I’ve been meaning to post this for a long time, ever since I watched Heathers a few weeks ago. I haven’t had the time, so here’s hoping that this goes as well as it did in my head when it first appeared there.
That’s So Jacob Presents:
Pop Culture Showdown
Episode 3: “So How Does That Make You Feel?”
One role that is seen often in movies and television shows is that of the school guidance counselor. Usually, it’s a middle-aged hippie-dippie chick with glasses on a chain around her neck and a collection of peasant blouses, dashikis, and ombre skirts. She is never the center of attention, but in some cases, plays a pivotal role in a subplot or as a supporting character. She’s usually never even thought about, so here’s her chance to shine.
Arguably the two most famous I’m-not-a-therapist-but-I-play-one-on-screen characters are the loopy Pauline Fleming in Heathers, and bulletproof Sue Snell in Carrie. (One could argue for Tina Fey’s character in Mean Girls, but then again, Mrs. Norbury was a math teacher who only acted as a schoolwide therapist.)
Originally Portrayed By:
Pauline: Penelope Milford. She was 40 years old when she landed the role. She got her start on Broadway at the age of 24, and soon transitioned over to TV and movies. Milford had a breakthrough as Vi Munson in Coming Home, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress) in 1978. Curiously, she has been off the screen since 1997, when she was in Night Lawyers. She currently lives in Saugerties, New York, and apparently does very little acting.
Sue: Amy Irving. This is a bit of an interesting one, because she didn’t become a guidance counselor until Carrie 2, but acted as Carrie’s understanding friend (and only friend) in the original. She was a 23-year-old high school student in Carrie and one of the few survivors of the town, only to meet her unfortunate and grisly demise in Carrie 2, which was filmed in 1999 when she was 45 years old. Was also nominated for an Academy Award (also Best Supporting Actress) in 1983, for one of her other famous roles, Hadass in Yentl. She’s done a considerable amount of acting, and hosted the Tony Awards with Anthony Hopkins in 1994. She lives in New York City, and is still active, recently appearing on The Good Wife.
Connection with Suicide
Pauline: Warning: Unhealthy Obsession. Uses it as a weapon to get what she wants from the students as a guidance counselor.
Sue: After main character Rachel’s best friend Lisa commits suicide, Rachel goes to Sue for guidance, and in one of their meetings, shatters a glass globe on Sue’s desk, both alarming her and reminding her of Carrie White (honestly, I’m not sure no day went by when she hadn’t thought about Carrie). This leads her to believe that Rachel has telekinetic powers just like Carrie, and might have some sort of other connection to her, and basically launches the whole plot.
Pauline: “Whether to kill yourself or not is the most important decision a teenager can make.” Wait – what? Someone is paying this woman to counsel high school students?
Sue: “I had a traumatic experience in high school. I tried to help someone, and it backfired horribly.” Well, that’s an understatement if I ever heard one.
Best Animated GIF:
Pauline: Not a lot of them; this one’s pretty much it.
Sue: Again, there aren’t a lot of images out there from Carrie 2, or at least not of Sue Snell. This might be the only one, and I’m not even sure it’s from Carrie 2.
Is She Actually Helpful?
Sue: Yes, but she dies before she can be that much help.
Although Sue is definitely better at her job, I think Pauline Fleming is just such a funnier character. Call me crazy, but I’m picking her.