Accountants in Film

Perspective is imperative to take into ‘account’ when forming or observing opinions about any topic. Before taking a course in financial accounting, I deduced from personal observation of film and pop culture that accountants and their jobs are mostly black and white. What I have learned in the past couple of months, and what Hollywood often fails to project, is the accumulating levels of complexity and the gray area of this profession and the people of this profession. Just like any other career, there are various types of jobs in the same field of accounting, seeming to vary in excitement. The banal reputation of accountants can widely be attributed to the way films portray them, with people making general assumptions and being simply uninformed. That’s essentially how stereotypes work; if enough people in a particular aggregation act similarly, it can be assumed everyone in that cluster must act the same way.

The clips in the compilation video displayed a somewhat broad range of accountant personalities. The vast majority of the characters, however, tended to play to cultural stereotypes of being monotonous and trite. Another common denominator among the characters was a lack of social skills or peculiar idiosyncrasies. Examples range from Rick Moranis’ naive, excitable character from Ghostbusters to Ben Affleck’s flat and apathetic character from The Accountant. In some films, however, accountants are favorably portrayed; usually they are societal anomalies or posses incandescent intelligence or skills. A crowd favorite character is Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption. He appears as an ordinary man with reserved behavior, but has much more complexity than what superficially meets the eye. Andy is the antihero, lacking in conventional heroic attributes, particularly morality. A few particular accountants that did not make this compilation are those in the accounting department at Dunder Mifflin from the sitcom, The Office. Although far from realistic and for comedic purposes, the mouth-breathing accountant, Kevin, is ironically one of the most brain deficient characters in the entire show. His counterparts, Angela and Oscar reflect a more realistic and stereotypical version of what I think a typical office-setting accountant would be like. 

These clips, for the most part, jaggedly align with my view of accountants. I personally do not know very many accountants (two to be exact), so the majority of my accounting knowledge is from ACCTG 120, television, and films. The accuracy of these clips is certainly questionable. Movies are made for entertainment, so if they were truly accurate, there may be trouble selling an alluring storyline. I typically wouldn’t think of an accountant as a protagonist for a blockbuster action film, or a fraudulent, murderous criminal. But I also wouldn’t go as far as to say all accountants sit behind a desk and crunch numbers and have no social awareness. All I can say is that all different sorts of people can be accountants, in a sense that doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. widely differ from each other in personality and work style. As we have learned in class, there are several different types of accountants, and more to accounting than just keeping books. Rather than just stereotyping, it seems fair to assess based on this knowledge.