Which Movie or TV Character Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?

playing by heart

Yesterday Ester gave us a list of the best movies about women in the workplace. It made me think about the images of working women that I’d seen on movies and TV growing up—from Maria in the Fix-It Shop on Sesame Street to Julie Andrews’ dual roles as Maria Von Trapp and Mary Poppins—and how they might have influenced my perception of what I wanted out of the working world.

I will tell you this: watching Julie Andrews made me want to be a talented singer and actor much more than it made me want to get a job as a nanny. My childhood daydreams were about getting discovered as an actor, not about getting discovered by my employer as a potential love interest.

And sure, I saw Dangerous Minds and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and briefly considered the idea of teaching underprivileged students how to use their own culture to learn. But most of the movies I saw about women in the workplace weren’t particularly inspiring, because I wasn’t interested in having any of those careers. I didn’t want to be Erin Brockovich or Miranda Priestly—and I certainly didn’t want to be Andy Sachs.

I did want to be Dana Scully. More than that, I wanted to be Gillian Anderson’s character in Playing By Heart, the local theater director who is too focused on her work to take time out to date Jon Stewart. (Spoiler alert: she makes time for Jon Stewart. Even better spoiler alert: he doesn’t try to change her.)

I liked that she wasn’t famous but she was still doing good work within her community, and it was still important to her to do it well. I especially liked that she wasn’t interested in overhauling her life just because Jon Stewart happened to walk into it.

Playing By Heart released in 1999, when I was a senior in high school. When I was in college, I started finding ways to show it to the boys I wanted to date. (I kept finding ways to show it to the boys I wanted to date for the next 10 years.)

But let’s flip it over to you: was there a movie or TV character who represented what you wanted to be when you grew up? Did you keep that goal with you into adulthood, or did you eventually realize you had outgrown your role model?

Most importantly: did you also start dyeing your hair red because you wanted to be Gillian Anderson that badly?




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