As the CAO deadline looms and parents discuss with their children the order in which their courses should appear on that all-important form, one thing's for sure – if their daughter plans on emulating the career of a romcom heroine, her career choices are severely limited.
So while commerce in UCD (445 points, 2010) might appear attractive, bear in mind that we have yet to see Sandra Bullock appear on screen as an accountant. And, while dentistry in Trinity (580 points, 2010) offers excellent career prospects, when was the last time that you saw Anne Hathaway don the white coat, whip out a drill and fill a tooth?
Medicine, on the other hand, is a career choice that does get portrayed in the movies – even romantic comedies. Natalie Portman justified her choice to appear in a rare romcom role (No Strings Attached) thus: in accepting the part, she said, she was bucking a stereotype. In romantic comedies, she went on, "the girls are always in fashion and it's always about their clothes. That stuff offends me."
In fact, the role of female medic is as clichéd as that of any other romcom heroine. In No Strings, Portman plays a workaholic doctor (too busy for romance), who has bed-hopping sex like a man until – spoiler alert! – the guy who's always loved her makes her realise that there's more to life. Similar, in many ways, to the women in Grey's Anatomy (the only time Meredith stops whining is when she's doing the wild thing) and to the role Cameron Diaz (orthopaedic surgeon, natch) plays in There's Something About Mary. In the movies, female doctors don't have time for lurve because they're married to their careers. Something cataclysmic – along the lines of the coma that befalls Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven – has to happen before they slow down enough to let love happen.
The world of magazines is another popular choice of work environment for romcom heroines. Most of these magazines – such as Runway, the publication employing Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada – emanate from New York. (Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic and Kate Hudson in How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days also work at NYC magazines.)
Melanie Morris, editor of Ireland's own answer to Runway, regrets that her own morning arrival at Image Towers doesn't have quite the impact of Miranda Priestley's in Prada, when members of staff jump to and abandon their flats for heels as their editor ascends in the lift. "We do," she says, "have a separate set of cups and saucers for visitors in editorial, though."
Many romcom heroines – Alice Eve in She's Out of My League and Kristen Bell in When in Rome, for example – work in PR and event planning. (Wedding planning is a whole other romcom sub-genre.) Clodagh Hogan, account director at Kennedy PR, who works on the Brown Thomas account complains that the movies don't give any insight into what the girls actually do, but confirms that the stereotype of the impeccably groomed PR gal has a basis in fact.
"At Kennedy PR there's a bit of a uniform – we all wear black. Clothes-wise, though, working at an event like the Iftas you have to remember that it's not about you. You wouldn't be going for a big up-do that might distract from anyone on the red carpet."
And what of the boyfriend-snaring possibilities of a career in event planning or PR? "I'm already spoken for," says Clodagh, who is married to a man she met when they were students in UCC and she was still wearing tracksuits, "but definitely event planners meet men at events. There are opportunities."
Restaurants, bakeries and quirky cafes are other popular workplaces for romcom heroines. If she's the boss, she's beautiful, successful and independent – and vulnerable to the attentions of the next smooth-talking guy to order a panini (It's Complicated, Life As We Know It). If she works for someone else (As Good As It Gets, My Big Fat Greek Wedding), she's a wage-slave dreaming of the day she'll be swept off her feet (by the next smooth-talking guy to order a panini).
Lu Thornely, a chef who caters parties, thinks romantic comedies tend to glamorise the 'food services' industry, as it's known in the US. "I thought Meryl Streep in It's Complicated baking croissants was a bit ridiculous. Kitchens are hot and steamy places, and the hours are gruelling. There'd be more going on between people who work together in kitchens than with customers." That said, Lu first met her partner when he was a customer of the stall she used to have in Dublin's George's Street Arcade.
If you were to believe everything you see in the movies, fashion designers are women out of touch with reality, who've got too big for their (Manolo Blahnik) boots. Many have something to hide (Reese Witherspoon's country roots in Sweet Home Alabama, for example). Their inevitable comeuppances loom.
Thurles's own Louise Kennedy, reckons that's all nonsense. "As with most careers perceived as glamorous, the reality is it's very hard work: 99% of my time is spent surrounded by sketches, fabrics, buttons and embellish-ments in my studio. There are of course high points – meeting Karl Lagerfeld backstage in Paris is one – but mostly it's hard graft. And if a fashion designer loses touch with reality, they'll be out of business."
Author Sarah Webb estimates that Carrie Bradshaw would manage to produce about one column every two months, given the work-rate depicted on screen. "I have friends who write columns. I've written columns. Carrie makes writing a column look like a doddle when it isn't."
Some depictions of women who work in publishing are, Sarah thinks, more authentic.
Sarah's looking forward to Anne Hathaway's forthcoming film, One Day, based on the best-selling novel, in which she plays a children's book author – just like Sarah. "Writing isn't a very dynamic job, there's not much interface with people, so I'm curious to see how they make that interesting."
Miriam O'Callaghan, broadcaster and current affairs journalist, doesn't go to bed with her Blackberry (like Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory) – although she does admit (along with half the population) to a sneaky peek at her iPhone from time to time.
"I don't buy that whole black-and-white thing about women who work in television news and current affairs. I'm more of a grey person – and I think most women are, straddling several roles, including that of mother – rather than fitting into a neat stereotype. What I do know is what my mother – a school principal – always told me, which is that women have to work 10 times as hard as men to reach the same place."
The points for journalism in DCU in 2010 were 445.
The Stereotype: Career-focussed, dedicated and prone to bed-hoping as any men
The Stereotype: A frivolous publication where our heroine dreams of making it to the newsroom, or something serious
The Stereotype: They might be able to plan the most elaborate wedding, but sort out their own love lives? Not a chance
The Stereotype: Waitress with a heart of gold swept away by the man of her dreams
The Stereotype: Fashion designers are for the birds and they need to be brought down to earth with a bang.
The Stereotype: Ambitious newsgirl stuck in a chauvinistic male environment falls in love with her sexist co-host.
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