Google Image Search is a wonderful thing. I’m a fan of the interface, as well as the never-ending scroll so you don’t have to keep clicking for the next page. As with all things Google, even if you enter in the most broad search term it will try to help you narrow your subject. For example, when I search for “librarian,” Google suggests related searches like “hot librarian,” “old librarian” and the ever popular “mean librarian.”
And there we have it: three of the most enduring stereotypes for the librarian character in pop culture. Crones, meanies and sex kittens. While there may be some overlap between the first and second stereotype, the latter is perhaps in a league of its own. Of course, one does not to be employed professionally as a librarian in order to be saddled with this stereotype; both the Scary Librarian and the Hot Librarian have rather extensive pages at TV Tropes, which include non-librarian characters who behave in rather stereotypical librarian ways.
Tina Fey: just one of the many images you’ll find if you search for “hot librarian”
In the case of the Hot Librarian, a woman need only be “a very attractive but prim and prudish woman, who would be gorgeous if she would just take off the glasses (or not), let down her hair, and unbutton her top button”. Therefore a Hot Librarian has to do with the transformation – whether it be real or imagined. When Evie from The Mummy gets her makeover – forgoing her glasses for a lacy veil and black eyeliner – she instantly goes from dowdy spinster to smoking hot. Latent attraction is what causes the male lead to do a double take and reconsider the female costar as a possible mate.
The “makeover” is a trope that takes place constantly in film. (She’s All That, anyone? Grease? Freaking Ladybugs? ) The societal pressure of, wow, that girl would be so much more desirable if she just tried is overwhelming, and the librarian character – if it’s a trim, young woman with pretty good bone structure – seems like the perfect breeding ground for this obvious plot twist. Just think, all that beauty has been hiding under the surface, and the only thing to draw it out is the need for a boyfriend.
Usually in these pop culture references, there’s a “learning moment” in which the male concedes to the fact that the newly turned Hot Librarian was always attractive; he was merely too shallow to notice it before! However, it’s the hotness of the once non-impressive, bookish girl that catches his eye – and ultimately keeps it.