Fictional characters have to have jobs too! Sometimes those jobs are just a placeholder so that the screenwriter can make the character have enough money to go on the adventure they want to write, but sometimes, characters are the best in the world at what they do. These are 9 of our favorite fictional professionals
For many, working in the service industry is a thankless and exhausting challenge. Tasks and rules dominate the day, and it’s often only interrupted by customers who are often rude or demanding. The work is difficult, but taking pride in going above and beyond makes the days go faster, and builds trust and customer loyalty. M. Gustave H. is the original concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel and professionalism dictates everything he does, even in prison. For as eccentric as he is, he has the respect and loyalty of his staff and dedicates all his effort to his patrons. The job description he gives Zero for the job of Lobby Boy is a perfect sum-up of the service industry. “What is a lobby boy? A lobby boy is completely invisible, yet always in sight. A lobby boy remembers what people hate. A lobby boy anticipates the client's needs before the needs are needed. A lobby boy is, above all, discreet to a fault. Our guests know that their deepest secrets, some of which are frankly rather unseemly, will go with us to our graves. So keep your mouth shut, Zero.”
We’ve seen a lot of captains in the long history of Star Trek, but Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the prime example of what that job requires. In the 7 seasons of The Next Generation, we see Captain Picard on trial, giving orders, fighting for the lives of his crew and for strangers alike, asking for advice from his crew, speaking his mind when he disagrees with his admirals on moral grounds, and making difficult decisions in a timely manner. He respects his crew and is friendly with his senior staff, but that doesn’t stop him from handing down firm reprimands when they step out of line. The only thing you probably shouldn’t borrow from his career is that one time when he got stabbed through the heart in a bar fight. I would advise against that.
The Martian asks a crazy question: Would you be able to survive on an alien planet, stranded yet still alive? How would you do it? How long would you last? If you’re Mark Watney, the answer is….as long as you can! Matt Damon’s character from The Martian makes this list because he survives the cold hostility of the Martian surface, not by luck, nor by unscientific writing tricks, but by ingenuity and stamina, using scientific techniques he learned on Earth and combining those techniques with what he has on hand in a creative way. He combines science, strategy, and creativity in order to science the s**t outta the red planet. Also, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, famous science-stickler, once tweeted about The Martian: “The @MartianMovie — where you learn all the ways that being Scientifically Literate can save your life.”
Frances is on this list because she’s recognizable to anyone who is struggling to be a professional in the modern world. Frances isn’t a typical Hollywood heroine. She’s likable, but also quirky and a bit of a loner. She’s good at her job, but not great at her job. There’s really nothing special about Frances; she’s just trying to scrape by in a city that doesn’t feel like it wants her to make it. I don’t think that living like Frances is a great idea; her trip to Paris is not something that I would recommend. But as a person struggling to find my niche in a city, post college, it’s nice to see a young professional on screen who, like me, is mediocre at their job but just trying hard every day.
Here’s another professional that you might not want to model your career after. House is known for pushing people away and only caring about himself, his own ego, his cases, and his drug addiction. What he is, though, is the best doctor there is. People come from far and wide to get treated by him, specifically, and his colleagues, despite being annoyed by him frequently, respect him and his expertise. Diagnosing disease is his passion, and he worked hard to become the doctor that he is. Yes, morally, he’s a little questionable, but he acts from a place of passion, knowledge, and experience, and those are all necessary qualities in a professional.
Dana Scully is unique because she’s a skeptic doctor who is working as a detective on cases that almost always have supernatural causes. She takes every case completely seriously, and always puts forward the most rational, possible solution with conviction, while Mulder puts forward the (often correct) less probable supernatural explanation. There’s a lot to admire about Scully, but I personally admire her commitment to education and also her passions. She was a physics undergrad and graduated from medical school. Instead of becoming a physician, she focused her medical education to detective work and was ultimately recruited by the FBI. She’s smart, competent, isn't afraid to speak up for rational truth, and does what she wants to do for a living.
What begins as a caricature of small government bureaucracy with a low level administrator with delusions of grandeur transforms into a heartwarming show about friendship in a small town and an amazingly driven, competent, and ambitious leader of a quite silly part of Indiana. Leslie Knope is fiercely devoted to her job, her town, and her friends and co-workers, and never seems to take a day off. She finds clever solutions to complicated problems and always gets thoughtful gifts for the people she cares most about. Her upbeat spirit and optimism in the face of such spectacular stupidity is a real inspiration, and, even though Pawnee’s residents are so odd and frustrating, she has genuine affection for every one of them. We can learn a lot from Leslie Knope and her approach to her job.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep Laura Roslin on this list, because, while doing research on her, I was reminded of the many not so savory things she did while serving as the President of the 12 Colonies. User Johnny_Chaos on the Battlestar Galactica subreddit points out that “President Roslin has a lot of bad habits throughout the series,” and tor.com brings up her willingness to murder captured enemy combatants. I think, though, that if anything, Laura Roslin demonstrates how making policy decisions is hardly ever black and white, and how easy it is for human beings to make the wrong choice for the right reasons. She’s never a villain, though, and her unquestioning willingness to take the reigns as leader of the last humans alive, from her lowly post as Secretary of Education, is incredibly admirable
Marge Gunderson, the very pregnant police officer in Fargo, is by far the Coen Brothers best written and most professional character. She’s a role that earned Frances McDormand an Oscar, and a character who shows us what type of demeanor it takes to be a professional. She’s good at her job, but never brags about it, and gracefully disagrees with her co-worker when she doesn’t agree with his police work. Even when experiencing morning sickness at the scene of a triple homicide near the beginning of the film, she lets it pass and goes right back to work. Just like every Coen Brothers movie, Fargo is populated with a lot of very frustrating characters, but Marge handles every one of her aggravating interactions with a calm demeanor. Even though you can see it on her face, she never lets the frustration get under her skin. She’s 100 percent sure of herself while she’s on the job, even when it’s obvious that she’s had her reality shaken by the events of the film. The last lines of the movie reveal that she’s even not 100 percent sure about her day-to-day life, but while she’s at work, that’s not even a concern. Police work is hard, and not even pregnancy, nor troublesome obfuscators, nor ghastly murders can stop Marge from giving her best to her job.
What characters inspire you do be a better professional? Is there a fictional professional you admire? Did you want to go into your career because of a fictional person? Lets discuss over on Twitter and Facebook!