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Suitable Role Models? A Look at the Careers Held by this Summer’s Leading Ladies of the Silver Screen

Whether you’re spending your summer tapping away in a cubicle or running around with eager (and slightly sugar-high) campers, there’s no doubt about it: June, July and August are the months to get a peek inside the real-life work world. But, of course, there’s another slightly less personal but much more relaxing glance at life after college — through the silver screen’s leading ladies of summer. And believe me, these women mean business, whether they’re working in the courthouse or going undercover for the CIA. The only question is: could you actually live like them? It’s time to take a closer look (sans popcorn).
 
Rachel White, Something Borrowed

Shake Shack? Absolutely. The Hamptons, a NYC loft, and an impromptu overseas flight? Maybe not.

With a healthy dose of insecurity and a secret yearning to date her friend Dex (Colin Egglesfield), it’s clear that Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), an attorney at a New York City law firm, is intended to represent the every woman. It’s also evident that she’s worked hard to get where she is in her career. The film flashes back to her anxiety-ridden first day of law school and shows her spending late nights (aided by a combo of caffeine and conversation with Dex) studying for the bar exam. So, yes, with determination, a law school degree and a passing grade on the written test, it’s possible to pursue a similar career. A little less realistic is the lifestyle that Rachel leads outside of work. When in NYC she lives in a spacious loft without any roommates. On summer weekends she sets off for a private beach house in the Hamptons with pals, and, when in need of a friend who can listen attentively to her romantic woes, she can afford to hop on a last minute flight to London. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for a lawyer in 2008 was $110,590. Even if Rachel is making near this figure (less than five to ten years out of law school, mind you), it’s hard to believe that her bank account could handle quite that much strain. Here’s to hoping she’s got money saved up or has friends and family willing to bail her out!
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Moira MacTaggert, X-Men: First Class

That’s more like it – now she’s ready to work.

Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), the CIA agent who advocates for mutants during the Cold War era, is one tough cookie. As one of the few protagonists without any enhanced powers, Moira proves that she doesn’t need the ability to read people’s minds or bend metal to play in the big leagues. She sits in on meetings with high-ranking generals and is a point-person on the mutant project. Not to mention, she has the strength to defy her superiors’ commands and stick to her own moral beliefs when it comes to supporting her new pals. Surprisingly, the only part of Moira’s professional life that seems slightly suspect (apart from the whole mutant association) comes in the very beginning of the movie. After she spies suspects entering a club and decides she needs to get in, Moira quickly breaks out her sexy lingerie (which she was wearing beneath her undercover work attire?) and disguises herself as one of the, ahem, female entertainers. The ability to be a strong, confident woman in the workplace? Definitely possible, no doubt about it. Stripping down to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel while on a government mission? Mmm, not quite as likely.
 
Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S., Horrible Bosses

Crossing some boundaries.

Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) is another woman in control – but not in a good way. As the only female boss in the film, and a doctor at that, she’s been through dental school and climbed her way up the ranks. Nevertheless, the word “Maneater” is stamped across Harris’s face in the movie’s promotional poster and the trailer shows the dentist sexually harassing her innocent dental hygienist, Dale. To give you a taste of her slightly inappropriate actions: in an attempt to break up Dale and his fiancé, Harris takes provocative pictures with him while he lies unconscious in the dental chair. Given Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it’s more than safe to say that these actions wouldn’t fly for one second in the workplace (though it makes for some good comedy on Jennifer Aniston’s part). So for those aspiring to succeed in the medical profession, or any profession for that matter, it’s a good bet that you’ll want to play by those constitutional rules. Otherwise you can expect a result that’s worse than being labeled as a maneater.
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Elizabeth Halsey, Bad Teacher

Sitting up straight at the desk might be the least of her problems…

For all you aspiring teachers, Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) might not be the best role model. Scratch that. Elizabeth Halsey is NOT a role model in any way, shape, or form. Her morals? Nonexistent. Her interest in children? Also nonexistent – unless, of course, they can help her earn money for breast implants. Her ability to act appropriately at work? Yep, you guessed it, nonexistent – unless you count tough love, such as throwing dodge balls at middle schoolers and writing “stupid” on their exams, as teaching tools. So here’s the best advice: if you’re interested in teaching junior high, get your teacher certification, and before you start your first day on the job, watch Elizabeth’s classroom scenes. She can teach you a lesson or two on what not to do.
 
Sources
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition – Lawyers
http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos053.htm
Horrible Bosses, Official Movie Web site
http://horriblebossesmovie.warnerbros.com/index.html
Equal Rights Advocates, Know Your Rights: Sexual Harassment at Work
http://www.equalrights.org/publications/kyr/shwork.asp
All Education Schools, Essential Information on How to Become a Teacher
http://www.alleducationschools.com/education-careers/article/how-to-beco…
 
 

Madeline Buxton is a rising junior at Yale University, where she is majoring in English and writes for the Yale Daily News Magazine. She spent two summers as an intern at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and is spending summer 2011 as a marketing intern at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where her responsibilities include drafting press releases and writing for the museum's newsletter. While not working, she enjoys relaxing by watching romantic comedies, writing/reading in independent coffee shops, and trying out new smoothie concoctions (hint: adding coconut to anything instantly makes it better).
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