seems like architect (or possibly civil engineer) is really huge lately in commercials, but it seems to me that it's because they have a range of plausible options for showing whatever character they're using doing a bunch of things - on the jobsite with a roll of drawings, working at their desk, in a design meeting/presentation (they do actually happen, I've worked late for them), etc. I note they don't show someone waiting four hours for their name to be called at the building department though.
posted by LionIndex at 10:46 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Which is why Office Space (kind of a rom-com?) is one of the only realistic movies ever made about work.

It's not white-collar, but Clerks was a surprisingly accurate version of the kind of retail I used to work in: dead hours, stupid questions, shady characters, and a surprising amount of leeway to fuck around when no one is watching.
posted by griphus at 10:48 AM on February 10 [13 favorites]


This reminds me of the long running joke that none of the friends on Friends knew what Chandler did for a living, just that he had some job in some office, and then somehow, all of my friends thought whatever he did was also what I did since they didn't know what I did either, just that I had some office job.

(This was a long running joke in my life, but just barely fictional.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:48 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Whoa, they mention journalists but not Clark Gable in It Happened One Night? That's supposed to be the first rom-com. For shame!
posted by mr. digits at 11:02 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend's dream job was to be an architect before she decided to get into community development (but now maybe urban planning) instead, so I've never really associated architecture as a masculine artistic endeavor. No art really comes off as masculine or feminine to me but I can see how people perceive that.

Also, for elementary school teachers, Olivia Williams in Rushmore anyone? I guess that's not really a rom-com, but it's romantic and funny!
posted by gucci mane at 11:08 AM on February 10


I actually am a magazine editor. Magazines are where romance goes to die. It's perhaps telling that the guy who held my current position when I arrived recently got divorced, and the guy who had the job after that remains a confirmed bachelor—and both kept a well-stocked bottom drawer.

Sometimes I think my poor husband must've thought he was marrying a manic pixie dream girl, because the narrative was totally in place: We met while working in a bookstore, I urged him to chase his dreams, then I chased mine and became a magazine editor. But yeah, no. Working in a bookstore, weirdly, does seem to be romantic on some level—ours spawned at least half a dozen marriages. But magazines provide much better fodder for reality TV than romantic comedies, unless you're talking about romantic comedies where people work too much, fight a lot, and get divorced.

Also completely unsexy: editing Valentine's Day stories in December. By the time the actual day arrives, you've been done thinking about it for two months. Even less sexy: the PR solicitation I got in my work inbox a minute ago, subject line "Article: Keep the Romance Alive."
posted by limeonaire at 11:28 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Is Clerks a 'romcom' (hate that word)? In a way, I guess. so add Shopclerk to the list, pronto.
posted by jonmc at 11:31 AM on February 10


I had hoped they'd include the (Information not available) career choice, as well. I first noticed this when I was watching So I Married an Axe Murderer, and I don't think I'd have caught it if Nancy Travis's occupation weren't part of the plot in the early going: I'd seen the movie a bunch of times and then one day I realized that it's never explained what Mike Myers's character does for a living. Like, he reads at open mic nights, but they're open mic and those don't pay, and he's sufficiently well-off to be able to live by himself in San Francisco, but at the same time he appears to be out and about on weekdays and overall seems to live a life of leisure. I don't know if it's chiefly rom-coms that do this but it's where I noticed it first.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:36 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's chiefly rom-coms that do this but it's where I noticed it first.

Well, for the first couple seasons of the Flintstones, we didn't know what Barney did, and then all of a sudden he was at the gravel pit with Fred. I, for one, am not buying it.
posted by jonmc at 11:53 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Wasn't the Matrix a RomCom?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:57 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


The article calls out baker (even though they mention 600K people are bakers in the US) but it is more the specific kind of baker that feature in RomComs. The bakers in RomComs are almost always working in little quirky cake or cupcake stores and are often the owners of said establishment. They never show the guy injecting filling into twinkies or cranking out 10,000 loaves of bread for the local Loblaws/Piggly Wiggly. They also rarely show the early nights of a baker due to having to be at work at 4AM.
posted by Mitheral at 12:17 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Mitheral, that's only because you haven't seen my supernatural legal thriller rom-com The Ghost of Lochner.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:21 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Next y'all will be telling me that TV and movie characters live in extremely improbable abodes which (a) don't exist and (b) if they existed would be $10,000 every five minutes to rent.

This and the job thing is why I had a really hard time getting in to HIMYM. I kept doing the math in my head of what mid-twenties architects/law students/elementary school teachers/tv anchors/unemployed people make and how much their apartments cost and how much they spent on scotch and taxis and I could never square it. I was like call me when they reboot this where everyone lives in a 500 sq ft railroad apartment in Inwood and drinks Evan Williams and then maybe we'll talk.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:22 PM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Bookstore manager here, and while there are plenty of eccentrics on both sides of the counters, relatively few alcoholics or actual crazy folk. That said, Black Books has a lot that made me nod in recognition...
posted by librosegretti at 12:33 PM on February 10


It's interesting. I keep thinking of counterexamples - characters in mainstream comedies with jobs outside what's presented here as the standard - but then keep realizing that all the ones I can think of are from television, not actual romantic comedy movies.
posted by The World Famous at 12:41 PM on February 10


Journalist used to be a go-to because you could then have ADVENTURES! without having a strict office time. They do fail to get the crushing nature of endless deadlines right.

In terms of real jobs, my current gig, coms work for a non-profit (especially an LGBT one) is a total license for a straight guy to pull. But I can usually shoot that down by a) describing the boring, crushing day-to-day it actually is ("We agreed we're a messaging-first coalition, and that quote has too much individuality in it."), and b) saying the word "girlfriend" about 30 times per sentence.
posted by klangklangston at 1:00 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


I was working on a Sandra Bullock counterpoint, because she's been a bus driver and a CTA token collector. But she's also played a lot of standard movie jobs like doctor, lawyer, FBI agent, astronaut medical device engineer, etc.

I suppose only a subset of those roles are romantic comedies.
posted by yarrow at 1:04 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I do telephone software support for far-flung customers in other timezones/countries, so I never meet my customers; and I telecommute so I never freakin' leave the house or see my co-workers. Romcom that, ya bastards!
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:05 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


This and the job thing is why I had a really hard time getting in to HIMYM.

There's a limit to how small of an apartment you can show on TV, because you need the scene to actually be blocked.

That said, Ted, Lily, and Marshall shared an apartment above a bar (noisy neighborhood might make rent lower?), with a tiny, tiny kitchen, and only one bathroom.

Barney's an investment banker (well, his job isn't explicitly mentioned, but he works for a large bank), and presumably making 6 figures.

Robin's a TV reporter, but we find out later (mild spoilers) that she was once a teen pop star, so presumably she had some savings built up from then.

All in all, the housing situation isn't completely unbelievable considering how bad some other shows are.
posted by explosion at 1:05 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Oh, and just to up the ante: I'm bald and in my 50's.

*steps back, folds arms, looks challengingly over bifocals*
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:08 PM on February 10


Also Robin was in a one-bedroom in Brooklyn and so, giving a little bit of leeway for three-camera setups adding square footage, her apartment seemed reasonable to me. None of them were like Monica and Rachel's place (which, I know that place was justified in-universe by rent control, but I don't think that apartment exists in the west village even in fiction.)
posted by Navelgazer at 1:08 PM on February 10


Plus Robin's family is loaded and Barney's job turned out to be (unsurprisingly) highly illegal, so yeah, those check out.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:09 PM on February 10


Oh, and just to up the ante: I'm bald and in my 50's.

Can we bring in JK Simmons?
posted by mr. digits at 1:19 PM on February 10


Actually I'd love to see Simmons in a Coen Bros. romcom.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:24 PM on February 10


Maybe him and Dirty Chris Meloni could be competing for the love of Dean Winters?

After 'Oz' I'm happy to see them any time.
posted by mr. digits at 1:28 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


"I do telephone software support for far-flung customers in other timezones/countries, so I never meet my customers; and I telecommute so I never freakin' leave the house or see my co-workers. Romcom that, ya bastards!"

That's easy — overworked support dude is yelled at and miserable because of the idiots he supports. But he's really a creative X working on [Novel|Screenplay|New App], but he lacks the confidence to finish it and get it out there.

He's desperate for human contact, so he starts going to the local coffee shop, just to get away from the computer. Once he's there, he meets the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who is probably, I dunno, a veterinarian or something — she likely has computer trouble at her clinic. She teaches him what's important in life, he completes his hero's journey and they totally bone down.

"Oh, and just to up the ante: I'm bald and in my 50's."

That just means that Undead James Gandolfini plays you, and Julia Louis Dreyfus plays the MPDG.
posted by klangklangston at 1:39 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


klangklangston, my people will be in touch
posted by thelonius at 1:44 PM on February 10


Anything that gets Undead James Gandolfini more work is fine by me.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:44 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Pretty good, klangklangston, except for that whole "being tied to my computer/Internet/corporate VOIP-phone system for 8 hours a day" thing. If I went to a coffee shop at lunch, got Manic Pixied, and blew the afternoon off, I'd be fired for not being at my post during scheduled support hours.

You'd have to replace "customer service drone" with "independent computer consultant"; he might be tied to and frequently harassed by a cell phone, but (a) "tech consultant" sounds sexy and exciting without being too messily specific, and (b) it gets him out of the house and in contact with a far wider number of people, setting him up for wacky adventures. Also, the pay's usually better, so there's that.

...Actually, that's not a bad idea - let's collaborate on a screenplay! It'd be my ticket outta this dump. I bet you thought I was referring to changing jobs, didn't you?
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:04 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


One thing I've noticed, in every movie or TV show I've ever seen: no matter what job they have, they're always late for work.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:34 PM on February 10


One thing I've noticed, in every movie or TV show I've ever seen: no matter what job they have, they're always late for work.

A little shot of realism never hurt anybody, I guess.
posted by The World Famous at 2:48 PM on February 10


Elyse Keaton was an architect on Family Ties. She also did a lot, if not all, of the housework and cooking that I can recall - so even if the job was somewhat unlikely the full-time working mother who also has the bulk of the responsibility for household management was entirely realistic for the time.

I think she worked from home though, as did Cliff Huxtable and Alan Thicke's character in Growing Pains IIRC. Certainly made sitcom life easier.
posted by goo at 3:03 PM on February 10


Wasn't Kirstie Alley's character in Look Who's Talking a tax accountant? And the father of her Bruce-Willis-voiced baby was one of her clients?

I get unreasonably excited when my profession, accountancy, pops up in movies and TV shows. Sure, you've got your sexy lawyers and doctors and vets and architects, but where are the accountants? Okay, as a profession we tend to spend a lot of time sitting at desks squinting at spreadsheets, but that's no reason to sideline us. All right, maybe it is.

(Not a romcom, but I was delighted when I found out that Bobby Drake / Iceman was an accountant in the comics universe.) (If I have been misinformed about this, please do not tell me.)
posted by meronym at 3:20 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Wake me when there's a romantic comedy about a software QA engineer.

"Works for us".
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:30 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


I think she worked from home though, as did Cliff Huxtable

He was an obstetrician. He did not work from home. Clair was a lawyer, and also did not work from home.
posted by The World Famous at 3:35 PM on February 10


I think accountant would be a very valuable skill in a superhero universe, imagine the mind-bending leaps Tony Stark's personal accounting team has to do.
posted by The Whelk at 3:36 PM on February 10


> "(Not a romcom, but I was delighted when I found out that Bobby Drake / Iceman was an accountant in the comics universe.) (If I have been misinformed about this, please do not tell me.)"

No need to worry, as you are entirely correct.
posted by kyrademon at 3:48 PM on February 10


Sure, you've got your sexy lawyers and doctors and vets and architects, but where are the accountants?

Archer.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:35 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


He was an obstetrician. He did not work from home. Clair was a lawyer, and also did not work from home.

Yeah, he did. His OB practice office was in the basement, maybe? I think a door off to the right of the living room? He saw patients there and everything.
posted by goo at 4:37 PM on February 10


<I always smile when I think of the young woman from the romcom "Letters to Juliet" who dreams of breaking out as a writer but has to settle for now on being just a fact-checker for the New Yorker.

I thought it was hilarious that she was checking that end-of-WWII photo of the sailor kissing a nurse at Times Square by GOING to Times Square.

I enjoy movies set at "The New Yorker". I should sit down and make a list of the actors who have played William Shawn or Harold Ross.
posted by acrasis at 4:54 PM on February 10


Bookstore manager here, and while there are plenty of eccentrics on both sides of the counters, relatively few alcoholics or actual crazy folk.

Bookstore middle-management hre. We're fully stocked up on both.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


One of the things I liked best about Friends With Benefits was that Natalie Portman's character is a doctor.
posted by Sara C. at 5:02 PM on February 10


Or, wait, is that No Strings Attached? Dumb identical romcoms coming out the same year, based on the same premise.
posted by Sara C. at 5:03 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I thought it was hilarious that she was checking that end-of-WWII photo of the sailor kissing a nurse at Times Square by GOING to Times Square.

Seriously? Amanda Seyfried needs better roles.

Or, wait, is that No Strings Attached? Dumb identical romcoms coming out the same year, based on the same premise.

And both starring leads from Black Swan, to add to the confusion.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:04 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


One thing I'll give to HIMYM, though (and honestly I love that show)...

I always thought Ted being an architect was a lampshade-hanging joke based on the fact that all guys in romantic comedies are architects. He is basically a rom-com hero looking for his meet-cute.

I'm still sort of sad that they didn't cast Mindy Kaling as the mother.
posted by Sara C. at 5:06 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend's dream job was to be an architect before she decided to get into community development (but now maybe urban planning) instead, so I've never really associated architecture as a masculine artistic endeavor.

I can tell you, having seen previews of the new (and sure-to-bomb-on-Broadway) musical If/Then: even if you've got Idina Menzel belting her heart out, making the star of your romcom an urban planner (and, this may be the misstep, making her sing about her career) is a total laughingstock of a no-go.
posted by psoas at 5:14 PM on February 10


it's never explained what Mike Myers's character does for a living. Like, he reads at open mic nights, but they're open mic and those don't pay, and he's sufficiently well-off to be able to live by himself in San Francisco, but at the same time he appears to be out and about on weekdays and overall seems to live a life of leisure.

Oh, I sort of thought he was supposed to be a Professional Poet, and it was just one of the film's absurdities that this is apparently a job one can do and lead a normal well-off lifestyle.
posted by Sara C. at 5:15 PM on February 10


acrasis: "I enjoy movies set at "The New Yorker". I should sit down and make a list of the actors who have played William Shawn or Harold Ross."

According to IMDB, Shawn has been played by Nicholas Woodeson, Frank G. Curcio and Bob Balaban while Ross has been played by Patrick Tovatt and Sam Robards.
posted by octothorpe at 5:16 PM on February 10


Yeah, he did. His OB practice office was in the basement, maybe? I think a door off to the right of the living room? He saw patients there and everything.

I'll be back to fight you on this after I go watch the entire series again just to make sure I'm right.
posted by The World Famous at 5:18 PM on February 10


I kept doing the math in my head of what mid-twenties architects/law students/elementary school teachers/tv anchors/unemployed people make and how much their apartments cost and how much they spent on scotch and taxis and I could never square it.

On the other hand, they all live in like Yorkville or something and have roommates. So, potentially plausible. You have to suspend your disbelief that being unemployed for some of the stretches of time Ted has wouldn't lead to a rather unstable housing situation, but in the interest of the scene design budget, they can't really have Ted moving from shitty share in Queens to Lily's dad's couch to the corridor between the 14th Street 2 and F trains. So I'll accept the fiction that he has a trust fund or is maybe a really diligent Lyft driver or something.
posted by Sara C. at 5:20 PM on February 10


I'm on team Cliff Huxtable's Practice Was On The Ground Floor Of Their Brownstone, by the way.

(It wasn't really the basement, per se, though from the way the sets work I can understand it seeming that way.)
posted by Sara C. at 5:21 PM on February 10


It's kind of insane that Wallace Shawn has never played William Shawn.
posted by Sara C. at 5:26 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Several of the staff at my bookstore have dated customers, and a few have even hit it off with long-term; retail certainly gives the opportunity to meet dozens or hundreds of people every day, so in that sense is slightly more "realistic" for rom-coms. I met the Beloved Partner at a book club, which is at least plausible.
posted by librosegretti at 5:32 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


"Pretty good, klangklangston, except for that whole "being tied to my computer/Internet/corporate VOIP-phone system for 8 hours a day" thing. If I went to a coffee shop at lunch, got Manic Pixied, and blew the afternoon off, I'd be fired for not being at my post during scheduled support hours."

Uh, you're on your Bluetooth headset while just getting away from your desk for a minute and she gets upset that you're being rude to the barista and whips your earpiece out and it turns out that there are more important things than your workaday drudgery MEET CUTE.

If necessary for future conflict, that client thinks your signal got dropped but solves the problem on their own. You make up excuses for the "technical difficulties" and nobody knows enough to call you on them. But the MPDG really teaches you that the real world trumps the virtual one, leading you to ultimately fess up and quit in a romantic flurry that's rewarded by the client realizing they didn't need you for tech support — they just want to read your novel!

You cannot defeat my romcom style.
posted by klangklangston at 5:41 PM on February 10 [8 favorites]


One of the things I liked best about Friends With Benefits was that Natalie Portman's character is a doctor.
posted by Sara C. at 8:02 PM on February 10 [+] [!]


Even better than that, Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling were her fellow doctors.

Speaking of ridiculous jobs + apartments, I couldn't believe Joaquin Phoenix's character in Her could afford that amazing apartment as a writer of other people's letters. Also Amy Adams could afford a similar apartment as an experimental video maker.
posted by sweetkid at 6:59 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Her was set in some indeterminate near future; we have no idea what kind of economics were going on there. We don't even ever see money in the movie, maybe everybody gets a high-rise apartment.
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 PM on February 10


...nah. I let the apartments go because the whole movie was a fantasy and also those sets were beautiful.
posted by sweetkid at 7:47 PM on February 10


You cannot defeat my romcom style.

*Bows in respect*

*Accidentally drops and smashes cellphone, terminating a conference call while I was right on the verge of finally landing the big Johnson account*
*Gets fired*
*Ends up on Skid Row, where there are very few MPDGs*
"You'll pay for this, klangklangstoooooooonnnnnn!!!"

posted by Greg_Ace at 7:49 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Wake me when there's a romantic comedy about a software QA engineer.

You've Got 4,392 Critical Issues

Starring Ryan Reynolds and Jennifer Aniston
Incident Report
Starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling
posted by deathpanels at 8:29 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


> "*Ends up on Skid Row, where there are very few MPDGs*"

My turf is right by the river after 1 AM. For 10 bucks I'll be idiosyncratic, for 20 I'll be quirky, and 50 gets you childlike playfulness coupled with a few incidents of charming petty crime. An all-night session of crazy antics until the break of dawn where you'll learn to live freely and love madly will run you 300. Cash up front, don't ask if you can have a discount.
posted by kyrademon at 8:40 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Wasn't Mike Brady an architect too"

I wanted to be an architect for as far back as I can remember. I grew up near the building used for the exterior shot of his office and I had one friend that would always joke about "dropping me off at work" when we'd drive by. Sadly, the building is gone now.

Actually, it seems like architect (or possibly civil engineer) is really huge lately in commercials

Bill Davis was a civil engineer!
posted by Room 641-A at 9:04 PM on February 10


My turf is right by the river after 1 AM. For 10 bucks I'll be idiosyncratic, for 20 I'll be quirky, and 50 gets you childlike playfulness coupled with a few incidents of charming petty crime. An all-night session of crazy antics until the break of dawn where you'll learn to live freely and love madly will run you 300. Cash up front, don't ask if you can have a discount.

Can I get a charming, uplifting brush-off for a quarter and a nice button I found?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:36 PM on February 10


Or I'll trade for defragging your hard drive for you...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:38 PM on February 10


My turf is right by the river after 1 AM. For 10 bucks I'll be idiosyncratic, for 20 I'll be quirky, and 50 gets you childlike playfulness coupled with a few incidents of charming petty crime. An all-night session of crazy antics until the break of dawn where you'll learn to live freely and love madly will run you 300. Cash up front, don't ask if you can have a discount.

I think I saw a documentary about this once... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL2ekEeMk0Q
posted by CrystalDave at 10:44 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


*Accidentally drops and smashes cellphone, terminating a conference call while I was right on the verge of finally landing the big Johnson account*

I thought landing the Big Johnson account was a staple of a different film genre.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:00 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I actually met a woman recently and she actually worked as a vet AND a professional stunt woman which I thought was rather cool....
posted by Mr Ed at 6:02 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]



Maybe him and Dirty Chris Meloni could be competing for the love of Dean Winters?

After 'Oz' I'm happy to see them any time.


i'm so there.
posted by sweetkid at 6:51 AM on February 11


Wake me when there's a romantic comedy about a software QA engineer.

"Works for us".
I think that movie's title is Cannot Reproduce.
posted by hattifattener at 10:26 AM on February 11 [10 favorites]


I actually met a woman recently and she actually worked as a vet AND a professional stunt woman which I thought was rather cool....
posted by Mr Ed


E-pony-sterical.

I'm sorry, I'll show myself out.
posted by aureliobuendia at 12:41 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


> That just means that Undead James Gandolfini plays you

I'd rather cast Paul Giamatti, because the world doesn't need another romantic zombie comedy.

I can't find a clip, but didn't Something About Mary completely nail the Romantic Architect trope and then offer it a spongeful of vinegar?
posted by WhackyparseThis at 6:43 PM on February 11


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