A round-up of library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in MCU’s Phase One

Phase one of our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians!

When I was rounding up my first impressions of Wong in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), I was marveling (har har 😀 ) about how many Marvel movies I had written about on my site. Then I thought… why not finally go back through all the Marvel movies, this time in phase order, and make sure I’ve watched, reviewed, and analyzed them all for any library, archives, and reel librarian scenes? Thus, the idea of the Marvel Summer was born!

Yep, that’s right, this entire summer is going to be our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians, as I wind my librarian way through the MCU, starting with Phase One.

*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERTS*

Iron Man (2008)

I can still remember going to the movie theater to watch this movie! And yes, I still tear up at the beginning when Yinsen (Shaun Toub) tells Tony Stark not to waste his life.

Alas, there are no library scenes in the “one that started it all” — not even a private library at Tony Stark’s house!

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

At 49 mins into this movie — is this the most overlooked Marvel movie in the bunch?! — Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is trying to get away from military soldiers, so he cuts through the Culver University Library to escape. No reel librarian is visible in this scene, but you can tell it was filmed in a real university library, because there’s a yellow sign that reads “Please Do Not Reshelve Books.” 😉 IMDb says University of Toronto and Drew University in New Jersey served as filming locations for the university. Most of the action in this brief scene happens in the bound periodicals section. This movie qualifies for the Class V category, because it has library scenes with no identifiable librarians.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Below is my Twitter thread breaking down this brief library scene, also with lots of screenshots:

Iron Man 2 (2010)

No library scene.

On a personal note, I remembered shockingly little about this movie when I rewatched it. Maybe if there had been a library scene, I would have remembered more about it! 😉

Thor (2011)

Archives or vault?

My husband wondered if the vault of treasures seen at 9:56 into the movie could be considered an archives, but it’s referred to clearly in the movie as “the weapons vault” with “these relics.” Loki also refers to this vault later, at 41 minutes: “So I am another stolen relic, locked up here until you have use of me.”

Public library scene

At 49 minutes into the movie, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) visits the public library because he needs to email a contact, after his laptop was confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. (I had vaguely remembered there being a library scene in this movie, but couldn’t remember why. But when Erik finds out his laptop had been taken, I shouted out loud, “He’s going to the library because they have internet access!” I clapped my hands in delight when this proved true. 😀 ) There’s even a “Free Internet” sign in the window of the library, along with READ posters (classic library decoration), computers, and bookshelves in an alcove. No obvious reel librarians, but we do see two other library patrons browsing the shelves.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Erik walks across the small library to pick up a book, The Giant Slayer by Iain Lawrence, on a rolling cart. He then picks up the book Myths and Legends from Around the World by Sandy Shepherd, and looks up entries for the Bifrost and for Thor (Thursday). Signs for “audio books” and “young adults” can be seen on the walls behind Erik.

Both of those titles are real books, by the way! The other titles on this cart that I could decipher, to the best of my ability, include:

Such a clever collection of book titles that reflect elements of this movie’s plot and characters — and they’re all real books. Props to the propmaster!

I noticed that there were no call numbers on the books on the cart, but there were call numbers on the books on the bookshelves lining the wall behind the cart. I immediately theorized that the books on the cart were book donations for sale, which is a common thing for libraries to do– and indeed, there is a “Book Sale” sign near the cart!

Again, this movie qualifies for the Class V category, because it has library scenes with no identifiable librarians.

Library book debate

At the 1 hour mark, we return to the book that Erik got from the public library, and that book then inspires a debate about science fact vs. fiction. Darcy (the ever-hilarious Kat Dennings) is flipping through the book on the table, and she points to the page for Mjolnir (which she pronounces as Myeu-muh, like a cat’s meow, and to this day, I cannot help but also say Mjolnir like that).

Jane: Where’d you find this?

Erik: The children’s section. [Turns to the page for Loki.] I wanted to show you how silly his story was.

Jane: But you’re the one who’s always pushing me to chase down every possibility, every alternative!

Erik: I’m talking about science, not magic!

Jane: Well, magic’s just science we can’t explain yet. Arthur C. Clarke.

Erik: Who wrote science fiction.

Jane: A precursor to science fact!

#TeamJane

And OF COURSE you know I looked up that Arthur C. Clarke quote, right? Right. 🙂 Clark’s original quote — known as “Clarke’s third law” — is:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

This was published in a 1968 letter to Science magazine and was added to the 1973 revision of the “Hazards of Prophecy” essay. But Clarke had written a similar sentiment earlier in 1952, and this Wikipedia entry traces earlier variations of this concept that pre-date Clarke. The bottom line? Science as magic, and vice versa, is not a new idea.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

No library scene.

Do I still tear up every time when Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) explains the good he sees in Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)? Yes, yes, I do. No shame in feeling emotions, y’all. Movies are good for emotional catharsis. ❤

The Avengers (2012)

No library scene.

This movie is notable for Mark Ruffalo’s first outing as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, a role that Edward Norton did not reprise (thank goodness).

Keeping score

Phase One:

  • 6 movies
  • 2/6 library or archives scenes
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

The Avengers will return…

… in our next regular post! 😀 Yes, we will continue our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians for Phase Two. Stay tuned!

Sources used

  • The Avengers. Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2012.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger. Dir. Joe Johnston. Perf. Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • Clarke, Arthur C. “Clarke’s Third Law on UFO’s.Science, vol. 159, issue 3812 (19 Jan. 1968): 255. doi: 10.1126/science.159.3812.255.c
  • Clarke’s Three Laws.” Wikipedia, 26 May 2022. Accessed 17 June 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • The Incredible Hulk. Dir. Louis Leterrier. Perf. Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth. Universal / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008): Filming & Production.” Internet Movie Database, accessed 17 June 2022.
  • Iron Man. Dir. Jon Favreau. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • Iron Man 2. Dir. Jon Favreau. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One.” Wikipedia, 15 June 2022. Accessed 17 June 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Thor. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2011.

Law librarian failure in ‘Philadelphia’ (1993)

Libraries are usually viewed as safe, quiet spaces. But even in a so-called “safe” space, biases and discrimination and micro-aggressions lurk.

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, heterosexual 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 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

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

“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.”

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.

Indiana Jones contradicts himself in ‘Crystal Skull’

“The real/reel Indiana Jones would never say ‘If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library’!”

Last week, we looked at Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), in which Indiana Jones praised the library, stating, “Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.” This week, let’s take a look at Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and a library scene in which Indiana Jones completely contradicts himself.

First up, a trailer to set the context for this most recent film in the series:

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers,” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Once again, as in the previous film in the series, we get a scene of Indiana Jones teaching. Twenty years later, he’s still wearing the same three-piece suit, polka-dotted bow-tie, and round glasses:

20 years later, Indiana Jones still teaching in the same suit and bow tie
20 years later, Indiana Jones still teaching in the same suit and bow tie

The library scene:


A little over a half-hour into the film, Indiana Jones meets with “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a guy with a chip on his shoulder the size of his motorcycle. Indy jumps onto the back of Mutt’s motorcycle to escape from Russian agents who are after him. To finally shake off the agents, they motor into… what else? The library!

Why wouldn't you drive into a library to escape Russian agents?!
Why wouldn’t you drive into a library to escape Russian agents?!
Interior of the library scene
Interior of the library scene

Although this scene lasts just under a minute total, Spielberg makes the most of it.

This exterior of the library scene was filmed outside Yale University’s iconic Sterling Memorial Library, standing in for Indiana Jones’s fictional Marshall College library. The interior of the library scenes were actually filmed in Yale’s dining hall!

Everyone is stunned to hear a noise in the library, let alone a motorcycle!

What's that noise? A motorcycle in the library, what else?
What’s that noise? A motorcycle in the library, what else?

The two nearly run over a male student with a huge stack of books in his arms:

Slow down, save the books!
Slow down, save the books!
The books go flying, as does the motorcycle
The books go flying, as does the motorcycle

The guy’s books go flying, as does the motorcycle swerving to miss him. Indy, Mutt, and the motorcycle skid under a batch of tables, finally coming to a stop in front of one of Indy’s students. (That is a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

Fun fact:  This student in the library is played by Chet Hanks, the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

I have a question...
I have a question…

And of course that student, unfazed by loud noises or sliding motorcycles and undeterred in his quest for knowledge (can you tell I think he’s the real hero of this scene?!), has a question for Dr. Jones:

Student in LibraryExcuse me, Dr. Jones? I just had a question on Dr. Hargrove’s normative culture model.

Indiana JonesForget Hargrove. Read Vere Gordon Childe on diffusionism. He spent most of his life in the field. If you want to be a good archeologist, you got to get out of the library!

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008)
… and I have a dumb answer.

BOO. Boo, I say. BOO.

And I am not the only one incensed by this scene and total about-face for Indy’s view of the library and its vital role in research and archeology.

The trivia on the Amazon Prime version of the film also pointed out this contradiction:

Trivia about the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" (2008)
Trivia

And my overseas counterpart, Colin Higgins from Libraries at the Movies, messaged me this:

Do you like Crystal Skull? I don’t, at all. One of the reasons I feel it must be non-canonical is Indy’s dissing of libraries after his motorbike ride through Yale’s Sterling. The real/reel Indiana Jones would never say ‘If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library’!

I love Colin’s wording here, that (1) this film in the series is non-canonical because of its treatment of libraries, and (2) “dissing of libraries” is totally not in Indy’s character. Agreed on both counts!


Goofs


I also enjoyed this extra bit of trivia/goofs from Prime, delving into the mention of Vere Gordon Childe in Indiana Jones’s advice to the student:

Trivia about the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" (2008)
Goofs

Hah! So Vere Gordon Childe, an Australian archeologist (1892-1957), did spend almost his entire career in the library! And OF COURSE I double-checked this. While he did oversee excavation of archaeological sites in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Childe is indeed most well-known for being a “great synthesizer” of archeological research, publishing over 240 articles and 26 books in his lifetime. And Childe was HIMSELF librarian of the Royal Anthropological Institute at one time (!), so I don’t think he would have EVER advised a student to “get out of the library.”

So. Indiana Jones not only contradicts himself — and one of the primary messages and themes from the previous film — he GETS IT WRONG.

I think it’s clear that Indiana needs to get back to the library, stat! (Without the motorcycle this time.) 😉

Extras in the library scene in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008)
Extras in the library scene in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ends up in the Class V category, as there are no reel librarians identified or distinguishable from all the other people in the library scene.


Continue with conversation:


What are your thoughts about this film in the Indiana Jones series and this library scene? Please leave a comment and share!


Sources used:


Reader poll winner write-up, Fall 2017: ‘Possession’

Let’s see how the researcher and the reel librarian “meet cute,” shall we?

The filmPossession (2002) won the most recent reader poll, so let’s get to it! The film is based on A.S. Byatt’s 1990 Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, a “brainy romance” which contrasts modern and Victorian times and uses a flashback structure to move between a current investigation and a long-ago affair. Two literary scholars, Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow, an American playing British) and Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart, an American playing a character who was British in the book but got turned into an American in the film) track down the heretofore unknown correspondence and relationship between two Victorian poets, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam) and Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle). Director Neil LaBute also helped adapt the screenplay.

How does the title come into play? As per the book’s Wikipedia entry:

The title Possession highlights many of the major themes in the novel: questions of ownership and independence between lovers; the practice of collecting historically significant cultural artefacts; and the possession that biographers feel toward their subjects.

Maud and Roland explore their own budding relationship as they research Ash and LaMotte’s relationship — but it’s really the latter that holds the viewer’s interest. The chemistry, such as it is, between Paltrow and Eckhart really cannot hold a candle to the scorching sparks between Ehle and Northam, as also evidenced in the film trailer below:

I cannot let you burn me up, nor can I resist you. No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.

Possession (2002) Possessão – Trailer” uploaded by dezeroadezfilmes, Sept. 4, 2009, Standard YouTube license.

The reel librarian:


How does the reel librarian fit into all this literary foreplay and mating rituals? I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if there is a librarian character in the source material. But in the movie adaptation, we actually get our first glance at the reel librarian less than 3 minutes (!) into the film, in a library scene critical to the entire plot.

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT*

Roland Michell is a research assistant and scholar of the Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash, and he catches a London double-decker bus to the London Library to pick up a book for a professor. The reel librarian (played by Hugh Simon) plonks down an old book from Ash’s personal library.

(I love this screenshot of the old book, carefully tied with ribbon, juxtaposed next to a computer keyboard and mouse!)

The book that started it all
The book that started it all

Although we first see the hands of the reel librarian before we see his face, the camera is not kind to the facial expressions of the reel librarian:

The librarian at London Library
The librarian at London Library

Let’s see how the researcher and the reel librarian “meet cute,” shall we? 😉

LibrarianBit of an old monster.

RolandYeah, but an important monster. It’s Randolph Ash’s.

LibrarianYes. Who are you with again?

RolandI’m Roland Michell.

LibrarianWho?

RolandProfessor Blackadder’s research assistant.

LibrarianIsn’t that Dr. Wolfe?

RolandWas. Fergus got the lectureship position at St. John’s… over me.

LibrarianOf course he did. Oh yes, Dr. Wolfe mentioned you. You’re that American who’s over here.

RolandWell, I’m sure there are others. I mean, after all, you are our favorite colony.

The librarian has no comeback for that. Score a point for the American! The librarian drops what he’s holding, sighs, then picks up a book to read it.

Roland and the librarian at London Library
Roland and the librarian at London Library

We learn several things from this short, but contentious exchange, between Roland and the librarian, who is definitely serving as an Information Provider. We learn that the librarian is old-fashioned and conservative, dressed in his sweater vest, tie, and tweeds. The librarian also manages to be both oblivious AND nosy at the same time. The librarian’s nosiness is convenient for purposes of exposition, as we get to learn not only a brief backstory (and credentials) of Roland’s character, but we also learn about his rivalry with another researcher, Dr. Wolfe. Also, this “Britains vs. Americans” theme — unique to the film, as Roland’s character was British in the book — will come up again throughout the film. The librarian is also dismissive of Ash’s book, which helps provide plausibility to Roland’s impending discovery.


The London Library and the letter:


This first scene in the library lasts less than a minute, but we return to the London Library a minute later, with this bird’s-eye view:

London Library
London Library

We then zoom into Roland’s table, surrounded by books and index cards, as he starts going through Ash’s book, a setting nicely juxtaposed with a brief flashback of Ash inserting the letter into the book 150-odd years ago:

Roland Michell finds the letter
Roland Michell finds the letter
Randolph Henry Ash hides the letter
Randolph Henry Ash hides the letter

Roland immediately understands the significance of what he is reading. Randolph Henry Ash is known for his love poems, but here he is writing a letter to a woman, a poet, who is NOT HIS WIFE. Roland looks up and around, suddenly acutely aware of other researchers… and the reel librarian’s suspicious gaze.

Roland Michell's reaction to the letters
Roland Michell’s reaction to the letters
The librarian's look
The librarian’s look

The music swells as we see Roland mentally wrestle with what to do. Should he put the letter back into the book and inform the London Library of his discovery? But based on what we’ve already heard — he’s gotten passed over for a position, he’s an American who isn’t respected over here in England, nobody attaches any importance to Ash’s old book — we anticipate what he’s about to do instead.

Yep, Roland Michell chooses to pilfer the letter. (That’s fancy talk for “stealing.”) And see how nonchalantly he pulls it off, in the following pair of screenshots.

Step 1: Move the letter over to his personal notebook, which is behind the column, out of sight from the librarian.

Roland hiding the letter from the librarian in London Library
Roland hiding the letter from the librarian in London Library

Step 2:  Sliiiiiiiide over to the other seat behind the column and close the notebook. Done! Now you see him, now you don’t…

Roland hiding the letter from the librarian in London Library
Roland hiding the letter from the librarian in London Library

Selling the plot:


This pivotal scene ends at 6 minutes and 50 seconds. The combined library scenes last a combined 3 minutes, setting up the premise for the rest of the film.

Roland takes the letter to his flat and reads it, and then visits his landlord, Euan, who also happens to be a lawyer (played by the always hilarious Tom Hollander). Roland buys “7 minutes of attorney-client privilege” to confess what he’s done, and therefore has the opportunity to really sell the plot to the viewer:

RolandThey’re practically love letters.

EuanRather racy, actually.

RolandYou see, Ash, supposedly, never even looked at another woman. I mean, not even glanced at one his entire marriage. Can you imagine what would happen if I could prove that Mr. Perfect Husband had this Shakespearean-type dark lady thing going on?

EuanYeah, but that would be extraordinary. It would be rewriting history, old chap.

PLOT. SET. MATCH. GO!


Research and the British Museum:


I believe the library scenes, set in the London Library, were actually filmed on location, as evidenced by photos of the library seen on their website. However, the London Library is not included on the filming locations list on the IMDb.com page for Possession. The London Library is described as “one of the world’s largest independent lending libraries, and one of the UK’s leading literary institutions.” Scottish philosopher and essayist Thomas Carlyle helped initiate the founding of the London Library, formed in 1841, in reaction to the restrictive policies of the British Museum Library.

Knowing this rivalry between the London Library and the British Museum Library makes it even funnier when we realize that Roland works as a research assistant at the British Museum! We next see him entering the museum by the staff entrance, and then we are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at an office and private research library for Professor Blackadder:

Roland heads to his office at the British Museum
Roland heads to his office at the British Museum
Behind-the-scenes at the British Museum
Behind-the-scenes at the British Museum

Roland does attempt to tell Blackadder of his discovery, but Blackadder cuts him off with, “No need, the novice blunders on the discovery. The scholar investigates.”

As Blackadder rushes off, he instructs Roland to answer the “wretched requests” that came in from the public, including — and I am not kidding here — a question about how many jars of gooseberry jam Ash’s wife made in 1850.

Roland responds, “This is not a job for a grown-up!

But this job IS important, as Roland gets inspired for how to do more research for his own discovery in the midst of researching Ash’s wife’s diaries and personal correspondence. He begins getting clues (keywords!) from Ash’s letter and looking up his wife’s diaries to uncover the next step in the research trail.

Bonus:  The viewer gets treated to the old-school index files for this private research collection, as well as all the file boxes. Nothing looks computerized!

The research library files behind-the-scenes at the British Museum
The research library files behind-the-scenes at the British Museum
The research library files behind-the-scenes at the British Museum
The research library files behind-the-scenes at the British Museum

Teaming up:


The research trail then leads him to Dr. Maud Bailey (Paltrow), who works at the University of Lincoln in Lincolnshire and is an expert scholar on Christabel LaMotte. We also find out that Maud is related to LaMotte. Maud is immediately dismissive of Roland’s theories (“It does seem rather pointless“) but humors him by allowing him to look over letters of LaMotte’s lover, Blanche Glover (played by Lena Headey), from that time period.

Maud and Roland walk through a library en route to Maud's office
Maud and Roland walk through a library en route to Maud’s office

We also get to see Maud’s office, which is light and airy and filled with neatly stacked books and illustrations tacked up over the desk.

Dr. Maud Bailey's office
Dr. Maud Bailey’s office

Roland then stays overnight at Maud’s place, and at 21 minutes into the film, decides to take a chance at revealing his secret to Maud (to impress her?):

RolandMaud, can I show you something? [digs into his bag and hands her the letters]

MaudAre these…

RolandThose are the originals.

MaudHow did you get them?

RolandI took them.

MaudTook them?

RolandI sort of stole them.

MaudWhere from?

RolandThe London Library.

MaudHow could you do that?

RolandIt was on impulse.

Here is Maud’s priceless reaction to the letters — and to Roland’s cavalier attitude to stealing:

Maud's reaction to the letters
Maud’s reaction to the letters

This scene, which ends at 22 minutes, then completes the plot set-up, that Maud and Roland will team up to research the relationship between Ash and LaMotte, a journey that takes them several different places, including all over England and over to France.


Ethics? What ethics?!


Along the way, Roland’s unorthodox — er, unethical — practices totally corrupt Maud’s own standards as a scholar, all the way up to the end of the film. I won’t spoil all their adventures, but here’s just a smattering of quotes throughout the rest of the film that involve research, research methods, and increasingly deteriorating standards of professional behavior:

Maud, upon discovering a cache of letters between LaMotte and Ash:

Can we please do it properly. Let me run downstairs and get with some notecards and some pencils?

Maud’s reaction to the necessities of researching Ash’s wife’s diaries, an interesting way to rephrase that old saying, “The devil is in the details”:

God is in the boring housewife’s stuff. We should check it.

Maud’s reaction to Roland wanting to keep tracking down LaMotte and Ash’s movements, instead of going back to work at the British Museum:

I thought you were mad when you came to Lincoln with your stolen letter. Now I feel exactly the same.

Roland’s reaction to having to go back to work, while Maud leaves to doublecheck her archives:

Good. I guess I’ll just… I don’t know… go look up shit on the microfiche.

Spoiler: He totally doesn’t. We see him hanging out amongst the bookshelves instead, while his co-worker pushes a cart down the aisle, working.

The research library stacks behind-the-scenes at the British Museum
The research library stacks behind-the-scenes at the British Museum

Totally corrupted by this point, Maud’s smiley reaction to Roland taking the fax a rival researcher sent:

You’re shameless.

Perhaps “shameless” would have been a better title for the film? 😉


Sources used:


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