‘Just Cause’ to re-examine a Latina newspaper archivist portrayal

“Delores Rodriguez. Keeper of the archives. News trivia expert.”

It’s scary season again during the month of October, and this is a time when I focus on analyzing reel librarian portrayals in horror movies, thrillers, etc. We’re also finishing up the annual observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, when we celebrate “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” This is a time to research and reflect on more diverse stories and figures of Hispanic history — and present. It’s also a time to reflect on and re-examine one’s own biases. There are unfortunately very few Latinx portrayals of reel librarians or archivists; in my most recent “Reel librarians of color” post from earlier this year, I have identified only 4 (!) Latinx reel librarian portrayals thus far. Because of the “scary season” period, I chose to revisit the 1995 thriller Just Cause, in which Liz Torres, a well-known American character actor and comedian with Puerto Rican heritage, plays newspaper archivist Delores Rodriguez, a character with Cuban roots.

At first glance, Just Cause (1995), which stars Sean Connery, Laurence Fishburne, Blair Underwood, Kate Capshaw, and Ed Harris, seems to have a patina of respectability and pedigree, thanks to its extremely talented cast. Connery also served as an executive producer on the film, which is based on John Katzenbach’s 1992 novel of the same name. Here’s an original trailer for the movie, which outlines the plot:

“Just Cause (1995) Official Trailer – Sean Connery, Laurence Fishburne Movie HD” video, uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube License.

As I think you can tell from the trailer, this film is a MESS. In my opinion, this movie actually gets worse the more you watch it and the more you think about it. I found myself nodding in agreement at this recent analysis of the film, “Racial Inequalities of the 90s Brought to Your Screen: Review of Film ‘Just Cause’,” a review which points out how problematically racist this film is, with scenes and themes of white saviors, white privilege, and racist stereotypes. This movie wants to get credit for “good intentions” when Sean Connery’s character, a law professor, calls out in a legal debate the unjust imbalance of Black men in prison and Black men who are prosecuted, but the script and its “shock” twist ending end up contradicting itself.

No surprises, then, when I share that the portrayal of reel archivist Delores, a Latina, is not particularly positive, either. Let’s examine the 3 scenes in which Delores features.

*POTENTIAL SPOILERS ALERT*

Introduction to the newspaper archives and archivist

At 13 1/2 minutes into the movie, law professor Paul Armstrong (Sean Connery) has traveled down to Florida with his wife (Kate Capshaw) and young daughter (a very young Scarlett Johansson in her second movie role!). Paul visits his father-in-law, Phil Prentiss (Kevin McCarthy), who seems to be the head of a Miami newspaper, in order to get access to records and archives. Phil also takes the opportunity to diss the newspaper (“Not a bad paper as papers go, but of course that’s not saying a hell of a lot”) as he walks Paul through the newspaper offices. (White privilege alert! This movie has a lot of “good ol’ boy” types of scenes.)

Phil introduces the archivist Delores to Paul. We see that the archives room is filled with stacks and stacks of folders atop every surface. We also get a glimpse of Delores’s work station cubicle and computer. And Delores seems to be the only archives staff? (Compare to the 2015 film Spotlight, in which there are multiple newspaper researchers.)

A glimpse of the newspaper archives in Just Cause (1995)
A glimpse of the newspaper archives

Phil: Delores, sweetheart.

Delores: Hey, Mr. Phil. [They hug.]

Phil: It’s been a long time. This is Paul Armstrong, my son-in-law. [Delores takes off her glasses.]

(Click each image in the collage above to view in a larger window.)

Phil: Delores Rodriguez. Keeper of the archives. News trivia expert. Buried three husbands. Were it not for Libby [his wife], I could well be photo op #4. 

Delores: And how is Libby’s health these days?

Phil: It’s very good.

Delores: Pity. [Phil chuckles.]

Phil: Business. Paul needs to see what you’ve got on the Joanie Shriver murder trial.

Delores: That poor kid from Ochopee? 

Phil [to Paul]: Watch your back in here.

Delores then looks over Paul, bites her lip, and hums as she walks him over to the archives section, which has compressed shelving that she has to crank to open.

(Click each image in the collage above to view in a larger window.)

Delores only puts her glasses on to read files. She then takes off her glasses again when she returns to Paul.

We then cut to Paul seated at a microfiche machine reader, and we see a montage of articles relating to the murder case that led to the conviction of Bobby Earl Ferguson (Blair Underwood).

Delores: So far, we are online back to 1985. Everything else before that is still on microfiche, but I can dig around the back and see what else I can find.

Paul: How long will that take?

Delores [leaning in, wearing her glasses this time]: Oh, that depends, sweetheart. You would be amazed at what I can do with a little help.

Paul smirks, sighs, and turns back to microfiche machine.

(Click each image in the collage above to view in a larger window.)

Three side notes here:

  • The captions state that Delores “sings Guatanamera in Spanish” while she’s opening up the archives. OF COURSE I looked that up, and “Guatanamera” is a very famous Cuban song, and the title translates in English to “(The Woman) from Guantánamo.” This tidbit is primarily why I assume the character of Delores is meant to have Cuban heritage.
  • The call number label on the right-hand shelves reads: “Photos / Names / RAN-STI” (sorry the screenshot above is blurry, but you can make it out), but the stickers on the folders in that shelf clearly have “DEL” on them. The left-side shelf has folders with “ADJ” labels, so the “RAN-STI” call number label on the outside of the shelves is clearly an error. (Yes, I analyze call numbers on screen VERY thoroughly, as evidenced in this prior post, because incorrect call numbers are a personal pet peeve.)
  • Why is Paul on a microfiche machine? Delores just said that they have everything online back to 1985, which should cover the time period he’s looking at. And he’s clearly not searching archives online at a computer, because we can see the standard microfiche/film screen markings on the article closeup.

This introductory scene lasts two minutes total. What did we learn from this scene about Delores?

  • Delores is definitely NOT the “Spinster Librarian” character type. We learn that she has been married multiple times, and she is still clearly interested in men, from her flirtatious remarks at both Phil and Paul. But she is written more as an aggressive, man-mad flirt — although Phil is the one who first calls her “sweetheart” and jokes about her love life while introducing her!
  • Delores clearly cares about her appearance, wearing colorful clothing, full makeup, and her hair in an updo hairstyle. Overall, she makes quite a glamorous impression. But is she also being sartorially styled to evoke a Latina stereotype of the “sex siren and feisty-Latina trope“?
  • Delores is self-conscious about her glasses — or perhaps she has traditional, old-fashioned ideas about female beauty and glasses (e.g., that old saying that “men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses”).
  • Delores is most likely Cuban or of Cuban heritage, based on the Cuban song she is humming. (And she is being played by a Latina actress of Puerto Rican heritage.)
  • Delores immediately demonstrates her knowledge of the murder trial and location. However, her knowledge of the murder and phrasing of “that poor kid from Ochopee” comes off more like gossip, rather than professional knowledge.

This scene could have been a much more straightforward scene, with a brief introduction and then the newspaper archivist pulling the necessary files to propel the plot. I’m left with a lot of “Why?” questions. Why did they include so much backstory for a minor character? Why was Delores portrayed this way, as an incurable flirt always “on the prowl” for her next husband? Why do the male characters have to smirk at her and treat her like a running gag? Why was she portrayed as more of a gossip than a knowledgeable professional? Why isn’t she thanked for her help? Why is Delores seemingly the only Latinx character in a film set in Miami and the surrounding rural counties?

And as this article points out:

When it comes to Latino representations in Hollywood, they’re often rooted in stereotypes. Most female characters are either cleaning ladies or spicy Latinas.

Tre’vell Anderson, “4 Latino stereotypes in TV and film that need to go,” LA Times, 27 April 2017.

While Delores is not a Latina cleaning lady in Just Cause, she is portrayed as a “spicy Latina” stereotype.

Spoiler: It goes downhill from here.

More microfilm research

At 48 mins into the movie, Paul returns to the newspaper archives for information on another convicted serial killer, Blair Sullivan (Ed Harris), who Bobby Earl claims is the real killer. We get another closeup of microfiche.

(Click each image in the collage above to view in a larger window.)

Delores: They called it “The Pilgrimage of Death.” Sold a lot of papers. The guy started out with his landlady in New Orleans, a prostitute in Mobile, and a sailor in Pensacola. And then he got real busy — a body every 100 miles.

Paul: Pensacola? When was that? 

Delores: Oh, late April, early May? You know, it was incredible. APBs in 3 states, FBI flyers all over the place,  and nobody spots him.

In this 30-second scene, Delores’s information once again propels the plot forward. She is serving as an Information Provider in this scene. But again, the script is written as though Delores is gossiping (“sold a lot of papers,” and “then he got real busy“), rather than being the informed professional that she is. It comes across so contradictory and condescending to me. Delores is also dressed in another colorful top, and she is wearing her glasses again.

Party scene

At one hour and 9 minutes into the movie, the legal team gathers for a celebration party at the newspaper businessman’s home. (Is that a conflict of interest? Very sketchy.) Also, they planned this party before inviting Bobby Earl to it — in an earlier scene, he turned down the invite and said that he had other plans — even though they are ostensibly celebrating Bobby Earl. I guess they’re really just wanting to celebrate the “just cause” and not the Black man at the center of their “just cause”? Are they just wanting to celebrate how the White men saved a Black man from injustice? (Fumes of White supremacy and White saviors here…)

Surprise, surprise, Delores is at the party — and looks to be the only person of color there. We get to see Delores out of the archives, and she is stunning with bright red lipstick and curly her hair down and one side pinned back with a bright red flower.

As Phil gets drinks to pass around for a toast, he passes by Delores, who is talking with Bobby Earl’s attorney, Lyle (Chris Sarandon).

The newspaper archivist, Delores, attends a party.
#TeamDelores

Lyle: The firm’s been more successful than I ever dreamed it would be when I started it.

Delores: So, Lyle, are you single at all?

Lyle: No, I’ve been married for 8 years. 

Delores: Oh good. It’s time for you to fool around.

[Phil hands Delores a glass of champagne.] 

Delores: Thank you, Phil.

Phil [shrugs and smirks at Lyle]: Oh, Delores.

After the toast (“To innocence revealed. To death denied. To the triumph of truth over appearance” — again, a vague, self-congratulatory toast ostensibly to the Black man who wasn’t there), we return to Delores’s conversation with the lawyer Lyle.

Delores: What are you doing after the party?

Lyle: What am I doing after the party? I have a very important appointment. I’m afraid, in fact, that I have to leave now.

This is the last time we see Delores onscreen, and her part of this scene lasts less than 30 seconds. It’s just a throwaway aside during the party scene. So why is this scene in here? They’re not bothering to celebrate Delores’s contributions to cracking the case. Rather, AGAIN, Delores is portrayed as man-crazy, and determined to go after married men. And she is now openly encouraging an affair (“It’s time for you to fool around” followed by “What are you doing after the party?“). And again, the man in her sights is shown to be visibly shaken at her attentions — even showing disgust? — and Phil is still hanging around long enough to “jokingly” warn other White men about Delores.

I’m honestly so angry at this script and how it has written Delores’s character. I have no idea if Delores is a character in the source novel; please leave a comment if you have read the book. Sure, it’s nice to see a newspaper archivist out of the archives and enjoying her personal life. Delores, at least, is confident in being herself. But then we constantly witness how men react negatively or jokingly around her, again like they’re not taking her seriously. They do not take her seriously as a woman. These men are laughing at her, and by proxy, it feels like the movie is inviting the viewers to laugh at her — to laugh at, again, the ONLY LATINX PERSON in a film set in and around Miami and southern Florida. Given how racist this movie is with other BIPOC characters, I don’t think this is a coincidence.

In essence, Delores “Keeper of the archives, news trivia expert, buried three husbands” Rodriguez serves as the film’s running gag. It’s such a condescendingly written character, and it feels more negative every time I think about it. And I do not pin the blame on Liz Torres. She seems to be making the best of a bad situation and having fun in the role — she is an Emmy-nominated comedian — but I feel uneasy being encouraged and manipulated to laugh AT her, not WITH her. Liz Torres deserved better than this tone-deaf script. Real-life newspaper archivists deserved better. We all deserved better.

My own self re-examination

This post was hard to write. Like I mentioned above, the more I sat down to write about this movie, the more frustrated and angry I got, and the harder it got to try and articulate WHY I was angry. And I’m going to be honest, part of the reason is because I was angry at myself. Because when I first analyzed this movie — maybe 20 years ago? — this is the way I summarized it:

Law professor Paul Armstrong (Sean Connery) investigates the case of a young man (Blair Underwood) on death row in a Florida prison. A newspaper archivist, Delores, helps him find information for his research; she is also known as a flirt.

Tone deaf. So innocuous-sounding (“she is also known as a flirt“), but that description papers over the harm of how this character is written. I also didn’t mention race at all in this description. I also originally stated that this character fulfills the Information Provider and the Naughty Librarian character types. After having revisited this film, I stand by the Information Provider role. But now I realize that, as written, this character was also meant to fulfill a Comic Relief role. We are being manipulated to laugh at her. It’s just not ok.

I know I didn’t like this movie when I first watched it — and this movie was not a commercial success! — but I didn’t realize back then the extent of how problematically racist and stereotypical this movie was. I didn’t call it out then, because I hadn’t taken the time to reflect. But this month IS a time and opportunity to reflect, and I’m calling it out now.

Additional perspectives

So you’ve read how negatively I reacted to Just Cause. How did other critics react?

Here are excerpts from a contemporary review by movie critic Desson Howe in The Washington Post:

Connery is touched by Dee’s devotion, as well as the revelation that Underwood went to Cornell. (What would he have done if Underwood hadn’t gone to Cornell?) […]

Of course you want Connery to rain justice on those small-minded rednecks (no matter what color they are) and save Underwood from the chair. Unfortunately, this desire for retribution is dangled like a moral carrot before the audience. […]

So it’s brutal, horribly manipulative, and we’ve seen this stuff before in better pictures.”

Desson Howe, “‘Just Cause’ (R).” The Washington Post, 17 Feb. 1995

I’ve linked to the following review a few times already in this post, and it’s well worth a read.

To clarify; Armstrong is a man who dedicates his life fighting for justice for black people he thinks are wrongfully imprisoned. So the only conclusion one can draw from this instance is that his entire premise is a fallacy. Connery’s only potential arc is to become a racist. All black people in jail should be there, according to Just Cause. […]

Most of the conversation was focused on plot twists and lines like Connery’s, “If that’s a confession, then my a** is a banjo!” Not on the fact that it was promoting an agenda with harmful consequences on an entire community. However, this film speaks to the decade and it is something we can learn from. Just Cause got a pass at the time because we didn’t see a very obvious problem that’s apparent today.

Kenneth Hedges, “Racial Inequalities of the 90s Brought to Your Screen: Review of Film ‘Just Cause’,” ArtsHelp, June 2021

My husband’s summation was similar:

The moral of the story seems to be that even an innocent Black man is guilty.

Continuing the conversation

Let’s wrap this one up!

Did you ever catch Just Cause back when it was released in the mid-1990s? Have you watched it since? Is it as problematic as you remember? Did you recall Delores’s character as a reel archivist? Please leave a comment and share.

Sources used

BONUS! Recently added Reel Librarian titles (October 2021)

Recent additions to my Master List of English-Language Films:

  • Blind (2017)
  • Candyman (2021)
  • Nightbooks (2021)

Recent additions to my Foreign-Language Films list:

  • I Lost My Body, aka J’ai perdu mon corps (2019) — France
  • Petra (2020, TV mini-series) — Italy
  • Reprise (2006) — Norway
  • Thelma (2017) — Norway/France/Denmark/Sweden

Recent additions to my TV Shows list:

  • Adventure Time: Distant Lands (2020-2021, USA) – Animated series
  • Bernard-jou Iwaku, aka Miss Bernard said (2016, Japan) – Animated series
  • The Chair (2021- , USA)
  • Gosick (2011, Japan) – Animate
  • Kokoro Toshokan, aka Kokoro Library (2001, Japan) – Animated series
  • What If…? (2021- , USA) – Animated series
  • Young Justice (2010- , USA) – Animated series

Thank you to everyone who regularly reads this blog and who sends me reel librarian titles to add to this site. Please keep sharing!

‘Reel Librarians’ blog turns 10!

Celebrating a decade of Reel Librarian love

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!

Quick stats

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 views:19,000+378,000+
Total visitors:900+248,000+
Total comments:1651,225+
Total posts:153515
Total word count:28,448488,689

(Note: It looks like WordPress has changed how it calculates shares, so I took that one out of this annual “Quick stats” update.)

Top 10 most popular posts this past year:

  1. Books and book-burning in ‘Fahrenheit 451’ — originally published May 2017
  2. The dragon lady librarian in ‘The Golden Child’ — originally published June 2019
  3. First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene — originally published Feb. 2017
  4. Smelling a rat in ‘Homicide’ — originally published April 2012
  5. Angels in the library in ‘Wings of Desire’ — originally published Jan. 2018
  6. ‘It’s a wonderful’… stereotype? — originally published Sept. 2011
  7. A closer look at the reel librarians in the original ‘Ghostbusters’ — originally published July 2017
  8. Librarian t-shirt collection — originally published Aug. 2014
  9. A closer look at the library scene in ‘Hidden Figures’ (2016) — originally published March 2021
  10. ‘You, Me and Dupree’ — and the Naughty Librarian — originally published Aug. 2015

Previous blog anniversary posts

Want to relive past blog-iversary celebrations? Browse below:

Thank you all for reading, whether it’s your first or tenth year! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

First impressions: Wong’s cameos in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ (2021)

“Wong! I always bet on Asian.”

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: 

Below again is the full trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and you can see a glimpse of Wong battling Abomination in a cage fight at 1:51 minutes into the trailer below:

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Official Trailer” by
Marvel Entertainment
, Standard YouTube License

First impressions of the movie overall

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!

Shang-Chi Sees Wong and Abomination Fighting! Scene – SHANG-CHI (2021)” video, uploaded by KinoCheck International, Standard YouTube License

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:

SHANG CHI: Wong and ABOMINATION Fight EXPLAINED” video by ScreenCrush, Standard YouTube License

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:

Benedict Wong on Leaving the Library | Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi Red Carpet LIVE” video by Marvel Entertainment, Standard YouTube License

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:

SHANG CHI POST CREDITS SCENE EXPLAINED” video by ScreenCrush, Standard YouTube License

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:

Sources used

BONUS! Recently added Reel Librarian titles (September 2021)

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! 🙂

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay (CC0 license)

Recent additions to my Master List of English-Language Films:

  • The Last Letter from Your Lover (2021, Netflix) — with an archivist as a romantic lead!
  • Lisey’s Story (2021, TV mini-series)
  • The Saint: The Brazilian Connection (1989, TV movie)
  • Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans (2021)

Recent additions to my Foreign-Language Films list:

  • Mi nismo anđeli, aka We are Not Angels (1992) – Yugoslavia
  • Poseban tretman (1980) – Yugoslavia

Recent additions to my TV Shows list:

  • The Ancient Magus Bride: Those Awaiting a Star, aka Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito (2016-2017, Japan) – Animated series
  • David Makes Man (2019- , USA)
  • Doctor Who (1963–1989, UK)
  • Kung Fu (2021- , USA)
  • In the Dark (2019- , USA)
  • Lupin (2021- , France)
  • Phineas and Ferb (2007–2015, USA) – Animated series, additional episodes
  • To Heart 2 Adnext (2010, Japan) – Animated series
  • Trese (2021- , USA / Philippines) – Animated series
  • We Bare Bears (2015-2019, USA) – Animated series, additional episodes

Thank you to everyone who regularly reads this blog and who sends me reel librarian titles to add to this site. Please keep sharing! 🙂