Fire Away

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There’s nothing easy about firing someone. I know. I had to do it a lot.

As a result, I wrote a thriller based on my experiences. Then I wrote two more. Then I found out that George Clooney had fired a lot of people too…at least in the movies. So I thought I’d better check him out.

up-in-the-air george-clooney
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Up in the Air (spoiler alert although it’s an old movie now) is about a guy, played by George, who’s trying to fly ten million miles so that he can get a little card from the airline that says he’s done it.

The themes of the movie include ennui, meaninglessness, the dislocation in society and the importance of family, and betrayal.

The main message is that we’re all going to die. That’s the main message of most movies and in this one it’s best demonstrated in George’s talk with his future brother-in-law where George actually says the words, as if we didn’t already know.

There are a lot of minor characters and sub-plots, all of which serve the main plot, which is to bring George’s character to a point of revelation so that he finally learns that:

  1. Being nice is better than being mean.
  2. Being part of society is better than standing apart from it.
  3. Having a goal to fly ten million miles is stupid.

The movie was pretty good – a little fragmented I thought – too many things going on at once and not enough of any one of them.

One additional theme in the movie – the one that mattered most to me – is that it’s dehumanizing to look people in the eye and tell them they’re going to lose their jobs, that it’s dehumanizing for everyone involved. The development of this theme didn’t ring true to me because George’s character finds it pretty easy to do his job. He never loses a minute’s sleep the night before he has to fire someone – that’s impossible.

But maybe this is because he’d never met the people before, and he only had to look them in the eye for five minutes before he left and never saw them again. He didn’t have to hire them, train them, work with them for ten years, meet their spouses and kids, lie to them about having promising careers…and then look them in the eye and fire them.

The way I did.

Pretty cushy make-believe job, George – Ready, Aim, Fire. But not at all like real life. In real life, there’s nothing easy about firing someone. I know. I had to do it a lot.

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