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The bun-wearing librarian shusher and romance in the library

Scenes with the librarian in the middle and end of an episode of “Boyfriends.”

As I’ve noted on this blog before, shushing librarians is one of the most prevalent stereotypes of librarians in animated series, and in other popular culture media more broadly. As I moved this blog slowly away from a focus on animated series and more into a focus on webcomics, I came across, back in June, an issue of one of my favorite webcomics, Boyfriends, centered around a polyamorous quad of four male students, which focuses on love in the library. Now, astute readers may remember that I have covered this subject over, over, and over again. Unlike those examples, the episode of Boyfriends seems to say the librarian either dislikes romance or perhaps is homophobic herself, but less so than the character at a bloodbank in Hey, I’m Gay, who wouldn’t accept the blood of the protagonist because he was gay, claiming it was because gay people have HIV/AIDs, even though dominant mode of spread is through spread among heterosexual people. So, that made this a little more interesting, for that reason.

In this comic, Nerd bumps into Prep in the library, flirting with him, asking why he is there, with Prep saying he is studying his books, and then… he is shushed by the librarian! He apologizes to her, saying he will try to be quieter, and they go up to the third floor since that part of the library is usually empty, where it won’t bother anyone else. Nerd is impressed at his studiousness, and he says he is doing it because his parents like him to keep a high GPA. Nerd later talks about the pressure he is under having a double-major. They later study together for his upcoming test, and ended up flirting instead. That’s about it.

While some in the comments came outright and said the librarian was homophobic, one commenter, SexiLexi89, who called themselves a “queer library tech,” commented “I think you’d have a harder time finding a librarian that acts like this than a librarian that would encourage the gay flirting” while another said the librarian is jealous, saying she needs a girlfriend, or called the librarian’s shushing “regular librarian behaviour.” Others described the librarian as “pretty,” “cute,” guessed the librarian ships Nerd and Prep, or even sympathized with the librarian! Another wished the librarian existed “outside the stereotypes,” which is something I was thinking too.

A quote from her January 2020 article, “The History and Debunking of Librarian Stereotypes,” which I have cited on this blog before.

Other than knowing they may have been loud, we can’t see the incident from the librarian’s perspective, so we can’t exactly know what is going on in her mind. So, it is probably a stretch too far to say she is homophobic, although she shouldn’t have shushed them. What none of the commenters pointed out is how the librarian completely fits the spinster librarian stereotype. Librarians which fit this stereotype are portrayed as sexually undesirable, uptight (and possibly skinny) women, usually who are old, like to enforce rules, dress conservatively, have a bun hairstyle, are portrayed as unattractive. She isn’t a background character like the spinster librarians in Futurama, as harsh as the unnamed librarian in DC Super Hero Girls, as un-helpful as Madame Nu in Star Wars (really an archivist), or as elderly as the librarian snatched in the first episode of Zevo-3. She is just like the spinster librarians, in terms of some of qualities, as those in Teenage Mother, Ironweed (although not as helpful as her), The Philadelphia Story, Boston Blackie, Ghostbusters, and It’s A Wonderful Life which Jennifer Snoek-Brown analyzed on her blog, Reel Librarians, to give some examples.

That’s all for this week. Until next week!

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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.

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