Law librarian failure in ‘Philadelphia’ (1993)

Last week, in a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that federal employment discrimination law, Title VII, protects gay and transgender employees. It’s a historic ruling — one long overdue! — and Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion. And it’s even sweeter for this ruling to come during Pride Month. You can read more about the decision here on the SCOTUS blog. We still have a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, but this moment is one to savor.

It also got me thinking about the 1993 film, Philadelphia, which earned Tom Hanks his first Best Actor Oscar for portraying Andrew Beckett, a lawyer who gets fired from his law firm after his homosexuality and AIDS diagnosis are discovered by his law partners. With the help of lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), Beckett sues his law firm for wrongful dismissal. This film was released 27 years ago — repeat, 27! YEARS! AGO! — and only now, in 2020, would Beckett be recognized under Title VII protections.

Here is a trailer for the film, if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it. The movie is available to rent via Amazon Prime.

Philadelphia – Trailer” video uploaded by YouTube Movies, Standard YouTube License

Law library scene

At first, Miller does not want to help represent Beckett, so Beckett has to start researching on his own. And that leads us to a pivotal scene at a law library, which comes in at about a quarter of the way through the film. Beckett is researching materials in a law library, and Miller is at a nearby table.

A reel librarian, played by Tracey Walter, approaches Beckett with a book on AIDS discrimination he has found for him. The librarian, who is white and male, looks to be in his 40s, with thin, balding hair. He is conservatively dressed, in a sweater, tie, and button-front shirt, and he is not wearing glasses. Beckett thanks him for the book, but the librarian does not leave.

Law librarian in a scene from Philadelphia, 1993
Another version of the “librarian stare” in Philadelphia (1993)

Let’s listen in:

Librarian: We do have a private research room available.

Beckett: I’m fine right here, thank you.

Another patron then approaches the table and asks the librarian for help finding a case. The librarian tells him, “Just a moment, I’ll be right with you.” He then turns back to Beckett, sighs heavily, wipes his chin, and then leans in slightly in order to place his hand on the library table.

Wide photo of the library scene in Philadelphia, 1993
Another patron approaches the librarian in this scene from Philadelphia (1993)

Librarian: Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in a research room?

Beckett [looks around and coughs]: No. Would it make you more comfortable?

Miller then gathers his stuff and walks over to Beckett.

Miller: Beckett, how you doing?

Beckett: Counselor. Huh.

Beckett then stares back at the librarian, who then looks up at Miller. Miller stares down the librarian and, in a gesture of challenge, nods his head. The librarian then drops his eyes to Beckett.

Librarian (to Beckett): Whatever, sir.

The librarian turns to leave, and then so does the other patron sitting at Beckett’s table. Miller stays to review the material that Beckett has gathered, and he decides to take the case.

The scene lasts two minutes and was filmed at the Fisher Fine Arts Library, in the Furness Building on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. As it’s a pivotal scene — one that sets up the rest of the film — and the librarian makes an (unfortunately) memorable impression, this film and librarian portrayal land in the Class III category, films in which the librarian(s) plays a secondary role, including a minor character in a memorable or significant scene.

You can watch the entire library scene here in this YouTube video:

Philadelphia (2/8) Movie CLIP – More Comfortable (1993) HD” video uploaded by Movieclips, Standard YouTube License

Assessing this library scene and its significance

This scene is awkward, and purposefully so. There’s not a lot of dialogue in this scene, but a whole lot of long stares, silence, and sub-text that speak volumes in-between the gaps of spoken text. The camera angles also shift, reflecting each person’s perspective. I want to break down what I imagine is happening with each major character in this scene: the law librarian, Miller, and Beckett. Full disclosure: I am writing from the perspective of a white, cisgender woman, so my perspectives are limited. If you have alternative, different, and/or more nuanced ideas of what’s happening in this scene, please leave a comment and share!

Law librarian (Tracey Walter):

What is going on in this reel librarian’s head as he decides to keep standing and asking Beckett if he wants a private room? He’s clearly connected the dots between the request for an AIDS discrimination case and Beckett, who is visibly pale, with watery eyes and a cap to cover what is presumably a bald head. The librarian believes Beckett himself has AIDS. Therefore, I can imagine he is rationalizing to himself that he is being kind to this patron, by framing his recommendation as a question (“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable…?”) rather than as a command. I can also imagine that he is rationalizing to himself that he is protecting other patrons from this person who has AIDS. These kinds of rationalizations reflect the time period and the uninformed attitudes about AIDS, but they are not excuses for discrimination.

I wonder what’s going on in this reel librarian’s head as he processes the collective stare-downs from Beckett and Miller. Who has the power in this situation at the beginning, and does that shift during this scene? I think the librarian is weighing his options and ultimately decides that it’s not worth his effort to continue trying to hassle Beckett into a private room, because (a) he’s outnumbered, and (b) he doesn’t want to call attention to himself and also be accused of racism — although when it was just homophobia, he was fine with it — because it’s clear Miller, a Black man, is a lawyer and supports Beckett. In that moment, the power shifts from the librarian to Miller and Beckett, and it’s all done through stare-downs and sub-text.

The librarian also tries to have the last word in this low-key stand-off, but it’s weak: “Whatever, sir.” He also sighs and shrugs as he turns away. It’s clear that he hasn’t learned any positive lesson from this interaction.

The camera angles used in this scene also make the audience feel like we’re in Beckett’s position, too, and that we’re being looked down on by the librarian.

Joe Miller (Denzel Washington):

At the beginning of this scene, Miller stops chewing, and his entire body gets very still. He recognizes the librarian’s discrimination even before Beckett does.

After overhearing the librarian recommending a private room, he pushes his stack of books in front of him. Why? To disassociate himself from the situation? To assess the situation without being spotted himself? To deflect any other discrimination the librarian may be tempted to dish out? To see and assess how Beckett handles himself in that situation?

When he overhears Beckett standing up to the librarian, that’s when Miller’s face shifts and changes. That’s when he stands up and joins Beckett. Miller, a Black man, faces discrimination due to the color of his skin. Beckett is facing discrimination due to his sexuality and AIDS status. Together, they are stronger.

Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks):

Beckett seems to be taken aback at first by the librarian’s reaction. Beckett thanks the librarian warmly at the beginning of the scene for the book he requested, and then he settles back into working. But he quickly reassesses the situation when the librarian will not leave.

He does not allow the librarian to put the onus on him regarding the private room. Instead, Beckett redirects the librarian’s question back onto the librarian: “Would it make you [the librarian] more comfortable?” He’s not going to play this game that the librarian is trying to play. He is calling out the librarian and his real motives.

Beckett also ensures the librarian knows that Miller is a lawyer. When Miller comes over, Beckett pauses before referring to him as “Counselor.” Such a smart move! This signals to the librarian that he’s up against two lawyers, and he, the law librarian, is not going to win this fight today.

Why this scene matters

It is a small battle, sure, but this is no ordinary fight — this is a battle of wills, a battle against discrimination. This scene sets up an ordinary, everyday kind of discrimination, in perhaps the least likely place: a law library. Libraries are usually viewed as safe, quiet spaces. But even in a so-called “safe” space, biases and discrimination and micro-aggressions lurk. And it’s important to show to the audience that neither Beckett nor Miller will allow this small act of discrimination to go unchallenged. If the audience can understand and buy into the fact that this librarian was wrong in this small act of discrimination, then they can understand that the bigger acts of discrimination, like being fired, are wrong, too. It is a pivotal moment in the film, and this film reflected a pivotal moment at that time, when we needed mainstream films that humanized gay men, that exposed the everyday discrimination that LGBTQ+ persons faced (and continue to face), and pushed back against the baseless fears that people at that time had about AIDS and homosexuality.

It is not like we’re post-discrimination today — we are in the streets protesting against discrimination right now — but films and moments like these are important in broadening the message of inclusivity and exposing the ripple effects of discrimination and micro-aggressions.

I wrote this in the post I wrote for the I Love Libraries blog last month:

I’ve witnessed a shift in films highlighting, even in smaller roles, how librarians can reflect social biases and discrimination—and how librarians, and society at large, are in the wrong for doing so.

This statement is applicable here, too. The reel librarian in Philadelphia (1993) is demonstrating anti-LGBTQ+ bias. Plain and simple — and oh-so-devastating. He reflects society at large in this moment. As such, he serves as Information Provider. He is providing information to the audience that LGBTQ+ discrimination can, and does, happen anywhere. Even in a library. Even from a librarian. It is a sad and uncomfortable truth that librarians can be as discriminatory as anyone else, which is especially disheartening because our job is to help people.

This month, our country is better for expanding employment rights and protections to gay and transgendered people. But we cannot cease fighting for progress, equality, and equity. And we cannot shy away from our own failings, reel and real, past and present.

Sources used

New reel librarian additions from readers

Last month, I shared the news about my post, “What Hollywood Gets Wrong (and Right!) about Librarians,” published on ALA’s I Love Libraries blog. The news also got shared on their social media channels via Twitter and Facebook, and many people shared comments about their own favorite reel librarians. It was so fun to read everyone’s comments! I also received lots of emails from new readers, sharing their personal favorites and tipping me off to some reel librarians I then added to the site. Below, I have highlighted the new additions. Thank you, readers — enjoy!

Sherman, aka “Swampy,” on Phineas and Ferb (2007-2015, animated series):

Via Twitter, WieBib shared this video from the animated series Phineas and Ferb, featuring Sherman the librarian, who used the stage name “Swampy” when he was a drummer for a band! Steve Zahn voiced this recurring character. I added this series to my TV Shows page.

Phineas and Ferb Music Video – Ain’t Got Rhythm #8” video, uploaded by DisneyXDUK, Standard YouTube license

Librarian on Hilda (2018-2020, animated series):

Via Twitter, Lawrence Bolduc shared this video from the Netflix animated series, Hilda. Kaisa Hammarlund voiced this recurring reel librarian character. I added this series to my TV Shows page.

The Librarian from Hilda” video, uploaded by Tony, Standard YouTube license

Penny Adiyodi, Librarian, on The Magicians (2015-2020, USA)

I had already included The Magicians on my TV Shows page, along with the Head Librarian character, Zelda Schiff (played by Mageina Tovah). Via Twitter, Rachel Rawlings alerted me to the additional librarian character at the Library of the Neitherlands, Penny Adiyod (played by Arjun Gupta). I have not yet seen an episode of The Magicians — it began as a series right before we cut off our cable subscription — but I’ve heard good things about it. It’s definitely on my radar to watch.

This video highlights a scene from Season 4 with Zelda, with a “sneak peek” of Penny at the end of the clip.

THE MAGICIANS | Season 4, Episode 7: Zelda’s Guilt” video, uploaded by The Magicians Love, Standard YouTube license

“A Trip to the Library” scene from the 1963 musical play She Loves Me

George H. emailed me about a “Trip to the Library” scene and song from the 1963 musical play She Loves Me, written by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock. This play is the third (!!!) iteration of the 1937 play Parfumerie by playwright Miklós László, which inspired the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan; the 1949 musical In the Good Old Summertime, starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson; and the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

The “A Trip to the Library” scene and song occurs in Act Two of the musical play. Here is a video of the scene from the 1993 Broadway production of the play:

“She Loves Me” Broadway ’93: “A Trip to the Library”-Sally Mayes” video, uploaded by
aurora spiderwoman, Standard YouTube license

Citation searching in an episode of The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019):

Bill B. emailed me about a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory TV series, in which Leonard and Raj go to a library to research citations for a scholarly article. This episode, entitled “The Citation Negotiation,” aired in November 2018. I added this episode to my TV Shows page.

I totally agree with Bill when he stated:

They go to the (physical) university library and haul bound volumes off the shelf.  There is nary a hint of using databases for the task.  Very surprising for a seemingly savvy show.

Here’s a clip from the episode that features the library:

“Raj is scared” The big bang theory S12E9 ( The Citation negation)” video, uploaded by sakth bros, Standard YouTube license

Librarian in an episode of Mister Peepers (1952-1955)

Via Facebook, Edith A. shared her memories of the librarian in an episode of Mister Peepers, a TV show starring Wally Cox. Here’s how she described it:

My favorite will be the librarian character who did the book check-in or check-out routine on the old Mr. Peepers (Wally Cox) show. […] I will always remember that routine with a smile.

I tracked down the episode and character — Charity Grace played the Librarian in “The Leather Chair” episode, which aired in November 1953 — and added this episode to my TV Shows page.

I couldn’t track down a video of that specific library scene, but here’s a digitally restored excerpt from another episode to enjoy:

Excerpt from “Mister Peepers”” video, uploaded by UCLA, Standard YouTube license

Mr. Ambrose on Bob’s Burgers (2011-, animated series)

Rachel K. emailed me about the librarian character, Mr. Ambrose, on the animated series Bob’s Burgers. This character is voiced by comedian Billy Eichner. I added this series to my TV Shows page.

Here’s a clip from an episode about “the strangest librarian ever” … not encouraging words about a reel librarian!

The Kids Meet The Strangest Librarian Ever | Season 3 Ep. 16 | BOB’S BURGERS” video, uploaded by Bob’s Burgers, Standard Y ouTube license

Sean on A Discovery of Witches (2018-)

Steve L. emailed me about this TV series, A Discovery of Witches, based on the first book in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. (It’s been renewed for a second season!) The series is primarily set in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the librarian character of Sean is played by Tomiwa Edun. I added this series to my TV Shows page.

Here’s a trailer for the series (which looks AWESOME!):

A Discovery of Witches Season 1 Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes TV” video, uploaded by Rotten Tomatoes TV, Standard YouTube license

Mika Coretti in Ninja Assassin (2009)

Megan J. emailed me about the 2009 film, Ninja Assassin, directed by James McTeigue and starring Korean pop star Rain and British actress Naomie Harris as Mika Coretti. I have added this film to my Master List.

Here’s how Megan describes the reel librarian connection:

She [Mika] has discovered that a string of deaths of top ranking officials worldwide has been carried out by the Ozunu which puts her in danger of being killed. Raizo becomes her protector.

At a later point in the film she says to an unconscious Raizo, “I know you can’t hear me, so I’m sure this doesn’t matter but I’m going to say it anyway. I’m just a forensic researcher. It’s like a fancy way of saying I’m a librarian. By myself I can’t do anything to help you, but I wanted to thank you for saving my life. And I hope you can forgive me for this.

Here’s a trailer for the film:

Ninja Assassin – Official Trailer [HD]” video, uploaded by TVK1337, Standard YouTube license

Continuing the conversation:

Thanks again to everyone who commented or emailed me! Have you seen any of these (new-to-me) reel librarian characters or library scenes? Please leave a comment and share! 🙂

Bonus reel librarian love on ALA’s I Love Libraries blog

If you are a fan and reader of this Reel Librarians blog (as always, thank you!), then you will probably also love the I Love Libraries blog, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) that shines the spotlight on fun stories for library lovers. A few weeks ago, I was super excited (and surprised!) to be contacted by a content manager at the I Love Libraries site, who asked me about collaborating on a guest post and exploring some questions about librarians in film and media. It took me about two seconds to say YES. ❤

I Love Libraries logo

The resulting post, “What Hollywood Gets Wrong (and Right!) about Librarians” is live on the I Love Libraries site, so please check it out! Here are the questions that I explore in the post:

  • What are some things Hollywood gets wrong in its portrayal of libraries and librarians?
  • What are some things Hollywood gets right in its portrayal of libraries and librarians?
  • How has the portrayal of librarians in media changed over the years?
  • Do you have any “guilty pleasure” portrayals of librarians in Hollywood?

For more fun stories for library lovers, please consider subscribing to the I Love Libraries newsletter.

A reel librarian returns in ‘Major League II’ (1994)

Last month, in the “Spring training and special collections in ‘Major League’ (1989)” post, we ran the bases delving into the reel librarian character in Major League (1989). In that film, Rene Russo — in her feature film debut! — plays Lynn Wells, the world-class swimmer-turned-special collections librarian. Going through Russo’s film credits, I hadn’t realized she also returned in the sequel, Major League II (1994). It felt fitting, therefore, to continue the spring training. Shall we?

Major League II was available to watch for free via Amazon Prime.

*MILD SPOILERS BELOW*

“Major League II (1994) Official Trailer – Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger Sports Comedy Movie HD” video uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license

The sequel, although released 5 years after the original (and far superior!) film, is set just one year later, as radio commentator Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) gets us all caught up. Omar Epps has replaced Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hays, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) has sold out to corporate sponsorship, and Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen) has retired and is the new owner of the Cleveland Indians team. Will they make it to the World Series this year? No pennants for correct guesses. 😉 This sequel is strictly by-the-numbers, with no surprises, or originality.

The sequel begins again during spring training, and catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) learns he has been cut from the team. His knees have finally given out, but he’s been mentoring a younger player. Therefore, Dorn and head coach Lou Brown (James Gammon) ask him to join the team as an assistant coach.

At 19 minutes into the film, he finds himself at home with Lynn. They’re seated around the kitchen table, talking about his future.

Jake and Lynn talk about his future prospects, in an early scene from Major League II (1994)
Jake and Lynn talk about his future prospects, in an early scene from Major League II (1994)

Jake: Called everywhere, but nobody’s looking for a 41-year-old catcher with bad knees.

Lynn: Well, it’s not like you don’t have other options. Alan Bellows wants you to join his brokerage firm.

Jake: And Jack Pursoff wants me to head up one of his Pepsi distributorships.

Lynn: And you’d be close to home.

Jake: Yeah, and I’d make a hell of a lot more money than I would as a coach. So what if I never made it to a World Series?

Lynn: Well, I think it’s pretty obvious what you ought to do.

Lynn says this last line softly and in close-up. This scene only lasts a minute, and Lynn has three lines total, but she makes them count. It’s clear that they are still committed to each other, and she supports Jake going back to the team. Plus, this scene sets up the World Series plotline. Reel librarians are so efficient! 😉

One last look at Lynn, the world-class athlete-turned-special collections librarian
One last look at Lynn, the world-class athlete-turned-special collections librarian

We NEVER see Lynn again in this film. Russo’s star had risen in-between the original film and the sequel — she had co-starred in Lethal Weapon 3 in 1992 and In the Line of Fire in 1993, and she was gearing up for the one-two punch of Outbreak and Get Shorty in 1995 — so I suppose they were lucky to get her for one day to make this cameo. It’s odd, though, to me that Rene Russo went uncredited for this cameo.

And of course, there’s no mention of any library in this short scene. You would never know from watching this sequel that Lynn is a librarian. But because we know that from the original film, I’m classifying this sequel as a Class IV film, in which reel librarians make a cameo appearance.

Had you forgotten about the Major League II sequel? Did you ever know that a third outing, Major League: Back to the Minors (1998) even existed?! If you’re tempted to watch the sequels, I would suggest just going back and rewatching the original comedy classic!

Sources used

  • Major League II. Dir. David S. Ward. Perf. Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen. Warner Bros., 1994.

Spring training and special collections in ‘Major League’ (1989)

Since baseball — and all other sports — have been cancelled or delayed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, how about reliving all the spring training, Opening Day, and pennant-chasing fun in the 1989 film Major League? This classic comedy also happens to boast a memorable reel librarian character, Lynn (Rene Russo).

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

I (re)watched this movie from my personal copy of the “Wild Thing Edition” DVD — boasting astroturf, as seen in the image gallery below! — but you can also catch this movie on Amazon Prime. (It is sometimes available on Prime for free, but it’s also always available for a low-cost rental fee.)

Note: All the image galleries below display the images in circles. Just click on any image to view it larger in a new tab/window. (Did I display them in circles so that they would evoke baseballs? OF COURSE. 😉 )

If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen Major League, here’s the basic plot: The new owner of the Cleveland Indians purposefully puts together a team of bad players in order to sell the franchise and move to Florida. When the players find out, they start winning to spite her. Tom Berenger stars as Jake Taylor, the catcher, who also tries to woo back his ex-wife, Lynn (Rene Russo). The film also co-stars Charlie Sheen as “Wild Thing” pitcher Ricky Vaughn, Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn, and Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes. Bob Uecker steals all the bases — and the movie! — as radio commentator Harry Doyle.

“Major League – Trailer” video uploaded by YouTube Movies, Standard YouTube license

So what does a movie about major league baseball have to do reel librarians? Let’s play ball and see, shall we?! 😉

First base: Off and running with a reel librarian reunion

Twenty-eight minutes into the film, Jake Taylor has made it to the final team with teammates Willie and Wild Thing, and they are celebrating at a fancy restaurant. He spies his ex-wife, Lynn, at the same restaurant with another man. She’s all dressed up and sexy, in an off-the-shoulder black dress and ’80s-tastic hair bow.

He calls her on the restaurant’s concierage phone, and here’s an excerpt from their “Meet Cute” phone conversation:

Jake: Hello, Lynn. It’s Jake.

Lynn: Jake? Jake Taylor? How’d you know I was here?

Jake: Just a hunch. I took you there when you got your master’s degree, remember? I figured you’re wearing that black dress with the red sash.

Lynn: How’d you know that? I didn’t even have this dress when — [she spies him across the room on another phone]

Jake: You’re still a stunner.

We don’t actually learn yet that she’s a librarian, but here’s what we do learn about Lynn, evident even from this short exchange:

  • She has a master’s degree
  • She is intelligent
  • She has a modern fashion sense (remember, it’s the ’80s!)
  • She exhibits a more traditional sense of femininity (long hair, off-the-shoulder and body-skimming dress, makeup)
  • She still has mad chemistry with her ex-husband

Lynn also says to Jake that her “life is different from when you knew me” and finally gives a phone number to Jake in order to end the conversation. This introductory scene lasts a total of 3 minutes.

Second base: A curveball and visit to a special collections library

At 39 minutes into the film, Jake calls Lynn’s number… which goes to a sheet metal company! Curveball alert — she gave him a fake number!

But that doesn’t deter Jake, because we next see him arriving at the library Lynn works at. He walks up to a counter, where Lynn is leaning and talking to another librarian, a snow-haired older white woman. We also get a glimpse of an older black man behind the desk, who looks to be filing. Later, at another counter in the library, we also encounter three more library staff workers: An older white man, an older white woman in a pussy bow blouse, and a younger white man with suspenders and glasses. None of these additional reel librarian workers get credits in the cast list. Also, please note that this library scene is the only time we see Lynn wearing glasses.

They then embark on a long-and-winding conversation, as they also weave in and about different parts of the library on their way to her office. I will not record every part of their conversation, but I will highlight excerpts with major bits of information we learn about Lynn, her work, and their relationship.

Lynn’s past and present:

In this exchange, we learn about Lynn’s past as a world-class athlete, and how successful she is in her chosen career as a special collections librarian.

Lynn: [W]e don’t have anything in common. Sometimes I wonder if we ever did.

Jake: What are you talking about? We were both athletes, world-class, hot for each other. What more could we have in common?

Lynn: I stopped being an athlete three years ago, Jake. Books are my life now. Don’t you dare laugh. In two years I put together one of the best special collection departments in the country.

Lynn’s reading recommendations:

Note: This scrap of conversation will prove important in later scenes!

Jake: What is this? You’re still sore I never read Moby Dick?

Lynn: You never read anything I asked you to.

Jake: All right, I’ll check it out now. Is this the Whales section?

Lynn stands up for herself:

In this exchange, we learn more about their past relationship, and the kind of behavior that Lynn is not going to tolerate anymore from Jake.

Lynn: I haven’t seen you in three years. You never even wrote me a letter.

Jake: I’m sorry about that. I wasn’t exactly proud of my situation. Come on now, you never thought about me at all while I was gone?

Lynn: Yeah, Jake, not so loud.

Jake: What about the three nights we spent on the beach in Veracruz? You ever have nights like that with Mr. Briefcase?

Lynn: What about the night you had in Detroit with Miss Fuel Injection?

Jake: Well, what was I supposed to do? She bet me 50 bucks she had a better body than you, and I had to defend your honor.

Lynn: Oh, what a bunch of bullshit. I have a much better body than she does!

Jake: She’s right.

This last outburst — when Lynn reaches her limit and yells at Jake in the library — causes a strong reaction from patrons in the library. Amusing that a librarian would have a good body, or rather, be proud of her own body…? Hmmm… 😦

Embarrassed, Lynn smiles ruefully and crosses her chest with the stack of folders in her hands. Lynn then ends the conversation, firmly closing the door to her office. Unwittingly, she also sets up a personal challenge for Jake, to finally stop being “the little boy who wouldn’t grow up.”

Lynn’s library:

This library scene — the only scene actually set in an actual library — lasts 3 minutes. We get lots of info, and we follow Lynn on a whirlwind tour of the library, which seems to boast Gothic architectural details. Every space looks to be filled with patrons! And bonus, when Lynn passes through an open doorway (in the third screenshot below), we get a quick glimpse of a sign that reads “Special Collections.” Love that they included that detail!

Lynn’s lasting influence:

Remember when I mentioned how Lynn’s reading recommendations — as well as her parting shot at Jake to grow up — would be important? We get our first payoff a few minutes after this library scene, when Jake is reading the “Classic Comics” version of Moby Dick. He also turns down the opportunity to go to a club because “I got some reading to do.”

Continuing in this aside, a little over an hour into the film, Jake has gotten the entire team interested in reading the Classic Comics series! They highlight the graphic novel versions of Crime and Punishment, Song of Hiawatha, and The Deerslayer. Bless. ❤

Third base: A reel librarian at play

Desperate to reconnect with Lynn, Jake follows her home one night from the library. While I do NOT condone this kind of stalking behavior, we do get treated to a glimpse of Lynn’s specialty license plate, which reads… wait for it…

READ!

Isn’t that the best?!!!

Lynn's "READ" license plate

However, when Jake finally musters up the courage to talk to Lynn on what he assumes is her home turf, he finds out… she’s at her fiance’s apartment, and they’re in the middle of a dinner party.

AWKWARD.

Jake then makes small talk with the guests, and we get to find out more about their backstory and relationship, including that:

  • Jake “wanted to discuss a couple of books with Lynn.”
  • Lynn reveals that Jake “was one of the best in baseball before he had problems with his knees.”
  • Jake wants to eventually move to Hawaii and “have a couple of kids who grow up to be Olympic champions,” particularly in “swimming, the 200-meter individual medley.”
  • Lynn was an “alternate on the ’80 Olympic team” in the 200-meter individual medley.

This informative scene lasts 6 minutes.

Going beyond third base with a reel librarian

By this time, we’re rooting for Jake and Lynn to get back together… and the movie does not disappoint! At 1 hour into the film, Jake spies Lynn at a baseball game… and you probably guessed it… follows her back home. Again, I do NOT support this kind of stalking behavior, but we do get to see this reel librarian’s apartment! Admittedly, it’s in a state of packing, as Lynn reveals she’s getting married soon. They have an in-depth conversation, going back over old wounds and feelings — including more instances of Jake’s cheating.

Although they have hurt each other in the past, their chemistry is undeniable, and they find themselves back in each other’s arms. (I laughed out loud when Lynn admits “We were always good at this,” as they head off to her bedroom. A reel librarian who enjoys sex… AMAZING!)

I also enjoyed that Lynn’s preferred foreplay involves BOOKS. Behold:

Jake: I guess this is our last hurrah, then.

Lynn: Yeah, I guess so. Hey, did you ever read Moby Dick?

Jake: Cover to cover, babe. When’s the wedding?

Lynn: You know, you could have read Plot Outlines of 101 Great Novels.

Jake: Where?

Lynn: At any library. [They kiss.] Who saved Ishmael at the end?

Jake: Huh? Uh, nobody… It was Queequoc’s, Queequeg’s coffin.

Lynn: Yeah.

We also get to see Lynn’s bedroom set (flowery, pastel, and wicker), as Jake wakes up the next morning alone in her bed. This sexy scene lasts a total of 5 minutes.

Librarian’s note: Y’all knew that I was going to look up the very specific book title she mentioned in this scene, Plot Outlines of 101 Great Novels, right?! This is the work she says would be available in any library, except… there is no work with that exact title in WorldCat (an online card catalog of library collections around the world). There are some reference works with similar titles, including Plot Outlines of 100 Famous Novels, published by Barnes & Noble. My guess, however, is that the writers were thinking of a reference series like Masterplots, published by Salem Press for over 60 years, which IS a very well-known reference book series that summarizes the plots of significant works of literature and films. You’re welcome for this aside. 😉

Home run with a reel librarian

As the Cleveland Indians chase a pennant, we finish the film with a nail-biting game against their longtime nemesis, the New York Yankees. After an amazing game — no matter how many times I watch this film, I’m still at the edge of my seat rooting for the ragtag Cleveland team to win! — Jake spies Lynn in the stands.

She raises up her left hand, to show that she wears no wedding ring. They kiss, and Jake carries her to the field to celebrate with the rest of his teammates. I love that a reel librarian is featured in the final shot of this classic baseball comedy! Home run for the Cleveland Indians AND the reel librarian!

An unconventional reel librarian portrayal

Lynn in Major League (1989) is the only example I’ve been able to find so far of a reel librarian who is also an athlete. Although winding up with 6th billing, she makes a big impact on the overall motivations and (off-field) actions of the characters. Essentially, Rene Russo plays the main romantic lead in the film, and, like I mentioned above, Lynn also gets to be in the film’s final shot, as Jake includes her in the team’s celebration on the field.

Therefore, I have classified Lynn Wells in the Class II category of reel librarian films, in which the protagonist or other major characters are librarians, but the librarian’s occupation does not directly affect the plot.

Lynn Wells is also an atypical portrayal of a librarian and doesn’t fall easily into established character types. Hallmarks of atypical portrayals include:

  • portrayals go beyond stereotypical constraints
  • satisfied in their chosen profession
  • modern clothing and fashion sense
  • intelligent
  • well-rounded characters with scenes and backstory that reveal their homes, personal spaces, and personal history

We get to witness all those points in Rene Russo’s turn as special collections librarian Lynn Wells, and I have always personally enjoyed this reel librarian character and portrayal. She’s smart, sassy, and proud of both her past life as an athlete as well as her current life as a professional librarian. A winning combo!

Related posts

Can’t get enough of this memorable reel librarian? Although this is the first in-depth analysis post for Major League (1989), I have spotlighted this film in prior posts, including:

Sources used

  • Major League. Dir. David S. Ward. Perf. Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Rene Russo. Paramount, 1989.