Tonight saw the last episode of The Office to star Steve Carell. He is leaving the show to pursue other projects. His departure was written into the show, as Michael Scott and his long time love Holly had decided to move to Colorado. Oddly enough, my life reflects that of Michael Scott to a degree. No, I am not engaged, nor am I voluntarily leaving my job. That having been said, my job ends tomorrow at 6:00 PM. The office at which I have worked the past six and a half years is closing, a victim of advances in technology and the still none too healthy economy.
I must say that I do have mixed feelings about the loss of my job. On the one hand, I have always wanted to make a living writing, and I will certainly have the opportunity to try doing so without having to go to another job eight hours a day. We are being given a severance, so I will not be hurting too much economically. On the other hand, I am entering a period of my life in which much is going to be uncertain. A regular pay cheque does offer a certain amount of security, and my benefits included such things as health, dental, and vision insurance. There is a lot I have taken for granted the past many years which I soon will not have.
Sadly, it seems to me that the loss of jobs has rarely been addressed in movies, despite the fact that it has been common in various periods of American and British history. It was not unusual during the Great Depression for films to depict the realities of being out of work. This was even true of fantasy films. In King Kong (1933) Anne Darrow (Fay Wray) was an actress desperately in need of work when she hired on to the expedition of filmmaker Carl Denham (Bruce Cabot). In My Man Godfrey, the homeless Godfrey (William Powell) had worked until the stock market crashed. Unfortunately, once we get past the Great Depression, most films ignore the economic realities of the time.
Indeed, I can only think of a few films after the Great Depression which deal with the subject of losing a job during hard economic times. The films Raising Arizona (1987), Wisdom (1986), and They Live (1988) all touched upon the harsh economic realities of the Eighties, but none of them specifically dealt with the end of jobs. In fact, the only film which comes to my mind that addresses the loss of jobs is the 1996 British film Brassed Off. The film depicts the struggles of a brass band in the village of Grimley (a thinly veiled, fiction version of the actual village of Grimethorpe) following the closure of the mine that employed most of the men there. The various villagers react to their unemployment in various ways, some of them downright tragic.
Given that losing one's job due to the closure of an office or plant is not unusual and certainly has not been unknown the past several years, one would think that more films would touch upon it. I can only guess that perhaps it is a subject that is much too depressing for most film makers to address. Regardless, it is something that many of us will go through, including myself beginning the day after tomorrow.