In my original undergraduate thesis, I had identified only four male character types. The more films I have seen, I have since added two categories, or rather, divided two existing categories. The first of these is the Male Librarian as a Failure — sorry, never was that good with catchy titles — which I later split into two, giving full credence to the male version of the Liberated Librarian.
Rereading my thesis, I can see the idea there:
The films in this category demonstrate that any male who chooses (or perhaps does not choose) to work as a librarian must have something wrong with him. However, variations do exist […] most of the men are relatively young (with one notable exception), perhaps showing the audience that they have time to redeem themselves and find a better job. Interestingly, most of the males in these films triumph, in some way, in the end.
And that’s the major difference. The male Liberated Librarians may begin as failures, but they grow in character throughout the film, just like their female counterparts; their latent skills and talents find a way to rise to the forefront — but only through the instigation of an outside force, action, or other person. (I’ll delve into the Male Librarian as a Failure later. They’re not going anywhere.) 😉
The male Liberated Librarian, as I mentioned, is usually young. Their physical appearance may or may not improve (compare this with their female counterparts, whose makeovers are practically a requirement!), but their wardrobes tend to get better. Personality-wise, they become more masculine and assertive. For major male librarian roles, the most common character type is the Liberated Librarian, with their liberation comprising the main plot.
This is evident in several films, including You’re a Big Boy Now (1966), Off Beat (1986), The Librarian TV movie trilogy (2004-2009), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Goodbye, Columbus (1969), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983).
There are some more minor characters fulfilling the male Liberated Librarian role. The male librarian (James Frain) in Where the Heart Is (2000) is a supporting character, but the arc of his liberation mirrors the liberation of the lead role, played by Natalie Portman. And Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid) in the TV movie Stephen King’s It (1990), is the only one of the seven lead characters to stay behind in Derry, Maine, a town that hides an inherent evil manifesting as Pennywise the Clown (a chilling Tim Curry). Hanlon, the town librarian, sarcastically referred to as “the answer man,” eventually unites everyone to fight against that evil.
The notable exception to the age characteristic I mentioned above is Jason Robards in Something Wicked This Way Comes. He plays the aging librarian Charles Halloway, who has a bad heart and professes that he never takes risks — risking his son’s respect in the process. However, he is motivated by the evil carnival owner, Mr. Dark (a deliciously evil Jonathan Pryce), to take a risk to save his son and, consequently, saves the entire town.
Several of my personal favorites showcase this category, including The Librarian TV movie trilogy, Goodbye, Columbus (1969), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). For these and other favorites, see my lists for Hall of Fame, Honorable Mention, and Best Librarian Films by Decade, Parts I and II.
Stay tuned for next week for a deeper look into the Spirited Young Girl character type.
- The Liberated Librarian (ladies, you’re up) (reel-librarians.com)
- Men of the Stacks (philbradley.typepad.com)
- Nurse Turned Librarian for a Day – Part II (loisroelofs.com)