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Hollywood’s Big Bad Bureaucracy – Avatar, Dark Knight, Jaws, Ghostbusters — Plus Your Weekend Reads

Welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

A busy week on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER — Where we took a deep dive on your pay

  • Show Me the Money – Ok, you’re sitting at your desk right now in XX agency. Staring at your laundry list of projects and programs you want to enact. But there’s a problem. You don’t know what funding you will have next month, next year, 5 years? The budget black hole is crippling agencie and contractors alike. We detail the budgetary options with the TechAmerica Foundation.
  • Motivating Federal Employees: Is Pay the Most Important Factor? – Pay is one important factor that individuals consider when searching for employment or assessing their satisfaction with their current job. However, research conducted by the Partnership for Public Service for their annual Best Places to Work rankings indicates that pay is not THE most important factor. What is?
  • You’re Paid TOO Much – Not ENOUGH – The RIGHT Amount? What’s the real figure? Depending on which stats you look at and depending on which group you talk to, federal employees are either WAY underpaid or WAY overpaid. How can those divergent numbers exits? We drill down the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers with the Washington Post’s Eric Yoder.

Our issue of the week: Feds in the movies. Last week’s Argo demonstrated just how quick, agile and creative the government and it’s workers could be. But the government rarely comes across that well in the movies.

Michelle Pautz is an associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton. She studied the top-100 grossing films of all time (unadjusted for inflation) in both the U.S. and Australia for how the movies portrayed government and civil servants.

She told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that government itself is often portrayed as a broken system, but public servants themselves are usually seen as a good guy.




“President Ronald Reagan famously said the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ But where would Gotham City be without the tireless service of Batman’s government ally, Commissioner Gordon? And how great a debt of gratitude does the world owe a few government scientists and fighter pilots who halt an alien invasion of Earth in Independence Day?” said Pautz.

Big Takeaways:

  • Overall, government depictions were 30 percent positive, 48 percent negative and 22 percent mixed. In U.S. films, government received a 26/46 (positive/negative) rating, and in Australian films, the rating was 34/49.
  • Of all 424 characters, 60 percent were depicted positively, with 68 percent described as having acted with integrity.
  • These characters were most often (37 percent) described with positive adjectives such as compassionate, patient and competent, while less often (29 percent) described negatively, with adjectives such as rude, arrogant and deceptive.
  • Surprisingly, Pautz said, only 12 percent of government characters were described with adjectives of the stereotypical bureaucrat: cynical, nerdy, boring, average, powerless, slow-witted, inept and lazy.

Breaking down the characters into groups, Pautz found:

  • Military characters received mostly a mixed portrayal (42 percent) but were more often portrayed negatively (31 percent) than positively (27 percent).
  • Law enforcement characters were portrayed quite differently by country. In the U.S., they were portrayed more often negatively (40 percent) than positively (27 percent), while in Australia they were portrayed more often positively (49 percent) than negatively (33 percent).
  • Civil servant characters — such as teachers, corrections officers and postal employees — fared best. Overall, their depictions were 39 percent positive, 25 percent negative and 35 percent mixed.

“Overall, these movies offer generally negative — or at best, mixed — depictions of government, but the individual government characters fare much better,” Pautz said.

What might be even more surprising was the number of feds in the movies. The 100 films featured more than 400 federal civil servants. “Odd are if you go to a movie you will see a government worker,” said Pautz.

Movies Featuring Positives for Government: Armageddon, Argo, Jaws
Mixed Review: Bourne Identity, Avatar, Dark Knight
Negative View: Ghostbusters

Weekend Reads:
Are your prepped for this weekend’s storm Sandy?: NOAA has posted it’s do’s and don’ts.

What to do now:

  • Stay alert to weather forecasts. Storms can change direction and intensity quickly, which means forecasts can change.
  • Listen to local emergency management authorizes for advice on evacuations and other protective measures to take.
  • It’s always a good idea to have an emergency preparedness plan. Have an idea of where you might evacuate if directed to.

“You need to have a hurricane plan,” Feltgen said. This includes being aware of your area and what damage it might be susceptible to, as well as evaluating your home for potential hazards. “These are all things you need to think of before a hurricane,” he said.

If you’re likely to be affected by the storm:

  • Check your flashlights and batteries and make sure they’re in working order and good supply.
  • Withdraw cash from the ATM to have in case the power goes out and you need to make any purchases.
  • This is also a good time to put gas in your car.
  • Keep listening to forecasts and your local emergency managers.


What NOT to do:

  • Taping your windows is “a waste of time, effort and tape,” Chris Landsea, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane expert, writes on the NOAA Web site. You’re better off shuttering or boarding up your windows (see below). Taping up windows can actually make a situation worse if debris hits a window, because the tape keeps the shards of glass together and makes them more dangerous, Feltgen said.
  • Don’t leave your windows or doors open: The idea that this prevents a pressure difference from building up between your house and the outside is a myth. The pressure difference is not enough to cause an explosion, Landsea notes. Your windows should be closed, locked and shuttered throughout the duration of the storm.
  • Don’t stay behind! The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family is by leaving the area if advised to do so.

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