Rita L. Desjardin best known as Miss Desjardin, is a major character in Stephen King's Carrie. She is the young, attractive and lively P.E. teacher at Ewen High School in the town of Chamberlain, Maine.
She was played by Betty Buckley in 1976, in 2002 by Rena Sofer and in 2013 by Judy Greer.
As the story begins, Rita secretly feels the same disgust everyone at the high school feels for Carrie White at first. However, when she witnesses Carrie being humiliated by the other girls in the locker room after gym class for her hysterical reaction at her first period, she realizes that Carrie is oblivious to what is happening to her, and gains her sympathy. Miss Desjardin wants to punish the girls that taunted her by having them suspended for three days and banned from the upcoming senior prom, but the principal settles on a lesser punishment: a week of boot-camp style detention in the gym; refusing to attend detention will result in suspension from school and banishment from the prom. In Desjardin's view, the only reason the administrators didn't go along with her proposed punishment is that they are all men, and thus didn't really understand just how nasty the girls' behavior had been. Lead bully Chris Hargensen skips the detention and thus is barred from the prom. The principal reprimands Desjardin for cursing at Chris, but stands by her when Chris's lawyer father threatens to sue unless Chris is allowed to attend the prom, unless Desjardin is fired from her job. Meanwhile, another girl who teased Carrie and was punished by Miss Desjardin, Sue Snell, feels remorse for her prior actions and has her boyfriend, Tommy Ross take Carrie to the prom as a way to make amends.
At the prom, Miss Desjardin talks with Carrie about her own prom night (her date was several inches shorter than her and how it felt awkward, but remembers it as a beautiful event) and later, congratulates her for being voted Prom Queen. As revenge from being banned from prom, Chris has secretly rigged a cord connected to two buckets hidden above the stage where Carrie and Tommy will sit on the thrones. When Chris pulls it both buckets tip over, drenching them with pigs' blood. Miss Desjardin, who still has traces of dislike towards Carrie, reflexively responds to the prank with general laughter with the others to the extent of ignoring Tommy, whose head was hit by one of the buckets that had fallen, knocking him unconscious and ultimately killing him. However, when she later sees, how Carrie is so humiliated to the point she attempts to run away, Miss Desjardin runs to help Carrie, who pushes her aside with her telekinesis, because she telepathically sees that deep down Miss Desjardin is still laughing. Once outside, Carrie uses her gift to wreak havoc on the school with the intention to kill everyone in the gymnasium, including Miss Desjardin and then leaves for home, destroying the entire town on the way. Miss Desjardin is one of the few survivors of the "Black Prom".
Two weeks after the disaster, and with 440 people dead, Rita retires from teaching for good, saying she is consumed with guilt for not doing more to help Carrie and that she would rather commit suicide than teach again. She also implies in her resignation letter, that she is horribly consumed with guilt for having laughed at Carrie at the prom after the cruel prank instead of helping her and Tommy, as she should have, which contributed to the disaster and hundreds of tragic deaths
In the 1976 film version of the novel, Miss Desjardin is renamed Miss Collins, and is portrayed by Betty Buckley. Unlike the character in the book, Miss Collins does not first experience revulsion toward Carrie, as she is suggesting in the beginning that the students pass the ball to Carrie in their volleyball game. After the locker room incident, she also punishes the girls, and when Chris argues with her during detention, Miss Collins slaps her and makes the infuriated Chris skip detention, thus being banned from prom. She becomes more sympathetic and attempts to help Carrie overcome her awkwardness when she realized Tommy asked her to prom, and reprimanded him and Sue for trying to do so. Miss Collins told Carrie that during her prom, her date was so tall that she had to wear high heels to look more presentable with him, and unfortunately she had to suffer by walking to prom when their vehicle broke down. Later, she is seen trying to move the unconscious Tommy, along with another teacher and three students, when Carrie, (who believes she was laughing at her, too, but this was only in her mind), pulls her across the floor and pins her against the wall. Miss Collins then screams, "Carrie!" to no avail. Carrie smashes a basketball rafter into her, crushing her pelvis and stomach area and killing her.
In the 2002 version, Rita is portrayed by Rena Sofer, but her name is spelled "Desjarden". After finding out that Chris and her top henchwoman, Tina Blake, compounded Carrie's locker-room humiliation by vandalizing her locker and filling it with tampons, an angry Desjarden hurls a bag full of tampons at them the next day. She then announces that they've been sentenced to a week of detention, telling that skipping the punishment would result in three days' suspension and banishment from the prom. Chris, refusing to take her punishment, storms out. The principal reprimands Desjarden for this, but stands by her when Chris's father threatens with a lawsuit unless Desjarden is fired.
At the prom, she talks to Carrie about her own prom date—in this version, she says her date carried a fake gun to imitate James Bond but he ended up arrested. As a result, she remained alone at the prom until her father came and took her home. She also tells Carrie that things change, and not always for the best: the pretty, popular girls will be fat, cute boys will be bald, and the miserable ones might have a happy life. When Carrie begins destroying the gym telekinetically, in revenge for being drenched in pigs' blood, Miss Desjarden sends two students to carry the dead Tommy and leads an escape through an air vent (rather than the fire doors, as in the book). She is the last one to leave to the gym and is nearly electrocuted, but survives and reports the events to Detective John Mulcahey (David Keith), revealing her conclusion that Carrie must have been behind the destruction. She harbors no ill will toward Carrie for what transpired at the prom.
In the 2013 version, Desjardin was played by Judy Greer. As in previous portrayals, she tries to sympathize and help her. During the event of Carrie destroying the prom, Carrie lifts Desjardin, while the electric wires mix with the water on the floor. Carrie then throws her to the side for safety.
Desjardin is last seen on scene by Sue as she is looking at everyone who survived while silently telling Sue that Tommy is dead. Desjardin's arm is in a sling and she is visibly shaken and guilt ridden by what has just transpired. This is the first adaption to use the name 'Desjardin'
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