‘iCarly’ Star Jennette McCurdy’s Memoir ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’ Casts a Shadow on Nickelodeon
To the young audiences of iCarly in 2007, Jennette McCurdy was just Sam Puckett. Kids gravitated towards Sam in Nickelodeon’s hit show iCarly because they loved this street-smart, chicken-loving, delightfully funny tomboy who kept Freddie (Nathan Kress) in his place and somehow managed to be Carly’s (Miranda Cosgrove) best friend despite being her polar opposite. However, behind the scenes, McCurdy was a young and vulnerable child who was being used and exploited by the industry, as well as by her own mother.
For many, the idea of starring in a Nickelodeon show sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime. Especially back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Nickelodeon produced some of their biggest and most successful child stars. However, for McCurdy, her excitement at getting the role as Sam on iCarly wasn’t because she was a big Hollywood hopeful. Instead, she was happy because it was what her mother wanted. From a young age, she says, her mother pushed her to be in the industry, hoping to live vicariously through her young daughter.
As a child, she soon became her family’s primary breadwinner. Meanwhile, while viewers may have found the role of Sam amusing to watch, McCurdy found the roles she played to be embarrassing. She eventually quit acting altogether and declined to return for Paramount+’s iCarly reboot in 2021. However, she has begun to share her story in the form of a comedy show titled I’m Glad My Mom Died and a podcast titled Empty Inside. Now, on August 9, 2022, she will be releasing a memoir of the same name as her comedy show. So far, excerpts have painted a heartbreaking story of the behind-the-scenes reality of Nickelodeon child stardom.
McCurdy’s memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died
McCurdy’s memoir’s title, I’m Glad My Mom Died, might be controversial to some. However, given all she’s been through, McCurdy told The New York Times that she’s earned a “provocative” title.
In an excerpt (published by Entertainment Weekly), McCurdy reveals how her mother’s quest for her daughter’s stardom began at age 6. It included dragging her along to auditions, referring to her by the name of the part of she was auditioning for, and breaking down if McCurdy ever expressed doubt about being an actress. When McCurdy did book iCarly, her thoughts in the moment were, “Everything’s going to be better. Mom will finally be happy. Her dream has come true.”
Meanwhile, McCurdy’s mother also put her on a strict diet of only 1,000 calories a day. Many days, McCurdy says would even eat less in hopes of making her mom proud. By the time she had been cast in iCarly, she was suffering from full-fledged anorexia. For many years, she would struggle with anorexia, binge-eating, and bulimia. It wasn’t until her mother died of cancer that she actually found herself able to forge her own path in life once more. She received therapy, recovered from her eating disorder, and began to dabble in comedy, podcasts, and other directions that intrigued her.
As a child who suffered mental and physical abuse at her mother’s hands, her memoir looks to be a bold and unapologetic acknowledgement of the feelings that linger long after an abusive parent has passed. But while the child acting industry is often darkened by overbearing stage parents, McCurdy’s mother wasn’t the only offender in her tragic experience. As she told the Times, her memoir details many other horrific experiences at the hands of those in power at Nickelodeon.
Abuse coverup and need for change
When McCurdy departed from Nickelodeon in 2014, she alleges that they offered her $300,000, in exchange for her never speaking publicly about her experiences, especially in relation to the predatory actions of someone referred to only as “The Creator” in her memoir, presumably iCarly series creator Dan Schneider. Fortunately, she declined that outrageous offer and is now telling all with her memoir. I’m Glad My Mom Died’s official release will likely hold further details and allegations against the network. However, what has been revealed so far already paints a dark picture of a network that seemingly knew its environment was unacceptable and unsafe for child stars, but instead of remedying the situation, paid off their actors and actresses to keep silent.
Additionally, her memoir touches on how the industry can attract abusive stage parents. Not every child who enters into the industry is blessed with supportive and protective parents. Instead, there are many child actors—McCurdy, Macaulay Culkin, Wil Wheaton, etc.—who were forced into the industry by abusive parents who then made their child the primary breadwinner of their entire family. What McCurdy’s memoir really points at is the need for protection for child stars. These children need to be protected from those inside the industry, their own exploitative parents, and from cover-ups and bribes from powerful people.
At the same time, McCurdy’s harrowing, yet sometimes comedic memoir is also hopeful. It tells a powerful story of breaking free from abuse and truly finding oneself as an adult. Not only that, but she fearlessly exposes her late abusive mother and the dark side of Nickelodeon. Just because it is the past, does not mean that it didn’t happen. It did happen, it does matter, and her truth can perpetuate change. Not only that, but she is giving a voice to a largely ignored demographic—adult survivors of abusive parents—and validating the messy, surprising, and complicated feelings that arise when an abusive parent passes away.
(featured image: Nickelodeon)
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]