If you’ve wondered what the real-life librarian behind ‘Reel Librarians’ sounds like, then this podcast is for you!
Happy New Year! It’s an annual tradition here on Reel Librarians to take a quick look back at favorite posts from the past year before launching into the new year. It’s also good to keep trying new things, so this year, I decided it would be fun to explore a podcast format for this “year in review” post. And yes, this is the first-ever podcast produced by Reel Librarians!
For this podcast, I invited my spouse, Sam, to chat about our favorite Reel Librarians posts this past year. And a big shout-out to Sam for editing this podcast. ❤
Enjoy the first podcast for Reel Librarians! Favorite posts of 2021 + a continuing goal for 2022
Spoiler alerts & sources
As I mentioned in the podcast, here’s a spoiler alert for plot points mentioned about 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. (And please, do not share any spoilers on this post about Wong and the new Spider-Man: No Way Home movie — I will watch that movie once it’s available for streaming.)
This may seem like another spoiler, but I’m a librarian, so OF COURSE I have to credit my sources. Below I have added quick links to the posts that are referenced in the podcast — but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to discover in which context they’re mentioned and by whom!
FYI, some of the posts linked below are not necessarily our faves (or even published this past year!); let’s just say we had a wide-ranging conversation. 🙂 I’ve also arranged the post links below in alphabetical order by title, not necessarily in the order that they’re mentioned in the podcast.
Did you enjoy this new podcast format? I have no intention of creating a regular podcast — I am most comfortable expressing myself through writing — but would you enjoy occasional or special podcasts on this blog? Do you have any sign-off catchphrases or podcast titles to suggest? (The nerdier, the better! 😉 ) Do you have any personal fave posts or themes from the blog this past year? Do you have any specific themes, ideas, questions, and/or reel librarian movies you would like me to explore in 2022? Please leave a comment and share.
I was browsing recently through the newly added movies on Amazon Prime, and a TV movie entitled A Winter Romance (2021) caught my eye because the word “librarian” was mentioned in the first line of its summary:
When librarian TAYLOR HARRIS suddenly loses her job, she moves back to her small hometown in Montana. There, she gets involved in the fight to help save her brother’s hotel from tycoon JOEL SHEENAN. But things become complicated when she ends up falling for Joel.
Jessica Lowndes, a White Canadian actress, stars as librarian Taylor, and Chad Michael Murray, a White American actor, co-stars as Joel in this GAC Family Channel TV movie — with all the hallmarks of a Hallmark or Lifetime TV movie. Since the librarian is the main character in this TV movie, it took me HOURS to watch this 85-minute movie. Since I had so many notes from all the pauses, replays, research tangents, etc., I was struggling with how to structure this post… which finally led me to the realization that I could structure it more stream-of-consciousness style, noting all my random thoughts and questions I had while watching this TV movie. I hope you enjoy this new kind of post format!
*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* (But are there really any kind of spoilers for this kind of holiday romance?)
Here’s a preview trailer for the movie:
1. Why does this TV movie have multiple titles?
The opening scene clearly reveals the movie title to be A Winter Romance, as seen above. But when I tried to look up details about the movie using that title, I came up empty. Finally, looking up the director’s name, Bradley Walsh, led me to the TV movie’s original title, Colors of Love, which led me to other alternate titles, including An Autumn Romance when it was released on the GAC Family cable channel (and as seen above in the YouTube preview). And all of these titles are different from the source novel, The Tycoon’s Kiss, by Jane Porter. Why does this TV movie have 3+ titles? This does not feel like a good sign.
2. Is there a real “Seattle Reference Library”?
The opening title screen is of the Seattle cityscape. You can see the Seattle Space Needle in the upper right in the screenshot in #1 above, and the boomerang-shaped buildings along the bottom are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus. Is this movie set in Seattle? How do we get to Montana, as mentioned in the plot summary?
The next shot is the outside of a building with prominent black letters on the sign that read “Seattle Reference Library,” further emphasizing the Seattle location. Is there a real-life library called the “Seattle Reference Library”? Not that I know of, and I live in this region of the U.S. The glass architecture of this building seems to be suggesting the iconic glass building that houses the central Seattle Public Library building. If you recognize this real-life building that’s standing in for this library onscreen, please leave a comment.
3. Don’t piss off librarians by introducing a librarian character and then having that librarian immediately shush a patron onscreen.
There should be a moratorium on showing librarians shushing onscreen. It’s so stereotypical and so unnecessary, especially in a modern movie.
After Taylor helps a writer who is researching his book — the key is in primary sources, like land grants and diaries — the writer gets too excited (“I have to call my publisher!”) that Taylor shushes him, as seen above. Shushing WHILE smiling?! Insert rolling eyes emoji here: 🙄
4. Shushing aside, this librarian seems to be good at her job.
I think this line will be the set-up for the movie, as Taylor says to the patron, “I’m happy to help… Digging into history is what I love to do.” Shushing aside, Taylor seems to be good at her job, and we are clearly being encouraged to respect her skills as a librarian.
The library director, Linda (Jenni Burke), also happens to walk by while Taylor is wrapping up with the writer, and she compliments her work, “It’s like you have a sixth sense.” It’s SO RARE to see multiple librarians onscreen, and I appreciate that the library director is a Black woman. Linda has the power in this relationship, and Taylor, a White woman, is visibly happy to earn praise from her boss. The two librarians share a warm and professional dynamic together.
5. I am guessing that the importance of primary sources will be a theme.
In her exchange with Linda, Taylor also states, “There’s still some stuff that you can’t find on the internet.” So. True. Primary sources, y’all! I feel like this will be a theme in the rest of the movie… so let’s just put a pin in that here.
6. The lack of stable library funding is depressingly realistic.
Linda then reveals the bad news as the two walk down the stairs. The city is facing major budget cuts, and the library has used up some grant funding, which means… the research librarian position has been cut. Taylor’s out of a job, pronto. Yikes. It’s depressing, but I do appreciate the real talk about the inadequacies and instability of library funding. (This was also the crux behind TheTwelve Trees of Christmas TV movie!) However, the two part on good terms (Linda: “I’m already looking for other funding. The second I can bring you back, I… We’re gonna miss you so much.”), which is kind of refreshing.
7. Being a librarian IS a dream job.
Taylor then calls her brother, who’s in Montana, and shares that “was my dream job.” I may be mistaken, but I don’t recall EVER hearing a librarian job being described onscreen as a “dream job” before. Bless. And her brother is so supportive (“You were good at it, too”).
So, 2 minutes in, and we’ve already connected the dots between Seattle and Montana. And we’ve already seen multiple librarians onscreen!
8. Books are our brand!
After her car ends up in a ditch due to icy roads, Taylor gets a ride from Joel Sheenan (their first “meet cute” moment!) to her brother’s house. We meet her brother, Craig (played by Dennis Andres), who is married to a Black woman, Christine (played by Moni Ogunsuyi), and they have a cute-as-a-button daughter, Zoe (played by Delia Lisette Chambers). And I thought it sweet that Zoe gives her a picture she drew of her aunt Taylor in a library, surrounded by books. And then Zoe picks out a book for Taylor to read to her for bedtime.
Books are indeed our brand!
I’m not mad at that association. Of course, there are many more things in a library’s collection than books, and librarians NEVER have time to “read on the job” like some people assume. It’s just… the lowest common denominator. Associating books with librarians is easy and predictable. As is this TV movie.
9. WTF: “Maybe they’re right… Libraries are obsolete.”
At 14 1/2 minutes into this TV movie, Taylor is talking with her sister-in-law, Christine, about her love life, that she’s been dating these tech bros in Seattle. And then comes this line:
[T]he only books they read are on tiny little screens. But maybe they’re right. That, as much as I love what I do, libraries are obsolete.
W.T.F. Libraries are NOT obsolete, and no self-respecting librarian would ever say that. We librarians actually deal with constant changes in technology and ongoing reassessments of community needs, while also trying to preserve access to information in disparate, older formats. It takes skill to balance all that.
And it’s her brother and sister-in-law who push back on this! Craig responds, “Not as long as you have anything to say about it, right?,” and Christine says, “Somewhere out there, there’s a guy who’s gonna appreciate your love of books.” Why are all these supporting characters doing all the work of validating this central librarian character?! I’m sensing some White woman privilege here.
10. Does everyone think librarians judge people by their reading choices?
Craig, to his wife: Did I ever tell you that my little sister, back in high school, wouldn’t date a guy unless he could name all three Brontë sisters?
Taylor: That’s not true. Two out of three was OK.
This exchange was part of the scene above, and I rolled my eyes at the thought that everyone — or at least, this screenwriter — assumes that librarians judge people by their reading choices or knowledge. Not all of us are literary snobs! (I personally love reading mysteries and YA fantasy fiction. But our cat is named Brontë, so perhaps the lady doth protest too much, methinks? … 😉 )
11. Yes, librarians do visit other libraries wherever they go.
At 20 minutes into the film, Taylor visits the local public library in Forest Ridge. This rang true for me. One of the first things I do when I visit a new place is to visit a local library.
Note: Bracebridge Public Library in the Ontario province, Canada, served as the filming location for the fictional Forest Ridge Public Library.
12. Do they get the call numbers right?
As Taylor enters the library, we get treated to a closeup of Dewey Decimal call numbers. This public library uses the Dewey Decimal classification system, which is common for public libraries, plus there are red Reference labels on the book spines. Hallmarks of actual library books! But they must be older library books, as it turns out that the 819 call number is no longer being used, at least not in the U.S. (but perhaps still in Canada?). The 810’s are used for American literature in English, and the 819 range used to be used for American puzzle books. Who knew?! 🙂
13. Librarians deserve their own “meet cute” moment, too.
In this first public library scene, we get to meet another library director, Joyce, played by Darlene Cooke, a Black Canadian actress. Taylor and Joyce get their own librarians’ “meet cute” moment over a book display of “the greatest love stories of all time,” in which Taylor chooses Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and Joyce convinces Taylor to get a library card in order to check out the book.
What purpose(s) does this scene serve? My guesses: To reinforce this Brontë thread that was introduced in the previous scene, and to introduce a way to get Taylor working at this library in order to stay in town.
And as lovely and warm as this “meet cute” moment is between the two librarians — and how appreciative I am that we are meeting multiple librarians of color in this TV movie! — I cannot help but notice that, once again, the persons of color seem to exist solely to direct attention toward Taylor (Joyce reveals that “Zoe always talks about her Aunt Taylor being a librarian too.”)
14. Is Anne Brontë the best Brontë?
The Brontë thread pays off in the next scene! At 23 minutes, Joel comes out of the coffee shop as Taylor walks by with her library book.
Taylor: I just stopped by the library and got myself a card [shows her book, Wuthering Heights]
Joel: Ohhh! That’s a good choice, although I’ve always been more of a Charlotte fan.
Joel: Charlotte Brontë. instead of Emily. You know, Jane Eyre.
Taylor: But we cannot forget their favorite sister.
Joel: And how could we ever forget Anne? Oh, I love Anne!
Taylor: You’re full of a lot of surprises, aren’t you?
I also personally prefer Jane Eyre. (Don’t @ me, Wuthering Heights fans. We can co-exist.) And is Anne the best Brontë? I should finally get around to reading my copy of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall… if there are any die-hard Anne Brontë fans reading this right now, please leave a comment! Also, it’s hilarious to me that no one ever mentions their brother, Branwell Brontë.
Also, how many “meet cute” moments does Taylor need?! This movie is working VERY hard to convince us that it’s actually a romance and that Taylor and Joel have chemistry together. (I’m not convinced. And I’m not the only one. In this online review of the movie, the critic observes that “Taylor … isn’t in search of love as much as she is in search of a job.” )
15. A third of the way into this movie, we finally arrive at the central conflict and plot device.
The next scene takes place at the community center, in which city councillors are holding public comments on the proposed permits to turn the 100-year-old Graff Hotel into a glossy new “destination” resort. The problem? Taylor’s brother works at (or manages?) the Graff Hotel, and Joel is the one who has bought the hotel. Taylor is conflicted! But then Taylor has her BIG IDEA.
Taylor: Isn’t the Graff Hotel 100 years old? So that means it’s eligible for a landmark status.
Phyllis (played by Andrea Davis, a Black American actress): For landmark status, the state of Montana says we have to prove that a significant historical event took place involving the building.
Joel: That’s exactly right. Thank you, Phyllis. And according to our research, there’s no evidence of that with the Graff Hotel.
Taylor: Well, who did this research? […] So you’re saying that if we find a significant event happened at the Graff, then the hotel would be preserved?
Phyllis: According to the state of Montana, yes.
Craig: Phyllis, maybe we could take some time to explore this before the council makes their final decision?
Phyllis: All right, this is what we’ll do. We’ll take a week to look this over, then we’ll reconvene and hear what everyone has to say. Any objections?
Ah hah! This is where it pays off that Taylor’s a librarian, and that she knows her way around research. Librarians to the rescue!
16. Is this movie correct about the qualifications for landmark status in Montana?
So Phyllis, the city council chairwoman, stated above that, “For landmark status, the state of Montana says we have to prove that a significant historical event took place involving the building.” Is this accurate?
Yes and no. Yes: one of the criteria for landmark status is association with a significant historical event. No: that’s not the ONLY criteria to be considered for landmark status.
1. Be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
2. Be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
3. Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
4. Have yielded, or may likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history. In addition, properties must possess a high degree of integrity to qualify for listing in the Register – in other words, they must be relatively unchanged in appearance from the historic period.
I mean, y’all knew I would look this up, right?! Right. I’m glad y’all know me so well. 😀
17. I guessed correctly about the part-time library job opportunity!
This TV movie is very predictable. Thirty-eight minutes in, Joyce asks Taylor to work part-time at the library.
Joyce: Are you enjoying your visit with Catherine and Heathcliff?
Taylor: Very much.
Joyce: I was thinking, my part-time librarian recently moved to Denver, and I’ve been looking someone to help out around here, if you’re interested.
Taylor:Oh, I mean, that would be amazing, I just… I don’t know how long I’m here for.
Joyce: Well, while you are here, I could sure use your help. […]Come by tomorrow and we’ll get you started.
My next prediction? Taylor’s going to use the library’s resources to research the Graff Hotel. But uh, that’s not the same thing as working in the library. This is just being used as a plot excuse.
18. In two minutes, you can get a job AND a date!
At this point, my husband, Sam, joined me. He stayed long enough to comment on this next scene, in which Joel and Taylor have YET ANOTHER “meet cute” moment. Joel asks her for reader’s advisory recommendations as a way to actually ask her out on a date.
Joel: I was wondering if you could help me find a book. You see, I finished this one. Again.
Taylor: Jane Eyre. That’s impressive.
Joel: And I’m looking for something a little different. I figured, who better to ask than a librarian?
Taylor: Well, I don’t officially work here yet.
Joel [looking around and lowering his voice to a whisper]: Well, then we’ll make it unofficial.
Here is Sam’s tongue-in-cheek reaction to Joel essentially shushing himself:
Sam: She hasn’t even shushed him yet! Librarians are professionals. You can’t just shush yourself. You have to WAIT to be shushed.
Sam: Each other, yes. But not themselves. It’s a totally different thing to shush each other.
Sam: You are welcome for my contributions to this viewing experience. I am making this movie better.
19. “That’s not how any of this works!”
After three (!!!) “meet cute” moments, Taylor and Joel finalllllly go on a date, to a private dinner at the Graff Hotel. As they get to know each other beyond their mutual love of the Brontë sisters, we learn that Taylor doesn’t know the difference between library volunteers and actual, paid librarian professionals.
Craig and I grew up in Seattle. He’s actually the reason I got my first librarian job. […] We were in high school, and this one summer, our local library was looking for a volunteer, and I wanted the job more than anything, so Craig took the bus all the way downtown so that he could go talk to the head librarian, and he told him that no one loves books as much as I do, and that he would never have even opened a book if it weren’t for me. He must have been really convincing because I got the job, and… he’s been there for me ever since.
Sam beat me to it:
That’s not how any of this works! Volunteers are not the same thing as librarians!
I’m sure this backstory confessional had good intentions, but it unfortunately serves to reinforce the misconceptions that (1) loving books is the only requirement for a librarian, (2) anyone working in a library is a librarian, and (3) that you don’t have to pay librarians a fair wage. Real-life librarians are professionals with actual training and graduate-level education, and we deserve to be recognized and paid as professionals.
20. Yep, primary sources are important for historical research.
At 50 minutes into this TV movie, we get a library tour with Joyce — presumably on Taylor’s first day working at the public library — and OF COURSE Taylor asks about local history and primary sources. Joyce leads her to the archives room. So yes, the part-time librarian job IS a convenient plot device for Taylor to have time and access to research the Graff Hotel.
Taylor: The best way of digging up the hotel’s history was from some local sources. Perhaps a first person’s account?
Joyce: Much better than searching the internet, yes.
Taylor: And, considering you know the area so well, I was hoping you could point me in the right direction.
Joyce: Ah! I may have one idea. [takes her to the archives room]
Joyce: Over the years, the library’s collected a kind of archive of the town’s history. [points] Newspapers, photographs, letters and diaries.
Taylor: What do you do with all these?
Joyce: Well, the plan was to have it digitized and online, but as you can see, we haven’t made much progress. If you think it can help.
Taylor: It looks like a great place to start.
My next prediction is that Taylor’s going to parlay her short-term, part-time job into a long-term job digitizing the archives!
21. Pay attention to signage.
Along the way to the archives room, we do get some glimpses of other parts of the public library, including this children’s book zone. But the signage on the ends of the bookcases says “newspapers back issues” and “periodicals back issues.” My guess is that the real-life library did have periodicals in this part of the library, but the set dressers moved children’s books into this area to be more visually dynamic and colorful — but then forgot to remove the signs off the ends of the bookcases.
22. Is Taylor the luckiest librarian in Montana?
At 56 mins, Taylor goes back to the hotel to see her brother. Craig asks how the search is going, and Taylor responds that “I’m hoping something turns up.” The pair then stroll by the old maids’ quarters — which have apparently just been serving as storage for the past hundred years? — and Taylor starts looking around the wardrobes and drawers.
The plot is too predictable… I think it will come as no surprise to you that within 30 seconds, Taylor finds EXACTLY the evidence she was hoping would turn up, an old scrapbook of letters and photographs from a maid who worked at the hotel in the early 1900s — including a photograph of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the hotel! Historical significance and landmark status, I can smell you coming down the research trail. Zero stars for predictability, but a gold star for depicting primary sources as discovered treasure!
23. Librarians are like private detectives.
The next 10 minutes reveal how there are so many similarities between librarians and private detectives. (If you need more evidence, see this post, this post, and this post.)
I won’t get into all the details, but we next get a scene with Taylor, Joyce, and Craig in the public library’s archives room, and Taylor brandishes a magnifying glass to show the others how the photo is of Teddy Roosevelt during his time as U.S. President, between 1901 and 1909. (“Now that we know the timeframe, we can just narrow down the dates.”)
In the next scene, Taylor uses clues in the photograph to discover the probable reason Roosevelt was in Forest Ridge (a freak snowstorm in springtime).
24. Yes, librarians seek help from other librarians.
Taylor then reveals to Craig that she has a friend, Caitlin, who works at the National Archives in Washington DC. (Do you think Caitlin knows Dr. Abby Chase?!)
So I emailed her [Caitlin] the photo and she said she was going to search the records to see all the traveling that the president did during that time… She said she would get back to me as soon as possible, but I think it’s looking good.
Do we have any doubt that the information she gets from Caitlin will be exactly what she needs to save the hotel? I don’t think so!
And yes, librarians do get help from colleagues and other librarians, archivists, and information professionals. We take our own advice; when we’re stuck in a research dead end, we ask each other for help!
25. A librarian gets a Poirot moment.
Reinforcing that link between librarians and private detectives… just like the literary private detective Hercule Poirot loves a rapt audience when he solves the mystery at the end of an Agatha Christie novel (I told you I like mysteries), Taylor gets her Poirot moment at the city council meeting, when she gets to reveal the hotel’s historical significance.
And this movie drags this out to the wire — complete with frantic texting and her brother knocking over the microphone stand to stall for time– even though there is zero suspense about what the outcome will be. (What I find most interesting during this bit are glimpses of the evidence Taylor was compiling on her laptop, including 1903 Montana weather maps and historical photos of 1900s Montana. Again, primary sources for the win!)
Here’s how Taylor’s Poirot moment goes down, complete with a slideshow, historic photographs, handwritten letters, diary entries, and official government documents:
Phyllis, city council chairwoman [to Craig]: Being old doesn’t qualify a building for landmark status. I’m afraid unless you have something new to add, you’re going to have to yield the floor.
Taylor [rushing into the community center]: I may be able to help with that! I think I may have found proof that shows that the Graff Hotel deserves to be a historic landmark. […] In April 1903, [the hotel maid] Mary Catherine had her photograph taken next to President Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Graff Hotel.
Phyllis: Teddy Roosevelt was in Forest Ridge?
Taylor: That spring, he was at Yellowstone National Park to lay the cornerstone of the Roosevelt Arches, which still stand at the north entrance today. Teddy loved this part of the West more than anything, so he decided to stay and do a little bit more exploring. What nobody was expecting was that it was going to be the coldest spring on record. A freak snowstorm rolled in, leaving three feet of snow, leaving Teddy and his entire crew stranded just outside forest Ridge. By the time that the party made it back into town they spent three nights at the Graff Hotel until the roads were clear.
Phyllis: And you have proof of all this?
Taylor: I do, actually. Right here, I have a diary entry from Roosevelt. He kept one most of his life, and in April 1903, he wrote: “Snowed in at a little scrappy town called Forest Ridge. Beautiful country. Good and amiable folk. Stayed at the Graff Hotel. Best three nights of sleep in years…“
But it wasn’t just the Graff that inspired him. It was… Forest Ridge. It was Montana. It was this entire part of the country and its people and the culture that inspired him while he was snowed in. So, shortly after he went back to Washington, he decided to sign the Antiquities Act, which gave him and all the future presidents the power to preserve the beautiful country of ours so that future generations could enjoy everything that he had. By making the Graff Hotel a historic landmark, we are not only celebrating Roosevelt’s legacy, we are celebrating the spirit that makes this city, this country so special. Thank you.
The city council announces that they will be applying to the state of Montana for the Graff Hotel to be granted landmark status. The town erupts in applause, while Craig hugs his sister who just saved the hotel! Librarians are heroes!
As a librarian, I appreciate this scene because of its focus on research, but I suspect that not everyone does. This reviewer commented that “Some scenes take place only to deliver information rather than emotions.”)
This presentation lasts 3 minutes total, with 10 minutes remaining in the film, just enough time for Taylor and Joel to wrap up their supposed romance.
26. How historically accurate was all that?
I do appreciate how confident Taylor is in her Poirot moment — and the suspension of disbelief in how quickly she set up her laptop to project onto the big TV screen! — but you know I had to wonder, how historically accurate was her evidence? So yes, I paused the movie to spend time digging into the possibilities and online archives of Teddy Roosevelt’s presidential papers.
Roosevelt did sign the Antiquities Act, which allowed for the creation of national monuments and national parks… in 1906, a full three years after the events Taylor described. So her line that “shortly after he went back to Washington, he decided to sign the Antiquities Act” is not accurate and would not be valid evidence to signify an historical event.
So all in all, even if not totally historically accurate — I mean, Forest Ridge is a fictional town — then it is, for the most part, historically probable for the purposes of this film’s plot. A solid B, with marks off for the handwriting mismatch and fudging of the dates.
27. The real romance is not between Taylor and Joel.
The final few minutes of the TV movie try to create suspense about whether or not Taylor will stay in Forest Ridge and whether or not she and Joel will get together. For me, the ending didn’t hold much interest — except for when I realized there was a(n unintended?) love triangle. Before Taylor goes to the Harvest Ball, we learn that she has been offered the Seattle research librarian job again (“The library in Seattle called and they want me back”). A woman’s love story with primary sources… which archives will she choose, the Seattle reference library or the archives room of the Forest Ridge Public Library?
Taylor’s joyful face when she’s researching in the Forest Ridge Public Library archives sealed the deal, right? 😉
And my final evidence for the TRUE love story of a librarian and her primary sources is in the final closeup at the end: A framed photo of the couple kissing alongside framed primary sources, including the Teddy Roosevelt photograph and historical letters!
28. Is Montana this ethnically diverse?
This TV movie did seem to be making an effort to make this small town in Montana quite ethnically diverse. Two Black Americans are serving on the city council, including Phyllis as the council chairperson; Craig’s family is multiracial; Craig mentions that Forest Ridge was his wife’s hometown; Craig works with a woman of Asian descent at the hotel; and there seems to be a racially diverse array of townspeople at the city council meeting.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Montana is this ethnically diverse? So I looked up the most recent census records for Montana, and per 2021 estimates, the White population in Montana totals almost 89%. The Black population in Montana clocks in at .6%. So it would seem that this TV town is more ethnically diverse onscreen than it would be in real life. But I also researched if there was a history of Buffalo Soldiers in Montana — Buffalo Soldiers were Black American soldiers during the Civil War and into the 20th century — and lo and behold, I learned that many of the Buffalo Soldiers resettled in Montana after the Spanish-American War and also served as the state’s first park rangers. Very interesting!
Although I applaud the attempt at onscreen diversity in this TV movie’s cast list, I also noticed that the people of color do not have distinctive backstories or experiences of their own. We only hear about Christine growing up in Montana because Craig mentioned it. We learn nothing personal about Taylor’s niece Zoe and perhaps how it feels to grow up biracial; she exists solely to set up plot points for Taylor. We learn nothing about Craig’s Asian co-worker. And Joyce’s main function seems to be to react to Taylor’s research findings. Everyone is very pleasant to each other, and there are no overt racist acts, but it’s like the TV movie is striving to be colorblind. They don’t mention race at all. It’s like “Montana nice,” ultimately making the onscreen diversity very surface-level… only skin-deep, so to speak.
Progress is not sticking a bunch of people of color [into a show or movie] and having them speak like everyone else.
29. This movie is NOT a “winter romance”
On a lighter note, I’m assuming that this TV movie’s title got rebranded to A Winter Romance because of the popularity of Christmas-themed TV romances during the end-of-year holidays. But it’s clear throughout the film that “An Autumn Romance” is a much more appropriate title. I mean, the central social event in the movie is the “Harvest Ball,” for goodness sake, and each set is drowning in orange-and red-colored leaves, pumpkins, and sunflowers.
30. These librarians have style
I also have to point out how every librarian in this TV movie has their own distinctive style.
I love the patterns and bright colors here in this screenshot from the Seattle research library:
Joyce sports long necklaces and free-flowing silhouettes throughout the movie, including in her black floral evening wear at the Harvest Ball:
And Taylor rocks amazing coats and jackets throughout the movie:
31. Was this movie good? It doesn’t really matter.
This movie has quite a few positives, including several library- and librarian-focused scenes that I have rarely seen onscreen, including the repeated joy Taylor expresses when researching and looking through historical documents and primary sources. And the fact that Taylor is a librarian is absolutely critical to this movie’s plot, which is why it ends up in the Class I category of films.
There are also several negatives, which I’ve detailed in this post, including the surface-level view of librarian qualifications as well as the missed opportunities to explore the community’s diversity. The screenplay is super predictable, and the central romance between Taylor and Joel is not very compelling.
Do these positives and negatives cancel each other out? Is this a good movie? No, not really. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. I do not begrudge people who watch and enjoy this kind of lightweight romance, especially in these turbulent, stressful times. But perhaps highlighting my own thoughts and questions and research tangents that came up while I was watching this movie can spur some deeper thoughts and questions — and research explorations! — of your own.
Have you seen this TV movie? Do you like this kind of post? Would you like to see more of these stream-of-consciousness types of posts? Please leave a comment and share!
A Winter Romance (aka Colors of Love, An Autumn Romance). Dir. Bradley Walsh. Perf. Jessica Lowndes, Chad Michael Murray, Dennis Andres. Hideaway Pictures via Amazon Prime Video, 2021. Based on the novel The Tycoon’s Kiss by Jane Porter.
Can we reach the top of the Christmas tree with the ultimate holiday movie featuring reel librarians?
‘Tis the season… must be time for a holiday-themed post! For this year, I decided to select 5 movies from my previous holiday film round-up posts, and rate each movie based on their focus (or not) on reel librarians and/or library scenes as well as on their holiday spirit. In this highly unscientific post, can we reach the top of the Christmas tree with the ultimate holiday movie featuring reel librarians?
The Age of Adaline (2015)
Details: Dir. Lee Toland Krieger. Perf. Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn. Lionsgate, 2015.
Synopsis: Adaline (Blake Lively), a recent widow, gets into a car accident in the 1930s and stops aging as a result of the accident. After decades of living alone, she meets a man, Ellis (Michiel Huisman), who makes her question her life choices.
Reel librarian rating: Adaline works in the archives at the San Francisco Heritage Society library, and there are a few scenes set in the archives, including one in which Ellis donates a treasure trove of books to the collection. We also get to meet Adaline’s colleagues!
📖 📖 📖 (3 out of 5 library books)
Holiday rating: The setting is quite winter-y but not explicitly Christmas-y. The film is set more around the New Year’s holiday and features a New Year’s Eve party, and I included it on this list because why not extend the holiday season?!
Details: Dir. James B. Clark. Perf. Ted Eccles, Theodore Bikel, Tudi Wiggins. Paramount, 1969.
Synospis: A young boy, Sam (Ted Eccles), leaves home to spend a year in nature, like Thoreau.
Reel librarian rating: He goes to the public library in one scene, and librarian Miss Turner (Tudi Wiggins) helps him find information about peregrine falcons. We also see Miss Turner out of the library in a few outdoor scenes, including one in which she is bird-watching, and another scene in which Miss Turner helps save Sam after a snow storm.
📖 📖 📖 (3 out of 5 library books)
Holiday rating: Although it takes place over a year and different seasons, the movie features a scene that has to be unique amongst all reel librarian cinema: the librarian has Christmas dinner with Sam inside the base of a tree! “That was the best Christmas dinner I ever had.” Miss Turner even joins in singing Christmas carols!
Details: Dir. Walter Lang. Perf. Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill. 20th Century Fox, 1957. Based on the play by William Marchant.
Synopsis: An efficiency expert (Spencer Tracy) clashes with the librarians in a TV network’s research department, headed by Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn).
Reel librarian rating: Almost the entire movie is set in and around the TV research library. We get to know the assistant research librarians, Peg (Joan Blondell), Sylvia (Dina Merrill), and Ruthie (Sue Randall), plus we get to enjoy how Bunny mentors Ruthie, the newest librarian. In the source play, Bunny’s qualifications include a library science degree; in the film, this is watered down to a few college courses.
📖 📖 📖 📖 📖 (5 out of 5 library books)
Holiday rating: The film takes place around the holidays and includes a funny — and boozy — office Christmas party in the research library. We also get to see a few exchanges of Christmas gifts.
Details: Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers. RKO, 1946. Based on the story by Philip Van Doren Stern.
Synopsis: George Bailey (James Stewart) falls on hard times and is granted the wish to experience life as if he’d never been born.
Reel librarian rating: In this alternate reality/nightmare, George’s wife, Mary (Donna Reed) becomes an “old maid” librarian. Although Mary’s librarian scene lasts only 30 seconds, this alternative reality/nightmare is the catalyst for George wanting to return to his life as it was. This scene is a prototype of the “Spinster Librarian” character type, which earns it an extra point in this category.
📖 📖 1/2 (2.5 out of 5 library books)
Holiday rating: The film spans decades and seasons, but it’s become a holiday classic, so I have to give it an extra point for nostalgia’s sake. In particular, the ending of the movie captures the “holiday spirit.”
Details: Dir. Michael DeCarlo. Perf. Lindy Booth, Robin Dunne, Shauna MacDonald, Melanie Brown, Casper Van Dien. Chesler/Perlmutter Productions, 2013.
Synopsis: Cheri, a children’s librarian (Lindy Booth), tries to save her library from being demolished for a condo building. To generate community support and media attention, she thinks up a contest for library users to decorate Christmas trees for the holidays.
Reel librarian rating: Most of the movie takes place in and around the library, and we get to see different parts of the library, including librarian workspaces, and how patrons use library spaces and collections in different ways. There are also a few scenes in Cheri’s apartment. Cheri also shares why she decided to pursue a graduate degree in library science, and as she states, “Seriously. It’s a real thing.”
📖 📖 📖 📖 📖 (5 out of 5 library books)
Holiday rating: The title and plot of this cheerful TV movie revolve around Christmas trees, so I have to give it the highest holiday rating!
🎄 🎄 🎄 🎄 🎄 (5 out of 5 Christmas trees… or should I have rated it 12 out of 12 Christmas trees!? 😉 )