Jennette McCurdy is the newest in a long line of celebrities speaking out on the perils of childhood fame
In her newly released New York Times bestselling memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette McCurdy details the inappropriate behaviour exhibited on set by a man referred to as ‘The Creator’ during her years as a teenage Nickelodeon star — yet, somehow, we’re not surprised.
Lindsay Lohan, Macaulay Culkin, Miley Cyrus, Amanda Bynes, Emma Watson, Bella Thorne, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen — the list goes on, and the child star trajectory has been incredibly well documented. Whether it’s being hypersexualised from an early age or being glared at by the media until they eventually go ‘off the rails’, childhood stardom bears a lot of the same trademarks as childhood trauma.
Alyson Stoner of Cheaper By The Dozen fame calls it the toddler-to-trainwreck industrial complex, Cole Sprouse of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody has said that fame is a trauma in and of itself. Rising to notoriety and forced under the thumbs of men in suits who dictate the pace, their self-perception and the value they place on their own worth, celebrity and status lost its sparkle quite some time ago.
Mara Wilson of Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire penned a piece for the New York Times about the lies Hollywood tells about little girls. In it, she says that a “big part of The Narrative is the assumption that famous kids deserve it. They asked for this by becoming famous and entitled, so it’s fine to attack them. In fact, The Narrative often has far less to do with the child than with the people around them.”
Reiterating time and time again just how lucky these children are to be where they’re at, and just how many kids would kill to be in their position, producers, showrunners and directors keep their talent feeling replaceable, mouldable, and just insecure enough to stay schtum about the inappropriate behaviours happening all around them.
In her memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette McCurdy reiterates this cautionary tale with courage and precision, laying bare her own experiences as a teenage actress while speaking to a wider systemic issue within the industry at large.
For those who don’t know, McCurdy — now 30 — is best known for her role as Sam Puckett on six seasons of iCarly, as well as her own spin-off show starring opposite Ariana Grande in Sam & Cat. Starting out at six years of age after her mother asked her if she wanted to become “mommy’s little actress”, the memoir details years of her mother’s mental and physical abuse, her struggles with disordered eating, and substance abuse.
Starting out on iCarly at 15 years of age, McCurdy writes about her experiences of inappropriate behaviour, including being pressured into underage drinking, being massaged at work, and being offered $300,000 to “never talk publicly about [her] experience at Nickelodeon.”
Referring to the perpetrator as ‘The Creator’, these allegations are consistent with previous complaints made against showrunner and Nickelodeon hitmaker Dan Schneider, who was pushed out of the network in 2018. Schneider is credited as having defined Nickelodeon with beloved shows such as The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, and Victorious.
Describing ‘The Creator’ as “mean-spirited, controlling and terrifying”, a man who would make “grown men and women cry with his insults and degradation”, parallels are easily drawn to Schneider, who was said to have a temper, anger easily, and exhibit “abusive behaviour” on set.
McCurdy describes being pushed into wearing a bikini on the set of iCarly at age 15. “I hate this feeling, the feeling of so much of my body being exposed,” she writes. “It feels sexual to me. I’m ashamed.”
In the memoir, Jennette McCurdy recalls being offered her own spin-off show, and feeling the ease with which the title of ‘The Chosen One’ could be taken from her if she did not comply.
“It’s the same mission I have every time I get dinner with him, which has gotten more and more frequent lately as my new contract for the spin-off he promised me is being worked out,” she 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. For now. I like being his favorite for now. I feel like I’m doing something right.”
In the wake of the release of her memoir, a compilation of videos from Sam & Cat has resurfaced and is making the rounds of the internet, prompting fans to express concerns for McCurdy’s then-co star, Ariana Grande.
In the videos, a 16-year-old Grande is being overtly sexualised within her role on a kid’s television show. The Twitter user captioned the clips: “let’s not forget, ariana is a victim herself from the creepiness of dan schneider. this is why she doesn’t talk about the role of cat valentine anymore. they sexualized and infantilized her.”
everyone keeps bringing ariana grande for stan drama against jennette and idk why. let’s not forget, ariana is a victim herself from the creepiness of dan schneider. this is why she doesn’t talk about the role of cat valentine anymore. they sexualized and infantilized her. pic.twitter.com/72MrdW2j33
— khalia. | certified FLO stan?? (@VERONASFILMS) August 11, 2022
It’s important to note here that the Thank U, Next singer has never spoken about her experiences on set with Dan Schneider, and wrote the following on Instagram in 2020, during the Victorious cast reunion: “thank u @danwarp and to my cast mates for some of the most special years of my life and for bringing all of us into each other’s lives.”
Yet another cautionary tale of the perils all too often associated with being a child in the limelight, Jennette McCurdy’s memoir is a powerful piece of writing that will likely prompt more and more young stars to share their own experiences.