Date posted: 24/03/2022

Bust that myth: Accountants in pop culture

Are the ways in which accountants are portrayed in movies and television fact or fiction? Read on to find out.

There are some seriously outdated and stereotyped portrayals about what accountants do and what their day-to-day activities look like - especially in movies and on television.

With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at some well-known accountant characters in pop-culture and compared them to real-life Chartered Accountants to discover what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Ben Wyatt - Parks and Recreation

Ben Wyatt joins the show to evaluate the town's funds at the end of the second season, after previously running a small town in Minnesota into bankruptcy as town Mayor...

However, he learns from his past financial mistakes, and his character is framed as grounded, mature and work-oriented.

Over the course of the series we see him work in a variety of roles in the public sector, within an accounting firm (even if only very briefly) and in a charity - resulting in hilarious antics at every turn.

Just like Ben who was able to apply his analytical and critical thinking skills to roles outside of the accounting firm, Saimon Lomaloma CA has used his business smarts to start his own venture.

While working in an accounting role for an oil and gas company in New Zealand, Saimon decided it was time to move out of the corporate environment and pursue his passion for extreme watersports by setting up Jetboards NZ.

“I wanted to do the things I loved and live the life I enjoyed without feeling restricted,” says Saimon.

“The CA skills I had acquired allowed me to start my own business, and also gave me the choice to do anything I wanted to do - I didn't necessarily have to stay in a CA firm to achieve my goals.”

Accounting skills are adaptable to many kinds of businesses and industries: FACT!

Aaron Falk - The Dry

Aaron Falk - the film’s protagonist - is a federal agent working in financial intelligence in Melbourne. This Aussie flick captures the return of Falk to his hometown in Kiewarra after the sudden death of his friend, which he then helps to investigate.

Aaron is portrayed as an intelligent professional who is highly respected for his resilience and tenacious commitment to seeking the truth and justice through his work. He’s a great example of someone who’s harnessed his accounting education and experience into a purposeful and rewarding career.

According to The 21st Century Profession survey, leaders of organisations have an opportunity to promote a culture of ‘purpose beyond profit’, and by extension professionals can achieve their personal sense of purpose by making a difference to business, economies and societies through their work.

Sam Roberts is a proud Gunai man and Financial Accountant at WorkPac who turned his life around to reach his goal of becoming an Indigenous finance leader to support the Indigenous community.

“I have people asking how did you get there and what did you do to better yourself? And I suppose it was just determination and motivation. I chose finance because a lot of people are focusing on the health side of Indigenous communities, but no one was there for their financial support,” says Sam.

“Once I actually started seeing the results and the impact that studying at university had on me and my immediate family it really solidified what I wanted to do in the future, which was to be an Indigenous finance leader.”

Accounting can be a gateway to a rewarding, purposeful career: FACT!

Hermes Conrad – Futurama

Hermes is the accountant and ‘level 34 bureaucrat’ for intergalactic delivery company Planet Express. A stickler for the rules, Hermes lives in constant fear of making mistakes just in case he is stripped of his rank and relieved of his financial handling and legal responsibilities.

Hermes’ character is portrayed as a die-hard realist, often relying on financial stats and figures to crush the rest of the cast’s hopes and dreams - but continually helping to provide them with a much-needed reality check.

For a show set in the future, Futurama is ironically out-of-step with how the accounting industry is adapting to technological change and innovation.

According to The 21st Century Profession report, technological development is ramping up exponentially, with data analytics companies taking over what was formerly regarded as core accounting activities, such as the day-to-day number crunching undertaken by Hermes.

But that’s not to say there isn’t a role for accountants in the future economy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Futurist Rocky Scopelliti, author of 'Australia 2030! Where the bloody hell are we?' says that it is important to adapt to change if you are hoping to survive and thrive in the future of work.

"Technology will profoundly change the way in which you perform your profession, so having an open mind to change is key. Although technology will make things cheaper, faster and smarter, your role as a professional will not disappear as your ability to incorporate these technologies and adapt your work will be key," says Rocky.

Accountants are bureaucrats who only crunch numbers: FICTION!

The Accounting Department (Kevin Malone, Oscar Martinez & Angela Martin) - The Office

The accounting team at the Scranton branch of the show’s fictional paper company, Dunder Mifflin, are a dynamic trio that each represent different stereotypes of the accounting profession.

Oscar takes his job very seriously to the point where he claims that he is a greater mathematician than a calculator. But he also embodies the role of an honest and ethical accountant with sensible ideas.

Angela is portrayed as a cat-obsessed busybody who is very quick to pass the blame to her colleagues when something goes wrong.

Kevin is depicted as a dim-witted, seriously poor communicator well-known for making offensive comments. Put them together, and hilarity ensues.

When you picture an accountant, you might see an ‘Oscar,’ ‘Angela’ or ‘Kevin’ - a tidily dressed man or woman in business attire, wearing glasses or carrying a briefcase.

Luckily though this isn’t an accurate description for most, and there is no one personality type that’s a catch-all descriptor for accountants.

Just look at Camille Woods CA - an accounting academic and corporate meditation teacher whose career journey is best described as ‘anything but ordinary.’

From working as a Financial Services Auditor at EY, to moving into the construction industry working as an Internal Auditor and Fund Accountant, Camille has built a wealth of experience in financial roles across a variety of industries.

Today, Camille splits her time between teaching accounting students at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and her role as Director of corporate meditation and yoga school start-up, Monday Mind.

"One thing I've learnt about myself through these different roles is that each job you do brings something else to your skillset. Every single job you do, builds something - and then you have a whole list of tools that you can draw on and use," Camille says.

"What I love most is the creativity that comes from teaching yoga and meditation. It's really fun to see everyone and have all of our yoga mats in a circle, and all laughing and doing poses, and just trying our best. Yoga is about being comfortable in the uncomfortable."

All accountants conform to stuffy, corporate stereotypes: FICTION!

Louis Tully - Ghostbusters

Louis Tully is the archetypal movie nerd character - big goofy glasses, and an awkward personality and communication style. Louis specialises in tax accounting and is even seen in the film celebrating the 4th anniversary of being an accountant.

While initially portrayed as an incompetent and forgetful - managing to get locked out of his own apartment in his introductory scene - Louis’s character evolves over the course of the film franchise to ultimately become the official accountant of the Ghostbusters business.

From the outside, many may think that Louis Tully is the ultimate geek with a boring job as a tax accountant.

When hearing that Dr Amanda White CA is an auditor, many think that her job is not very fun or exciting.

Little do they know that Dr White is an auditor by day, and YouTuber by night!

Dr Amanda White CA is an educator with an immense passion for auditing and helping others find the fun in accounting through creating educational resources as a YouTuber!

What began as producing simple visual online learning assets for the students she was lecturing at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), quickly grew in popularity and well beyond the (virtual) classroom.

"Close to ten years ago I started just hand drawing diagrams, recording them using a tiny point-and-shoot camera, and putting them up on the class page for students to engage with," says Dr White.

“I was just making content available to my students and I wasn't paying much attention to what was happening until someone said to me, 'Amanda, do you know you have more than 10,000 subscribers?' Then it sort of snowballed."

Accountants just do taxes: FICTION!

Pop culture has perpetuated some accounting stereotypes that are well and truly outrageous.

Thanks to a little mythbusting help from our real-life CAs, we hope you can now tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Thinking about a career in accounting, but unsure of how to link it to your other passions?

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