Everyday people take in more information than their brain can handle. Due to the need to process and use information our minds place things in categories for storage purposes, in other words we put labels on what we see in order to process information faster. Unfortunately we even label people we see and things we hear almost simultaneously on sight. Popular culture media is able to manipulate the ability to make our own labels and draw our own pictures. It is easy to spot racist or sexist trends in the media when you break it down, but one unusual trend I have spotted are negative tones oriented around somebody’s professional title. Through research I have analyzed a movie, a tv show, and a video to find that the accounting profession has negative tones in mainstream media and that accountants view themselves in a completely different light. The media misrepresents accountant’s leading to stereotypes about who they are and how they act.
The Media’s Depiction:
The first artifact I chose to analyze is a popular t.v. show called The Office. In the show there is an accounting team that works in The Office that is apart of every episode and provides a lot of comical material for the show. Since the show is a comedy the negative tones are aggressive and are meant to be light hearted and satirical. However, the personality traits demonstrated by the three members of the accounting group tend to go against the normal stereotypes of being “…low in status, conforming, lacking social skills and aesthetic abilities, passive, weak, shallow, cold, submissive, and evasive”(Rhode p.652). In the show members aren’t low in status, passive, or evasive. Regardless the accountant’s of The Office do demonstrate in great deal the lack of social skills and being cold. The head of the accounting team, Angela, is known for being extremely difficult to deal with and is fixated on having everything exactly the way she wants it to be. These stereotypes of fixation and lack of social understanding are demonstrated often through media outlets. All of the accountants in The Office are social outcasts but have been documented as the most productive group playing into the stereotype that accountants are infatuated with their work and known for being overly productive. Through my own experiences with job shadows and internships I know that people in this field of work are far from cold, impersonal, and social outcasts.
The second media source I chose to analyze was a recent movie put out titled The Accountant. This is Hollywood’s latest depiction of accountant’s since the movie was put out for public view in 2016. In the movie a young autistic boy grows up with a stern father, who pushes his limits physically and emotionally, and grows up to be a forensics accountant who “cooks the books” for some of the most dangerous criminals in town. A common occurrence during the film was poor socialization skills and autistic mannerisms. Throughout the movie the lead role repeated the phrase “I have to start what I finished”. This is a common stereotype in popular culture that accountant’s are linked to compulsive disorders and are oriented around completing tasks. However the movie mainly focused on the awkwardness between the two main characters, one the man I’ve discussed throughout this paragraph and the other a female who is an accountant for a corrupt business that the lead gets hired on too. The two grow to love each other but the entire film the accountant had a very hard time expressing himself to the girl. Most of the conversations they have up until the last half hour of the movie are very awkward in the sense of the man being unable to follow a normal path of conversation and being both reserved and abrasive.
A lot of these mannerisms displayed in The Accountant follow popular culture’s view of accountant’s, but this film is part of a shift in Hollywood’s depiction of the profession. In an academic journal titled, Perceptions of Accountants’ Ethics: Evidence from Their Portrayal in Cinema, the journal talks about all of the lead accountant roles in Hollywood since 1930. Their research found the most common theme along with lack of sociability is being known for unethical behavior and poor morals. This is the opposite of the role played in The Accountant who steals from criminals and gives the money to charity. I see a switch in the media from being corrupt people who handle money to more simple people but emphasize more heavily on their people skills. I believe this is due to less media coverage on business scandals where people get caught stealing and hiding money.
The last source I chose to analyze is a short youtube video of accountants telling personal stories to talk about their dreams and who they are to show they are everyday people like you and me. They tell various stories about how they grew up, their dreams, what they do, and how they see themselves and the profession from within. The video shows a lot of personability and relatability, which is nothing like television’s depictions of these people. Later in the video it talks about how they help people everyday in their work and take pride in their work. In my research I found accountant’s are viewed to have jobs that have little compassion and usefulness. However business professionals and high ranking corporate officers will tell you their business would not be successful without accountants. These people take pride in their work and find compassion in their work to better other people and live fulfilling lives. Having a dull personality is probably the biggest stereotype surrounding the label accountant.
The professional world would not run the same way without accountants to smooth the process. Plus who wants to do their own taxes? Everyday they are relied upon by both their employers and their families. Half of accountants are reported to say they pursued the career the other half said they were drawn into it, and seven out of ten say they would not choose a different career if they could go back in time. It is true that accounting itself is very systematic and is not for everybody. This may be the cause for negative shades thrown toward accountants. A lack of understanding has always caused groups to be targeted and to the social norm numbers and systems do not seem fun, interesting, or useful. Also a large number of accounting scandals where CFO’s steal money from a company or the government have lead to a public view of immorality surrounding accountants. The fact of the matter is these few individuals represent the smallest portion of accountants and do not represent them as a whole. Even though the news may tell you different.
The media has had a slightly altering message toward accountants depending on where you look in time. There has been a transition from greedy professionals to unsocial work oriented machines. Only in recent years have accountants in movies been playing “good guys” and I believe it is due to media and news coverage. From within business professionals favor accountants and are eager to get them involved in business practices as much as possible while accountants see themselves as professionals with a purpose. Also, throughout my research I saw various videos and articles about accountants trying to demonstrate to the world they are humorous and normal people. Telling people not be scared of pursuing a career due to outside views.
In the first week we learned a lot of media manipulation and how information is misrepresented. One of the most important learning moments was early and it was about how to test information and how to find real information. This was clear in two of our course texts about astroturfing and filter bubbles. We are constantly observed online and get stuck seeing the same type of information no matter what sights we visit. This is a huge problem because information is not being passed freely. Not only that there is astroturfing, which is where people go online to uptalk themselves or a product online and to bash those with other opinions in order to gain popularity or make money. Learning how to identify these people was essential to my research and process of finding good information.
My second learning moment comes from week 5 when we watched the Every Single Word video that played popular movies with all of the main and side roles played by minorities. It was shocking how little screentime people of color got to speak in movies I grew up loving. Seeing the lack of representation in the media was a huge eye opener, and when they were on screen they often played into stereotypes surrounding their and (or) gender.
5 Surprising Facts About the Accounting Profession. (2016, September 13). Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://www.roberthalf.com/accountemps/blog/5-surprising-facts-about-the-accounting-profession
- (2015, March 13). Accountants Talk About Their Dreams. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-J9Vh0TNvQ
Daniels, G. (Writer). (n.d.). The Office [Television series]. Netflix.
Felton, S., Dimnik, T., & Bay, D. (2007). Perceptions of Accountants’ Ethics: Evidence from Their Portrayal in Cinema. Journal of Business Ethics, 83(2), 217-232. doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9613-z
- L. (217, January 6). Portland State University – Single Sign-On. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.lexisnexis.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/?verb=sr&csi=6742
Rhode, J. G. (1971, October). The Accountant’s Stereotype: Real or Imagined, Deserved or Unwarranted. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from http://www.jstor.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/stable/244245?Search=yes&resultItemClick=true&searchText=accountant%27s&searchText=and&searchText=stereotypes&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3Fprq%3Daccoutant%2527s%2Band%2Bstereotypes%26amp%3Bwc%3Don%26amp%3Bacc%3Don%26amp%3Bhp%3D25%26amp%3BQuery%3Daccountant%2527s%2Band%2Bstereotypes%26amp%3Bso%3Drel%26amp%3Bfc%3Doff&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
O’Connor, G. (Director). (2016, October 14). The Accountant [Video file]. Retrieved October 20, 2016.