Naughty Librarians (ladies, take it away)

Google image search for “naughty librarian”

A rose by any other name… the Naughty Librarian. We’re down to the final category of exploring reel librarian character types (see previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). And I know I’m going to get a lot of hits out of this post, as “naughty librarian” — and similar phrases like “sexy librarian” or “tomcats librarian” —  are the MOST POPULAR search terms that lead to my blog. It’s a classy joint I’m running here, this Reel Librarians blog.

This category originally began as “The Sex-Obsessed Librarian” in my undergraduate thesis. The male and female portrayals of this character type are quite different, as you’ll see. The guys will have their turn next week. It’s time now for the ladies.

The female Naughty Librarian serves as a sexual fantasy, which comes as no surprise, I’m sure. She’s usually either an attractive librarian obviously “on the prowl” or she’s like a young Spinster Librarian who “lets her hair down” outside the library (click here for a previous related post about that). The Naughty Librarian portrayal is all about contrast, inner desires juxtaposed with a more conservative, restrained exterior or library setting.

But be warned — if their romantic or sexual desires go unfulfilled, these Naughty Librarians often to turn to violent, or otherwise criminal or manipulative, means to get what they want. But that’s probably all part of the fantasy, right? 😉

Let’s take a peek. *SPOILER ALERTS*

One of the most textbook examples of this category is Jennifer O’Neill as Heather Moore in the 1990 TV movie Personals. Heather combines sex with murder, as she plays a meek and button-up librarian by day and a knife-wielding serial killer at night (see left). After arranging dates with married men through newspaper personal ads, Heather then kills the men because of their infidelity — exercising her own brand of vigilante justice. This television movie illustrates the Naughty Librarian at her most vicious.

In Tomcats (2001), “bad boy” Michael Delany (Jerry O’Connell) sets out to seduce Jill, a seemingly timid librarian (Heather Stephens). He boasts, “This is almost too easy” when he first spots her, pushing a library cart full of books (see clip below). They bond over The Scarlet Letter — wink wink — and he walks her home, which has a white picket fence, of course. Jill looks like the perfect prototype of a young Spinster Librarian, with her prim bun, pretty pink cardigan, and tortoiseshell glasses. But once inside her house, Jill’s inner dominatrix comes out to play — literally — as does her librarian grandma! Gotta admit, they’re super organized with those toys, whips and handcuffs, just like real librarians would be. 😉

And for the second half of their date, see below. Warning:  Due to, ahem, racy content, you may need to authenticate your birthdate to watch the following clip. The following clip is definitely adult-themed and probably NOT suitable for viewing at work. Depends on where you work, of course, but still, just trying to give you fair warning.

Valerie Curtin as Ophelia Sheffer in Maxie (1985) also reveals her inner Naughty Librarian. An attractive, thirtyish brunette who works in the San Francisco Public Library, Ophelia makes a pass at fellow librarian Nick (Mandy Patinkin), who rejects her not-so-subtle advances. And after an embarrassing moment at a library fundraiser, she attempts to blackmail him into sex by threatening to fire him.

Other examples of not-so-exemplary behavior exhibited by Naughty Librarians include revenge and blackmail that ultimately lead to a man’s suicide (Weird Woman, 1944, also see this post) and participating in a sinister island ritual to sacrifice an innocent man’s life (The Wicker Man, 1973).

But not all Naughty Librarians are bad girls at heart (see Hammett, 1982; The Man Who Never Was, 1956). In the immortal words of Jessica Rabbit, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” For example, in Hammett, the perpetually underdressed Kit (Marilu Henner) helps out hard-boiled Hammett (Frederic Forrest), who tells her that the only person he trusts in the world is “a librarian with a smart mouth.” Early in the film, she shares a flirtatious scene with Hammett’s friend, Jimmy (Peter Boyle). After spying her lingerie hanging up, he asks, “Is that what you wear to the library?” and Kit vamps it up in response, “That’s what I wear underneath what I wear to the library.” Too bad we never get to see her in a library setting. But you can catch a glimpse of her in a blue silk nightie in the trailer below.

Click to view Hammett trailer in a new window

Next week, the male Naughty Librarians round up this series on reel librarian character types. Stay tuned! 🙂

The horror of an unethical librarian

In honor of Halloween, I’m exploring the first horror film (at least, the first one I have been able to find) that features a librarian. The Seventh Victim (1943) is a creepy thriller about a woman, Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter), who is desperate to find out more about her sister’s (Jean Brooks) disappearance and mysterious involvement with a cult. For me, the scariest thing is probably Jean Brook’s hairstyle in the film (which you can see in the image, at left, and in the trailer below).

Jason Hoag (Erford Gage) is a book clerk by day, poet by night. He wrote a bestseller 10 years ago, but now has nothing much to his name. Following a lead in an effort to impress Mary, he tries to gather clues from the circulation records of suspected cult members. (By the way, do NOT try this at home. This is highly unethical and illegal behavior. Library circulation records are private, even concerning members of a mysterious cult.)

Library scene screenshot from The Seventh Victim

The librarian, Miss Gottschalk (Sarah Shelby in an uncredited role), is only in this scene, which lasts just under a minute. She is white, late 30’s or early 40’s, with her hair rolled up in an unflattering style. She is wearing makeup and seems to be attempting a modern style in her dress — she’s even wearing nail polish! — but the end result is an ill-fitting suit that comes off as conservative when combined with her old-fashioned updo. Ultimately, she seems a bit desperate.

In mild Naughty Librarian fashion, she quickly responds to Hoag’s flirting, who shamelessly seizes the opportunity to obtain the books the cult members have checked out. He uses the pretense of giving gifts because “nothing nicer than a book for a gift” and gets on her good side by complimenting her hands as “so slim and capable” (such flattery!).

At first, she demurs, “I’ll have to get permission” to look at the closed-shelf books, but soon breaks out an attempt at a coquettish smile. But “since [Hoag] is over 21”, she gets the books he’s looking for, after first flipping through her card catalog files to find the names and titles he’s seeking. Basically, Miss Gottschalk sells her soul — in less than a minute! — for a few cheap compliments, breaking the rules to provide him restricted books taken from the private records of library patrons (aarrggghhhh — again, totally unethical and illegal behavior). As Ray & Brenda Tevis sum up this scene in The Image of Librarians in Cinema 1917-1999, “the extent to which filmgoers believe Gottschalk’s behavior is transferable to working librarians depends upon whether they believe that reel librarians accurately reflect the ethics of working librarians” (46). In this case, let’s hope they don’t!

She is a less extreme version of the Naughty Librarian — you can tell she wants to let her hair down after work and is seeking opportunities to do just that, with her (sadly inept) flirting. And she does engage in illegal behavior — for shame! — but it’s not to the extremes of violence as other Naughty Librarians (see Personals).  She also serves the role of the Information Provider, providing Hoag with the clues he uses to follow the cult’s trail.