Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Southland" Personalities and Money, Part 2

This is the second part of a series that examines the characters on "Southland" in terms of what they can teach us about our own financial behaviors.  In honor of the season finale that airs tonight, I'm teaming up with Jana from Daily Money Shot so that you, gentle readers, can get as much "Southland" exposure as you can stand.

Can you stand it?  CAN YOU STAND IT!?

Last week, I started the series by taking a look at Officer Dewey (and no, not the moron police officer from the ScreamScary Movie franchises).  Dewey is one of the secondary characters on the show, and today I thought it would be good to examine a more central character. Let's take a look at Officer Ben Sherman (as played by Ben McKenzie).

Personality Type:  Semi-Jaded Optimist.

Background:  Ben Sherman is a rookie cop. The first seasons showed his training and early partnership with John Cooper, though he now partners with Officer Sammy Bryant.  Ben grew up in an affluent family, which was a popular topic for insults from his training officer.

In a recent episode, Ben claimed that, while he used to care more about the people he was serving when he first started, he now views his work as something to do solely by the book, divorced from emotion. Even so, the last few episodes of the show have shown Ben's interest in saving and protecting a prostitute and her daughter, including enacting some off-the-clock vengeance on the pimp.  His actions show that he cares more than he lets on, and they underline his belief that he can be a positive force in the world.

Analysis:  An episode of the show from a few weeks ago started with the narration, "The average street cop in Los Angeles makes $75,000 a year.  It's not enough."  While that may seem like a lot of money, it stands to reason that Ben could have used connections that his family had to land and much more lucrative (and safe) line of work.  Nevertheless, he felt compelled to join the police.

Money Personality:  In Ben, I see an example of the struggle that people have between choosing their passion as a career choice versus choosing something that will help them pay the bills.  Even though Ben makes what is, by most accounts, a healthy salary, he is putting his life on the line every time he goes out on patrol (especially on this show), and Ben is leaving money on the table by not pursuing a higher-paying career.

This character hits home for me in some ways because, as I wrote about recently, I'm faced with the decision between keeping a good, high-paying job or going back to grad school to pursue that which I am passionate about.

Have you ever followed your own passions at the expense of the opportunity to land a more secure job?  Let me know in the comments.

**Update 03/27/2012** After talking with my brother (the police officer), I was told that the show got the salary information incorrect.  Based on the actual year that the show started, Ben Sherman would probably have earned $60,000 a year as a rookie, not $75,000 as the show claimed.  Additionally, since Sherman started, the LAPD has slashed wages to the point where new cops only earn about $48,000 a year to start out with.

When you compare $48,000 a year versus the amount Sherman could have (conceivably) earned by using his family's connections, I think the point that I make above is a little better made.


Jana @ Daily Money Shot said...

Ben is a great character to follow. We probably know more about his background than any other character, which makes his choices even that much more interesting.

I love this series, and thank you for having me be a part of it!

Christa said...

In LA, is $75 really a lot of money? I think everything is really expensive out there. You're right, too, that it is a dangerous career field, one that he could have avoided if he wanted. Kudos to him for following his dreams.

Bryan said...

Jana: I'm just happy to find another big fan of the show, and I was super excited that you wanted to write about it too.

Christa: I suppose I'm basing my comments on salary on the fact that he makes a bit more than I do (though our salaries are roughly comparable), I live in San Diego (which I believe is comparably expensive), and we live relatively comfortably. However, in making that assumption, I conveniently forgot to factor in my wife's income into the comparison. If we really had to get by on just my income, we'd be in a much more precarious place.