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A Narrative Device especially common in film and TV, though not limited to them.

This is the job where a once famous or admired character is "reduced to this!" More dire than a Day Job, this is a stereotypical last-resort job to which has-beens, or Impoverished Patricians or Fallen Heroes have resorted, just to pay the bills. The Fallen on Hard Times Job is often the starting point for a protagonist's Redemption Quest (with accompanying Gonna Fly Now Montage). It can also serve as a recruiting station for a Ragtag Band of Misfits or Putting the Band Back Together. Such jobs include:

Compare Former Regime Personnel, when a lot of secret policemen, commandos, spies and similar people end up fallen on hard times at once. The most common Fallen-On-Hard-Times Job for them is mafia soldier. Also compare Worthless Foreign Degree, in which highly educated immigrants end up in menial jobs. Contrast Waiting for a Break which is about aspiring actors and film writers doing a day job whilst attempting to make it big.

Examples of Fallen-On-Hard-Times Job include:

Anime and Manga


  • In Beerfest, the ragtag beer-drinking team recruits from their old college buddies: one's now a carny, and another's a street hustler.
  • Blades of Glory brings us one ex-superstar skater who's a stockboy at a sporting-goods store, and one drunkenly lurching his way through a children's skating show.
  • The Blues Brothers: Jake and Elwood reassemble their old band from members who are currently making their ends meet as lounge musicians, and short-order cooks. (Also, a maitre d'--but he actually prefers this position over his job as a musician, so Jake and Elwood have to resort to blackmail to make him rejoin the band.)
  • In Peter Jackson's King Kong, entertainer Ann Darrow faces the prospect of becoming a burlesque chorus girl--in that day, pretty much one step above stripping.
  • In The Muppets, Fozzie is stuck playing in a Muppets cover band.
  • Before getting his big break, the failed boxer Rocky works as a debt collector for a local loan shark.
  • In National Security, Hank becomes a security guard after being fired from the police force.
  • Several members of the 2001 Ocean's Eleven team are recruited from jobs like these.
  • In Raging Bull (as well as Real Life), boxer Jake LaMotta ends up a seedy bar owner and stand-up comic.
  • The protagonist of Rounders drives a delivery truck for a living whenever he busts out and loses all his money playing Poker.
  • In The Whole Ten Yards, Bruce Willis's retired hit-man character is spending his time as the world's most trying househusband.
  • When Mickey Rourke's character in The Wrestler is forced to leave the ring, he resorts to working the deli counter at a grocery store.



 I suppose most people would call me a failure and all my people failures now; except those who would say we never failed, because we never had to try. Anyhow, we're all poor enough now; I don't know whether you know that I've been teaching music. I dare say we deserved to go. I dare say we were useless. Some of us tried to be harmless.

  • In PG Wodehouse's Jill The Reckless, after her money was lost, Jill escapes nasty relatives and ends up resorting to work as a chorus girl.

Live-Action Television

  • On Cheers, Carla's husband got cut from the Boston Bruins, and ended up wearing a penguin suit in the Ice Capades. (Eventually, a rogue Zamboni machine killed him.)
  • Hack features a disgraced police detective reduced to working as a cab driver. He still considers it preferable to serving as muscle for a local gangster.
  • After their wrongful imprisonment, the paroled deputies of Reno 911! have to make ends meet in various capacities, including security guard, realtor, carnie, bed & breakfast owner (in a bus), groupie and American Idol hopeful.
  • After Veronica Mars' mom walks off with her $50,000 bounty, Veronica makes some spending money as a barista.
  • In Rome, professional soldiers Vorenus and Pullo become thug enforcers after they are demobilized and without income. Eventually they are required to actually kill people. Vorenus however draws the line at murder and quits.
  • Caroline becoming a waitress 2 Broke Girls. Played with in that the series begins with her taking that job after her father's arrest cost her her access to the family fortune.

Miscellaneous, Real Life

  • In Japanese media, paper-flower vendors are stereotypical emblems of hard times, indicating that someone is one step away from beggary.
  • In 19th- and early 20th-century Europe, the match seller was a stock "hard up" character. It was an especially popular depiction of impoverished WWI veterans, especially the wounded and disabled. Famous examples are The Little Match Girl and Otto Dix's painting The Match Seller.
  • During the American Great Depression, hawking pencils or apples was an equally common stock job in media.
  • Nowadays the Traveling Salesman job is seen as this.