If you belong to Gen Z, chances are you grew up watching “iCarly,” and you’re familiar with Jennette McCurdy’s role as the meat-loving, butter-sock wielding, Sam Puckett.
Last month, McCurdy released a tell-all memoir that resulted in a worldwide conversation about the former actress, her abusive mother and the shady happenings at Nickelodeon pertaining to Dan Schneider.
The title? “I’m Glad My Mom Died.”
With a title as striking as that, I knew I had to give this book a read. I got the book as a birthday gift and finished within three days.
It was compelling, to say the least.
McCurdy’s writing style is punchy and conversational, which I loved. But despite McCurdy’s casual style of writing, the subject matter of her memoir is quite dark, touching on topics such as eating disorders, child abuse and exploitation, toxic relationships, alcoholism and more.
The book gives us glimpses into McCurdy’s life, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. McCurdy describes her childhood home as a dysfunctional, suffocating place. Her mother, Debra, who was recovering from breast cancer, was also a hoarder.
McCurdy’s mother forced her into acting at the age of six. She lived vicariously through her daughter and depended on the money she made from acting to pay the family’s bills.
When McCurdy was 11 years old, her mother introduced her to the dangerous habit of calorie restriction. She did this to keep McCurdy’s youthful appearance. To the young McCurdy, it felt as if she and her mother were simply dieting together.
However, this would lead to years of McCurdy struggling with eating disorders such as anorexia and, later, severe bulimia.
McCurdy also writes about her experience with Nickelodeon’s former executive producer Dan Schneider, who she refers to as “The Creator.”
McCurdy reveals that she felt under pressure around The Creator, much like she did around her mother. She says The Creator has two sides to him: one that is generous and complimentary, and one that is humiliating and terrifying.
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“I’ve seen The Creator make grown men and women cry with his insults and degradation,” McCurdy writes. “The Creator knows how to make someone feel worthless.”
If you have been keeping up with entertainment news, you’ll recall that Schneider split from Nickelodeon in 2018 following reports of verbal abuse. McCurdy doesn’t only discuss The Creator’s verbal abuse in her book: She also describes uncomfortable experiences with him.
She writes about an instance in which she met The Creator for lunch to discuss the “iCarly” spinoff, “Sam and Cat.” While at lunch, The Creator pressured McCurdy into drinking alcohol despite the fact she was underage. He also put his jacket on her and gave her an unsolicited shoulder massage.
Later on, following the cancellation of “Sam and Cat,” McCurdy received a call from her managers. They informed her that Nickelodeon offered her $300,000 if she would not speak out about her experiences at the network, specifically pertaining to The Creator.
McCurdy turned it down. She felt as if the offer was hush money.
Following the release of “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” other former Nickelodeon stars began to speak out in solidarity with McCurdy.
Alexa Nikolas, who played Nicole Bristow on “Zoey 101,” recently protested outside of the network’s headquarters. She held a sign that read, “Nickelodeon didn’t protect me.”
In an interview with TMZ, Nikolas said, “I want to make [Nickelodeon] safe for kids because in my personal experience, working on ‘Zoey 101,’ I didn’t feel safe … Jennette and all of us deserve an apology … I definitely don’t want to hear one more story of a Nick star having a traumatic experience.”
Daniella Monet, who played Trina Vega on “Victorious,” also spoke out about her experience at Nickelodeon.
In an interview with Insider, Monet recalled some uncomfortable incidents she had during the production of “Victorious.” One scene in particular, where Monet’s character eats a pickle while applying lip gloss, made her feel uneasy.
Monet expressed her concerns about this to Nickelodeon’s executives, but, unfortunately, they aired the questionable scene regardless.
“Do I wish certain things, like, didn’t have to be so sexualized? Yeah. A hundred percent,” Monet stated in the interview.
“I feel like [iCarly] robbed me of my youth, of a normal adolescence where I could experience life without every little thing I did being critiqued, discussed, or ridiculed … The world won’t let me be anyone else,” McCurdy writes in her book. “The world only wants me to be Sam Puckett.”
It’s disheartening to hear the actors you grew up watching describe their negative experiences on the shows you loved as a child. But what’s more important is that Nickelodeon takes action and accountability for its wrongdoings. Hopefully, McCurdy’s memoir and the amount of support from fellow Nick stars will make a change.
I strongly suggest giving “I’m Glad My Mom Died” a read. It’s extremely personal and raw, yet McCurdy still manages to shed light on her trauma and incorporate humor into her heart-wrenching story.
It’s just the kind of insight into the children’s entertainment industry that we need. It will inspire more child actors to speak up, and it will allow victims of abuse to realize they are not alone.