‘Naughty Librarian’ character type summed up in an SNL skit

In last week’s post featuring the reel librarians program I recently presented at my college, I mentioned that a class of students were able to attend. The students were really engaged during the program and asked lots of questions. I’ve also enjoyed follow-up interactions from a few of those same students, who have been letting me know about how much more aware they are now of librarian portrayals. It is so true that when you start looking for librarians in film, you start seeing us EVERYWHERE.

‘The Librarian’ SNL skit:

A couple of students have even passed on additional movie or TV examples of reel librarians, including a Saturday Night Live skit Margot Robbie did a couple of years ago, a skit entitled “The Librarian.”

SNL's

SNL’s “The Librarian” skit, 2016

Click the images in the post to open up the video in a new window.

The concept of this skit, available on NBC’s Saturday Night Live site, is simple. Margot Robbie plays a school librarian, Ms. Dalton, complete with a pussy-bow blouse, cardigan, glasses, and bun. She confronts a bunch of male students drooling over her and begins to take her hair out (literally)… and then some. Things turn unnerving and horrifying very quickly, turning desire into distress. As The Independent noted at the time, “That ‘Ohhhhhhh yeeeeeeaaaaaah’ song you might remember from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (‘Oh Yeah’ by Yello) plays as Robbie starts to undress, but then things take a turn for the macabre.” The “Oh yeahs” morph into “Oh NOs!”

The ‘Naughty Librarian’ character type:

This skit lasts only 3 minutes and 5 seconds, but WOW is it spot-on, acknowledging and then upending soooooooo many stereotypical traits of the “Naughty Librarian” character type.

Margot Robbie as

Margot Robbie as “The Librarian” in the 2016 SNL skit

This skit basically checks every box for this character type:

    • ✔ Young to middle-aged
    • ✔ Wears conservative clothing and then “lets her hair down”
    • ✔ Includes sexual undertones in conversation
    • ✔ A flirtatious or sexually charged librarian who often becomes violent (or demonstrates otherwise criminal behavior) when sexual desires go unfulfilled, repressed, or challenged

Fantasy… or nightmare?

I primarily focus on film, so I admit that I’m not as knowledgeable about TV series or skits featuring reel librarians. This skit, which went live in fall 2016, was not on my radar (so I am thankful for the student letting me know about it!). So it was interesting to watch this clip for the first time after the #MeToo movement, which has, and continues, to bring about a social reckoning of sexual harassing behavior, behavior both explicit and/or passive-aggressive (this skit has both). Sure, this skit is fun and sexy, and you don’t have to go any deeper than that. But there’s a darker undertone that I argue actually feels right at home in our current climate. The boys in the skit start out passive-aggressive, making suggestive and sexualized comments at their table about the librarian, but then one student says one out loud to Ms. Dalton, albeit by proxy (“Jeremy thinks you’re hot!“). The librarian directly calls out the student and challenges him (“What are you going to do about it?“), which sounds like a fantasy at first… until that fantasy quickly turns into a nightmare. Be careful what you wish for! Ultimately, Ms. Dalton holds the male students accountable for their behavior and brings about her own reckoning.

And Margot Robbie totally commits to this skit, bringing the same maniacal edge to Ms. Dalton as she did to the character of Harley Quinn in 2016’s Suicide Squad. A Nerdist review even wonders, “If Harley had to fight the Librarian, who would win?

Bottom line? Don’t mess with librarians — real OR reel!

Sources used:

Hooten, Christopher. “Margot Robbie stars in ‘sexy librarian’ SNL skit.” The Independent, 3 Oct. 2016.

The Librarian.” Saturday Night Live, 42.1. Perf. Margot Robbie, Bobby Moynihan, Keenan Thompson. 2016.

Thompson, Luke Y. “Margot Robbie Unleashes Her Inner Supervillain Again as SNL’s ‘Librarian’.” The Nerdist, 2 Oct. 2016.


And if you have more examples of reel librarians to send my way, please leave a comment and/or contact me via email (reel.librarians@gmail.com) or through the “Ask the Real Librarian” form on the navigation bar above. Thanks in advance!

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