Summer Movies Mean… Librarian Cameos?

Monsters U Librarian

So, I see an awful lot of movies in the theatre. When summer rolls around, I can usually be expected to have seen one new film a week – not as much as post-Thanksgiving, pre-New Years, when all the Oscar-bait films come out, but still more than the average moviegoer.  Sad films, happy films, funny films, weird films: as long as it doesn’t fall under the category “gratuitous slasher flick” I’m typically going to see it.  And if I love it/hate it, I’ll talk about it.  Forever.

This past weekend my husband and I went to see Monsters University, which fell under the umbrella of “liked it, didn’t love it, but had some great parts.”  For a sequel it was certainly strong, and it’s hard to go wrong with Nathan Fillion and Helen Mirren playing bad guys in the same movie.  The film is very much a creation story; we see Mike and Sully meet during their Freshman year at school, quickly become enemies, begin to work together, learn from each other, and then finally become friends and colleagues.  Monsters U, the school itself, is prestigious and honorable, and it has a typical division of clubs and cliques: jocks, hot chicks, emo kids, nerds, and weirdos.  They’re all pitted against each other during the school’s monster triathlon, the Scare Games, which consists of a series of trials to choose the best Scarers on campus.  One of the trials – called “Don’t Wake the Parent” – takes place in the university’s library.  Can you see where this is going?  I could, and it was glorious!

Monsters U Librarian2

Uh oh?

The “Parent” in the trial’s scenario is of course the curmudgeonly, be-speckled, old lady/squid-like librarian who hates noise and has a penchant for chucking ne’er-do-well students into the lake outside.  It’s over the top and silly and so much damn fun.  She’s everything a Freshman might expect from their university librarian, especially if the university in question is as old fashioned as Monsters U.  Look at all those books!  The wood paneling!  HER OUTFIT!  Of course the library is destroyed when the librarian  furiously lashes out, but you just know part of her enjoyed putting it back together again.  It’s gloriously over the top (really, could they have made her any uglier?) but I just can’t bring myself to roll my eyes.  Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Considering summer movies and surprisingly fun librarian cameos, did you know that last year had a similar set up?  The Spider-man reboot (The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield) included a scene in which the entire school was destroyed during an epic fight between Spidey and the Lizard.  The two crash through a wall – surprisingly easy to do in comic book movies – and on the other side? The school library, featuring none other than the legendary Stan Lee as the oblivious school librarian.  He’s rocking out to his old guy muzak and humming to himself as his library is destroyed behind him.  See the whole scene here:

Reel Librarians had a great write-up of this scene, as well as other Comic Relief librarians, but I think it’s worth mentioning that perhaps the reason our profession keeps showing up in these summer blockbuster films is because the profession is immediately recognizable as light, good fun.  We don’t need back story for why Monsters U librarian is so bent on shushing students – she’s a librarian!  We don’t need to know why bow tie-clad Stan Lee doesn’t notice his quaint little library falling to pieces around him – duh, he’s a librarian!  Like I’ve said before, sometimes you just have to laugh.

What do you think?  Have you seen Monsters University yet?  Looking forward to the next Spider-Man? Do you think summer 2014 will bring us another librarian cameo?

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Visual Cues: What Makes a Librarian?

via Faehe on Pinterest

“The glasses are a bit fey, but the argyle swear. Yes.” Image via Faehe @ Pinterest

Have I mentioned I’m really into Pinterest? (2,222 pins and counting! Woohoo! Send help.)  One of my favorite ways to waste time on that time-sucker of a website is to search for a random keyword and gauge the variety of results.  This is an interesting way to pin down – pun so intended – what other people think is attractive, or desirable, or simply what defines a certain term.  So what do you get when you search for “librarian”?

Not surprisingly, the result list includes quite a variety of images.  Some are pro-library illustrations and quotes; some are amusing library-related jokes/memes; others are photos of attractive, young women wearing vintage glasses and sweaters, carrying books, and drinking tea.  These latter examples are typically posted on fashion-related boards such as Styles I Love or My Style Pinboard, which means that many young, Pinterest-reliant women are inspired to dress themselves using the visual cues that constitute librarianship.

via Danny Williams @ Pinterest

“Librarian #style” via Danny Williams @ Pinterest

The nerdy, librarian chic look is one of the things that makes the stereotypical librarian figure stand out in popular culture.  As the tumblr Librarian Wardrobe shows us, professional librarians dress in a variety of styles: casually, professionally, quirkally, you name it.  We’re a mixed bag.  However, if we were to describe the stereotypical fashionista  librarian, what would she (because it’s always a “she”) look like?

  • Young (early twenties to mid thirties)
  • White
  • Glasses (preferably Lisa Loeb style: thick-framed, cat-eyed)
  • Vintage sweaters, cardigans, dresses, and shoes (thrifty and old fashioned; what’s old is new again)
  • Hair is artfully pinned up/back
  • Books, books, books
  • Bonus points for an old fashioned background setting, such as a sepia-tinted, stuffy library/office with similarly sepia-tinted, stuffy books

In considering the often-used visual cues, these young, white women in sweater clips are decidedly smart and reserved.  Their vintage style may be old fashioned, but that is surely part of their appeal – unhindered by current trends, their style is reminiscent of a more innocent time and, similar to the books they’re usually toting around, very romantic.  Another luring stylistic choice is the inherent femininity apparent in these cues, which probably makes the Hot Librarian trope such an easy target.  The buttoned up cardigans, glasses and stacks of books are hiding more than they’re showing; not only are these women obviously hiding something (sexy sexiness, obv), but what curious mind wouldn’t want to take a peek behind the barriers?

Now it’s your turn, dear readers! What other visual cues would you suggest for librarians?  Do you consider librarian chic to be a positive representation?  Do you rejoice or despair when you search Pinterest?

The Judgmental Ostrich: When book-pushers become meme fodder

Ostrich LibrarianBTW, I’m on Pinterest. Sorry, what I meant to say is I’m constantly on Pinterest.  It’s addicting and mind-numbingly entertaining.  Funny things, pretty things, nerdy things: I pin them all.  Recently I managed to talk my academic library into creating a Pinterest account.  Yes, even academia loves creating digital pinboards – albeit, library-related pins are usually kind of snore-worthy.  LibGuides are great, but I’d much rather pin pictures of piles of puppies.

A while back I created a board to chronicle the interesting, amusing and sometimes bizarro media representations of librarians – find it here.  While looking over my past pins, I noticed that I had not one, but three separate images showing what I thought was a meme called Ostrich Librarian.  After a quick image search, I found the official title for this frazzled oversize bird: Judgmental Bookseller Ostrich.  This meme may have begun by chronicling the trials of overworked booksellers, but quite a few of these “I’m surrounded by idiots!” lamentations are shared by equally overworked librarians, especially those who work with the general public.  A coworker of mine who has experience with the public library in town once told me that after a prolonged time of working a desk day in, day out, you gain a sixth sense.  For example, when a certain type of person walks up to you, you just know they’re looking for Fifty Shades of Grey.  (Wait, is that still a thing?  Tell me it’s not and you get a cookie.)  Even in the world of academic libraries, there is repetition.  With repetition comes boredom.  And as regular readers to this blog may know, with boredom comes evil librarians.

Ostrich Librarian2

There is therefore some overlap between librarian and bookseller, and not just because we both deal in information and dead trees.  Whether this ostrich is a better fit for either profession is up for debate, but her visage definitely leans toward spinster, myopic librarian.  She’s wearing a pair of cat’s eye glasses, her hair is sticking up and about in a comical fashion, and her mouth is open in a Joker’s smile/grimace that makes her seem she’s truly at the end of her rope.  She’s a sarcastic know-it-all, ready with a comeback no matter the horrible question she receives, especially if that person has bad taste in books.

I pinned her three times on Pinterest not because I know how she feels – to be honest, very few people ask me about actual, honest to goodness books.  (E-books, yes. Book-books, not so much.)  On the other hand, I recognize the sentiment.  We live in an age of information, and yet sometimes the questions you’re asked are just… depressing.  The Judgmental Ostrich can stand for anyone who puts themselves out there in the public realm who perhaps think themselves above the people they serve every day.  That’s why I sometimes look at the Judgmental Ostrich and think “I know that feel, sis.  I know that feel.”

Anatomy of a librarian

Do you think this infographic supports the popular culture stereotypes of librarians or disproves them? On a side-note, I’m seriously curious as to what “fire performance” entails. How many librarians are secretly members of Cirque du Soleil?

bluesyemre

AnatomyofaLibrarianLrg

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It’s a Wonderful Life: How Mary Lost Her Groove

Mary, it's a wonderful life

In honor of this gloriously lazy holiday season, I present to you: Mary, the old maid librarian from 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life‘s kooky alternative universe. In the true reality in which her husband George exists, Mary is a loving, doting, perfect housewife with a few precious kids.  Without George in her life, she is matronly, alone, and apparently visually challenged.  (Seriously, where did those glasses come from? Is that the only way they could make Donna Reed look homely?)  The bulky coat, the glasses, the lack of makeup: these symbols signify alternate!Mary’s lack of worth. Without George, she is nothing; a woman reduced to the worst possible designation ever: unwed.

Furthermore, it’s made absolutely clear that being a librarian is the worst thing ever that could have happened to George’s lovely wife.  Here’s a clip of his shocking discovery, when he asks Clarence “where’s Mary?”

Oh, Mary. You deserve better.  She cowers and cries and faints when George (still not “getting it”, obviously) chases after her and makes a scene:

Bitchmedia perhaps says it best:

Husbandless Mary is wearing glasses. Her dress is less feminine and has a higher neckline. Her hair is pulled back into a bun (how very stereotypical) and covered up with a hat. She looks incredibly worried. And the trees casting shadows across the scene don’t make her alternate identity any brighter.

This character certainly reflects societal beliefs about librarians in 1946: that librarians were single, unhappy women.

 

Now that we’re all depressed, I hope you had a very merry Christmas indeed, and that your 2013 is a great one!

 

On Crones, Meanies and Sex Kittens

Google Image Search is a wonderful thing.  I’m a fan of the interface, as well as the never-ending scroll so you don’t have to keep clicking for the next page.  As with all things Google, even if you enter in the most broad search term it will try to help you narrow your subject.  For example, when I search for “librarian,” Google suggests related searches like “hot librarian,” “old librarian” and the ever popular “mean librarian.”

And there we have it: three of the most enduring stereotypes for the librarian character in pop culture.  Crones, meanies and sex kittens.  While there may be some overlap between the first and second stereotype, the latter is perhaps in a league of its own. Of course, one does not to be employed professionally as a librarian in order to be saddled with this stereotype; both the Scary Librarian and the Hot Librarian have rather extensive pages at TV Tropes, which include non-librarian characters who behave in rather stereotypical librarian ways.

Tina Fey: just one of the many images you’ll find if you search for “hot librarian”

In the case of the Hot Librarian, a woman need only be “a very attractive but prim and prudish woman, who would be gorgeous if she would just take off the glasses (or not), let down her hair, and unbutton her top button”.  Therefore a Hot Librarian has to do with the transformation – whether it be real or imagined.  When Evie from The Mummy gets her makeover – forgoing her glasses for a lacy veil and black eyeliner – she instantly goes from dowdy spinster to smoking hot.  Latent attraction is what causes the male lead to do a double take and reconsider the female costar as a possible mate.

Alcohol also helps!

The “makeover” is a trope that takes place constantly in film.  (She’s All That, anyone?  Grease?  Freaking Ladybugs? )  The societal pressure of, wow, that girl would be so much more desirable if she just tried is overwhelming, and the librarian character – if it’s a trim, young woman with pretty good bone structure – seems like the perfect breeding ground for this obvious plot twist.  Just think, all that beauty has been hiding under the surface, and the only thing to draw it out is the need for a boyfriend.

Usually in these pop culture references, there’s a “learning moment” in which the male concedes to the fact that the newly turned Hot Librarian was always attractive; he was merely too shallow to notice it before!  However, it’s the hotness of the once non-impressive, bookish girl that catches his eye – and ultimately keeps it.

vs. the Evil Librarians

“Now you may have gotten the impression that there are absolutely no uses for Librarians. I’m sorry if I implied that. Librarians are very useful. For instance, they are useful if you are fishing for sharks and need some bait. They’re also useful for throwing out windows to test the effects of concrete impact on horn-rimmed glasses. If you have enough Librarians, you can build bridges out of them. (Just like witches.)
And, unfortunately, they are also useful for organizing things.”
― Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia

Do Glasses Make the Librarian?

What Do You See” by BecaShoots @Etsy

Myopia is a condition that plagues many-a librarian – or, rather, that is what film and TV would have you believe. People who wear corrective glasses are often stereotyped as bookish, intelligent, and socially inept.  The glasses are a shield, a barrier.  They are props to be adjusted and cleaned when the moment calls for it.  They are fragile and expensive; they can also be smacked aside, stepped on, or otherwise damaged.  Finally (and perhaps most importantly) they can be removed from a mousy boy or girl, woman or man, in order to let a dormant attractiveness and sensuality shine through.

Eyesight, whether it’s perfect or messed up, is largely genetic.  I’ve been nearsighted all my life, the product of a nearly blind mother and a 50/50 sighted father.  I wore contacts in middle school and high school, but switched to glasses my first semester of college after realizing how difficult it is to stab little discs of plastic into your eyes after you’ve slept too late and are now running late for class.

However, according to Wikipedia, there have been studies which show the incidence of myopia increase with level of education.  And!  Other studies have shown a correlation between myopia and a higher IQ.  This is an interesting factor, seeing as how a large percentage of Asia is myopic compared to those in the United States.  When one considers the stereotype of the “nerdy Asian kid” who crushes test scores and wins first place at the science fair, glasses are usually part of the equation.

So where do librarians fit in all of this?  Well, librarians are a smart, typically well-educated breed.  We also tend to engage in activities – whether it be reading or sitting in front of a computer screen – that can certainly put strain on our eyes.  Despite my Google-fu being quite strong, I was unable to come across a study along the lines of “percentage of librarians who wear eyeglasses,” but I think it’s safe to say that a large percentage of us do.  Stereotypes are based on truth, after all.

Why does the librarian profession revel in its cat-eyed, coke bottle lenses?  Why the t-shirts and the prints (like the one above) and the constant media representation of the bespectacled book pusher?  Like most stereotypes, I think it’s a matter of recognizing something in yourself and embracing rather than denying.  Were I librarian with perfect vision, perhaps I would be somewhat annoyed at the trope that paints us as smart, but also unapproachable and weird.  It’s a symbol, and one that I embody.  For better or worse, I will always wear glasses, and I will (hopefully) always be a librarian.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some books that need reading,” she said as she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose.

Evelyn Carnahan – Pop! Profile

Evelyn: Look, I… I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am.
Rick: And what is that?
Evelyn: I… am a librarian.

Ah, The Mummy!  I know it’s a silly little movie, but something about it is just so damn enjoyable.  I barely remember the sequel, and I didn’t even see the third movie of the trilogy, so I can’t speak to those.  But man, do librarians love The Mummy, if only because it gave us one of the best quotes re: librarianship in the history of all things ever.  When Evelyn passionately (and drunkenly) proclaims her pride in her profession, I can’t help but want to reply “You go, girl!”

The Mummy came out in 1999, and you can watch the trailer hereRachel Weisz – one of my personal favorite actresses – portrays Evelyn (Evie) Carnahan, an intelligent but seemingly failed scholar and Egyptologist turned librarian who joins with Brendan Fraser‘s adventure guy Rick O’Connell to… well, it’s all very silly.  What started off as a remake of the classic horror film starring Boris Karloff became a blockbuster. Funny how things evolve, am I right?

Oh, but Evie!  She’s awkward and bespectacled, and in her first scene she takes down a dozen bookshelves while trying to re-shelve a book.  “Oops.”  Oh, how we love the clumsy and inept librarian with fuzzy hair and glasses!  As much as the filmmakers tried to make Weisz mousy and less gorgeous, it’s impossible.  This woman is perfection, and when she receives her inevitable makeover – courtesy of a formfitting black outfit, some eyeliner, and a veil – it’s less of an remake and more like a retooling.  Gone are the glasses and mussed up hair piled on top of her head; hello, hottie librarian!  In such a popcorn flick as this does “let her hair down” become less of a saying and more of an actual thing a woman must do to seem more womanly and less matronly.

This woman is perfection, srsly.

Evie as a character grows in the expected ways: mousy librarian is mousy; mousy librarian is not so mousy?  Not so mousy librarian is hot!  Hot librarian falls for adventure guy.  Hot librarian and adventure guy live happily every after.  Underneath the usual stereotype, however, Evie is focused on her career.  The only reason why she agrees to travel with adventure guy and such is because she wants to prove herself to the Bembridge Scholars, a group that rejected her due to lack of experience.  Something tells me tangling with a reanimated mummy and other other-worldly things would count as some sort of “experience”.

Despite being a 1920s gal, Evie is a rather modern woman.  In some ways she fills the standard Marian the Librarian stereotype of being a forward-looking, career-driven, happily single woman on the outside – but of course she gets the guy at the end, because that’s just what happens in these types of films.  Evie may be a bit awkward and goofy (and she certainly can’t hold her liquor), but she’s my kind of girl.

Rupert Giles – Pop! Profile

Buffy and Giles

Giles: Everything’s terrible. Total catastrophe.
Buffy: Giles, what’s wrong?
Giles: Have you seen the new library? There’s-there’s-there’s nothing but computers. There’s not a book to be seen.

I can’t say I was ever a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, either the original film or the show it spawned.  However, whenever I did watch it, my favorite character was always the bookish, mild mannered librarian by day, Watcher by night, Rupert Giles.  Played by English actor and musician Anthony Head, Giles serves as a protector and sometimes father-figure for the diminutive and surprisingly kick-ass Buffy Summers.  When not deciphering ciphers or catching vampires, demons and other types of bad guys, Giles works as Sunnydale High School’s librarian.

Beyond the Buffy mythology, Giles is a quintessential polite, mind-mannered British man which compliments his rather polite, mild-mannered “guybrarian” sensibilities.  He speaks in a soft, non-poncy accent and he loves books, knowledge, and research.  There are several times in the show when Giles has to throw a punch or defend himself, but it’s never to the effect of making himself seem macho; on the other hand, it’s always kind of a surprise whenever Giles does so.  His main role in the show is to provide guidance, usually in the form of the many, many books on the occult that he has at his disposal.  (BTW, does no one else visit this library?  How does Giles deal with students who are stressed out about mid-term exams rather than, say, demon possession?)

Buffy ran from 1997 to 2003, during a time that the library as a whole was changing, mainly due to the internet taking over.  Giles, an old fashioned bloke in his tweed jackets and ties, is also a rather old fashioned librarian.  (i.e., technophobe.)  As seen in the quote above from the episode “Lies My Parents Told Me,” Giles just couldn’t bear the idea of letting go of his precious tomes in favor of the WWW.  It makes me wonder whether or not Giles, or Buffy for that matter, would have been as successful with the use of Google instead of a physical library.  Would Giles have been a young, techie librarian with an iPhone and a custom-made Watcher app?

Oh, but when the man switches out his tweed for a black turtleneck, and his tie for a guitar, this happens… and then I think I need to start watching Buffy on Hulu ASAP.