An Ironclad List of the Only Acceptable Jobs for Movie Characters

You know them. Without looking at this list, you already know them.
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Few elements in movies are as consistent as the short list of careers that have been deemed morally-acceptable for heroic characters. It is a list so ubiquitous it should have its own auto-fill on Final Draft. Hey, remember that one movie with an…

Architect
He’s creative, but you know…straight. And he must be rich, because look at that Puzz 3D model he has next to that Mike Brady drafting desk. This is someone who must have gone to a good school and dresses like your father, so don’t worry about taking him home to family because he has some point of view, but he doesn’t push it. Disney screenwriter Kelly Younger, who teaches dramatic writing workshops at Loyola Marymount University, says, “Rom-coms lean into profession more than any other genre as a kind of ‘shorthand’, hence, their world is overpopulated with lovable architects, introverts who, through their work, are able to gain the love and attention they deserve.”

Chef
He’s fucking cool. Like, before you dated, he probably did coke, but you don’t ask because you don’t want it to be a thing. He still works brunches for the money, but at home when you’re complaining about the A-plot, he’s stirring and wafting, and begging you to slowly taste things he’s going to eventually put on the menu at his own place. Richard Walter, head of the MFA Screenwriting Program at UCLA says, “Dramatic narratives prefer protagonists who are outliers, compact warriors triumphing over seemingly overwhelming opposition.”

Actor
Look at them in their humble day job, working for their art. One moment playing a tomato in a commercial, the next they are stealing fries from tables their serving. In-between: lots of older casting women in librarian glasses looking at the back of their headshots with incredulity. I mean, that’s a person we can get behind. This person will never make it…except maybe this time.

Journalist
These people might as well be doctors, to themselves. The amount of Sorkiny nobility they’ve awarded their own career choices, making only hard decisions about what to publish or air. Every Mark Ruffalo un-tucked Oxford shirt thinks it’s being worn on a journalist.

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Artist
But literally, like with oil paints or clay, or some medium available in the Renaissance. The messier and less successful they are, the better their art probably is. Film producer and screenwriting teacher Barri Evins says, “It’s hard to convey whether the art they’re making is good or bad, so you’re constantly having someone forced to say, ‘Wow, that’s a really great painting!’”

Magazine Columnist
Any Anne Hathaway character brings with it the backstory of a once and future magazine employee. This hallmark of romantic comedies is a vehicle to look at her own comparative success at love with helpful voice-over, as she pulls her bag over her shoulder and hustles across the street to flag down a cab that may or may not drive her towards true love.

Teacher
But for like rough city kids who sit on top of their desks, or maybe a kindergarten classroom of charmingly difficult character-actor children who will come together to win the big music competition at the end of the second act. Yesterday’s Julie Andrews paved the way for the Penelope Ann-Miller and Michelle Pfeiffer, but plenty of sensitive men carrying saddle bags that contain a single hardback book, who planned to do something else but ended up here, find they too can make a difference.

Doctor
No better shorthand for “good person.” In fact, they can be absolute assholes. Should be, actually, because niceties take time away from saving that little kid’s life. Did he remember your date night, probably not…but was it because he was up to his elbows in spleen? Yeah, it was. So maybe YOU shouldn’t be an asshole. And he jogs…you don’t even jog.

Writer
Here the film’s author thinks they’re really pulled off a nice bit of espionage, as they’ve cleverly masked their own therapist-reinforced reflexive heroism under the practically unrecognizable ersatz career of Children’s Book Writer, Advertising Copywriter or Misunderstood Novelist Writer. Do not be mistaken, this character is NOT a Screenwriter… just the self-aggrandizing work of Narcissus and Goldman. “And,” Evins adds, “We see it all the time, even though it’s an occupation that is inherently visually boring, like a computer programmer, just lethally dull.”