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Why Do Main Characters Always Have the Same Job?

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I remember mentioning to my friend once how funny and self-indulgent I find it that writers (of romcoms in particular) like to give our main character a job like ours. (Or if not writing/journalism, then something close like marketing). Funnily enough, it hadn’t occurred to her before, so I managed to rattle off a list quite quickly. Here’s some I can think of right now:

  1. Love Actually – Colin Firth’s character
  2. Bridget Jones’s Diary
  3. 27 Dresses (the male lead)
  4. Suddenly 30
  5. Letters to Juliet
  6. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
  7. The Bold Type (a TV show, but still)
  8. Sex and the City (it’s a show and 2 movies, so it definitely counts)
  9. Gilmore Girls (another show)
  10. You (another show – the female lead in s1)
  11. Little Women (Jo)
  12. Fifty Shades of Grey
  13. The Devil Wears Prada

See what I mean? Ok, they weren’t 100% romcoms or movies, but you get what I mean. I’m sure you’ll even think of a few more yourself, especially next time you’re flicking through Netflix.

So why is this?

One reason is, as I alluded to before, the fact that all these characters are being written by writers. They say to write what you know, so why stray far from the truth? After all, in a romcom the plot usually revolves around a relationship, not a career – so it’s easy (and probably a little fun too!) to slot your dream romance into a life not so far removed from your own.

Another possibility is convenience to the story. It always strikes me how unrealistic it is that film and TV characters always seem to have a friend around during even the most bland of errands – and usually the same one friend, no less. But I completely understand this from a storytelling perspective. In a book, you can explain the characters’ thoughts regardless of their social interactions; but on screen, things work a lot better when they have someone to give updates to, especially when a romance plot revolves around such personal topics as feelings.

So how does being a writer play into this?

Partially because it’s pretty easy to have your character organically get chatting with their friend/s on a daily basis about their personal life when they work in a 9-5 office job together. It’s even better when their work sometimes involves blurring the line between work and personal – for example, by going to a fancy new club opening, or going on a new dating app just for a good story for next month’s issue. Whenever characters work in a field that involves entertaining others, such as writing or marketing, it allows the story to “naturally” take them in a direction that the story’s viewers will also be interested in.

I’m sure there are other reasons for this – after all, every story is unique in its construction as well as its content – but I think the above summarises why writers appear to be so overrepresented in this genre.

What do you think? I’d be interested to know your thoughts and/or hear about your favourite writer-centric movie that I haven’t listed above!

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