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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Has there ever been — and can there ever be — a positive depiction in movies or on TV of an accountant or tax auditor?

Today is April 15, the tax filing deadline in the United States. Well, actually, this year it’s Monday, April 18 — it must be a holiday somewhere where they’d otherwise be accepting tax returns in the mail today. But still: to most Americans, “April 15” has a ring of terror to it — those damn forms and all those rules and regulations are impossible for even pros to understand — and annoyance… especially this year, when we just learned that the biggest corporation in the U.S., GE, paid no taxes at all last year, even though it took in billions in profit.

So is it any wonder that in American movies and TV, at least, it’s almost impossible to find positive depictions of people who deal with high finance, or — heaven forfend — of an IRS auditor. The only recent ones I can recall, in fact, have both been played, coincidentally, by Will Ferrell. In 2006’s sweet Stranger Than Fiction, his IRS auditor finds the almost obsessive routine of his life and work fractured, and in last year’s The Other Guys, he’s an NYPD detective whose love of numbers is what allows him to uncover an enormous crime (when his fellow wannabe action-hero officers are unable to appreciate that a crime has even been committed). What makes both these characters unique is that their dedication to numeric detail is important to both plots — unlike in many movies, where a character’s profession is often incidental to the plot unless they happen to be cops or doctors or spies — and that their humor comes in part from Farrell’s mild-manneredness being at odds with the loud raucousness we expect from American comedy.

We might also, possibly, include Charles Grodin’s accountant in Midnight Run, a gentle nerd on the run from the mafia after he embezzles millions from a mob boss. Accountancy is a sideline to main action of the film, however.

But those are all I can think of. Am I wrong? Are there more examples? Has there ever been — and can there ever be — a positive depiction in movies or on TV of an accountant or tax auditor?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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