What TV shows and movies get wrong about 25 professions

ABCMost hospitals don’t run like the one in ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’
  • Oftentimes, movies and TV shows dramatize what it’s like to work in certain professions.
  • Doctors, nurses, and therapists are often portrayed differently onscreen than what they’re really like offscreen.
  • Coding and developing software is often shown to take a matter of minutes, as is getting results from forensics, but in reality both take a lot of time.

It’s no secret that TV shows and movies don’t always accurately portray certain things about real life. We all know that two people typically don’t fall in love within minutes, you can’t force your way through airport security without getting arrested, and no one hangs up the phone without saying goodbye. It’s no different when it comes to most jobs.

Hollywood has a tendency to pick up certain stereotypes or cliches about a job, then hold onto them. You may have noticed that every writer always happens to be depressed in movies or on television and that doctors sleep with their coworkers consistently. That’s only two examples of what TV shows and movies get wrong about professions… and there are a whole lot more to think about.

We looked at Reddit threads to find out what employees think Hollywood gets wrong about their jobs and while INSIDER cannot independently verify these comments, the results are pretty interesting.

“EMTs never run into the Emergency Room.”

ABC‘Grey’s Anatomy.’

“When we do visit the ER, we usually slowly walk in with a 450 lb dialysis patient or intoxicated college student on the stretcher.” — Redditor slushster

Bar musicians aren’t all “depressed.”

Summit Entertainment‘La la land.’

“[I’m a] bar musician. We’re not all depressed and hoping some big talent scout from a label shows up. Some us enjoy playing in bars.” — Redditor Notasupervillain

Lawyers “don’t yell at or intimidate witnesses.”

IMDb/Wolf Films‘Law and Order: SVU.’

“Being a lawyer is three months of paperwork and research and one day of trial… and we don’t yell at or intimidate witnesses – if I did what you see in movies I’d be disbarred pretty quickly.” — Redditor wynnduffyisking

Bartenders don’t listen to people’s problems all day.

Fox‘New Girl.’

“Bartenders don’t spend their entire shift wiping the bar or polishing glasses.” — Redditor throwaway622796

“And they don’t get to sit around listening to people’s problems all day either, although they do sometimes between rushes.” – Redditor SuddenTerrible_Haiku

“As a software engineer, coding takes quite a bit of time.”

NBC Universal‘Mr. Robot.’

“It involves lots of setting up a development environment, looking up references, trying to get the code to compile, and debugging once it does compile. And almost all professional software is developed by a team, not an individual. You do have some amazing software guys that will program huge, critical portions of the software, but even they are part of a team doing stuff like designing the user interface, creating graphical and audio resources, and basically doing all the other tasks to make that critical piece of software useable.” — Redditor KahBhume

At call centres “phones aren’t constantly ringing for everyone to hear.”

TriStar Pictures‘The Call.’

“[I] work at a call center. I can’t speak for all centres, but at my workplace, phones aren’t constantly ringing for everyone to hear because we have a message in our headsets that tell us we have a call in queue as opposed to our phone ringing every time.” — Redditor vensmith93

Lifeguards don’t “jump in on the daily.”

CBS Films‘The To Do List.’

“As a lifeguard, we do not jump in on the daily or do CPR at all, hardly. Our job is to prevent those things from happening. Overall, we do a lot of yelling, rule-enforcing, and we treat a lot of bloody noses. PS-Also movie CPR is almost always bad. You will never save someone if you learn CPR from what you saw in a movie.” — Redditor CrazyDaisy18

Archaeologists don’t crash “through the jungle.”

Paramount Pictures‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

“Archaeologist/faunal analyst here. It’s a lot less crashing through the jungle, looting temples, and punching Nazis than I was led to believe. It’s far more staring at tiny pieces of glass/pottery/bones/metal/rock until you go crosseyed, reading 137 page reports on 18th century privies, and swearing at tree roots. Archaeology, when you get right down to it, is the science of putting old things in bags, then putting groups of those bags together into successively bigger bags, then finally putting all the bagged things into boxes.” — Redditor tibiapartner

Journalism doesn’t just mean “meetings in dark parking garages.”

Sony Pictures Classics‘Truth.’

“Journalism is a lot less meetings in dark parking garages and a lot more calling people at your desk then waiting several hours for them to call you back so you can confirm this one freaking thing and finally hit ‘publish.'” — Redditor wittyinsidejoke

Mental health professionals don’t “have intense relationships with patients.”

Netflix‘Sex Education.’

“Mental health professional here. The amount of boundary crossings and boundary violations I see on TV is obscene. I don’t have intense relationships with my patients. I don’t chase after patients who storm out of my office. I don’t meet patients at odd locations or odd hours to help them work through some special situation (If I did that for one patient I’d feel obligated to do that for everyone). I’m not using my patients to work out some of my deep inner turmoil in my own psyche. (At least I hope not). I stick to treatments that are evidence-based.

Also, TV would have you believe that every patient experiences a catharsis at some point in their therapy… That dramatic moment when it all makes sense and everything just comes together. In fact, if a patient tells me they had a catharsis I get nervous that they’re looking for a quick fix.

Also, TV never talks about the amount of paperwork, billing, and administrative burden between patients.” — Redditor EssenceofColby

Political campaigns are not all about “dirty tricks.”

Columbia Pictures‘All the King’s Men.’

“Political campaigns are tedious and dull affairs that involve a lot of paperwork and drudgery. Most of the exciting things I see campaigners doing on television and in movies are highly illegal and would almost instantly get you fired. If you engage in dirty tricks, the only referral you’ll be getting from 95% of campaign managers is to the FEC or the local police.” — Redditor Dear_Occupant

Not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot.

Columbia Pictures via YouTube‘Air Force One.’

“I’m in the Air Force. They show everyone as Special Forces or pilots. Most of us do what everyday civilians do, we just wear camo while we do it. I work HR and sit in an air-conditioned office all day.” — Redditor Obvious_Reply321

“Kitchens are definitely not the pristine ‘just bought yesterday’ looking things you see on the screen.”

The Weinstein Company‘Burnt.’

“I gotta say, I’ve never seen a kitchen portrayed accurately. People are rarely calm, often screaming at each other from across the kitchen. It’s a high stress environment trying to make food and make it well. Communication is really tough to get people to understand. Nobody except the waitstaff actually cares about their appearance. Kitchens are definitely not the pristine ‘just bought yesterday’ looking things you see on the screen. If you’ve seen something like ‘Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay,’ then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it’s like. Also, nobody is having meaningful conversation. It’s usually jokes and insults. The saying is true, if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.” — Redditor RobsterLobster_

Art gallery employees don’t “stand around ‘talking art’ with people.”


“Art Gallery employee. We don’t wear high heels and stand around ‘talking art’ with people. Rather, we spend all our time applying for grants and trying to find any way we can to make money so we can actually cover payroll, tidying up after people (seriously, people are gross and totally inconsiderate), and doing some very creative bookkeeping. All while fielding artists who think they’re hot sh– when their work is overpriced and/or just sh–.” — Redditor Miyenne

Chemistry labs don’t include “bubbling, streaming brightly coloured liquids.”

Warner Bros. Pictures‘Splice.’

“Chemistry/biology labs are always shown with tons of bubbling, streaming brightly coloured liquids. Pretty much 99% of the chemicals we use in lab are clear, colorless liquids or boring looking white powders that resemble table salt or powdered sugar. Also, movies would have you believe that it’s feasible to ‘whip up an antidote’ to a toxin or poison overnight. At the very best, that process will take months, but more realistically, years. And none of the antidotes used in the movies are tested before they’re used, but they always work with absolutely no side effects at all.” — Redditor Whattheduck64

“Nurses and doctors are horribly portrayed.”

FOX‘House MD.’

“Most of the tasks performed by docs on TV shows are delegated to nurses or techs. As an ER or internal medicine physician, you won’t be scrubbing in for your patients surgical procedures, you stay in your department. There is little to no sexy time in on call rooms. And for the love of god YOU DONT SHOCK A FLAT LINE.” — Redditor Kaatiekay

“Librarians in real life do wildly different tasks depending on the kind of library they work at.”

Paramount Pictures‘Foul Play.’

“Librarians on TV are usually depicted as people who sit at a desk all day, reading, and shush people.

Librarians in real life do wildly different tasks depending on the kind of library they work at. The librarian sitting at the desk in a public library will sometimes read or browse the internet at downtime but it’s only because there’s nobody there looking for help or reference. In the back office there’s usually another librarian or two who are planning future programs, selecting materials to purchase/licence, weeding out materials that aren’t circulating, planning displays, or managing the department’s budget. Librarians at a college library will be assisting with research, conducting research of their own, running a class to teach bored undergrads how to use this, that, or the other database, as well as some of the above tasks, like managing purchases or (more usually) managing licensing, or budgeting. A librarian at a museum or archive might be trying to figure out how to digitize a rare book without destroying it or how to best catalogue a map. Some librarians do a lot of the above, but with additional training and degrees like a legal or medical librarian and so they never interact with the public.” — Redditor marisachan

University professors don’t give a bunch of “inspirational lectures that change the lives of their students.”

Touchstone Pictures‘Dead Poets Society.’

“For starters, a lot of university faculty is not full-time/tenure. They’re underpaid contract faculty that’s probably significantly below the poverty line and are fighting tooth and nail for something resembling job security.

It’s also not a whole lot of inspirational lectures that change the lives of their students (though that does happen) and then you just head off to your glorious mahogany-filled office to do some light reading/writing before heading home for the night. It’s also a lot of behind-the-classroom-scenes work including: lesson planning/prep work; administrative/committee work; personal research/report/book writing; conference presentations; peer-reviewing/editing etc… anything that will help to make a name for yourself in your respective field. Some sessional/part-time instructor friends work 60+ and get paid less than 20,000/year; some former (tenured) colleagues of mine work 80+hrs a week (not all though).” — Redditor starkicker18

Writers are not all “disorganized.”

Summit Entertainment‘The Ghost Writer.’

“They always portray them as disorganized, or drunk, or out of touch with reality, and successful, but this is rarely the case. It’s lots of hard work slipped in between a day job so we can put food on the table. And if you’re drunk all the time, you never get writing finished. You may turn out a rough draft that way, but it’s virtually impossible to edit to a publishable draft that way. And some of us don’t drink or use drugs at all!” — Redditor rebeccaademarest

Nurses have “a lot of boring routine.”

Showtime‘Nurse Jackie.’

“I’m a nurse and I have yet to watch a show with an accurate portrayal of our profession. I work in a large hospital with medical and surgical patients. It’s rarely life and death, more poop clean up than I want to admit, and a lot of boring routine. The best part is actually the relationships you develop with people during the worst time of their lives. It’s amazing how laughter and sarcasm can be a lot more ‘healing’ than all the stuff we have to get done in a shift.” — Redditor tripodthebunny

Scientists don’t test things immediately.


“[I’m a] scientist: There is no ‘oh sh– this happened, we must test stuff immediately!’ Things are speculated YEAAAARS in advance, then a proposal is written, funds have to be gathered, a researcher (or more) have to be selected, pilot experiments have to be run, a basic concept for an experiment is created, the experiment is performed, data has to be gathered, knowledge is obtained, the experiment is repeated slightly differently, new knowledge is gathered, an article is written, a publisher is contacted, several months later your results are presented in a journal.” — Redditor FlandreHon

In forensics, “DNA takes weeks.”

CBS‘CSI: New York.’

“…And that’s assuming you get past the backlog stage and someone will actually do the analysis. No one swabs an entire object/body and analyses it. ‘I found a slight discoloration on the body’s inner ankle and took a swab sampling, turns out it’s lip gloss sold exclusively by 7-Eleven stores from 89-94 called hooker blue…’ ‘…the manager of the store wears that brand… We have our guy.’ No, not happening.

No one specialises in everything; you don’t go from the crime scene, to the lab to do DNA, trace, drugs, firearms, etc. For the most part, we are not investigators, there’s a detective that is charge of this case and they tell us what they want analysed. There are a few exceptions to this, I know of someone that investigates drug-related cases and can analyse drug cases, just not their own cases.

Also, centrifuges on carts. What?! I’ve seen this a ton of times And it bothers me. Who puts a huge heavy machine that spins at crazy speeds on a portable cart? That’s just bad science I tell you.” — Redditor Drylemming

Social workers are not “all evil baby snatchers.”


“Where do I start? We are all evil baby snatchers. There are far more social workers in other sectors than in child protection. Also, having worked in child protection I can also say that it is more stressful than ANY job ever because you are really trying to do the right thing for the family. Also, if you screw up, everyone will be ready to burn you at the stake…they all assume you just want to take kids away when really you dread doing that because of the mountain of paperwork it involves. You know how many families you have helped reunify/keep together, and how many kids you have saved from an awful existence, but people always say cops, nurses, and firefighters are grand heroes. No one thanks a social worker. Social workers often go into extremely dangerous situations armed only with their ink pen and a clipboard. The news never gets the story right, but the social workers can’t defend themselves because of confidentiality. I’ve never seen a movie get much of anything right. And most of us are SEXY, not old ugly women!” — Redditor Bat-Lady-Is-Tired

Bookshop managers don’t read everything.

NetflixPenn Badgley and Elizabeth Lail on ‘You.’

Acting isn’t as exciting as it seems.


“I have worked as a TV and film actor and it is always portrayed as such an exciting thing to be on set. In real life, it is countless hours of waiting, waiting, waiting, and sometimes they never even get to your scene after having to be there at 5:30 am and into the night. It is like watching paint dry on most sets.” — Redditor hunterinhunterspoint

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