Whether you love it, hate it, or feel indifferent, the Naughty Librarian is here to stay (and play).
Librarian or not, you’ve probably heard (or voiced?) something similar to the following:
“Glasses can make ladies sexy as well, but only as they are taken off, followed by a slow-motion shake of the head to let her hair down out of that librarian bun.”
Stephen Colbert, “Men With Glasses,” People Nov. 27, 2006: 133.
The naughty, or sexy female librarian, is a pretty common role for reel librarians — and I would venture a common fantasy also — as illustrated by this Naughty Librarian character in Tomcats (2001):
Mindy Kaling wrote an interesting article, “Flick Chicks: A Guide to Women in the Movies” in a recent issue of New Yorker magazine (Oct. 3, 2011, p. 36). Although the article focuses on female roles in romantic comedies and doesn’t mention librarians at all, this quote caught my eye:
“And since when does holding a job necessitate that a woman pull her hair back in a severe, tight bun? Do screenwriters think that loose hair makes it hard to concentrate?”
A couple of intriguing rhetorical questions. Discuss!
Yes, pulling the hair back tightly is a convenient, simple way to visually demonstrate seriousness. And the image of a woman then shaking her hair loose — symbolizing the loosening of her libido, perhaps? — adds to the fantasy. Whether you love it, hate it, or feel indifferent, the Naughty Librarian is here to stay (and play).
Colbert, Stephen. “Men With Glasses.” People, Nov. 27, 2006, p. 133.
Kaling, Mindy. “Flick Chicks: A Guide to Women in the Movies.” New Yorker, Oct. 3, 2011, p. 36.
Tomcats. Dir. Gregory Poirier. Perf. Jerry O’Connell, Shannon Elizabeth, Jake Busey. Columbia TriStar, 2001.
A couple of reel librarian films I’m looking forward to watching soon
As 2011 begins its merry descent, and 2012 is almost visible upon the horizon, here are some films I’m looking forward to watching soon.
The 2011 remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is supposed to hit stateside in early December. I’m interested in seeing it, but jury’s still out if I’ll catch in the theaters. Although I gotta admit, the trailer (see below) looks intriguing (and it includes a couple of flashes of a library). Truth, I’m a sucker for spy thrillers. And British accents. Yes, I’m an American, and I love British accents. Guilty. (Except I don’t feel guilty about it! ;))
But I’m generally picky about what I see in the theaters — I do like escapism, and watching movies in a big movie theater brings out the eager-eyed kid in me — and analyzing reel librarians is more like work (totally FUN work, but still, sometimes it’s work). So I tend to prefer to watch my librarian movies from home. This way, I can pause, take notes, take screenshots, etc., at my leisure and timeframe. And in sweatpants. TMI?
But it might be fun to do some posts about my first impressions in the theater, and follow up with more in-depth analysis later on.
Another film I’m looking forward to is Black Gold, which is supposed to open in the U.S. in late December. A friend of mine and fellow librarian was able to watch its premiere at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in late October and passed the info along to me. It’s set in 1930s, when a young Arab prince is torn between conservative and liberal influences.
The film’s big stars include Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong, and Freida Pinto (and in typical Hollywood tradition, it looks like they all play Arabs — a Spaniard, an Englishman, and an Indian — sigh).
And my librarian friend says that the main character is a librarian. BONUS!
In the film’s trailer, below, the character as a young boy is seen reading a book — foreshadowing?
The 1945 film Brief Encounter is one of the greats. Yet it’s one of those films that still flies pretty low under the radar — but those who have seen it and share it with each other light up in remembrance. It’s a simple, quiet film, heartbreakingly beautiful. With the best use of Rachmaninoff EVER.
The film, based on Noel Coward’s 1935 one-act play Still Life, stars Celia Johnson (luminous in an Oscar-nominated role) as Laura Jesson, an ordinary English wife and mother, and Trevor Howard as Dr. Alec Harvey, an ordinary English husband and father. They meet one day by chance and fall in love. It’s that simple. But life is never really that simple, is it?
Almost twenty minutes into the film, Laura’s going about her usual shopping day in nearby Milford. She walks past a display window, full of new “holiday reads.” We then see her in what looks to be a kind of public library, smiling with a friendly female librarian (uncredited). The library is lined with shelves, with a main desk in the center stacked with books. The librarian is a white female with short, wavy blonde hair. She looks to be in her 30’s, appears quite friendly, and is dressed in a quite stylish cardigan (yes, there ARE some out there) with what looks to be military-style embellishments.
Laura narrates: “I changed my book at Boots. Miss Lewis had at last managed to get the new Kate O’Brien for me. I believe she’d kept it hidden under the counter for two days.”
Note: Kate O’Brien was an Irish novelist and playwright (1897-1974), who explored gay/lesbian themes in several of her works. Some of her work was quite controversial, as two of her books were banned in her native Ireland. It is also interesting to note that upon its initial release, Brief Encounter was itself banned in Ireland, due to its sympathetic portrayal of adultery.
But then we see Laura turn and step from the library into a chemist’s shop (see below). What??? From our travels overseas, I knew that Boots is a British pharmacy chain. What’s the deal? Is this library actually a bookstore? Is this just an odd film set?
Doing a little more digging (thanks, IMDb!), there’s an interesting answer:
Laura borrows books from the Boots Lending Library. Such Lending Libraries were an offshoot of Boots Pharmacies. Boots is a major pharmacy chain in the UK. It was founded in 1849 and still exists, although in a much different, more diversified form. The Lending Libraries were started in 1898.
Boots is still around, but their lending libraries ceased in the late 1960s. The Boots Lending Library was an example of a subscription library. You’d pay a small monthly or annual fee to the library — or a small fee per item — to be able to check out materials. Sound familiar? It’s basically the same idea as video rental stores or Netflix.
Ok, back to the film. That’s the only time we see the librarian, Miss Lewis — a typical Information Provider seen only for a few seconds — but her character still plays a role in the film, as you’ll see.
The library books are also mentioned a few more times throughout. A couple of minutes later, Laura and Alec are enjoying lunch, and he asks if she comes into town every week.
“Yes, I do the week’s shopping. Change my library book, have lunch and generally go to the pictures. Not a very exciting routine, but it makes a change.”
After spending the afternoon together, Laura is thinking about Alec as she boards the train to go back home. She sees a clergyman in the corner and flushes: “I felt myself blushing and opened my library book and pretended to read.”
Just over an hour into the film, their would-be love affair comes to a head. We see Laura running down the wet streets, with her library book under her arm. She knows she’s late and ducks into a tobacco shop to phone her husband.
We hear only her side of the conversation:
“Yes, everything’s perfectly all right, but I shan’t be home to dinner.
I’m with Miss Lewis. Miss Lewis, dear. You know, the librarian I told you about at Boots.
Yes, I can’t explain in any detail because she’s outside the box now.
I met her in the High Street a little while ago in a terrible state. Her mother’s been taken ill, and I’ve promised to stay with her until the doctor comes.
Yes, I know, but she’s always been awfully kind to me, and I feel so sorry for her.”
So she uses poor Miss Lewis (“Miss” – of course) as an excuse for being late!!!
Why? Most likely, the library book she had with her provided the inspiration. Also, being with a librarian MUST be respectable and above board, right? 😉 There would be no questions asked (and really, why WOULDN’T one feel sorry for a poor librarian?), and as Laura says, “It’s awfully easy to lie when you know that you’re trusted implicitly.”
I can’t help but wonder how Laura will react to Miss Lewis the next time she visits the lending library…
Brief Encounter. Dir. David Lean. Perf. Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard. Cineguild, 1945.
Highlighting the ‘Bib/Triv: Profundities, Banalities, and Trivialities in Libraryland’ book
When I first started out researching the field of reel librarians — this was back in my undergrad days — one of the first books I came across was a book called Bib/Triv: Profundities, Banalities, and Trivialities in Libraryland, by Frederick Duda.
An odd-yet-charming title, no?
It’s fun still to flip through this slim little volume, published in 1992 by McFarland & Co.
The back of the book makes me chuckle: But if the idea of an entire volume bursting with succulent morsels of unheard of trivia about books, libraries and librarians makes your mouth water and your hands tremble — well, you probably need counseling more urgently than you need this book.
The bulk of this book is made up of 100 sets of trivia questions, divided into four areas: the arts, books/authors, literature. and potpourri. Wouldn’t this be a PERFECT resource to convert into a librarian-themed version of Jeopardy?
There are several reel-librarian related questions, sprinkled in amongst the arts questions. Samples include:
What is the message on the license plate of the beautiful special collections librarian in the 1989 Paramount movie about baseball?. (from page 5)
In the 1978 Paramount movie Foul Play, what piece of library equipment does the librarian use to fend off an attack by a paid assassin? (from pages 44-45)
In The Music Man, Mrs. Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, the wife of the mayor of River City, Iowa, denounces Marian Paroo for the “smutty” books she gave to Mrs. Shinn’s daughter. Which of the following is the book in question? (from page 55)
a. The Picture of Dorian Gray b. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets c. Sister Carrie d. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Do you know the answers to these questions? If so, drop a guess in the comments!
In his introduction, Duda reveals that his interest in the image of the librarian was a topic he did not realize was “problematical until I entered the field.” I totally get what he’s saying! He also reveals how he “once thought that librarians were depicted as no better or worse than the rest of humanity.” Before long, however, he “found innumerable stereotypes and only some examples of attractive and praiseworthy men and women.”
But he winds up on a positive note. “We can laugh at ourselves, and we should.” Amen!
It’s a fun book to revisit, and one I’m thankful I have. 🙂
Duda, Frederick. Bib/Triv: Profundities, Banalities, and Trivialities in Libraryland. McFarland, 1992.