Janitors have an often hidden role to play in keeping the world running. Perhaps this is why they are such ever-present figures in modern fictional portrayals of workplaces and schools. There have been some beloved fictional janitorial staff over the years. Here are a few of the best.
Filch – Harry Potter
The early Harry Potter books largely comprised of the titular main character exploring the magical school of Hogwarts late at night – often shrouded by his father’s invisibility cloak. His main adversary in this late-night exploratory action was the jobsworth janitor of the school – Filch. J.K Rowling isn’t known for writing particularly convincing character studies, but filch was a masterpiece. His grumpy, by-the-books attitude and extreme devotion to his foul cat made him a wonderful foil for the young Potter.
The Janitor – Scrubs
The Janitor was a staple character in the long-running comic serial Scrubs, appearing in 166 episodes. His character was a foil for the soft-hearted main character J.D. The Janitor – who is never named – spends most of his time ruthlessly plotting J.D’s downfall. His ruthless, misanthropic attitude made him one of the fans’ favorite characters during the show’s long run. As a plot device, The Janitor acted as an imperiling factor – able to offer a surprise problem to the main characters no matter how comfortable the plot appeared to be.
God – Bruce Almighty
Morgan Freeman looks after a warehouse building – and a whole lot more – as God in the 2003 film Bruce Almighty. Freeman was a wonderful, laconic God. He played the almighty king of heaven with a droll, infinitely wise atmospheric tough. Freeman was well received in this role and received several similar roles as all-knowing yet mysteriously low-ranking characters. Freeman’s role opened up some debate over the perceived appearances of divine figures – as evidenced in this 2003 New York Times article written by Samuel G Freedman. The casting of a black man as God was a significant aesthetic choice in a country still haunted by racism that permeated almost every industry and facet of society.
Wall-E – Wall-E
Pixar’s beautiful and heart-wrenching space portrait of a robot in love follows Wall-E: a mechanical janitor. Wall-E is mute, but the animation team at Pixar managed to convey a huge range of emotions expressed by the diminutive custodian using clever suggestive movements. We don’t quite have robotic janitorial staff yet, but high-tech cleaning companies are making use of emerging technologies like drones during the completion of commercial contracts.
Grounds Keeper Willie – The Simpsons
Quite possibly, the greatest fictional depiction of a janitor comes in the form of the foul-mouthed highlander Willie from The Simpsons. Willie is a constant presence in Springfield Elementary. Ever ready to be greased up in pursuit of a dog, he dreams of owning a ‘crystal slop bucket’.
Willie is written as a foil for both the tricksy Bart Simpson and for the infantile, straight-laced Principal Seymour Skinner. With his red hair and stooping hunch, Willie is instantly recognizable.