The school library in ‘Pretty in Pink’

This week, I am analyzing another cult classic, 1986’s Pretty in Pink, written by by John Hughes and starring Molly Ringwald as Andie, Andrew McCarthy as Blane, and Jon Cryer as Duckie. The plot is as basic as they come:  the girl’s guy friend (Duckie) has a crush on the girl (Andie) while the girl has a crush on another boy (Blane). (The plot was recycled the next year by Hughes in Say Anything, with two girls and a guy making up the film’s love triangle.)

Sixteen minutes into the film, we see a wide shot of the school library, and then the camera focuses in on Andie, who is typing into a computer.

Reel Librarians | The school library in 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)

The school library in ‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)

Andie working on a school library computer

We’ve already seen her in class — wearing glasses, which is the prop shortcut for “smart” — so we know she’s actually working on a school project and not just goofing around. She also types this herself, just to make it clear for the audience. Her computer is hijacked by an anonymous string of flirty messages. (Like texting! Only with clunky, vintage artifacts called “desktop computers” 😉 )

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)

Computer flirting in ‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986)

And who is “meeting cute” with Andie via computer? None other than Andie’s crush, Blane!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)

Love begins in the school library!

True love begins in the library! 😉

There is a reel librarian seen briefly in this short scene, but we don’t hear her speak — or even see her face! All we see is the back of her, an older woman in a flowery dress, leaning over and helping another student at a computer at the carrels. This reel librarian, unsurprisingly, gets no listing in the film’s credit, but she does fulfill the Information Provider role. This film lands in the Class IV category, films in which the librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)

School librarian in ‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986)

The real star of this scene — besides the sweet expressions on the young lovers’ faces as they smile at each other over the library carrels — has to be the advanced computer graphics!

Behold:

Reel Librarians | Computer graphics from 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)

Computer graphics in ‘Pretty in Pink’ (1986)

What I enjoyed most about this one-minute scene is that it plays with almost no sound. No talking at all (true to libraries in the movies!), and no sounds except for the sound effects of typing on the keyboard.

The school library setting  in the film feels authentic to real life, with its rows of computer carrals, bookcases lining the walls, and the wooden card catalogs. It feels like a cheery school library, bright and welcoming, with classical touches like the bust statues scattered around the tops of the bookcases.

Looking through the filming locations in IMDb.com, I would guess it’s the school library from either the John Burroughs Middle School or the John Marshall High School, both located in Los Angeles. Each school has been a location for several films! This article on the Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations states that the John Marshall High School served as the exterior of Andie’s ‘Meadowbrook High School’ while the John Burroughs Middle School was used for the interiors.

 

You, Me, Dupree, and the Naughty Librarian

You, Me, and Dupree (2006) is an odd film. It stars Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, and Matt Dillon, and it’s directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who also executive-produced the TV comedy, Community. You’d think those are ingredients for a potentially amusing film. But overall, those ingredients never really come together, and the half-baked film ends up feeling much longer than its 108 minutes.

It also does and does not include a reel librarian. Confusing? Stick with me.

The main plot is pretty simple:  Molly (Kate Hudson) and Carl (Matt Dillon) are newlyweds, and Carl’s best man, Dupree (Owen Wilson), crashes on their couch after he loses his job (due to attending their wedding). To put it mildly, Dupree overstays his welcome.

*SPOILER ALERTS*

Almost 40 minutes into the film, Molly and Carl are arguing — again — about Dupree staying at their house. Molly is attempting to problem-solve the situation. HINT, it involves a reel librarian:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Molly:  What if he had a girlfriend?

Carl:  Good idea. But how’s a guy with no job, no car, living on somebody’s couch going to find any kind of  girlfriend?

Molly:  Our new librarian? She seems really nice.

Carl:  You want to fix Dupree up with a ‘really nice librarian’? listen, I’ve known the guy for 25 years. I think he’s more into the young, foreign, non-librarian type.

Molly:  It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Carl:  I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Cut to next scene, after Molly shows Dupree the librarian’s picture in the faculty guide:

Dupree:  I’ll do it.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

That must be some school picture! We also learn the name of this “really nice librarian,” Mandy. And that she has a car. She is a catch! As is Dupree, obviously. 😉

Molly and Carl come home after a date night to a tie on the front door handle and “Funky Cold Medina” playing inside. Their reactions mirror their earlier conversation about hooking Dupree up with the school librarian:  Carl is worried as Molly gets excited.

Carl:  Looks like Dupree brought his date home.

Molly:  What is a tie doing on our door?

Carl:  Molly, I think we ought to drive around the block a couple of times.

Molly:  Wait a minute. No way. Mandy’s a Mormon. She’s not the kind of girl to get busy on the first date.

Carl:  You fixed Dupree up with a Mormon librarian?

And Carl’s skepticism seems to be justified. I will just let the next three screenshots sum up Molly’s — and our — introduction to Mandy, the Mormon librarian:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Dupree then runs out of the house with a pillow covering his private parts and thanks Molly “for the best night of my life” while Mandy, left alone in the house with all those open candle flames, sets the house on fire. Yes, that’s right. The Mormon librarian sets the house on fire.

That sure is some flammable symbolism, y’all.

The next shot has Dupree wrapped in a blanket and sitting on the sidewalk, talking to Mandy who’s in her car. All we see of her this time is the back of her curly hair. But we do get a nice view of her bumper sticker, which reads:  DO THE DEWEY!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

‘Do the Dewey!’ bumper sticker on reel librarian’s car

Molly and Carl, understandably, have had enough, and they blame Dupree. (Why not blame the librarian?) But Dupree is cool with that, as he plans on moving in with Mandy. Timeline reminder:  He met her yesterday.

Molly:  You sure you got a place to go?

Dupree:  Yeah, I got a place to go. I’m going to Mandy’s.

Carl:  The librarian.

Molly:  Don’t you think that’s kind of moving a little quickly, Dupree?

Dupree:  Maybe it is, but so what? Something special’s happening there. I’m not gonna fight it.

End result? Molly and Carl come home that night to find Dupree sitting in the rain, playing the song “Mandy” on his headphones. No points for correctly guessing what happened with his plan to move in with the librarian.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

And yet we are NOT DONE with Mandy the Mormon librarian. Almost an hour into the film, Dupree shows up to do a Career Day presentation at Molly’s school, thinking this will win Mandy back. Molly tries to let him down easy, making an excuse that Mandy “had a book that was lost.”

Every scene that mentions the reel librarian, we learn more about her. Thus far, we have learned:

  • she’s new at the school
  • she has a name, Mandy
  • she has a car
  • she’s Mormon
  • she’s ok with getting busy on the first date
  • she likes butter
  • she shaves her legs
  • she’s not to be trusted around open flames
  • she has curly, reddish hair
  • she loves the Dewey Decimal system
  • she’s not ok with Dupree crashing on her couch one day after meeting (and sleeping) with him

And here are the final things we learn about Mandy:

Molly:  There’s something you need to know about Mandy. Well, it turns out she’s a total slut, sleeping with half the male faculty.

Dupree:  What? No.

Molly:  I’m sorry.

Dupree:  My Mandy?

Molly:  Yeah. I’m sorry, I would never have set you up with her if I would have known. Ever.

Dupree:  There really aren’t any more Audrey Hepburns out there, are there? What a sucker.

This conversation continues when Molly comes home after school to find Dupree watching the end of Roman Holiday, the classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn.

Molly:  You really were serious about Audrey Hepburn.

Dupree:  She had it all. Style, grace, ethereal beauty. Just like I thought Mandy did.

Molly:  I don’t know. I have a hard time imagining Audrey Hepburn getting buttered up to “Funky Cold Medina.”

Dupree:  Really? I don’t.

All that carnage Mandy causes — setting the house on fire and breaking Dupree’s heart — and we still don’t ever get to properly see her. At first, that felt like yet another odd thing in an overall odd movie. Even though Mandy plays an arguably substantial role in the latter half of the film — she is part of the motivation for Dupree getting his act together, as he wants to win Mandy back (and he keeps trying, by the way, calling her later) — she is never technically, fully seen onscreen. We learn so much about this reel librarian, yet we never fully see her. We hear her name dozens of times, yet she doesn’t even earn a screen credit!

So what purpose does this reel librarian serve in this film? Since she is referenced so much — and we do see parts of her — I am going to classify this film in the Class III category, which includes films with reel librarians as supporting or memorable minor characters.

For the role that “Mandy the Mormon librarian” fills, it has to be the Naughty Librarian:

  • She is definitely a flirtatious or sexually charged librarian, a seemingly conservative young woman who then “lets her hair down” outside the library.
  • Adding the detail that she’s Mormon sets up the “conservative” aspect that immediately leads to the payoff that she is not-so-conservative after all.
  • Naughty Librarians also tend to have sexual undertones in their conversation. Since we never actually hear Mandy talk, the sexual undertones in this case come from her “Do the Dewey” bumper sticker!
  • Naughty Librarians also have a tendency to become violent or exhibit otherwise criminal behavior when their love/sex desires are repressed (see Personals, Maxie, Tomcats, etc.)… and Mandy happens to set a house on fire when their lovemaking session is interrupted. Just sayin’.
Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me and Dupree' (2006)

Screenshot from ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (2006)

In this light, knowing that she fulfills the Naughty Librarian character type, it makes more sense about why we never actually see her face onscreen. That would ruin the fantasy, right? Naughty Librarians are fantasies — sometimes even violent fantasies — and without actually seeing her onscreen (or rather, just parts of her, like her bare leg and curly hair), viewers are free to conjure whatever image they have that fulfills their own personal “really nice librarian” fantasy.

So while this reel librarian portrayal is disappointing, to say the least — and equal-opportunity offensive to librarians, school teachers, Mormons, and Audrey Hepburn — it does serve up some interesting twists to the Naughty Librarian character type. Not enough for me to recommend the film — but that’s why I watch and analyze these reel librarian movies films, so you don’t necessarily have to. You’re welcome.

Final lessons from You, Me, and Dupree? Stay safe, y’all. 😉

In Dewey’s country

I was able to catch the 2007 TV movie, In God’s Country, recently on my cable subscription. It’s a film I saw ages ago, so I already had notes — but I hadn’t taken screenshots at the time. It’s interesting to go over notes I wrote years ago, to see what I focused on then and if the notes differ to how I view the film now.

Reel Librarians  |  Notes from 'In God's Country' (2007)

Initial notes for ‘In God’s Country’ (2007)

This Lifetime TV movie — which has been renamed The Ultimate Sin — is an earnest but ultimately mediocre effort taking aim at a big issue, the issue of young women who feel trapped in polygamous religious communities. Kelly Rowan stars as Judith Leavitt — her last name foreshadows the plot! — who “leaves it,” leaving her community, her house, and her life as she has known it. She takes her five children with her and tries to start fresh. Of course, they struggle to adjust living “on the outside.”

The children particularly struggle at public school (Judith reveals that she wasn’t allowed to go to school past grade 7). In one short scene a little over an hour into the TV movie, Judith’s 12-year-old daughter, Alice, visits the school library. Alice wants a book on astronomy in order to teach the names of the stars to her mom. She goes up to the library counter, where the librarian (Agi Gallus) is checking out books to another student.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'In God's Country' (TV, 2007)

Librarian:  Can I help you?

Alice:  I’m looking for a book on astronomy.

Librarian:  Astronomy is in the 520’s.

Alice:  [shakes her head, clueless]

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'In God's Country' (TV, 2007)

Librarian:  520’s. Dewey Decimal system.

Librarian: [Hands stack of books to the other girl.] Millie, can you show her for me?

Millie: All the books are numbered. You just have to look at the spines. I know where the astronomy ones are because I like astronomy, too. Actually, I have a telescope.

Alice:  You have a telescope at home?

Millie:  You should come and see it.

The librarian here is friendly — and it’s nice to see a reel librarian in a bright color! — but as clueless about service as much as Alice is clueless about the Dewey Decimal system. She essentially passes off her reference duties to a young student, who has to explain the classification system to Alice. Peer learning can be great, but there was no good reason that the librarian couldn’t step out from behind her desk and do her job. Of course, the plot required that Alice make a friend, so I understand in terms of plot why the reference duty got passed on to Millie. But in terms of real life, this is NOT a great example of a reference interview!

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'In God's Country' (TV, 2007)

Ultimately, this reel librarian ends up in the Class IV category, in which librarians appear only briefly with little or no dialogue. The librarian in this film is onscreen less than a minute, and fulfills the basic Information Provider role. She doesn’t provide that much useful information to Alice, of course, but the librarian also provides information to the audience. She is yet another example of how the “real world” doesn’t really understand what goes on in these kinds of communities and the impact of different social and educational structures.

At least the script writers got the Dewey Decimal system right, as this system of classification is the most common for school and public libraries. They also got the 520’s section right, as this is the general call number area for astronomy.

There is also a scene involving the 520’s — one with a decidedly less favorable ending — in UHF (1989) and starring Conan the Librarian. Read all about that scene here in this post. When I relayed this tidbit to my husband, he laughed, and said that I might be the only person to have made a connection between this TV movie and Conan the Librarian.

In Dewey we trust, right? 😉

Reel school librarians

There are many kinds of librarians in both the real and reel world, including school librarians (also called “teacher librarians” or “library media specialists”); academic librarians (who work in college/university libraries); public librarians; archivists; and special librarians (who work in different kinds of libraries, like those in businesses or government offices), among others.

I thought it would be fun to first do a round-up of school librarians, as my own mother is a school librarian. Looking through my Reel Substance lists, most of the reel school librarians end up in Classes III and IV, meaning most of them are supporting or minor characters. Also, most of the school librarian characters fulfill the roles of Comic Relief and Information Providers — again, no surprise there. This is common of most reel librarian roles.


 Class II


Pump Up the VolumeThis category includes reel librarians who are major characters, but their profession does not directly affect the plot. It’s interesting to note that all three in this category are actually student library workers at their school libraries.

My Science Project (1985)

  • Raphael Sbarge plays Sherman, the school nerd and know-it-all who works in the school library. He ends up being a Liberated Librarian.

Pump Up the Volume (1992)

  • Student library assistant, Nora (played by Samantha Mathis), investigates the new high school student’s identity through the books he checks out. Nora is a cool character and fulfills the role of a Spirited Young Girl.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

  • This coming-of-age story features a young prep school boy (Chris O’Donnell) and an alcoholic blind man (Al Pacino). O’Donnell is a student library assistant at a private prep school and is another Liberated Librarian.

Class III


NewGuyLibrarian1This category includes supporting, minor characters, and includes a mix of Comic Relief, Spinsters, and Information Providers.

Big Bully (1996)

  • In this comedy, a writer (Rick Moranis) returns to his Minnesota hometown to teach a creative writing course to middle schoolers. On his first day, he revisits the school library and encounters Mrs. Rumpert, who remembers the book he never returned to the school library. This crude, stereotypical portrayal serves as Comic Relief.

Christine (1983)

  • In this horror film, a teenager tries to talk to a pretty girl in the school library — and incurs the wrath of the middle-aged school librarian, a Spinster Librarian.

The Last American Virgin (1982)

The Neverending Story III: Escape from Fantasia (1994)

  • School bullies steal a book that functions as the portal between worlds, and a young boy must find the book. In the opening scene, the boy hides from the bullies in the school library. Freddie Jones plays Mr. Koreander, the school librarian and typical Information Provider.

The New Guy (2002)

Primary Colors (1998)

  • In this fictionalized account of Bill Clinton’s presidential candidacy, the film begins with a visit to an urban school and an introduction to a “very special librarian,” Miss Walsh, a klutzy but dedicated teacher and school librarian.
  • Allison Janney plays the school librarian and fulfills the role of both Comic Relief and Information Provider.

The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)

  • This classic, award-winning film features a scene in the school library, in which a stern school librarian kicks two girls out of the library for making too much noise.
  • Memorable quote:  “This is a library, not a fun fair!”

The Substitute (1996)

  • Ex-marine John Shale (Tom Berenger) goes undercover as a high school substitute teacher in order to investigate a gang. The middle-aged librarian has her own “Liberated Librarian” moment and stands up to the hoodlums, who start a shoot-out with John in the school library.

Up the Down Staircase (1967)

  • The school librarian in this film, the aptly named “Miss Wolf,” appears in several short scenes as the school librarian at a tough, inner-city high school. Not a flattering portrayal of a Spinster Librarian/Comic Relief reel librarian.

Class IV


Killer Movie Librarian wide shot The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Carrie (TV, 2002)

Dangerous Minds (1995)

  • An ex-Marine (Michelle Pfeiffer) struggles to connect with her students in an inner city high school. There is one scene set in the school library, and you can glimpse two school librarians in the background. More Information Providers who help set the school library scene.

High School High (1996)

  • In this parody of films like Dangerous Minds (see above), a naïve teacher (Jon Lovitz) gets a job at a high school in the ‘hood — and gets heckled by a mean-girl school librarian.

Killer Movie (2008)

  • Another parody, this one of school slasher flicks, this film features one scene in a school library — and a memorable shot of a scary-looking school librarian. If looks could kill.
  • Click here to read my analysis post of Killer Movie.

Mad Love (1995)

  • High-schoolers Matt (Chris O’Donnell) and Casey (Drew Barrymore) fall in love and flee on a road trip. The nosy school librarian, an Information Provider, rats out Casey’s bad-girl behavior.

My Bodyguard (1980)

  • A new kid hires the school outcast to protect him against a school bully. There’s a brief scene in the school library, and the school librarian provides background to the setting.

You may be wondering about a big hole on this list, as it does not feature Giles — the famous Giles — on the TV series Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). You can read more about my post on the first episode of the long-running TV series by clicking here.

 

The hand that rocks the school

In The New Guy (2002), one of the opening monologue’s lines succinctly sums up the basic plot of this Grade C high school comedy:

In high school, popularity ain’t a contest, it’s a war, and Dizzy Harrison is its greatest casualty.”

At the start of his senior year — and start of the film — Dizzy (DJ Qualls) is humiliated at his old high school, and tries to start over as the cool “new guy” at another school. The scene immediately after the opening credits — a mere five minutes into the film — is a memorable one, showcasing perhaps the crassest, most twisted behavior ever from a reel librarian!

*SPOILER ALERT*

And on that note, I must warn you that about very sexually frank words and descriptions below, which may not be suitable for work.

And… now back to the humiliation. It’s the first day at school, and there are multiple tables along the main foyer, most likely set up for school orientation. After Dizzy starts flirting with a high school cheerleader, a couple of jocks horn in to point out his “pup tent” and proceed to pull Dizzy’s underpants over his head and spin him around toward an older lady sitting at a nearby table.

The old lady (Justine Johnston), dressed in pearls and a vest, screams “What is this?!” and reaches out her hands toward Dizzy and grabs at what is closest to her.

Reel Librarians  |  The New Guy screenshot

Take note of the student on the left who is filming this scene of humiliation at the hands — literally — of the school librarian.

Dizzy, understandably in shock, stammers out, “Mrs. Whitman! It’s my…”

Grabbing his penis, Mrs. Whitman screams, “It’s mine now!” and “You can’t bring loaded weapons to school!”

Pushing Dizzy backwards while she moves forward on her rolling chair, she ends the short scene by standing up and proclaiming, “I’m showing this to Principal Zaylor.”

CRUNCH.

And here is Dizzy’s blood-curdling reaction, screaming in pain and humiliation at this living nightmare:

Reel Librarians  |  The New Guy screenshot

You really do feel for the guy, don’t you?

Although less than a minute long, that scene packs quite a punch. And in some ways, it’s quite clever. (Not classy, to be sure, but clever.) For example, the start of the film likens high school to a war. And in that shot above, one is reminded of a gladiator scene. After such a debilitating beginning, will Dizzy be able to rise up (ahem) and become a hero?

However, in that opening scene, it’s clearly Mrs. Whitman who emerges as the victor. And she knows it.

Reel Librarians  |  The New Guy screenshot

School librarian showdown in ‘The New Guy’

But how do we know Mrs. Whitman’s a librarian?

The next couple of scenes help illustrate that. First up is a scene at the doctor’s, where Dizzy reveals that he “can pee around a corner.” Hopped up on pain meds, he then creates a disturbance at the local mall and wakes up in jail next to Luther (Eddie Griffin), who begins describing how similar high school is to jail.

Luther:  I seen terrible things.

Dizzy:  Yesterday, an 80-year-old librarian broke my penis.

Luther:  [Pause.] You win.

Personally, I don’t think anyone wins watching this film. 😦

Dizzy also gets to utter this oh-so-eloquent phrase, “If you break your dick in front of the whole school, they remember.”

And remember they do. After a state football championship, the jock football player from his old school replays the video of the librarian incident at Dizzy’s new school. On the big screen. At the Homecoming dance. And being teenagers, everyone starts shouting, “Broke dick. Broke dick.” Just in case we had missed that point earlier.

Ah, the legacy of an 80-year-old reel librarian.

Reel Librarians  |  The New Guy screenshot

Gimme, gimme!

In real life, Justine Johnston, who played Mrs. Whitman, was 85 years old at the making of this film. She also played a blink-and-you’ll-miss-that-librarian in Running on Empty (1988) — see also this post about repeat offenders — but she makes a more, shall we say, lasting impression in this film. Her turn as Mrs. Whitman effectively sets in motion the impetus for the entire film. (I know, that line sounded kind of dirty, but it’s not!)

She serves the role of Comic Relief — we the audience are invited to laugh both at her AND her unwitting victim, Dizzy — and her memorable performance, although only a minute long, lands her in the Class III category. After all, her actions set up the plot for the rest of the movie! Her reel librarian, Mrs. Whitman, also joins other librarians on the loose, i.e. reel librarians never seen in libraries but only referred to as librarians by other characters.

And now, go put some ice on that. 😉