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THE LIBRARIAN STEREOTYPE AND THE MOVIES

by Stephen Walker and V. Lonnie Lawson MC Journal: The Journal of Acade ic Media Librarianship! "# no.#! Sprin$ #%%&:#'()*. INTRODUCTION +ollywood o"ies influence the public,s thinkin$ about the i a$e of librarians! but how uch is hard to say. +owe"er! by lookin$ at +ollywood,s treat ent of librarians we disco"er indications of how the public is "iewin$ us. To the $eneral public the word -librarian- is a readily reco$ni.able label. The label need not include those aspects of librarianship that librarians want to clai . Se"eral years a$o on the -/a ily /eud- $a e show a $roup of #00 people were sur"eyed and asked what they belie"ed to be typical -librarian- characteristics.The top 1 characteristics disclosed showed that librarians were:

#2 3uiet )2 Mean or Stern &2 Sin$le45n arried 62 Stuffy 12 7n 8lasses. 9:irkendall #%*'! 60()2 -A erican Libraries- has a se i(re$ular colu n 9-7 a$e: +ow They,re Seein$ 5s-2 with a ;uote! ad"ertise ent! cartoon! or other reflection of society,s "iew of the librarian. So e of these e<a ples are positi"e reflections! but ore often they reinforce the ne$ati"e stereotype librarians repudiate. To deter ine how librarians were stereotyped in +ollywood o"ies thirty fil s were studied. The librarian stereotype in these fil s is first discussed in relationship to the si$nificance of character traits and =ob duties! and it is then e<a ined as it appeared accordin$ to $ender! a$e! arital status! characteri.ation! and fil $enre. /il s containin$ librarian roles were identified throu$h two eans. /irst throu$h a search of the ter -librarian- in the Ma$ill,s Sur"ey of Cine a online data base. The second depended upon the authors, e<perience of fil "iewin$. The a=ority of fil s entioned in this study were personally "iewed. When fil s were una"ailable! su ary descriptions of the were taken fro Ma$ill,s and fro a$a.ine re"iews. The rando spread of the sur"ey does not neatly distribute the fil s by decade! at least until the #%60s. The pattern is one fil for the #%)0s! none for the #%&0s! si< for the #%60s! se"en for the #%10s! fi"e each for the #%'0s and the #%>0s! and si< for the #%*0s. ?@a$e #'? Mo"ies Aiscussed Title Aate Ad"enture(Sa Bi balist #%61 Alice in Wonderland(Cill Dsco #%>' All the @resident,s Men(Walter Coblen. #%>' The Clot #%)# Aesk Set(+enry Ephron #%1> /oul @lay(Tho as L. Miller F Edward :. Milkis #%>* 8hostbusters(7"an Geit an #%*6 8ood Hews(Arthur /reed #%6> 8oodbye(Colu bus! Stanley G. Jaffe #%'%

+a ett(/red Goos! Gonald Colby F Aon 8uest #%*& +orror of Aracula(Anthony +inds #%1* The +u an Co edy(Clarence Crown #%6& 7t +appened To orrow(Arnold @ressbur$er #%66 7t,s a Wonderful Life(/rank Capra #%6' Mind :iller(Sarah Liles #%*> Murder! She Said(8eor$e +. Crown #%') The Music Man(Morton AeCosta #%') Dff Ceat(Joe Goth F +arry 5lfland #%*' The Dffsprin$(Aarin Scott F Willia Curr #%*> Dnly Two Can @lay(/rank Launder F Sidney 8illiat #%') Shadow of a Aoubt(Jack +. Skirball #%6& So ethin$ Wicked This Way Co es(@eter V. Aou$las #%*& Stor Center( Julian Claustein #%1' Their Last Hi$ht(CC/C @rouctions #%1& They Mi$ht Ce 8iants( John /ore an #%>) Violent Saturday(Cuddy Adler #%11 War of the Worlds(8eor$e @al #%1& Web of E"idence(Ma<well Setton F John Sloan #%1% The Wicker Man(@eter Snell #%>6 Iou,re a Ci$ Coy How(@hil /eld an #%'> REEL LIBRARIANS A id the thousands of fil s produced by +ollywood! librarians appear in a s all nu ber. They ay be in brief scenes or ha"e starrin$ roles! with portrayals runnin$ fro censure to ?@a$e #>? approbation. 7n Ma$ill,s Sur"ey of Cine a online data base! the ter -librarian- is inde<ed in only forty fil s. This statistical e"idence is hardly definiti"e! but the indication is that librarians ake infre;uent appearances. Dne reason for this rarity is the non(cine atic nature of a librarian,s work. Answerin$ reference ;uestions is not the stuff of o"ie action. E"en if such a o"ie as -All the @resident,s Men- $i"es a "i"id $li pse into infor ation collectin$! it is the news en who are the collectors while the librarian at the other end of the telephone is si ply a tool. When reel librarians ake an appearance it is because of their traits or their =ob. They are associated with certain recurrin$ traits that for a stereotype which is seldo as si ple as a se"ere! old( aidish librarian in $lasses with a fin$er to her lips. Stereotypes are shorthand for attitudes and to work they ust be reco$ni.ed by the audience as such. When a character is a stereotype an audience knows certain traits ha"e an e<cellent chance of bein$ present. Treat ent of librarian ;ualities ran$e fro subtlety to outra$eousness! fro flattery to ridicule. /or e<a ple! the heroic librarian of -Stor Center- contrasts with the $host librarian of -8hostbusters-. Coth are under the sa e librarian rubric! but their dra ati.ations are "ery different. /or a serious dra atic work the lon$er a stereotype re ains on screen! the less credible it beco es. 7t is noteworthy that the purest librarian stereotypes are those that ha"e a s all a ount of screen ti e! such as the old( aid librarian (( Aonna Geed (( in -7t,s a Wonderful Life-. Hot only does Geed act and look the part! but another character infor s the audience that she is an old aid. Aialo$ akes e<plicit a librarian identity and reassures an audience,s e<pectations. There is no surprise in -/oul @lay- when -repressed librarian- 8oldie +awn is ad onished for

no lon$er bein$ a -cheerleader- type. +owe"er! o"ies that prefer =ud$ ental characteri.ation to =ud$ ental dialo$ present a essa$e likely to be less e<plicit but sub"ersi"e. ?@a$e #*? TASKS AND ENVIRONMENT

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Dne reason +ollywood has included a librarian in a o"ie is because the story ay take ener$y fro her or his assu ed personality traits! as when in -Dff Ceat- a ild library worker enters into the tou$h world of cops. Chan$in$ a librarian into! say a lawyer or a doctor! chan$es the story not si ply because of the chan$e in professions! but because the chan$e introduces another set of audience e<pectations for stock characteristics 9e.$.! ca$iness in a lawyer! folk wisdo in a doctor2. There is a distinction between the traits that ake up a stereotypical o"ie librarian and librarianship. +owe"er! part of a o"ie librarian,s character is defined by her or his work. Dn the =ob librarians are inhabitants of a "a$ue book world and custo arily represent a anifestation of -bookishness-. Most of the o"ies under e<a ination were ade durin$ the ti e of the pre(co puter library. 7f librarians are associated with any tool! it is the book. The co puter belon$s to any professions! while the book is traditionally and uni;uely associated with librarians. :nowled$e librarians show is related to books! especially readin$ 9-7,"e been readin$ books for se"enty years-! says the librarian in -The +u an Co edy-2. Geel librarians at work are represented as book stackers and book caretakers rather than either acti"e -accessors- of infor ation or biblio$raphical instructors. Their work! like their character! can function as a oti"ation for brin$in$ the into a dra atic situation. This is true of -+orror of Aracula-! where Jonathan +arker is su oned to the "a pire,s castle because of his inde< e<pertise. 9Ma$ill,s #%**2 7n a different way this is also true for -The Clot,s- the e of po"erty! enriched by such detail as a wo an librarian,s low pay (( a point of sociolo$ical rele"ance. 9Ma$ill,s #%**2 Dccasionally! a librarian,s identification as an infor ation $i"er is appropriate to the plot! as with -7t +appened To orrow- or -The Dffsprin$-. A librarian,s workplace is traditionally a library! and when a library is inte$ral to a o"ie,s story! as in -So ethin$ Wicked This Way Co es-! the introduction of a librarian is lo$ical. +owe"er! for a o"ie to present a librarian there need not be a ?@a$e #%? library! or a library ay si ply endow a librarian character with authenticity. 7n -Dff Ceat- the library furnishes a necessary dra atic back$round for a shy! ild( annered personality! and in -Iou,re a Ci$ Coy How- a li$ht(hearted scene presents the prota$onist roller(skatin$ as part of his library work. 9Ma$ill,s #%**2

7n o"ieland! "irtually any adult who works in a library is liable to be called a librarian! which is a typical patron "iew. 5nder the ter -librarian!- Ma$ill,s inde<es o"ie characters who are not librarians but are either other library workers or people who ha"e the librarian(related occupations (( library science teacher 9-War of the Worlds-2 and curator 9-Iou,re a Ci$ Coy How-2.9+ardin$ #%'>! Variety "ol. ##! Ma$ill,s #%**2 Like the inde< ter ! a o"ie,s story ay incorrectly label a character as a librarian. 9Ge$rettably! this study uses the label -librarian- ine<actly. 5nless the character is clearly a non(professional! it will be assu ed that the character is a -librarian.-2 The distinction ay not be clarified e"en throu$h watchin$ a fil . As a reflection of its audience +ollywood cannot be e<pected to understand the subtleties that define library professionalis . Althou$h there is no clear way of distin$uishin$ a o"ie librarian fro a o"ie non( professional library worker! in this sa ple the latter appears in the inority. 7n the few instances where it is apparent! such a person plainly perfor s non(professional tasks.Typically! this worker is a youn$ adult! as in -8oodbye!Colu bus-.9:auff an #%'%! Variety "ol.#)! Ma$ill,s #%**2 The tasks stress book shufflin$! which presu ably akes for ore cine atic interest than infor ation e<pertise. Library workers ay retrie"e or return or e"en check out books! and that probably confir s what the audience i a$ines as -library work.- +ence! tasks on the le"el of library workers are ore likely depicted than duties of librarians! as in -Iou,rea Ci$ Coy How- and -8oodbye! Colu bus-. ?@a$e )0? FEMALE LIBRARIANS Wo en co pose the a=ority of both real and reel librarians! and how o"ies "iew wo en has doubtlessly been "ery influential on the librarian stereotype. To ;uote fro -The Gole of Wo en in the Mo"ies-! -The o"ies not only reflected but profoundly influenced our perception of the role of wo en in western society.- 9Janus /il s #%>%2 Wo en who are o"ie librarians ay appear as typical ro ance heroines. +owe"er! certain traits are do inant. Gecurrin$ characteristics include pri ness! intro"ersion! and se<ual an<iety! which are present in such fil s as -The Music Man-! -Violent Saturday-! 9Ma$ill,s #%**2 -Alice in Wonderland-! -Ad"enture-9#%>'2! -7t,s a Wonderful Life-! and -/oul @lay-. Cy contrast! atypical characteristics belon$ to librarians in -+a ett-! -Stor Center-! and -The Wicker Man-. /ew librarians are depicted as ne"er( arried! older wo en 9-old aids-2. This su$$ests o"ies seldo associate librarians with old aids. What one often finds as a nor is the youn$ aid (( an intro"erted but attracti"e librarian. Librarians are not supposed to be openly attracti"e or se<y! e"en if they are portrayed by such beautiful actresses as 8reer 8arson 9-Ad"enture-2. A tellin$ scene is found in -8ood Hews-! where June Allyson is workin$ her way throu$h colle$e in "arious odd =obs! includin$ -librarian.- 5pon dressin$ up she asks a $irlfriend for her reaction! and the friend responds about her -sure not lookin$ like a librarian-.

7n se"eral e<a ples a youn$ librarian is un arried when the story be$ins! but when the story ends arria$e is a ro antic prospect. Thus! -Ad"enture,s- reser"ed 8reer 8arson and $alli"antin$ Clark 8able fall in lo"e.9Ma$ill,s #%**2 Lo"e also brin$s a chan$e of attitude! as with Marian the Librarian 9Shirley Jones2 in -The Music Man-. The MDT7DH @7CT5GE 857AE states that lead Gobert @reston -chan$es Jones! nearin$ the a$e when she will be known as an old aid! into a radiant wo an passionately in lo"e with hi .-9Hash #%*'!)0'&2 Marian and her ilk =ust need certain circu stances to thaw the out of their old aidish condition. The ost lurid e<a ple of this is the adults(only -Alice in Wonderland-! in which Wonderland awakes the heroine fro se<ual repression to se<ual liberation. ?@a$e )#? The chan$e fro bein$ sin$le to that of ro antic in"ol"e ent is! therefore! likely to be acco panied by a transfor ation fro ti idity! se<ual repressi"eness and other -librarian- ;ualities to such healthy characteristics as asserti"eness and se<ual honesty. This $i"es an e<tra dra atic layer to the story and a re(definition to the character. Ioun$ fe ale librarians outnu ber iddle(a$ed to elderly fe ale librarians by a ratio of twel"e to fi"e. 9Martin #%*&! )6&2 Df the latter! two are incidental to the action 9-The +u an Co edy- and -Shadow of a Aoubt-2 and one is a heroic censorship(fi$htin$ character portrayed by Cette Aa"is 9-Stor Center-2. -8hostbusters- parodies the older librarian stereotype! while -7t,s A Wonderful Life- pities it. MALE LIBRARIANS 7n the o"ies sa pled fe ale librarians out nu ber ale librarians by a ar$in of ei$hteen to twel"e. 7n actuality about four out of fi"e librarians are wo en. 9Martin #%*&! )6&2 Ge"iewers, ter s used to describe ale librarians are -fussy and ti id- 9-Murder! She Said-2!98ill #%')! Variety "ol. #0! Ma$ill,s #%**2 -poor- 9-Dnly Two Can @lay-2! 9:auff an #%')! Ma$ill,s #%**2 and -respectable-9-Their Last Hi$ht-2.9Ma$ill,s #%**2 The ter s do not describe a +ollywood action hero or atinee idol. The ale librarian is not a pri"ate eye! cowboy! ad"enturer! or soldier. 7n the eyes of +ollywood ale librarians don,t display the stereotypical acho characteristics of audacity! rebelliousness! and physical prowess! but rather such opposite 9fe inineJ2 ;ualities as ildness! ci"ility! and intelli$ence. @robably! because of the nature of their =ob! work in a library ore likely draws on intellectual characteristics! such as knowled$e of cri e in -Murder! She Said-. Dn occasion knowled$e ay "eer into eccentricity! as with the -oddball curator of rare books- 9Variety "ol.#02 in -Iou,re a Ci$ Coy How-. Ho e<a ple of a youn$ ale librarian was identified a on$ the thirty o"ies studied! but there were four e<a ples of non(professional library workers who were both youn$ and ale

?@a$e ))? ((-8oodbye! Colu bus-! -Dff Ceat-! -Iou,re a Ci$ Coy How-! and -Mind :iller-. A on$ the ei$ht ale librarian e<a ples! three were elderly 9-7t +appened To orrow-! -The Dffsprin$-! and -Murder! She Said-2. 7n the first instance the character,s a$e akes plausible his death! a key resolution to the plot. 7n the second o"ie! the librarian,s a$e adds authority to his knowled$e of his town,s history. The knowled$eable librarian in -Murder! She Said- was played by the then si<ty(si< year(old actor Strin$er Aa"is. Aoubtlessly because of his iddle(a$e! the -hu ble little librarian- of -Dnly Two Can @lay- suffers the se"en year itch. +e ay be the ale counterpart of the fe ale librarian stereotype characteri.ed by se<ual repressi"eness! that associate of spinsterhood. +e is also "irtually the only ale librarian who is arried. All in all there appears to be no a$eist stereotype ai ed at ale librarians. Whether there is an e;ui"alent -old aidlabel for the is too proble atic to con=ecture. VILLAINS VS HEROES Librarians ha"e not been portrayed as downri$ht "illains. The closest e<a ple is -Their Last Hi$ht-! where the librarian i a$e is =ust that (( the prota$onist is really a aster thief. 9Ma$ill,s #%**2 The librarian is a petty thief in -Violent Saturday-! while in -8oodbye! Colu bus- the racis of a librarian is re"ealed throu$h his pre=udice toward a black child. +u or deflates the onstrous $host librarian of -8hostbusters-! and the library worker transfor ed into a onster in -Mind :iller- is too outra$eous to be a serious "illain. The nu ber of $ood or cri e(fi$htin$ librarians far outwei$hs the bad. Many are acti"ely on the side of oral ri$ht 9-Stor Center-! -The Music Man-2 or of the law 9-Dff Ceat-! -Murder! She Said-! -/oul @lay-! -+a ett- and others2. Dne of the ost notable e<a ples of the librarian as hero is in -So ethin$ Wicked This Way Co es-. @layed by Jason Gobards Jr.! the librarian is iddle(a$ed and bookish. +is relation with his son is strained by a sense of past sha e because! unable to ?@a$e )&? swi ! he helplessly watched the boy nearly drown in a lake. +e redee s hi self on se"eral le"els throu$h confrontin$ the e"il Mr. Aark in the library and rescuin$ his son fro a sinister carni"al. +e is a flawed but reco$ni.able hero. Librarians are nearly twice as likely to be a=or rather than inor characters! but they are usually not heroes or heroines in the classic sense. They are a"era$e people cau$ht up in circu stances that ay be dra atic! ysterious! or hu orous. COMEDY

Co edy is as i portant as dra a in what it tells about stereotypes. 7t offers an alternati"e world "iew that throu$h both e<a$$eration and o"ersi plification can be re"elatory about the ways that people see others. As entioned earlier! fil akers caricature the old( aid i a$e in -8hostbusters-. They play with the sheltered or eek aspects in -/oul @lay-! -Dnly Two Can @lay-! -Dff Ceatand -Alice in Wonderland-. 7n each of these the character under$oes an appropriate transfor ation of self(reali.ation by the end. Si ilarly! the innocence of a library worker is transfor ed by e<perience in -Iou,re a Ci$ Coy How-! a co ic bildun$sro an. A librarian,s =ob ay be the basis for a co ic situation. 7n -Aesk Set- the hu or results when a co puter that is introduced into an office settin$ affects those who do the work of a co puter (( that is! the librarians. MYSTERY AND THRILLERS Librarians are relati"ely well(represented in this area. 7n ysteries and thrillers librarians are either in"ol"ed in the solution of a ystery! $i"e clues! or perpetrate a cri e. E<a ples of the first cate$ory are -Web of E"idence-! 9Ma$ill,s #%**2 -+a ett-! -/oul @lay-! -They Mi$ht Ce 8iants- and -Murder! She Said-. Dnly in this last o"ie do librarian skills contribute to a solutionK the librarian,s readin$ 9a beni$n stereotype2 has ade hi an e<pert on cri e. Librarians as clue($i"ers appear in -All the @resident,s Men- and -Shadow of a Aoubt-. 7n the first an unseen Library of ?@a$e )6? Con$ress librarian on a telephone relates an i portant piece of infor ation about a patron! and then (( as an apparent e ber of a conspiracy ((disclai s her knowled$e. Likewise obstructi"e is Shadow,s passi"e and reluctant public librarian! who is ore interested in closin$ the library on ti e than allowin$ a patron to search throu$h a newspaper. As perpetrators the "illainies of librarians ha"e already been entioned in the thrillers -Their Last Hi$ht- and -Violent Saturday-. Another thriller! -The Wicker Man-! depicts a librarian participatin$ in sacrificial pa$an cere onies. FANTASY The stereotype is not especially rele"ant to fantasy! but the occupation does ha"e so e i portance to the plot in se"eral o"ies. 7ts presence in -7t +appened To orrow-! -The Dffsprin$- and -+orror of Aracula- has already been discussed. 7n -Mind :iller- the leadin$ character! a library worker! beco es an accessor of infor ation with a "en$eance when he transfor s into a ind(controllin$ creature. Si ilarly! librarians are portrayed as $hosts in the abo"e( entioned -7t +appened To orrow- and -8hostbusters-. 7n the

latter! not only does the library settin$ call for a librarian! but the stern and -shushin$stereotype is cle"erly allied with the i plicit authoritarian fear it e"okes. CONCLUSION What is the portrayal that +ollywood both acknowled$es and a plifiesJ At best! reel librarians are people worth respectin$! and e"en at their worst they are represented by character or physical li itations rather than oral turpitude. Adultery! cri e! and bi$otry ay be ascribed to a few of the librarians! but this is ore the result of an indi"idual role than a stereotype. A o"ie librarian is fre;uently fe ale! and she is likely to be intro"erted! un arried! pri ! shy and youn$. 7n "iew of the traditional old aid label! it is ironic that appearance per se is not dia$nostic of a librarian! for such youn$ and physically ?@a$e )1? attracti"e stars as 8reer 8arson! 8oldie +awn and Shirley Jones were cast as librarian characters. This study has found that the old aid i a$e is unco on! but attributes such as ti idity and drabness are pre"alent. Mo"ies are ore likely to stereotype wo en librarians! but the roles for wo en are ore nu erous and ore i portant than for en. 7n addition! a heroic character such as the anti(censorship librarian in -Stor Center- is worth a do.en of -8hostbusters-, librarian spook. Iet the =ud$e ents about wo en librarians are nastier. E<plicit and i plicit characteri.ations in o"ies like -8hostbusters-! -7t,s a Wonderful Life-! -/oul @lay-! -The Music Man-! and -Alice in Wonderland- reinforce in their own way the fate(worse( than(death "iew of wo en who are librarians. The +ollywood(created librarian is connected with the +ollywood(created wo an! and it ay be that the fe inist awakenin$ in the #%'0s has had an influence! thou$h this study has detected nothin$ concrete. Like the public opinion they reflect! the o"ies in this sa ple dra ati.e the librarian stereotype with a i<ture of =ud$e ental attitudes! fro beni$n associations! such as readin$! to unflatterin$ ones! such as ti idity. The stereotype of the librarian is not uni;ue to one $enre or to a particular era! and it has not chan$ed uch in +ollywood fil s. Hor does it appear that the stereotype will "anish! as is e"ident in #%%),s -The 8un in Cetty Lou,s +andba$-. 7n the fil s of the future it is likely the celluloid librarians of the past and present will continue to perfor their pri work. ?@a$e )'? REFERENCES
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Stephen Walker is Catalog Librarian, and V. Lonnie Lawson is Reference Librarian at Ward Edwards Library, Central Missouri State ni!ersity. ?@a$e )*? Cack to "#O# Table of Contents Cack to MC Journal +o epa$e.
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