The Workaholic Culture Of Pop Culture
It seems like the characters we see on TV never, ever stop working.
Looking back across my experience in media, it seems like the heroes in popular culture never stop working. I first noticed this with the X-Files. Mulder and Scully never seem to get off shift. They were in perpetual pursuit of Mulder’s sister who had been abducted by aliens, or they were working to end a worldwide conspiracy perpetrated by the smoking man and his workaholic friends in high places. They were always working on something.
Moving forward a bit in time, I watched Jennifer Garner in Alias. I was receiving DVDs by mail from Netflix then. I watched every episode with my wife because after the first, she was hooked. And again, agent Sydney Bristow hardly ever catches a break. She’s on the phone, on the internet, on a flight, driving somewhere, always on the lookout for Arvin Sloan or one of his enablers. Bristow doesn’t get a break until the very last episode in the last season.
Just for fun, I started watching Supergirl on Netflix a few weeks ago. Supergirl is always on duty. Her cousin Superman was always on call in every movie. Spiderman was always ready to work. Peter Parker had two jobs, one by day, one by night. Gosh, did that guy ever sleep?
In Goliath on Amazon, Billy McBride is a detective who works in hotels, works at home (did he even have a home? I can’t remember), and he is always driving somewhere for work. Even when he’s with his family, there’s work involved. I saw two seasons and it’s pretty trippy, but I don’t recall seeing that character ever relax unless he was taking a drag on a cigarette.
In the 24/7 news cycle that we so breathlessly follow, the reporters we see on TV seem to always be working. They’re on call. They’re busy. I wonder how they ever get time to be with their family, but they must or they wouldn’t bother getting married and having kids. When 9/11 happened, I don’t think any reporters on that beat got a break for weeks. When MH370 went down, they spent weeks looking for it. CNN was nothing but MH370 for weeks. And they’re still looking for it. The impression I get from watching what little TV news I see, its nothing but news and potty breaks.
Even in national politics, I don’t see anyone getting any breaks. Bernie Sanders is a relentless campaigner, and everyone else is trying to stop him. The non-stop news cycle keeps all of the top tier presidential candidates on their toes, constantly generating news for their campaigns. Yes, they do have people helping them, but even that requires attention to keep it running. A mind can only keep track of so much and then it starts to stumble and make mistakes.
Maybe it’s just me and I pick shows with workaholic characters. I could have spent a decade watching Friends or Seinfeld. But it sure seems to me like everyone is working. Politicians, doctors, detectives, reporters, lawyers, and any other occupation that can be glamorized, they’re all working, all the time.
The only character I see on TV that isn’t working all the time is President Trump. Every weekend he plays golf. Every weekend he takes a break. But even then, he’s on Twitter, generating news for his empire and his campaign. And he generates work for everyone with a tweet, an off-color comment, or an expression on his face. Sometimes I wonder if what he does is all an act. He does have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame…
So the next time I flip on the tube, I will be mindful of what I’m watching. I will consider again if I really need to be filling my mind with characters, both real and fictional, who are always working.