Millennials and Gen Z 'cuspers' all know what random dancing, spaghetti tacos, and a sock full of butter have in common: They’re all crucial elements of the quirky iCarly series, an all–time favorite on Nickelodeon, and a series that defined more than a few childhoods. From 2007 to 2012, the show followed teen best friends Carly, played by Miranda Cosgrove, Sam, played by Jennette McCurdy, and Freddie, played by Nathan Kress, as they created and produced their own weekly web show.
This month, as viewers tuned into the first two seasons on Netflix and rumors swirled about Paramount Plus’ reboot, iCarly became a hot topic once again. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Since the show’s finale, much has been uncovered about the seedy underbelly of child stardom in Hollywood.
It’s no secret that many kids’ shows and movies contain jokes meant for parents that go over the heads of the younger demographic, but creator Dan Schneider was the king of innuendo. He’s the creator of iCarly and other Nickelodeon favorites like All That, Zoey 101, Drake & Josh, and Victorious—all shows that include suggestive dialogue.
In one sense, this makes iCarly the show that keeps on giving. It’s whimsical and silly, which is great for kids, and it gains the added bonuses of nostalgia and adult humor for grown–up audiences. Upon deeper examination, however, there’s something iffy about an adult man with a horribly filthy sense of humor constantly working with kid actors. In the spring of 2018, Nickelodeon cut ties with Schneider in a seemingly mutual way—with the creator’s latest projects wrapping up, both parties agreed it was the natural time to split.
That didn’t stop the internet from speculating, though. From watching his shows, following his Twitter feed, and examining photos of him interacting with young actors, fans came to the conclusion that Schneider might just be a creep. No sources explicitly state any examples of abuse or harassment, but the clearest piece of evidence is how his rumored foot fetish has affected both actors and audiences.
The former producer isn’t necessarily a criminal, but as we’ve seen in the past, “A lot of sexual misconduct has been expertly hidden and manipulated by the Hollywood machine.” Dan Schneider may or may not be an exception, but either way, the knowledge of his questionable behavior makes iCarly and his other shows much more disturbing to watch.
In the realm of dark Hollywood controversies, a prevalent issue is mental health, especially regarding disordered eating. In 2019, McCurdy opened up about her lifelong struggles with anorexia and bulimia in a frank op–ed for the Huffington Post. Her mother, who shared similar struggles, essentially helped her keep up this behavior, and the entertainment industry only exacerbated her eating disorders. When McCurdy was 15 years old and iCarly rose to fame, the stress led her to fixate even more on food and her physical image. Throughout her time on the show, McCurdy repeatedly found herself in a toxic and obsessive cycle of self–loathing. Often, stylists, agents, and producers would applaud her weight loss, unaware as to how it was happening.
While playing Sam on iCarly, McCurdy also became disillusioned with the role, especially after becoming aware of the fact that she was a role model for kids. Young viewers were looking up to a character that spent most of her screen time yelling aggressively and eating unhealthy foods like fried chicken. McCurdy has yet to speak publicly about the anticipated iCarly reboot, but with her understandable resentment toward the industry, she’s likely turned off for good.
Is all of this a matter of separating art from the artist? With predation and eating disorders still running rampant in Hollywood, condemning iCarly would barely scratch the surface of these deep–seated issues. Instead, audiences need to be able to consume media critically, rather than view everything through rose–colored lenses. Nostalgia has its dark side, and even as we rewatch a lighthearted childhood favorite years later, we need to be aware of the darker issues behind the scenes rather than sweep them under the rug.