Pictured is the cover of Jennette McCurdy’s bestselling memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” Photo from Amazon.
Tori Miller | News Editor
Jennette McCurdy, once a famous child actor on Nickelodeon’s widely popular “iCarly” and its spinoff show “Sam & Cat,” released her poignant and thought-provoking memoir titled “I’m Glad My Mom Died” in August this year. After months of listening to praise for her first publication, I finally bought myself a copy to understand the unyielding hype — it was absolutely excellent.
McCurdy’s writing style of charming wit and fast-paced chapters made it easy to feel completely engrossed in the story. Beginning with the early stages of her life and her acting career, the word choice reflected her mindset at that point in her life. I would find myself reading over 50 pages a day without even realizing it.
Paired with the quick progression of the book was McCurdy’s raw portrayal of the physical and emotional abuse she experienced from her mother as she grew up. She experienced heartbreaking things, such as learning calorie restriction tactics at the age of eleven years old and later developing anorexia, before she landed her first major role as Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon. I highly recommend to anyone who reads the memoir to first check out the listed trigger warnings and to be in a safe mental headspace before progressing.
As an avid reader who dabbles in all genres, I realized I haven’t read many memoirs in my life. With reading, I love finding books that I can sink my teeth into and the ones that make me think about deeper, and often unanswerable, questions in life. McCurdy’s book made me think about three major questions that I had never had to consider or confront before:
(1) Why is it detrimental to associate actors and actresses with a singular role?
Through her memoir, McCurdy mentions frequently that she hates being associated with Sam Puckett when she’s out in public. It’s often met with uncreative comments about butter socks and beating people up — two things that don’t carry over into McCurdy’s real life. At first, I never understood why famous people didn’t like being recognized as iconic roles. In my mind, if someone cared enough to make specific references about a certain character that meant the actor/actress did such a phenomenal job portraying that character. I would have continued viewing it as a compliment if I hadn’t read “I’m Glad My Mom Died.”
A major point McCurdy shared was that being recognized as a single character strips away feelings of individuality. She often felt as if she was only seen as Sam instead of Jennette and that people began to assume the two had similar personalities.
I’ve noticed that I’ve done this with other iconic characters, such as Robert Downy Jr. as Iron Man or Bryan Cranston as Walter White, and that society as a whole sometimes judges people for their character’s traits instead of their own personality.
This can be dangerous because it can box people in, make them feel less expressive and doom certain actors/actresses to be type-castted for the rest of their careers. In McCurdy’s case, she’s constantly remembered for something she hated and didn’t want to do in the first place, which is appalling.
(2) Should we feel guilty for watching old tv shows knowing all of the horrible things that happened on set during the time?
Anyone who watched Nickelodeon back in the day is familiar with the name Dan Schneider — the creator of beloved shows such as “iCarly,” “Victorious” and “Sam & Cat.” While it was never officially confirmed, McCurdy mentions many encounters with “The Creator,” which most people have speculated to be Schneider. Not only was McCurdy facing horrible parental abuse and neglect, but she also had to deal with a producer who didn’t understand boundaries of teenagers — especially teenage girls.
Schneider has had many allegations of sexual harrassment and misconduct direct towards him over the years, and most of the issues resulted from his close working relationship with teenage girls during his time on Nickelodeon. McCurdy recounted some of her conversations with The Creator and discussed in uncomfortable detail how he would speak to female cast members, encourage underage kids to drink alcohol and would provide her with unsolicited back massages.
As a child, I never knew things like this were happening on set. I just knew that I loved “iCarly” for the comedy bits and “Victorious” for the incredible songs and dance numbers. Going back and watching the shows now, I can’t help but get an icky feeling knowing how mistreated the actors/actresses were.
How far should we turn the other cheek in order to be nostalgic? Is it worth it to go back and reminisce about our ignorance of the situation? Where is the line drawn for predatory instances like this?
(3) Why does our society romanticize mothers and their roles in life?
The polarizing title, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” initially received backlash and brought an uproar from mother-lovers all around. In multiple interviews, McCurdy has mentioned that she chose the title not only to grab the attention of readers but to tell the truth that she’s had to come to realize through many years of therapy — she’s glad her mother is dead. The final chapter of the memoir genuinely made me think about the idea of romanticizing mothers in society for the very first time.
How often are women told that the greatest thing they can be in the world is a mother? Why are young women constantly encouraged to have kids? Why is there the societal pressure to not only have a strong relationship with your mother, but to be best friends? These are only a handful of the questions that I’ve been asking myself for the last week.
I think there is an undeniable amount of pressure in society for us to love our mothers more than anyone else, and I think it’s really important to understand that this isn’t always something possible. When McCurdy was looking at her mother’s grave and digesting words such as “brave” and “caring” engraved into the stone, she realized that romanticizing mothers is equivalent to romanticizing the dead.
We, as a society, often view mothers as these ethereal beings that are always kind and pure of heart, when in reality they are completely flawed individuals just like you and me. Love your mothers, but understand that putting them on a pedestal won’t make them a better person by default.
“Moms are saints. Angels by merely existing,” McCurdy wrote. “NO ONE could possibly understand what it’s like to be a mom. Men will never understand. Women with no children will never understand. No one but moms know the hardship of motherhood, and we non-moms must heap nothing but praise upon moms because we lowly, pitiful non-moms are mere peasants compared to the goddesses we call mothers.
“My mom didn’t deserve her pedestal. She was a narcissist. She refused to admit she had any problems, despite how destructive those problems were to our entire family. My mom emotionally, mentally and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.”