By Julia Ordaz
The early 2000s brings a wave of nostalgia, and in those memories we may remember the music, games, or television; however, we sometimes forget to remember the actors and actresses who dedicated their time and abilities to create an environment of laughter, safety, and comfort. They’ve done their fair share in contributing to our core childhood memories. But what was the cost of our joy? Their childhoods.
Jennette McCurdy, a former actress who starred on the hit Nickelodeon series iCarly, released a memoir titled, I’m Glad My Mom Died on August 9th. In it, she discusses the exploitation of her childhood and its lasting impacts.
Through the feelings she poured into her memoir and by its title, McCurdy’s hatred for her mother Debra is obvious. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, McCurdy desperately sought to please her mom, only realizing later that acting was never her dream, but her mom’s projection.
Thrust into role after role, McCurdy quickly grew into the role of the family breadwinner. But the pressure to maintain a consistent stream of income didn’t stop there. In an attempt to maintain her own childlike looks, McCurdy turned to her mother, who introduced her to destructive eating habits. It began with, “Well, sweetheart, if you really want to know how to stay small, there’s this secret thing you can do… it’s called calorie restriction,” and ended with constant weighing, measuring, and starving. It took McCurdy years to undo the damage caused by her disordered eating.
But the exploitation did not only come from her mother.
In March of 2018 Nickelodeon announced that they had discontinued their collaboration with longtime partner Dan Schneider. Schneider produced many popular Nickelodeon shows including Zoey 101, Victorious, Drake & Josh, and iCarly. The cause for the split came under question from fans and audiences after it was revealed that his staff had filed multiple reports about abusive behavior from him. He was also accused of being sexually inappropriate with the young stars, but in an investigation done in 2018 by ViacomCBS, no evidence of sexual misconduct was found.
McCurdy’s book includes a powerful and influential character simply called “The Creator.” Her relationship and experiences detailed in the book with the “The Creator” led many to the quick realization that the character is representing Schneider.
McCurdy describes receiving a massage from, being pressured to drink while underage, and being photographed in a bikini at The Creator’s request. In reference to being offered alcohol, McCurdy writes, “The Creator is doing the thing that I’ve heard from my co-stars he does with every new star of a show that he’s making—he takes you under his wing. You’re his favorite.” The young star hesitated to take the sip, but ultimately knowing that she was at that moment his favorite, she decided to agree in order to preserve his love for her even just a second more. She also recounts that her mother was present for most of The Creator’s overstepping, but that Debra turned a blind eye.
In response to McCurdy’s memoir, Miranda Cosgrove, iCarly co-star and longtime friend of McCurdy’s had this to say to the New York Times: “When you’re young, you’re so in your own head, you can’t imagine that people around you are having much harder struggles. You don’t expect things like that from the person in the room who’s making everyone laugh.”
Schneider has not offered any comment.
Nickelodeon offered McCurdy $300,000 to not discuss her time working with the network and in an interview with ABC News, she said she declined the offer in order to keep her “integrity.”
“I’m Glad My Mom Died” highlights the true potential of unbridled abuse that runs rampant in the television industry, and it serves as a warning against other networks. The book may be a collection of experiences, but it is also a book of growth. Readers may be able to identify with the struggles and experiences told throughout the pages, but it is McCurdy’s own willpower that may inspire the audience’s own journeys to recovery.