The Price of Childhood Fame
As a 2000’s kid, the best part of my day was coming home from school and watching my television screen light up with the big orange splat, Nickelodeon called their logo. With sitcoms such as Victorious, Zoey 101, and Drake and Josh airing, it was easy to think that this popular channel was doing everything right. My living room was filled with laughter for hours every time we clicked play, but my childhood joy was a horror show for many of the actors I learned to love.
Child star Jennette McCurdy, known for her popular role in the hit series iCarly, has stirred controversy in the past three months for her memoir “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” Although negative reactions were filling my social media feeds for the bold title of this book, it may just be the exact wake-up call we needed. In her book, McCurdy allows us to glimpse into her journey through the abuse she endured as a daughter and as a Nickelodeon actress.
At the early age of six, Jennette McCurdy’s mother would take it upon herself to make her daughter a star in Hollywood. Becoming an actress was a dream McCurdy’s mother never achieved, but she’d make sure her daughter would not face the same fate, despite McCurdy’s disinterest in the world of fame. McCurdy did everything her mother asked, including taking those acting classes she recalls loathing and calorie counting her meals to appear younger. Her mother also insisted on giving her showers until age sixteen and performed breast and vaginal exams that served as her “check-ins.” She was often criticized for her presence on and off the screen, but she would do anything at that time to leave a smile on her mother’s face. After all, a parent’s approval means the world to a child.
With the abuse McCurdy was facing at home, you would think that her acting gigs would bring her a sense of peace, but you are, unfortunately, mistaken. Six years after the end of iCarly, producer and director Dan Schneider was found guilty of verbally abusing his employees and placing them in various uncomfortable situations. Although McCurdy never includes his name in her memoir, she often refers to one of her characters as “The Director,” who displayed predatory behavior, including encouragement of underage drinking and body massages. McCurdy claims she was offered thousands of dollars as “hush money” from Nickelodeon.
Since the release of “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” many similar Nickelodeon actors have felt encouraged to speak up about their experiences. For example, Alexa Nikolas from Zoey 101 states she faced verbal abuse from Dan Schneider and referred to him as “the creator of childhood trauma.” Meanwhile, Victorious star Daniella Monet has also come forward and describes many of the costumes she was asked to wear as “not age-inappropriate.” Additionally, David Archuleta, who starred in an episode of iCarly, has also spoken up about his experience with a controlling parent and warns against the dangers.
Despite all she’s gone through, Jennette McCurdy will leave a lasting impact on the world of Hollywood, and we’ll continue to applaud her for being strong enough to tell us her truth. Don’t hesitate to pick up her memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” You may learn a thing or two about what it took to be a child star, the good and the ugly.