Can you believe it, Reel Librarians is celebrating its first decade?! Ten years ago, on September 19, 2011, I published my very first post, “Where do I begin? A love story” on Reel Librarians. That post also explains the background about my interest in reel librarians.
Collage caption: Lego Librarian celebrates 10 years of Reel Librarians!
Here is an update on how this blog has grown over the years. The total word count is new, and I added it because I thought it was fun!
2012 (after 1 year)
2021 (after 10 years)
Total word count:
(Note: It looks like WordPress has changed how it calculates shares, so I took that one out of this annual “Quick stats” update.)
This is another post in my “first impressions” series, which focus on current films that I have watched in theaters that include reel librarians and/or scenes in a library or archives. It’s been more than two years since I’ve written a “first impressions” post — the most recent one before this was in June 2019, for ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ (2019) and its memorable fight scene in the NYPL‘ — because of, you know, the ongoing COVID pandemic. (Please get vaccinated if you can!) I am still not comfortable going inside a movie theater for 2+ hours to watch a movie with other people, but luckily, we have a drive-in theater nearby, the Rodeo Drive-in. I was sooooo happy they were showing Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) on opening weekend, because (a) I really wanted to see the movie sooner rather than later, (b) I want to support a Marvel movie with a primarily Asian cast, hopefully the first of many, (c) I knew that one of my fave reel librarian characters, Wong, would be making a cameo, which I wrote about earlier this summer here, and therefore, (d) I wanted to write up a “first impressions” post for you all.
Please note: My “first impressions” posts are necessarily less detailed, as I don’t have the luxury of pausing the movie, taking notes, and rewatching scenes. I do, however, take notes as soon as I can after watching the film.
This also marks the fifth (!) time I’ve analyzed a reel librarian, library, or archives scene in a Marvel movie, three of which were “first impressions” posts. These past posts include:
I’m sooooo happy that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a certified hit already after smashing Labor Day box office records — and during an ongoing pandemic! It deserves all its accolades and then some. Everything worked in this movie, as it had great balance with drama, action, humor, casting, direction, and special effects. Tony Leung’s performance was particularly epic and grounded this larger-than-life movie in real-world heartbreak.
This tweet really sums up my feelings about the movie, including the final bullet point:
As a White person, I know that I cannot fully comprehend what this movie — and its vision and execution of Asian excellence on and behind the screen — must mean for Asian viewers all over the world. But I do know how much representation and visibility matter, and I know this movie matters. As Vox reporter Alex Abad-Santos stated in a review about the movie, “It’s fantastic at touching upon the Asian American experience, and it’s so buoyant in how it celebrates Asian American culture. I, like [lead star Simu] Liu, would love if we could change the world and smash ceilings and persevere against the nasty stuff — racism, prejudice, hopelessness — that keeps us pinned down. If only it were as simple as buying a movie ticket.”
My husband woke me up on Saturday morning with the news that Wong was trending on Twitter… because reel librarian Wong made not one, not two, but THREE cameos – !!! – in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. (Plus, we already know that Wong makes a cameo in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, and of course, he will return in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.) It is quickly becoming the Wong Multiverse, and I’m not the only one who is excited about that!
Also, this realization warmed my librarian heart: ❤
Okay, so let’s get into each Wong cameo. And I cannot fully discuss Wong’s cameos without getting into major spoilers, so you are heretofore warned. If you haven’t already seen this movie, then go and watch it!
*MAJOR SPOILERS ALERT*
*MAJOR SPOILERS ALERT*
*MAJOR SPOILERS ALERT*
We good? Let’s go! And by the way, all the movie quotes below are to the best of my recollection. If I need to correct anything, please leave a comment and let me know.
Wong cameo #1
Wong’s first cameo comes in at about 30 minutes into the film, when Shang-Chi and Katy travel to an underground fight ring in Macau, which they later learn is run by Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing (played by Meng’ er Zhang), who is a total badass. They’re led through the club by Jon Jon (played by Ronny Chieng), who takes them to the main cage fight, where Wong is battling Abomination. Abomination lands a punch on Wong, who shouts, “That hurt! Want me to show you how it feels?” Wong then manifests a couple of sling ring circles so that the Abomination punches himself out!
My favorite part of this scene? The reaction to Wong winning! The crowd erupts and chants Wong’s name. And Jon Jon shouts out the best line in the movie:
Wong! I always bet on Asian.
My second favorite part of this scene? That Wong thinks his way to a victory in the cage fight. Reel librarian role model. 😀
After the fight, we see Wong offering the Abomination some cream to help him heal. Wong then says something like, “Maybe you’ll start controlling your punches, like we talked about?” before they step through another sling ring circle.
My husband and I had slightly different takes on this scene. To me, it seemed like Wong was more like a mentor and helping to train Abomination (perhaps helping him to re-enter the MCU, as Abomination is most likely set to return in the upcoming She-Hulk TV series?). My husband focused more on the fact that the fight was staged, and wondering why trustworthy Wong was willing to participate in a rigged fight. Perhaps this is a Wong from another multiverse? Director Destin Daniel Cretton revealed in this interview that they had gone through many scenarios and pairings for this cameo, and that “we landed on a pairing [of Abomination and Wong] that felt really great, but it was also a pairing that made sense to what’s happening in the MCU around the time of our movie.”
This Screen Crush video also goes into some of the possibilities behind this cameo:
Wong cameo #2
At the very end of the movie, Shang-Chi and Katy are sharing their adventures with a couple of their friends at a bar, and they see a sling ring circle appear behind their friends. Wong emerges, and we can see rows of books behind him. He’s back in a library!
And we are are ALL Shang-Chi in this exchange:
Wong [calling out]: Shang-Chi?
Shang-Chi: [raises his hand]
Wong: Shang-Chi? I’m Wong.
Shang-Chi: Yes, I know. I’m a big fan.
Wong then asks Shang-Chi if he has the ten rings, and that they have work to do. He also invites Katy along. And then we are blessed with another meme-worthy bit from actor Benedict Wong as he downs the friend’s drink and pulls this face:
Comic gold! Benedict Wong really has perfected the balance of the serious and humorous facets of Wong’s character.
In a red-carpet interview at one of the movie’s world premieres, Benedict Wong shared that he thinks Wong will be getting out of the library more in upcoming films. You can see the exchange at 1:18 minutes into the video below:
But my favorite part of these this second cameo — plus the final cameo, which we’ll get to next! — is that Wong is back IN the library! It’s unclear whether he’s in a library at the New York sanctum or back in the main library at Kamar-Taj. My bet is on Kamar-Taj, based on the conversation in Wong’s third and final cameo.
Wong’s cameo #3
As the film finished, my husband remarked that this movie had focused on the legend of the ten rings — specifically, the legends stemming from Wenwu’s thousand-plus reign with the rings — but not the origin of the rings.
Enter Wong’s final cameo that slides in during the credits, in which Wong has clearly been wondering the same thing. Katy and Shang-Chi have joined Wong in the library — again, my bet is that he’s back in the Kamar-Taj library, where Wong is the master librarian — where Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner (just Banner as himself, not as Professor Hulk) have also joined in via hologram Zoom.
This line about the ten rings from Wong made the librarian side of me squeal in delight:
They don’t match any artifact from our codex.
Wong has been researching the ten rings! As Wong is the expert on the Infinity Stones, as demonstrated in a brief but pivotal scene in Avengers: Infinity War, it makes sense that he would be researching the ten rings, as well. And just the fact that the word “codex” is mentioned in a Marvel movie… yes, I am geeking out over that! (In historical contexts, a “codex” refers to a bound collection of handwritten sheets of paper, essentially an ancient manuscript and precursor to modern books. In more modern library science contexts, a “codex” is also used to mean an official list of names, ingredients, definitions, or artifacts, etc., kind of similar to an index. But a codex is complete unto itself, while an index usually accompanies a resource.) Wong could be using either one — or both! — meanings of the word “codex” in this scene.
Also, I loved that Wong is in top reel librarian mode in this scene. He’s doing what librarians do best: knowing who to ask for help! There’s a saying in the library world, that we librarians do not need to know everything ourselves, we just need to be able to find out who does. 😉 So that’s what Wong is demonstrating, that he is researching the ten rings, but he is also reaching out to others for help, such as Captain Marvel (for her expertise and experience in intergalatic technology) and Bruce Banner (for his scientific knowledge).
Wong also says to Shang-Chi that “every time you used the rings, we could feel it in Kamar-Taj.” This line is VERY revealing. For example, it reveals that:
the sorcerers could NOT feel the rings for the thousand-plus years that Wenwu controlled the rings, meaning that Wenwu was also accessing only a portion of the rings’ power
that Shang-Chi wields the true, full power of the rings, confirming what we saw visually when the rings’ aura turned from blue to a golden hue in Shang-Chi’s hands during the fight with his father
probably other beings or dimensions felt the rings, too, when Shang-Chi used them (ruh roh)
this is NOT the last we shall see of the rings or or Shang-Chi… perhaps we’ll even get a Shang-Chi and the Origin of the Ten Rings movie??
And finally, more comic gold, as Wong then joins Shang-Chi and Katy in singing karaoke! EPIC. 😀 😀 😀
You can see more of this mid-credits scene and theories in this Screen Crush video:
Final thoughts and musings
I was surprised — pleasantly so! — that Wong was as impactful a character in this movie as he was, and also what a vital character he is proving to be in the MCU, and potentially in the multiverse. Wong helps set up the continuation of Shang-Chi as a character (and the ten rings as important artifacts), so he is a crucial part of this movie. Wong’s not just a cameo.
Wong had to have been aware that Shang-Chi’s sister, Xialing, was the one running the cage fight club. But he didn’t know who her brother, Shang-Chi, was? There’s something fishy about that, especially as you would think Wong would be sure to research who owned the club, plus their family connections. Hmmm….
Wong is very well-connected and knows EVERYBODY, based off his holographic Zoom session with Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner. In my experience, this is also pretty true-to-life to librarians, at least for academic librarians. On a college or university campus, librarians tend to work with a wide range of faculty, students, and staff across various departments and program areas, so we tend to have a lot of connections and personal relationships across campus. It makes sense to me that Wong would also have a lot of connections across the MCU.
Wong is well-known AND well-loved, judging by the crowd chanting his name after his cage fight with Abomination (and the fact that Wong was trending on Twitter the day after the movie’s premiere!)
In my post exploring perspectives about Wong’s reel librarian character, I noted the criticism about how Wong’s character lacks agency or a central, in-depth narrative. In that post, I wondered “Will Wong have more of an independent identity and narrative” in upcoming films? And this film seems to be answering that question with a resounding YES! 😀
And whatever Dr. Strange is up to, Wong is the glue, and the one doing the work out there. Wong is not just Dr. Strange’s sidekick; rather, he is his colleague and demands recognition and respect on his own terms. (Also see my post about Avengers: Endgame and how Wong is the one who actually assembled the Avengers.)
Wong serves as both an Information Provider and Comic Relief character types in his cameos in this movie.
Continuing the conversation
So those are my thoughts and first impressions after watching — and cheeringfor ! — Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. What are your thoughts? Did you like the movie? What do you think Wong’s up to with Abomination? Please leave a comment and share!
Also, can’t get enough of Wong? Here are additional posts I’ve written about reel librarian Wong:
I am very glad there was a positive reaction about this new monthly post in which I highlight the titles I have added to my various Reel Librarian lists during the past month. And bonus to this bonus post, I got lots more titles from readers this past month! 🙂
Well, that time has come. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, Y’ALL. 😉
Head on over to MaddWolf.com to listen to the new “Fright Club: Librarians in Horror” podcast episode, in which I re-join Hope and George to chat about memorable major librarian characters in horror films. I came to the table with my top 5 librarians in horror, and Hope and George shared their personal top 5 — and there was some overlap! We had so much fun chatting and laughing about librarians in horror movies, so check it out… if you dare!
There are mannnnnnnny more awesome — or awesomely bad! — major reel librarian characters in horror movies that we didn’t have space for in the podcast. So as a teaser, below are a few additional titles that didn’t make my final list…
The Dunwich Horror (1970) — I briefly mentioned this movie in my 2012 post about “Killer librarians“
“We have twelve churches and one library, with more banned books than books to read.”
This post is coming out a little earlier than I had originally planned, as I had to shuffle around some upcoming posts for two exciting reasons: 1) there’s an extra-special bonus post coming out at the beginning of next week, so be on the lookout for that, and 2) I’m going to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at the local drive-in when it opens on Sept. 3rd and then do a “first impressions” post for my first post of September.
Reminder: I regularly write and publish two posts a month, on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month, plus the odd bonus post (including the one coming out early next week!). If you don’t want to miss a post, make sure you sign up for my email notification list on the right sidebar. Super easy!
Banned Books Week, Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2021
I had originally planned this to go out next month in honor of the annual Banned Books Week, but I think it’s okay to post this a bit early, because this way, we can all save the date and think about this year’s theme, “Books Unite Us.” Be sure to check out what your local library is doing to celebrate Banned Books Week and the freedom to read. And please note: this is NOT a week to celebrate the act of banning books; rather, as the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) states:
Banned Books Week (September 26 – October 2, 2021) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
Earlier this year, I analyzed the 2013 movie Beautiful Creatures, which co-starred the incomparable Viola Davis as reel librarian Amarie “Amma” Treadeau. (For those who have read the original book source, this film adaptation combines the characters of Amma and Marian Ashcroft together.) The movie overall is not great, but Viola Davis shines as Amma, and it’s worth a view just to enjoy her portrayal. Representation and visibility matter, and we should all soak in this sensitive, grounded, multi-faceted portrayal of a Black woman librarian role. (Bonus, Amma’s cinematic style is AMAZING!)
Because that original analysis post of Beautiful Creatures was so lengthy and in-depth, I felt I needed to trim out the parts I had written about the banned books that are referenced in the movie. But I saved my notes — and screenshots! — to give them their due here, to help us commemorate the annual and upcoming Banned Books Week.
Setting the scene
At 2 minutes into the film, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) provides the beginning narration, describing the town and setting. Here’s his memorable summation of this Southern town:
We have twelve churches and one library, with more banned books than books to read.
And what book covers do we spy pinned on Ethan’s wall? A banned book, of course! So cheeky. He’s obviously read the classic book Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., originally published in 1969 — and a book that continues to get banned today.
In Ethan’s early conversations with Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), he notices that she is reading Charles Bukowski’s You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense, a book of poetry published in 1986. At 11:49 minutes into the movie, Ethan has obtained a copy of the book, too, and he starts taking the book out and reading it in school in an attempt to impress Lena. (Side observation: There’s no call number on that book, so it didn’t come from the local library. How did he get a copy so quickly? I wouldn’t think that a bookstore in this town, one that has “more banned books than books to read” would have on-hand copies of Bukowski’s books, do you? Do you think the propmaster should have slapped a call number on that book spine, to subtly illustrate his close relationship with Amma, the town librarian? Discuss and please share your thoughts. 😉 )
Ethan’s summation of Bukowski’s work?
This man is a god.
And Bukowski was no stranger to being banned. The year before You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense was published, Bukowski’s book of short stories, Tales of Ordinary Madness, was challenged and removed from a public library in The Netherlands. In response, Bukowski penned an epic letter, which you can read in full online here.
Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can’t vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.
I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths.
At 14:42 into Beautiful Creatures, Ethan’s English teacher asks them to take out their copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, the classic 1960 novel by Harper Lee, as it had been assigned for them to read over the summer.
Ethan’s ex-girlfriend, Emily (played by Zoey Deutch), immediately pushes back:
Emily: My mama says I really shouldn’t be reading this book. This is one of those banned books.
Teacher: Yes, well, I got permission from the school board to try it for a semester.
Emily: Well, I’m not reading anything that was banned from our church.
And… we come full circle back to Ethan’s description of the town again, as having “more banned books than books to read.”
To Kill a Mockingbird also continues to get challenged and banned from libraries and schools today. In fact, To Kill a Mockingbird came in at #7 in the OIF’s list of Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020!
Books and ideas
Here’s a bit in the movie that I wanted to end on.
At 44 minutes into the film, Ethan is sharing with Lena about his mom:
My mama used to say, ‘Get out of this town as soon as you can. Go find out how other people live and think before you find a place that’s yours.’ And I’d say, ‘Mom, um, I’m 9. How do I do that?’ So that’s when she took me to the library. And she said, ‘Ethan, this is my church. This is where my family goes to celebrate what’s holy: Ideas.’
This quote doesn’t directly reference banned books; rather, it focuses on the power of books and the freedom to read. And that’s the message we should all be focusing on next month for Banned Books Week 2021, to celebrate the fact that “books unite us,” and that reading provides outlets for creativity, exploration, and ideas.
What’s your favorite banned book or movie? Please leave a comment and share.