"I feel that I would kill myself before ever teaching again. If I had only reached out to that girl, if only, if only…"-(Carrie Novel)
Rita L. Desjardin also known as Miss Desjardin, is a character from Stephen King's Carrie. She was the young, attractive and lively physical education teacher at Ewen High School in the town of Chamberlain, Maine.
"Miss Desjardin, their slim, nonbreasted gym teacher, stepped in, craned her neck around briefly, and slapped her hands together once, smartly. “What are you waiting for, Carrie? Doom? Bell in five minutes.” Her shorts were blinding white, her legs not too curved but striking in their unobtrusive muscularity. A silver whistle, won in college archery competition, hung around her neck. "-(Carrie Novel)
"When the girls were gone to their second period classes, and the bell had been silenced (several of them had slipped quietly out the back door before Miss Desjardin could begin to take names), Miss Desjardin employed the standard tactic for hysterics: She slapped Carrie smartly across the face. She hardly would have admitted the pleasure the act gave her, and she certainly would have denied that she regarded Carrie as a fat, whiny bag of lard. A first-year teacher, she still believed that she thought all children were good. Carrie looked up at her dumbly, face still dispassionately oblivious. "Get up and tend to yourself Carrie". "I'm bleeding to death!" Carrie screamed, and one blind, searching hand came up and clutched Miss Desjardin's white shorts. It left a bloody handprint. The gym teacher's face contorted into a pucker of disgust, and she suddenly hurled away and Carrie came stumbling, to her feet. "Get over there!" Miss Desjardin yelled. Carrie stood swaying between the showers and the wall with its dime sanitary-napkin dispenser, slumped over, breasts pointing at the floor, her arms dangling limply. She looked like an ape. Her eyes were shiny and blank. "Now", Miss Desjardin said with hissing, deadly emphasis, "you take one of those napkins out ... no, never mind the coin slot, it's broken anyway... take one and... damn it, will you do it! You act as if you never had a period before." "Period?" Carrie said. Her expression of complete unbelief was too genuine, too full of dumb and hopeless horror, to be ignored or denied. A terrible and black foreknowledge grew in Rita Desjardin's mind. It was incredible, how could it be? She herself had begun menstruation shortly after her eleventh birthday and had gone to the head of the stairs to yell down excitedly: 'Hey, Mum, I'm on the rag!' "Carrie?" she said softly. She advanced toward the girl. Carrie flinched away. At the same instant, a rack of softball bats in the corner fell over with a large, echoing bang. They rolled every which way, making Desjardin jump. "Carrie, is this your first period?" But now that the thought had been admitted, she hardly had to ask. The blood was dark and flowing with terrible heaviness. Both of Carrie's legs were smeared and splattered with it, as though she had waded through a river of blood. "What's a period, oh my stomach hurts, I have cramps". Carrie groaned. "That passes", Miss Desjardin said. Pity and self-shame met in her and mixed uneasily. "-(Carrie Novel)
In the novel Miss Desjardin is in her first year as a gym teacher and therefore receives a little guidance from the Vice Principal Mr. Morton. As the story begins, Rita at first feels the same disgust everyone feels for Carrie White. 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 and realises that Carrie didn't even know what a period was, she takes her side. She wants to punish the girls, that taunted her by having them suspended for three days and banned from the 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, who is also her father, threatens to sue, unless Chris is allowed to attend the prom and Desjardin is fired.
At the prom, she talks with Carrie about her own prom night. She was several inches taller than her date and felt awkward, but she still remembers it as a beautiful event and later congratulates her for being voted Prom Queen. Chris has rigged a cord connected to two buckets above Carrie and Tommy, and pulls it, when they ascend the stage, drenching them with pigs' blood. Everyone laughs and Miss Desjardin gets influenced by the laughing. She tries to hide it in front of Carrie, but to no avail as Carrie used her telepathic abilities to read her true thoughts. Miss Desjardin later partially ceases to laugh and goes over to Carrie, who pushes her aside with her incredibly strong telekinesis, because Carrie knew that deep inside she was also laughing by telepathically reading her mind. Once outside, Carrie uses her telekinetic ability to wreak havoc on the school, then leaves for home, destroying everything she passes. Miss Desjardin is one of the few survivors of the "Black Prom", who managed to escape in the nick of time. Two weeks after the catastrophe, she retires from teaching, saying, she is consumed with guilt over Carrie and secretly because of the behavior she showed at the Black Prom and to which she is sure, that it contributed to Carrie´s rampage and also states, that she would rather commit suicide than teach again.
It is implied she constantly has nightmares since then because of what happened.
Rita Desjardin in the novel is far darker than in the movies. She has, like the other girls, a similar behaviour towards Carrie. Only after the shower incident she begins to warm up to Carrie's loneliness. Even then she punishes the girls only to clean her conscience regarding the slapping so that she could still continue to hate her. That´s why, when Carrie becomes the victim of that evil prank, she also laughs instead of helping her and Tommy, for which she had a duty under these circumstances and that´s why she resigns as a teacher after the disaster, because she knows she is guilty and feels regret about what had happened and it is this guilt, that later consumes her, because she should have known better and because of the horrible consequences of her own mean behavior, which also nearly did cost her own life. In her letter of resignation she doesn´t mention it, but it is implied in the words "if only, if only...".
In the 1976 film
Miss Desjardin's character was renamed "Miss Collins", and was portrayed by Betty Buckley.
She is one of the first characters to show kindness towards Carrie; by prompting the other girls to pass the ball over to her. During the shower scene, the light bulb bursts (caused by Carrie's power, as she is scared). Miss Collins tells the girl's how upset and angry she is with them. She makes them all do a week long, boot camp style detention to serve as a punishment. When Chris Hargenson says, she isn't going to, Miss Collins slaps her and kicks her out of prom.
Later on, Miss Collins sees an upset Carrie and asks her, what's wrong and tells her, how pretty she is and raises her hopes of finding someone. She finds Sue distrustful about wanting Carrie at the prom and tells them off and warns them not to hurt her.
At the prom, Miss Collins shares her prom story with Carrie and the two hug. Miss Collins is later seen at the coronation of the Prom King and Queen. She spots Sue, who tries to warn her about the bucket, and kicks Sue out of the gym. When the blood is poured, Miss Collins has tears in her eyes. When Carrie in her insanity sees everyone laughing at her, she sees Miss Collins laughing and saying 'Trust me Carrie, you can trust me' during the classic prom scene. Carrie kills Miss Collins by hitting her in the stomach by a falling ceiling rafter.
In the 2002 filmIn the 2002 version, Rita is portrayed by Rena Sofer and her name is spelled "Desjarden".
Miss Desjarden is a bit rougher than Miss Collins in the original. She witnesses how Morton’s desk moved five inches after the shower incident, when Carrie was in the room. 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 to sue 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, for Tommy´s death and for the following laughter, Miss Desjarden sends two students to carry Tommy’s body and leads an escape through a vent (instead of the fire doors, as in the book). She saves ten students and is the last one to leave and has to see, how objects are moving in an unexplainable way through the air and the gym. She is nearly electrocuted, but survives it.
She reports the events to Detective John Mulchaey (David Keith), when interrogated about it, revealing him her suspicion on the way, that Carrie had telekinetic powers based on what she once saw on Morton´s office and what she had to see during the Black Prom and also implying, that she must have caused the disaster through her telekinesis in vengeance for what happened. Still there is no anger in her expression for what Carrie did, when she told this to the detective.
It was implied she would be a part in the TV series, which never materialized because of the low ratings of the TV-movie.
In the 2013 film
Miss Desjardin was portrayed by Judy Greer.
Her lines were similar to Betty's lines in the original. Miss Desjardin is first seen telling the ladies to get their caps on and get in the water to play pool volleyball. She is then seen trying to calm down Carrie and slaps her to get sense back into her. She then brings Carrie to the office. Later on, she punishes Chris and the rest of the girls via detention and kicks Chris out of the prom and suspends her, when she doesn´t want to submit to the detention. When she finds out about the Sue´s and Tommy´s intentions about Carrie, she warns them not to play a joke on Carrie, similar to the original version. She later tells Carrie, how beautiful she is and tells her, what she can wear at the prom. Miss Desjardin is at the prom dancing and talks to Carrie. Later, after Carrie is humiliated, Miss Desjardin tries to reach out to Carrie, but Carrie pushes her to the ground. Miss Desjardin is seen watching in shock, when she witnesses Tommy´s death and then in horror as Tina literally burns to death. Before Carrie electrocutes the people in the gym, she grabs Miss Desjardin by the throat in a choke-hold and throws her to the stage, away from the wet gym floor, thus saving her from death. She later looks in disbelief, shock and surprise, when she sees Carrie flying towards the exit after that.
She is last seen outside the gym with other survivors near her, wearing a cast on her arm and looking severely traumatized and guilt-ridden, while she silently tells Sue, who goes to her, that Tommy is dead. She then watches Sue go away in direction of Carrie.