What do Community, Episodes, and Parks and Recreation all have in common? Besides being popular sitcoms, these shows have all got something to say about librarians. Let's take a look at the way that each of these shows has portrayed librarians and librarian stereotypes in recent episodes.
First up is NBC's Community. Take a look at the opening scene of the show's recent Valentine's Day episode:
How many librarian tropes did you find within the first 30 seconds of the episode? Lots, right? We've got the sexy librarian, Mariah, a conventionally attractive white woman with glasses, a pencil behind her ear, and professional dress paired with a low-cut top. Then we've got Troy and Abed, who attempt to catch her eye by yelling "books!" across the room. Because in order to attract a librarian, you just need to have a vague interest in books? In a short amount of time, Community has managed to create a character that is oversimplified and all too familiar.
Next, we've got a scene from the Showtime sitcom Episodes. This show is about a British couple who travel to Hollywood to remake a series that they had much success with in Britain. This scene features character Morning Randolph being dressed for her role as a librarian in the TV show:
"No one ever stopped watching a TV show because the librarian looked too hot." Oh, geez. Is this scene reinforcing the sexy librarian stereotype, or is it commenting on the fact that the sexy librarian stereotype is kind of ridiculous and not based in reality? A little of both, perhaps? The costume designer seems very satisfied with his ability to dress a librarian for TV, and he has appeared to master the sexy librarian look with no problem at all: attractive white woman, glasses, hair in a bun, cleavage...and look! In the picture to your left, she's even doing the librarian shush! But Beverly, one of the show's creators, isn't so happy. While I was hoping that Beverly's concerns might be with the sexist and shallow portrayal of Morning Randolph, it quickly becomes apparent that she's just worried about vaginas.
Let's change gears and look at a librarian that I, along with Ron Swanson, am still trying to figure out. Here's Tammy Swanson of Parks and Recreation, on a recent episode called Ron and Tammy, Part 2:
Tammy does have the glasses, but she seems to be more of a shrewish ex-wife archetype than a conventional TV librarian. She's Deputy Director of Library Services in Pawnee, but working in a library is not what defines her entire character. What do you think of Tammy? Is she reinforcing or helping to subvert librarian stereotypes on TV? Either way, she's definitely a hoot.
Have you seen other librarians on TV lately? Let us know in the comments!