Have you seen the utterly delightful — and rewatchable! — Netflix flick To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before yet? It came out this past summer, and the film was written and directed by women and based on the YA novel by Jenny Han. It stars Lana Condor as Lara Jean and Noah Centineo as the Internet’s boyfriend Peter. The two leads have chemistry for days, and watching (and rewatching) this film leaves a huge smile on my face.
Here’s a trailer for the film, so you can have a huge smile on your face:
School library scene:
A very brief library scene occurs 13 minutes into the film. Lara Jean walks into the school library during her lunch period, and she breezes past the front circulation desk, where an (uncredited) reel librarian sits. The reel librarian looks up and smiles as Lara Jean walks past, serving as your basic Information Provider helping set the library scene and location.
This barest of cameos lands this reel librarian 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.
I liked the colorful panels on the front desk that read, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” ♥
Breaking rules in the school library:
Lara Jean then sits down at a long table and takes out her lunch, which consists of some carrots.
There are rules, girl.
Da da DUMMMMMMM.
Soft foods only! (I love the detail of the carrot on this sign, LOL!) Lara Jean then packs up right away and heads out to find another spot for lunch.
There is no dialogue in this scene, which lasts less then 30 seconds total, but the images and facial expressions are so dynamic that they tell a story all on their own.
I also quite appreciated that the librarian didn’t need to intervene at all — the rules about the soft food and no noise was enforced by the students themselves! 😀
More school library scenes:
In the mood for more library scenes set in school libraries? I’ve got ya covered:
This scene is so efficient — and the students themselves are so self-sufficient — that there is no need for a school librarian!
I have been enjoying our free preview of Amazon Prime, including watching TV series, both new (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and old (Psych). While watching Season 2 of Psych, I noted a library scene in episode 7, “If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?”
First things first. If you’re not familiar with the comedic TV show Psych, here’s the basic premise:
Shawn Spencer (played by James Roday) has amazing powers of observation — and uses that power to pretend to be psychic. Why? So that he can solve crimes with the police, alongside his best friend, Gus (played by Dulé Hill). Corbin Bernsen plays his crotchety father, Henry Spencer, a retired cop.
Here’s a trailer for Season 2 of the TV show:
And here’s the basic plot for the “If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?” episode, which first aired in August 2007:
A group of genius teenagers go to the Psych office claiming their teacher is a murderer.
School library scene:
The scene occurs 9 minutes into the 42-minute episode. Shawn and Gus arrive at the school, going undercover as guest lecturers for a paranormal studies class. The headmaster gives them a tour of the school… which apparently starts in the library! I like this school. 😉
Headmaster: Personally, I’m not sure that I see the merits of a class in paranormal studies, but we do let the students choose one guest instructor a semester.
[A student walks past, carrying a thick book, joining a table of other students with their noses in books.]
Shawn: What is this? Like a study hall?
Headmaster: Oh, no. Recess.
Shawn: [Sniffs] Does it smell like teen spirit in here?
Student: [Walks by] Shhhhhh!
Gus has to hold Shawn back from going after the kid!
There are different kinds of resources in the library, including books and computers. Furniture is also set up for different kinds of learning activities, including tables, computer desks, and bookcases, both small and tall ones. This furniture is used to break up the library into different spaces.
And as Shawn and Gus walk through the library with the headmaster, we also see glimpses of various students working hard at computers and other students working in groups. The library is also quite full — at recess, as we learned! — and the students range in ages, genders, and ethnicities.
The only thing missing in this scene? A librarian! 😉
Why a school library scene?
The scene lasts a total of 30 seconds, and it is the only scene in the episode set in the school library. What purpose does this brief scene serve? It primarily serves to provide as not only an introduction to the school for Shawn and Gus, but also as an introduction for the audience. We have been informed already that this is a school for geniuses — what better place than a library to reinforce this concept?
The scene starts with a closeup of thick books, a bookcase of atlases. This shot efficiently establishes the setting as a library without having to actually say the word.
This scene also efficiently reinforces the vibe of the school and the priorities of its students. They are serious, focused, and not afraid to stand up to authority — even shushing adults. This scene is so efficient — and the students themselves are so self-sufficient — that there is no need for a school librarian!
This also sets up a conflict in the episode, because if you’re a fan of the show, you know that Shawn jokes all the time and rarely takes anything seriously. As the audience, we are already looking forward to the students pushing back during Shawn’s upcoming lecture. After all, Shawn may be able to hoodwink the police about his “psychic” abilities… but will he able to convince these genius students? Or will the students call his bluff and shush him out of the school? 😉
“If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?” Psych. USA Network, 24 Aug. 2007.
“That book has never appeared in this library and never will, as long as I’m here.”
The 1967 film Teenage Mother won the recent reader poll, squeaking past at the last minute due to my husband’s shameless promotion. He gets the credit blame for this post, as he wanted to watch ME watching this film, just for my reactions. I had some. 😉
My DVD copy of this film is from Something Weird Video in Seattle, with a “special edition” DVD. Something Weird promotes itself as “the very best in exploitation cinema,” and that rings true for Teenage Mother. The back of the DVD case has Handsome Harry Archer’s complete review of Teenage Mother, which opens with stating it as a “textbook example of classic old-school exploitation.” The film was directed by Jerry Gross, who would later direct the cult classic I Spit on Your Grave.
Here’s the basic plot, such as it is: A new health teacher is hired to teach sex education in a high school and gets blamed when a student turns up pregnant. Except the student isn’t actually pregnant. She just told her boyfriend that so that he wouldn’t leave her and go off to medical school. Winners, all. And there’s footage of a live birth at the end. And an extended musical interlude in the middle. Cue the sweet anticipation!
As my husband said:
When you have a 70-minute film and only 40 minutes worth of plot, you HAVE to fill it with musical interludes and a live birth at the end!
To be clear, this movie is NOT good. It is bad. I knew it would be bad. But the question in my mind was this: Was it SO bad that it would turn out to be awesomely bad? Unfortunately, NO. But as my husband quipped:
It’s the kind of bad that almost feels like a cultural moment.
The film starts off with footage of a stock-car race. Because WHY NOT.
Introducing the books and the school librarian:
Fifteen minutes into the film, the coach gets to introduce the new health teacher, Miss Erika Petersen (Julie Ange), who dives straight into the required and supplemental texts for the new “anatomical biology” course.
Fun fact: This film was the film debut of Fred Willard, who plays the coach!
Miss Petersen: Two texts are required reading for this course. The first, Moreline’s (?) Basics in Human Anatomy is the best for our line of work. In fact, most colleges use it today. This will be supplemented by Caracola’s (?) Adult Sexual Behavior. Both of these books have been ordered, and we should have them for you early next week.
Miss Petersen: If any of you would like to do additional reading on this subject, I strongly recommend Saucer’s (?) Male and Female. I’m sure your school library has a copy available.
Tony [a student]: I’ve already checked the library, and Miss Fowler, the librarian, told me it wasn’t available.
Miss Petersen: That’s very interesting, Tony. I didn’t know you knew of this book.
Tony: Well, I’d like to become a doctor. In fact, our family physician Dr. Wilson told me to read this book last year.
Miss Petersen: And Miss Fowler didn’t know of the book? Well, it’s fairly recent. Perhaps she didn’t notice it in the book publisher’s catalog.
Tony: She knew of it. She said it was indecent for our library.
[classroom erupts in laughter]
Miss Petersen: Nonsense. At least 90% of all colleges and universities have this book in their libraries, and as many as 50% of all high schools. I’ll discuss this matter personally with Miss Fowler.
The bell rings, ending this scene after a couple of minutes.
Editor’s note: There were no captions available, and the actress’s “European” accent (dubbed?) makes it hard to understand the authors’ names she was saying, which explains why I put in question marks beside names in the quotations above. I couldn’t find any record of the first two books she mentions in this scene. Also, in the scene above and in the later scene with the school librarian, Miss Petersen clearly states the supplementary book, Male and Female, is by an author whose last name sounds like “Saucer” and that it has been newly published. I searched WorldCat — ’cause y’all know I would, right?! — but could not find any book published by that title in the late ’60s by an author with a similar last name. There was, however, a well-known text in this field, Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World, written and published in 1949 by Margaret Mead. And interestingly, there was another edition of this book published by Penguin in 1967, the same year of this film. So why use the same title but change the author? Just another question among many when it comes to this movie!
School library scene:
At almost half an hour into the film, we get the library scene. It’s a very short scene, lasting a minute or less. But it is memorable. I have also nicknamed the school librarian “Fowler the Scowler,” as you shall soon see why.
The scene begins with a wide shot of the school library — the film was filmed at East Rockaway High School in Long Island, so I assume this was also their school library — and the school librarian (an uncredited role) is checking in or filing cards in card catalog drawers. The school library is (surprisingly?) filled with lots of students and lots of books.
Miss Petersen walks in, and they make nice for about 5 seconds.
Miss Petersen: Good morning, Miss Fowler.
Miss Fowler: Good morning, Miss Petersen. Can I be of some assistance?
Miss Petersen: Yes, one of my students, maybe you know him, Tony Michaels. He told me he was unable to find Saucer’s Male and Female on file here. You do have the book, don’t you?
Miss Fowler: Most certainly not.
Miss Petersen: Why not, Miss Fowler? It’s one of the most standard texts on anatomical hygiene.
Miss Fowler: It’s a filthy book.
This outburst and Miss Fowler’s high-pitched exclamation catch the attention of nearby students! Miss Fowler clears her throat.
Miss Petersen: Filthy?
Miss Fowler [in a lower voice]: Yes, filthy! I wouldn’t allow one of our students to even leaf through it. The illustrations are positively vulgar.
Miss Petersen: They only show the beauty of the human body.
Miss Fowler: Teenage children are not meant to see such things.
Miss Petersen: That’s just the point. These youngsters are not children any longer. Their bodies are the bodies of young adults, with all the needs and desires of young adults.
Miss Fowler: I wouldn’t know about that. [turns her head and looks down, rapidly blinking her eyelids]
Miss Petersen: Apparently not. These young people have the right to know about the facts of life. which you say they cannot read. This is a free country, Miss Fowler.
Miss Fowler: That book has never appeared in this library and never will, as long as I’m here.
Miss Petersen: Let’s hope that’s not too long.
“Fowler the Scowler” then adjusts her glasses and goes back to filing her cards, an even more pinched look on her face. She ends as she begins the scene, as an uptight, sexually repressed librarian whose mind is closed to new ideas. An uplifting cinematic message for all librarians. 😦
I put together a collage of facial expressions to illustrate the reason for my “Fowler the Scowler” nickname of this school librarian:
Town meeting and attempted censorship:
The rest of the film delves into the Tony’s relationship with his girlfriend, Arlene Taylor (played by a real-life Arlene, Arlene Farber), the one who lies about being pregnant in order to trap her boyfriend. She attempts to run away, and her friend confesses the (fake) secret pregnancy to Arlene’s dad, who somehow has the clout to call an immediate “town meeting” at the high school in order to get Miss Petersen fired.
Here’s one memorable line from the town meeting scene, in which the principal defends his decision to hire Miss Petersen:
If your daughter became pregnant, it wasn’t because of anything she read in a book.
Oddly, “Fowler the Scowler” is NOT at that meeting, which I found disappointing. A missed opportunity! In my head, it would have been an awesome ending to have Miss Fowler also join the attempt to get Miss Petersen fired — and then the reverse happens! It would close the loop on Miss Petersen’s final words in the library scene, that she hopes it’s “not too long” before Miss Fowler is gone.
And that’s what this film does: It makes a real-life librarian root AGAINST a reel librarian.
In the excellent and thorough reference book on reel librarians, The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999, which I reviewed here in this post, the Tevises sum up the censorship message of the film and the ultimate contrast and conflicting messages of the school principal and the school librarian:
Teenage Mother is one of the few films that confronts the topic of sex education materials in secondary schools. Although the principal of the school is progressive, the librarian scorns the value of sex education. Without the support of the librarian, whose responsibility includes obtaining the appropriate learning materials to support instruction and student research, the program’s success is problematical. The film depicts the librarian as the high school’s moral watchdog who uses her power to censor library materials. (p. 122)
Spinster Librarian role:
So what role does Miss Fowler play in this film? I would say most definitely the Spinster Librarian character type, with her uptight manner and closed-minded outlook on collection development. The midpoint of her conversation with Miss Petersen — the self-confession of “I wouldn’t know about that” in response to the health teacher’s remark about the body’s “needs and desires” — clinches the deal.
Also, all of the stereotypical physical traits are there: an older white woman, hair pulled back in a bun, glasses on a lanyard, high-necked blouse, etc. Even though her time onscreen is short, “Fowler the Scowler” is memorable, landing her librarian role and film in the Class III category.
Preaching to its audience from a fairly lofty perch, the picture purports to deliver a social message about why kids should abstain or at the very least play it safe, but it’s been made so cheaply and marketed with such a sleazy, hyper-sexualized marketing campaign (be sure to watch the trailer which completely misrepresents the film in every way possible) that all of that gets thrown aside. Why? Because it’s obvious that all of this build up and moralizing was simply an excuse to bust out some really graphic footage of a baby popping its way out of some gooey female genitalia.
And finally, I’ve linked to that spectacularly misleading trailer below. I usually like to begin a film analysis post with a trailer, but this trailer needs to come AFTER the film, not before. Also, this trailer IS graphic — as it warns, it includes footage of the live-birth scene from the end of Teenage Mother.
Allison Janney’s portrayal and slapstick antics serve to make school librarian Marianne Walsh a more memorable character.
I am still in a political mood, it seems, when it comes to analyzing reel librarians… from researching Nixon’s Watergate scandal in 1976’s All the President’s Men last week to now hitting the campaign trail in 1998’s Primary Colors, a fictionalized version of Governor Bill Clinton’s Jack Stanton’s history-making presidential campaign. John Travolta portrays Bill Clinton Stanton, and Emma Thompson portrays his wife, Hillary Clinton Susan Stanton.
The film, based on a popular book by Joe Klein, earned two Oscar nominations, for Best Supporting Actress (Kathy Bates) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Elaine May). Rewatching the film, I had forgotten how many other actors of note there were in the film, including Billy Bob Thornton, Diane Ladd, Maura Tierney, and Larry Hagman!
I checked out a DVD of the film from my library, but the library scene is also included in this online clip:
The film is primarily told from the perspective of Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), a younger African-American man who the Stanton campaign is trying to recruit to help run their campaign. He gets swept up in the action, and as an outsider, he serves as a surrogate for the audience.
The film opens outside a school in New York, where Henry meets Governor Stanton, who is about to attend an adult literacy program. Stanton introduces Marianne Walsh, a “very special librarian who is running their classes.” A reel librarian personally introduced within the film’s first two minutes! Very special, indeed!
In the credits, the librarian is listed as “Miss Walsh,” signifying her unmarried status. Miss Walsh, played by Allison Janney, is a white woman, tall with short brunette hair, and wearing a modestly cut print shirtdress with long sleeves. She wears no glasses, modest jewelry, and subtle makeup. Miss Walsh is obviously nervous, as she immediately calls Governor Stanton by the wrong name!
She then takes the group on a tour of the school, the walls littered with graffiti. She admits the walls are pretty bad but that the library is better. “We’re very proud of the library. […] It’s the only reading program like it in New York, that I know of.”
On the walk up the stairs to the library, Miss Walsh suddenly slips under the railing — she quickly recovers, with the help of Governor Stanton, but not before we all find out that the librarian chooses not to wear a slip! Yep, a slip reveals the absence of a slip. 😉
She seems thoroughly embarrassed, running her hands through her hair, but the next scene in the library reveals a very different version of the school librarian, one who is calm and collected. Adult students, all older men and women of color, are seated around a table and sharing their stories.
Miss Walsh encourages one older man, Dwayne, to share his story, as seen in the screenshot below. She clearly knows the students well and has a warm, encouraging tone. She looks like she’s in her element, supportive and confident. After Dwayne shares his story, which is truly touching and emotional, Governor Stanton shares a (seemingly) personal story about his Uncle Charlie who also couldn’t read.
After Stanton finishes his story, the librarian claps and stands up along with everyone else. She and the students go to hug and congratulate Stanton — and in the middle of the crowd, Miss Walsh slips again! Stanton advises her to have her shoes checked.
These scenes in the library, which slowly circle around the room, reveal a school library that is well-stocked with books and lined with bookcases and inspirational posters. The school library is indeed a place to be proud of!
In the next scene, Henry arrives at the hotel’s campaign headquarters, where he encounters Jack Stanton coming out of his bedroom, buttoning his shirt and putting on a tie. The librarian, Miss Walsh, then also comes out of bedroom and slips again as she’s straightening her own collar!
She stutters through thanking him for the opportunity to discuss the, uh, program. Looking embarrassed, she hurriedly grabs her things and walks out of the hotel room filled with people talking away.
Stanton then explains that Marianne Walsh is on the regional board of the Teachers Union. Henry, looking a bit shell-shocked, murmurs, “A teacher AND a librarian.” So that explains why Stanton slept with the school librarian, to curry favor with the Teachers Union. I’m sure the no-slip slip didn’t hurt his mission.
Editor’s note: Yes, we can be both teachers and librarians, as librarians are also educators. That’s also why school librarians are also sometimes referred to as “teacher librarians.”
No one but Henry and Miss Walsh seem fazed by this hotel scene. It’s obvious that both of them are newbies at this political game, while it’s “business as usual” for everyone else. Miss Walsh is obviously not Governor Stanton’s first conquest!
Later, after Jack tells Susan that the teacher was “inspirational,” Henry adds that she seemed like the “typical school board bureaucrat” to him. I suppose he could be right… if the typical school board bureaucrat also has a tendency to fall down a lot. Does Henry say this to make the reel librarian seem dull to Susan, and thus cover for Jack? After all, reel librarians are known to be naughty… 😉
The reel librarian also makes it into the film’s trailer!
In the end, Marianne Walsh fulfills the dual role of an Information Provider and as Comic Relief. As Information Provider, she introduces us to the school library and its adult literacy program, and comes across as warm and confident in the library around the adult learners. She also provides information to the audience about Stanton’s philandering ways. As Comic Relief, she makes the men around her — as well as the audience — laugh at her clumsiness and display of nerves (as well as her gullibility?).
Even though the scenes featuring the reel librarian collectively last less than 10 minutes, Allison Janney’s portrayal and slapstick antics serve to make school librarian Marianne Walsh a more memorable character. Janney is a very talented actress, and she manages to portray a myriad of emotions (including nervousness, pride, confidence, and vulnerability) in her short time on screen. She lands the film in the Class III category, films with supporting or minor characters with a few memorable or significant scenes.
Have you seen Primary Colors or rewatched it recently? (Or is it too soon to rewatch it?) If you have seen the movie, do you remember Allison Janney’s stumbling school librarian character? Please leave a comment and share. 🙂
Primary Colors. Dir. Mike Nichols. Perf. John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Adrian Lester, Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton. MCA/Universal, 1998.
It is effective in underlining the point that no place is safe: not even a school, not even a classroom, not even a library.
This week, we explore another school library in MGM’s Blackboard Jungle from 1955. This dramatic film, starring Glenn Ford, is credited to have helped launch rock ‘n’ roll music in popular media, as it played the “Rock Around the Clock” song by Bill Haley and the Comets over the title credits.
Blackboard Jungle is a very earnest film about teaching. Glenn Ford plays Richard Dadier, a veteran who wants to teach and make a difference in an inner-city school. The beginning scenes of the film go to extreme lengths to illustrate the juvenile delinquency mentioned in the title introduction.
One of the new teachers is Lois Hammond, played by Margaret Hayes. Almost a half-hour into the film, she offers to drive Dadier home and goes downstairs to wait for him. On the stairs, Ms. Hammond stops to adjust her stockings after a long day of teaching. She doesn’t notice a student watching her from below, but we, the audience, definitely get a sense of foreboding. (Plus, there were scenes earlier of other teachers — all male, of course — warning her about the way she dressed and “joking” that she was not safe among all the tough boys in school.)
As Dadier — pronounced “Dah-dee-eh” but, of course, gets switched to “Daddio” by the students — walks down the stairs a few minutes later, he notices a lone high-heeled shoe outside the door to the library.
Dadier hears a muffled scream from inside the library, and his combat training kicks in. He breaks the window with his briefcase and runs in, and he and the student chase and fight each other in the library. Destruction quickly ensues: books overturned, a window broken, a free-standing globe knocked over, Ms. Hammond’s jacket torn, and more.
The student tries to escape by leaping head-first into a window, but Dadier pulls him back in. The student is led away with blood running down his face, and we later hear that he has been expelled.
Ms. Hammond is also led away, in tears, and another new teacher is shocked at this event.
The bland reaction from one of the long-suffering (and jaded) teachers, played by Louis Calhern?
“Why, it’s the first day of school, teacher.“
There is a recurring subplot of blaming the victim for the sexual assault inflicted upon her. (Didier’s own wife — !!! — remarks that “Maybe she provoked the boy. Teachers aren’t allowed to dress sexy.” !!!) Didier defends Miss Hammond on that account, but I will not get into that (unfortunately still timely) social issue here on this blog.
The library scene, featuring Miss Hammond’s terrified reaction during the assault, also gets highlighted on one of the film’s posters (!), as seen here on the IMDb.com site.
What I will get into, however, is why was the library chosen as the setting for this scene of attempted rape? Why not a regular classroom? I think it was a study of contrasts, one that is admittedly very effective. Libraries are usually viewed — in reel AND real life — as safe, secure places. The contrast is therefore heightened between the common view of libraries as being safe places, juxtaposed with the actions of the violent sexual assault and ensuing fight. It is effective in underlining the point that no place is safe: not even a school, not even a classroom, not even a library.
Miss Hammond is seen again, the very next day, but no more scenes take place in the library, nor is there any glimpse or mention of a school librarian. Therefore, Blackboard Jungle (1955) falls into the Class V category, films with no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries.
Blackboard Jungle. Dir. Richard Brooks. Perf. Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier. MGM, 1955.