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Francis Clara Censordoll, censorship, and the non-neutrality of librarians

Censordoll literally dipping a “bad” book in kerosene, so it can be burned, in the show’s first episode!

Francis Clara Censordoll is the town librarian (voiced by David Herman and Jay Johnston), employed at the Thomas Bowdler Library in the town of Moralton, the capital of the imaginary state of Statesota (in the Western part of what we would call Missouri) in the series Moral Orel. She sounds like a someone who literally violates existing library codes of ethics, with the fandom site for the show calling her “a puritanical individual who spends her time censoring and destroying books she considers immoral ,” with the initials of her name being FCC, protesting in front of the local movie theater, and will even violate her “code of ethics” if it gets her what she want. The same fandom site describes her as the “main antagonist of the show,” is one of two female characters, in the show, “to be voiced by a man,” and may have “otherworldy abilities.” Since she appears in 11 episodes, [1] I thought it would be worthwhile to do a post about this, to review it as a whole, as it also debunks, in a lot of ways, that librarians are “neutral,” as libraries are not neutral spaces in any way, shape, or form.

In the show’s first episode, “The Lord’s Greatest Gift,” she is protesting The Wizard of Oz in front of the movie theater. Orel and his friend go to the library, which has the motto of “purifying literaure since 1818,” they talk to her and she is making a list of special books (like Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451NecronomiconHow Stell Got Her Goove Back, and others) to burn, dipping them in karosene. She says the books teach us “too much.” Of couse, Orel grabs one of the books, causing the rest to fall on a little girl nearby who is also at the library. He gets the idea to dig up some dead people as he reads the Necronomicon, with his friend Doughy helping him. She is later shown burning a bunch of “bad” books in a bible, and says she will only burn the “Jewish parts” of the Bible.

In the show’s fifth episode “The Blessed Union,” the fifth episode of the series, Orel visits Censordoll in the library, asking her about what makes a woman happy and she says this is junk, saying she will picket in front of the church in protest. Then, in the show’s 10th episode, “The Best Christmas Ever,” she is protesting in front of the movie theater, which is showing It’s A Wonderful Life, chanting with two others: “everytime you hear a bell, an angel burns in hell.” In the first episode of the show’s second season, in the episode “God’s Image,” Censordoll is on the town council, complaining that the Figurellis would want their separate book burnings. Later, the segregation of them reaches such a level that someone torches their house. Orel’s father says he has made it inconvient for the racists by segregating them, with the segregation of the Figurellis coming an end. In the episode “Offensiveness,” Mr. Sal Figurelli, who runs the corner store, worries about Censordoll, as she likes her eggs a specific way and is very picky about them. Apparently its the only thing she eats! Yikes. She says eggs are one of life’s only pleasures, apart from protesting, picketing, and purifying. She then threatens Sal, saying he is safe from her “moral sanction” for now.

So, Orel decides to spend more time at the library, sees that Censordoll is writing signs for a Saturday picket at the movie theater against The Greatest Story Ever Told. Later, she takes the books out of his hand (Understanding the Human Body, The Little Prince, The Planet of the Apes, and Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species), putting them in a metal barrel with the label “BOOK DEPOSITORY.” While he is a bit terrified by this, she gives him a pickled egg. He goes to the picket that Saturday and finds out that Censordoll is 40 years old (even though she looks older) as that is her birthday. They proceed to picket a Blood Bank, a Coffee Shop, and a Protestant hospital. Orel is so caught up with the crowd Censordoll has cultivated that he even pickets, with others, at Sal’s corner store, and as a result, a resolution is passed which outlaws all eggs in the town! Censordoll later sneaks in somewhere (a club-like atmosphere in a barn) so she can eat some eggs.

Censordoll writes a picket sign in the episode “Offensiveness”

She later appears in the episodes “Be Fruitful and Multiply” (at the church) and  “Geniusis.” In the latter she is part of the mob that goes after the “missing link” monkey which gets frozen in ice. Later, she appears in the episodes “Orel’s Movie Premiere” watching Orel’s new movie. In “Alone,” we finally see Censordoll in her apartment, with a fridge filled with nothing but eggs! She also is scheming to gain more power in the town, even with a diorama of the whole town. She talks to her mother angrily, blaming her for not raising her right, and saying she is not holier-than-thou but is holier than her. Censordoll lives in an apartment complex with other “spinsters” called The Aloneford. She later declares she is the “matriarch of Moralton” as she rubs a church steeple, in her diorama, in a phallic way.

In another episode, “Help,” there is a flashback to Censordoll when she is younger, with Orel’s mother, Roberta, embarassed by Orel who declares she will never get married. Later, Roberta and Clay get to know each other better, with Robert conjoling Clay into marrying her. The final episode she appears in is “Nesting,” which begins with her. There is a flashback to three months before, with a protest against eggs in front of Sal’s corner shop, which Censordoll is part of. It turns out that Orel’s dad, Clay, is the mayor of the town and he isn’t so sure about getting rid of eggs, pulling out a note from his desk with a warning from her saying that if eggs are outlawed than his days in office are numbered. In the present, Censordoll begins a campaign for mayor to legalize eggs in the town, able to use her skills to brainwash Orel into joining her in this effort.

Orel becomes Censordoll’s campaign manager, annoying Clay, who usually runs unopposed in the race for Mayor. He calls Censordoll a “mad woman” and at the debate, he says he only banned the “inhuman” eggs, the “vile” ones, not all eggs. Censordoll concedes to her “worthy opponent” and says she has no business to run for office “when there are books to burn,” telling Orel to see her at the library. Clay tries to make up with Orel, but it goes badly, with Clay ultimately saying he is “glad” he shot him! Oh no. The episode ends with Censordoll and Clay (who was about to kiss Daniel Stopframe), with Censordoll beginning her manipulation of Clay. The fandom page for Censordoll says her character would have been explored more with an affair between Clay in a fourth season. That would have added another interesting plot thread, to say the least.

Censordoll campaigns for mayor. I think this scene is definitely a reference to the famous scene in Citizen Kane, but that’s only my theory.

Censordoll has been described as “the uptight town librarian…on a loopy parade of ridiculous rants,” “intolerant librarian,” and she censors all, as implied from her name, and although she works as an “agent of repression she is more than willing to engage in acts that suit her needs, whether that be seducing the mayor or gaining access to the object(s) of her obsession.” Others call her a puritanical woman who spends her time censoring and destroying books that she deems immoral, a barren librarian, a “book-burning librarian,” and a library whose “job is to protect children from ‘filthy thoughts’.”

Clearly she fulfills library stereotypes, especially when it comes being puritanical, punitive, and unattractive, to summarize the stereotypes section of the Librarians in popular culture Wikipedia page. While she is middle-aged, bun-wearing, and “comfortably shod,” she is not a “shushing librarian” that Gretchen Keer wrote about in 2015 for American Libraries. The town itself is a place where “religion and rules reign supreme and the appearance of piety,” as one blogger points out, and Censordoll is no “wayward librarian.” Rather she is a central part of the town’s moral fabric. Not only is she anything but neutral, but she is a contradiction in and of itself. Of course, other shows should not follow the example of Censordoll and have librarians like her, who are literally villainous and brainwash people. However, there should be librarians who are shown to not be not neutral, but are rather active proponents of change, or alternatively supporting the status quo, as both could engender interesting discussion when it comes to the role of librarians in society.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] “The Best Christmas Ever,” “The Lord’s Greatest Gift,” “The Blessed Union,” “God’s Image,” “Offensiveness,” “Be Fruitful and Multiply,” “Geniusis,” “Orel’s Movie Premiere,” “Alone,” “Help,” and “Nesting.”

By histhermann

Marylander with MLIS who loves archives, libraries, genealogy, reviewing pop culture, and writing fictional stories. UMD '19 & SMCM '16 grad. I've been running various WordPress blogs for a while now, about genealogy, libraries, archives, and more.

8 replies on “Francis Clara Censordoll, censorship, and the non-neutrality of librarians”

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