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Old 04-18-2019, 05:22 PM
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Death Of The Working-Class Leading Man?


I'm reading Steve McQueen's biography, and the author mentioned how most of the heroes were working-class... Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Cagney, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen himself and others...

I can't think of any in my lifetime (almost 40 years)..
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:24 PM
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I don't know about movies, but there are plenty of working-class main characters on TV nowadays.
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:24 PM
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Little confused, the characters portrayed were working class or the actors themselves were working class?

If its characters, Bruce Willis as John McClane, or Riggs amd Murtaugh of Lethal Weapon fame, just to point out a few
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:32 PM
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A Working Class Hero is something to be.
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:32 PM
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Little confused, the characters portrayed were working class or the actors themselves were working class?

If its characters, Bruce Willis as John McClane, or Riggs amd Murtaugh of Lethal Weapon fame, just to point out a few
I'm sorry I wasn't clear.. I mean on-screen, not their upbringing. Thanks!
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:39 PM
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I'm assuming that the OP means that the characters the heroes played were working class.

That's about half nonsense. Actors played all sorts of roles. True, some actors did become associated with working class roles and some with upper class roles. Cary Grant wasn't believable as working class, even though he came from a tough background; Humphrey Bogart, the child of a doctor and an artist, was. Make-believe works in strange ways.

The other consideration is that America was basically a working class nation until after World War II. Additionally, the talkies appeared during the Depression when the working man was being beaten down, making the class a good subject for drama. It would have been hard to avoid playing some of those roles. Even so, Hollywood made a zillion movies about the glittering upper classes in the 30s, often featuring actors who came out of poverty.

The trend postwar was toward more middle class characters. Rich playboys disappeared; bad boys took their place. Brando wasn't working class in real life; he liked slumming and pretending what he wasn't. But the movies moved away from that world as the country prospered and different types of stories connected with audiences.

I'd have to have a lot more context for what the cited author actually said to know what he really intended.

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Old 04-18-2019, 05:39 PM
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So just took the time to look through my limited video library and came up with Tom Hanks in The Green Mile, he seems to play a lot of "working class" roles, Bruce Willis again in Unbreakable and Gary Sinise and Rob Lowe in The Stand. Thats just what I could find on the shelf in my living room.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:17 PM
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So just took the time to look through my limited video library and came up with Tom Hanks in The Green Mile, he seems to play a lot of "working class" roles, Bruce Willis again in Unbreakable and Gary Sinise and Rob Lowe in The Stand. Thats just what I could find on the shelf in my living room.
Yes, but these aren't real Working Class heroes:

"...these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... "
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:26 PM
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To pick two famous examples: I doubt Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca) was lower socioeconomically than John McClane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard) if you account for increases in education and living standards between 1942 and 1988.

And there were plenty of upper crust leading men back then. Cary Grant hardly ever portrayed anyone below middle-class.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:36 PM
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To pick two famous examples: I doubt Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca) was lower socioeconomically than John McClane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard) if you account for increases in education and living standards between 1942 and 1988.

And there were plenty of upper crust leading men back then. Cary Grant hardly ever portrayed anyone below middle-class.
Yeah, but I've never heard a guy call Cary Grant his hero... Women loved him, and people probably thought of him as charming, but a hero? Na.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:43 PM
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The bar for male attractiveness has risen quite a bit, so unless a man's had surgery or phenomenally good genes, he doesn't stand much of a chance.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:52 PM
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Here's the IMDB list of the 100 top stars of 2018. Of the male stars, I would count Josh Brolin, Tom Hardy, Dwayne Johnson, Chris Pratt, and Sam Rockwell as all frequently playing "working class" types. (I don't count Burt Reynolds because his working class roles were a long time ago.)

The thing is, now so many of the roles are in comic book or fantasy movies you can't really call the character "working class."
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:54 PM
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The bar for male attractiveness has risen quite a bit, so unless a man's had surgery or phenomenally good genes, he doesn't stand much of a chance.
Don't know what that has to do with the topic at hand, but Jeremy Renner looks like a working class schlub whatever the role.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:58 PM
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To pick two famous examples: I doubt Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca) was lower socioeconomically than John McClane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard) if you account for increases in education and living standards between 1942 and 1988.
Rick Blaine is almost the equivalent of Stan Kroenke, an American who owns a club overseas. Sure, Kroenke's club is called Arsenal and not Stan's but still...
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:02 PM
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Yeah, but I've never heard a guy call Cary Grant his hero... Women loved him, and people probably thought of him as charming, but a hero? Na.
Roger Thornhill is one of my heroes.

He uses his adman drinking skills to keep from being killed by spies: they pour a quart of bourbon into him, and put him in the driver's seat of a stolen car on a winding road over the sea. Only hard drinkers could survive that.

Later, he mixes it up with two Chicago cops.
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:07 PM
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And zorks Eva Marie-Saint. That makes him one of my heroes.
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:16 PM
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Really, "working class" means something different (although including the past meaning) than it did some decades ago.

You wanna see a movie with real, modern-day "working class" protagonists? Watch Office Space.

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Old 04-18-2019, 07:35 PM
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Really, "working class" means something different (although including the past meaning) than it did some decades ago.

You wanna see a movie with real, modern-day "working class" protagonists? Watch Office Space.
Yeah, a "white collar" office job used to be prestigious in the 1930s. Today you're just another working stiff, and a factory worker often makes more.
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:46 PM
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Working-class is also a polite way of saying POOR.
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Old 04-18-2019, 08:42 PM
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You also need to take into account that many more films are made about people of color and that they are often working class. If those movie's stars aren't familiar to you or you don't consider those actors stars, that might also say something about the change in our society over the past half century.
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Old 04-18-2019, 08:55 PM
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Here are some vaguely modern English-language movies with working-class heroes or heroines:

Norma Rae
The Florida Project
Logan Lucky
American Honey
Patti Cake$
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
North Country
Repo Man
Rocky
Silkwood
Good Will Hunting
Made in Dagenham
The Full Monty
The Terminator
The Deer Hunter
Educating Rita
Matewan
Blue Collar
Swing Shift
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:33 PM
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Working-class is also a polite way of saying POOR.
Not really, and certainly not if you are talking about the 1930s. If you had a job you might not be well off, but you weren't really poor, or at least you wouldn't consider yourself as such. Poor people were those who were unemployed and weren't working at all.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:20 PM
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Not really, and certainly not if you are talking about the 1930s. If you had a job you might not be well off, but you weren't really poor, or at least you wouldn't consider yourself as such. Poor people were those who were unemployed and weren't working at all.
Apart from the great depression US unemployment has been pretty low for over a century. If, unlike most other countries, the concept of "poverty" was restricted only to those without a job, then remarkably few households could consider themselves poor.
I am dubious that this is or was the case.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:35 PM
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The characters in The Fast and the Furious franchise generally seem to be working-class.

Dwayne Johnson also played working class characters in Central Intelligence, Rampage, San Andreas, and Skyscraper.

The characters in Ready Player One were working class. Other YA series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Mortal Engines are based around working class protagonists.
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Old 04-18-2019, 11:38 PM
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Apart from the great depression US unemployment has been pretty low for over a century. If, unlike most other countries, the concept of "poverty" was restricted only to those without a job, then remarkably few households could consider themselves poor.
I am dubious that this is or was the case.
I speak from experience. I grew up in a working class neighborhood in the Bronx in the 1950s-1960s. Nobody there thought of themselves as poor. The poor people lived in the South Bronx.

I think historically remarkably few households did consider themselves poor, even if others might have.

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Old 04-19-2019, 04:13 AM
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Here's the IMDB list of the 100 top stars of 2018. Of the male stars, I would count Josh Brolin, Tom Hardy, Dwayne Johnson, Chris Pratt, and Sam Rockwell as all frequently playing "working class" types. (I don't count Burt Reynolds because his working class roles were a long time ago.)

The thing is, now so many of the roles are in comic book or fantasy movies you can't really call the character "working class."
And yet, most of the Defenders are supposed to be sort'a working class; even the lawyer is, yes, a lawyer, but one who's always five minutes away from eviction.
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Old 04-19-2019, 06:10 AM
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I think that one of the differences between older films (say, up to 1965) and more recent films (in the U.S., at least) is the disappearance of heroes and heroines who were from rich families and didn't seem to be working at anything themselves. It's not the people in modern films can't be just as easily split up into various economic classes, but you don't see people who are rich and just live on their family fortunes. I doubt that this means that there aren't still idle rich people, just that they don't appear in movies as much anymore.
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Old 04-19-2019, 07:33 AM
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Seems to me that any war movie with an NCO protagonist would qualify.
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Old 04-19-2019, 07:52 AM
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Quoth Little Nemo:

The characters in The Fast and the Furious franchise generally seem to be working-class.
I dunno, someone's got to be paying for all of those fancy cars, and all the other characters at least have access to them. I think "my rich friend lets me drive his Ferrari whenever I want" is enough to put you out of "working class" territory, even if your own personal wealth is low.
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Old 04-19-2019, 08:21 AM
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I dunno, someone's got to be paying for all of those fancy cars, and all the other characters at least have access to them. I think "my rich friend lets me drive his Ferrari whenever I want" is enough to put you out of "working class" territory, even if your own personal wealth is low.
I disagree. There's a big difference between being rich and having a friend who's rich.

Knowing somebody who'll let you drive his Ferrari is nice. But you still need to go to work to pay for things like your food and rent. And the work you do is in a garage (or as a police officer).

That's working class. Even stealing cars is working class albeit on the criminal side.
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Old 04-19-2019, 08:30 AM
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To pick two famous examples: I doubt Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca) was lower socioeconomically than John McClane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard) if you account for increases in education and living standards between 1942 and 1988.
Remember that John MacLane's wife was a senior executive at a multi-national corporation, so he was, at best (in the first 2 filmes) a working-class member of an upper-middle-class household.
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Old 04-19-2019, 08:47 AM
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To pick two famous examples: I doubt Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca) was lower socioeconomically than John McClane (Bruce Willis in Die Hard) if you account for increases in education and living standards between 1942 and 1988.
Even more extreme was Bogart's character in Sabrina, who was supposed to be one of the richest men in the country.
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Old 04-19-2019, 09:27 AM
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Class isn't just about what you have. It's more about who you associate with. And Fast/Furious is about people who associate so closely as to consider themselves family, with someone who can afford vast collections of top-line vehicles.
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Old 04-19-2019, 09:36 AM
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There's a lot of confusion about "working class", "rich" and "middle class" here. Generally, the classic differentiator is that working class people work for wages, while middle class people work for salaries. It's kind of morphed into some kind of recognition of education, financial security and work autonomy, with working class having little to none of any, despite having jobs, and having that education, security and autonomy is what defines the middle class. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is a working class defining characteristic, for example.

There is a lot of overlap here; my grandfather, for example was working class by one definition- he worked as an operator at a chemical plant. But he did so from 1950-1980, and was paid very well, so my grandparents lived a very decidedly middle-class lifestyle, even if they had very working-class views and attitudes on things.

"Rich" or "Wealthy" is usually reserved for people who basically could make a good living owning things- stock, bonds, companies, etc... and who aren't actually paid by someone else for doing work. There's a lot of ambiguity here too- there are lots of people who could very easily just live off the proceeds of their companies, but who work because they choose to.

I can't think of a movie in a long time that has a "rich" character who's portrayed positively- usually they're portrayed fairly negatively. The vast majority of movies and tv shows portray middle class people, but a few, such as Logan Lucky and Roseanne/The Connors portray working class people.
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Old 04-19-2019, 09:50 AM
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I can't think of a movie in a long time that has a "rich" character who's portrayed positively- usually they're portrayed fairly negatively.
Do Iron Man and Batman count?
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Old 04-19-2019, 09:56 AM
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Even more extreme was Bogart's character in Sabrina, who was supposed to be one of the richest men in the country.
I wasn't convinced with that performance, and many other people thought it didn't suit him.

Some good points made, especially about all the superhero stuff.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:19 AM
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And yet, most of the Defenders are supposed to be sort'a working class; even the lawyer is, yes, a lawyer, but one who's always five minutes away from eviction.
The only Avengers I can think of who are clearly working-class in origin are Spider Man, Ant-Man, and Captain America. Nick Fury in the comics started out as a Sergeant but I don't know the backstory of the current character, which is different. Some of the others may also be from a working or poor background but I don't know their backstories. The others are a collection of gods, demigods, princes, scientists, billionaires, androids, and aliens.

Drax and Rocket Raccoon certainly act like they are working class, but I would hesitate to identify them as such.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:49 AM
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Well, as far as super heros, Superman, came from parents I assume were upper or ruling class on Krypton, adopted by farmers on Earth which is about as solidly working class as I can imagine, and then went on to become a big city reporter. Working class or no? Aquaman? Mom was a queen, dad was a lighthouse keeper.
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Old 04-19-2019, 11:07 AM
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Here's the IMDB list of the 100 top stars of 2018. Of the male stars, I would count Josh Brolin, Tom Hardy, Dwayne Johnson, Chris Pratt, and Sam Rockwell as all frequently playing "working class" types. (I don't count Burt Reynolds because his working class roles were a long time ago.)
A few more leading actors that come to mind who have periodically played working class types include Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlburg, and Woody Harrelson. I'm sure there are lots more. In fact, I think most current major actors have played that type of role at some point.

If you can't think of working-class leads you haven't been thinking very hard.

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Old 04-19-2019, 05:22 PM
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I can't think of a movie in a long time that has a "rich" character who's portrayed positively- usually they're portrayed fairly negatively.
"Crazy Rich Asians" from last year.
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Old 04-19-2019, 05:47 PM
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I dunno, someone's got to be paying for all of those fancy cars, and all the other characters at least have access to them. I think "my rich friend lets me drive his Ferrari whenever I want" is enough to put you out of "working class" territory, even if your own personal wealth is low.
F&F is a kind of weird franchise, because it started out as a story about a cop infilitrating an illegal street racing circuit, and somehow morphed into basically a superhero franchise where everyone's super power is "fancy driving." But the first movie was definitely about people who were working class or lower.
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Old 04-19-2019, 06:31 PM
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Do Iron Man and Batman count?
Well, both are crazy-rich, and both are heroes, though they're definitely flawed ones, with those flaws being portrayed often (and usually not in a positive light). Stark is egotistical, narcissistic, impulsive, a womanizer, and, at least in the books, an alcoholic (though, as the movies have gone on, he's grown out of the worst of those traits). Wayne is obsessive, and prone to depression and extreme violence.

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Old 04-19-2019, 07:07 PM
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Hey, write a happy, even tempered, clean living rich-from-the-start (important condition, it doesn't count if he is a millionaire at the END of the story but is a working stiff through most of it) character, and see if his story will sell tickets. People may have noticed and I think I commented it in some other post on such media matters, the modern audience has grown not just to accept but to expect, that a well written hero(ine) must have some character flaw or defect that "makes them more human".

That said, yeah, I too need clarification on what's the deal with "working class" protagonists and when were they abundant vs. recent times. Unless we are getting into the oft-raised issue that a lot of protagonists in film/TV could not possibly be living their portrayed lifestyles on the income from their portrayed employment, so you can't suspend disbelief. Is it a matter that the author is thinking that he "can't buy" the current acting crop as common-man leading characters? What IS that makes the hero "working class" and why should it matter?
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Old 04-19-2019, 08:16 PM
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I disagree with the posters who have been counting police officers as working class. 45% of them (in the U.S.) have college degrees, and a college degree is generally necessary for the best jobs. They average more than $60,000 per year.
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Old 04-19-2019, 08:35 PM
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People may have noticed and I think I commented it in some other post on such media matters, the modern audience has grown not just to accept but to expect, that a well written hero(ine) must have some character flaw or defect that "makes them more human".
That's is hardly a modern innovation. Aristotle was writing about the importance of flawed protagonists in drama over two thousand years ago.

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A perfect tragedy should, as we have seen, be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. It should, moreover, imitate actions which excite pity and fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. It follows plainly, in the first place, that the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves neither pity nor fear; it merely shocks us. Nor, again, that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity: for nothing can be more alien to the spirit of Tragedy; it possesses no single tragic quality; it neither satisfies the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. Nor, again, should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. A plot of this kind would, doubtless, satisfy the moral sense, but it would inspire neither pity nor fear; for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. Such an event, therefore, will be neither pitiful nor terrible. There remains, then, the character between these two extremes- that of a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous- a personage like Oedipus, Thyestes, or other illustrious men of such families.
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Old 04-20-2019, 12:05 AM
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I disagree with the posters who have been counting police officers as working class. 45% of them (in the U.S.) have college degrees, and a college degree is generally necessary for the best jobs. They average more than $60,000 per year.
Perception is more important than actual income or education. Police officers are generally perceived as being blue collar, rather than being the equivalent of office workers. How do you expect a cop (in a movie) to talk, like a regular joe or like an accountant?
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Old 04-20-2019, 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by don't ask View Post
Rick Blaine is almost the equivalent of Stan Kroenke, an American who owns a club overseas. Sure, Kroenke's club is called Arsenal and not Stan's but still...

A seedy dive for "the usual suspects" in Hollywood's idea of a romantically exotic location (you haven't been to Highbury, have you?) was never going to make billions off the TV and image marketing rights.
  #48  
Old 04-20-2019, 04:36 AM
Wendell Wagner is offline
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Greenbelt, Maryland
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Accountants are about the same in income as police officers in the U.S., somewhere between $60,000 to $70,000 a year. Most but not all accountants have college degrees.
Both jobs are on the low side of white-collar jobs. Police officers and accountants are both not working-class jobs in my opinion. The problem in the OP is the definition of working class. Jobs where the people seldom have college degrees (and the degrees would be irrelevant anyway) are just rarer now than they were during classic movie times (say, 1965 and before). Jobs where people work entirely outside of an office are rarer now. You can call jobs where people often need college degrees but don't make more than $75,000 a year on average blue-collar jobs if you like. In that case there are just as many blue-collar jobs now in movies as during classic-movie times. Or you can call such jobs white-collar jobs. In that case there are less blue-collar jobs now in movies as in classic-movie times, but that's because there are less blue-collar jobs now.
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