Pop Culture Confessional is a weekly column where our writers can divulge and indulge in their most deeply embarrassing cultural passion — and then tell you why it actually rocks. Everyone has a few dirty little secrets. Only the truth shall set us free.
Like other culture snobs, I am very conscious about the music I listen to, the movies I pay to see and the shows I watch. A television program is more than just entertainment — it’s art. However, it is nearly impossible to always be actively thinking about media consumption. I dance to garbage on the radio and watch senseless droll on TV. I know I make mistakes.
But my undying love for iCarly is not one of them.
Yes, I am talking about the tween TV show starring Miranda Cosgrove, whom most will recognize as the snotty band manager in School of Rock.Now, she is sixteen years old and the unconventional star of a surprisingly entertaining show that examines the very nature of entertainment itself. In spite of the nasty things I’ve been called, I proudly proclaim that I stop for the show every time I see it on TV.
iCarly stars Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy as Carly and Sam, best friends and the hosts of a popular webcast. The two of them put on a comedy show full of silly gags and bizarre antics for their friends and the rest of the world to watch. Their friend Freddie is the show’s technical producer. Freddie is just as essential to the show as the wild and crazy Carly and Sam, evident when he leaves temporarily for his teenage temptress of a girlfriend Valerie (as far as I know, she only appears in one episode, but that is probably representative of most high school relationships).
Many will be quick to group iCarly with other television programs like Disney’s Hannah Montana, dismissing the Cosgrove vehicle as empty and void of artistic value. I find it personally offensive for those two shows to be considered in the same ballpark. For so long, families have relied on the Disney brand for quality entertainment for our country’s children and young teenagers. However, their entertainment has been a legacy of dishonesty. Shows about high school are most effective when audiences can relate. I don’t look back on my high school experience and remember having a double identity, spending half of my life as a rock star like Hannah Montana. My dad was not an embarrassing one-hit wonder.
I can, however, relate to Freddie of iCarly. He is a truly average character, down to the blue striped shirt he wears in seemingly every episode. In fact, he never actually kisses a girl until episode 32, cleverly named “iKiss.” That’s honest. That’s moving. That’s brilliant.
One of the most intriguing aspects of iCarly is the acknowledgement of the power of media. Note the show’s use of computer-screen transitions between scenes and the fact that Carly’s Web show is also named iCarly. The program is a self-reflective look at youth entertainment, depicted here as democratic and participatory. Average teens are being depicted producing content of their own, made possible by new technology. Notice the nod to Apple with the Pear-shaped logo on the computers in the show and the incessant use of the “i” prefix. The show’s producers know the possibilities of technology, and they think teenagers should too.
As evidenced by their show, Carly and Sam are not geniuses, but they are having a great time. We get to join their friends in enjoying their wild web show. Their sense of humor often has an avant-garde twist, lacking conventional boundaries. Take, for instance, the “random dancing” portions of their show in which they, well, randomly dance. It is not Monty Python, but it is less forced than the last four seasons of All That, and the Webcast becomes a metaphor for the active role media can play in the lives of teenagers.
iCarly has also had the courage to be critical of corporate intervention as seen in the episode “iCarly Saves TV.” A producer takes over the show, and it falls apart. The television show iCarly might be on the children’s cable network Nickelodeon, yet it subverts the nature of its programming to implicitly encourage kids to maybe make a show of their own. After all, if Freddie has the technical prowess to put on a show, why can’t other sixteen-year-olds (or twenty-year-olds) be tech-savvy?
It really comes down to the fact that this show is just extremely entertaining with its lovingly bizarre characters. The boxer-wearing Sam is a tomboy for the ages, with her rough personality being a hysterical foil for Carly’s endearing lack of a real personality. She is more abrasive than the other female teens that fill the screens, and it is refreshing to hear the smack she delivers on the show.
I have found myself watching this show with others, including my older brother, and it is admittedly embarrassing when Carly and Sam have teen girl moments. After all, most would say that I am not the show’s target audience and have no business watching the show. However, while the producers were targeting American youth, they also proved they had their finger on the pulse of contemporary American society. The next time you are surfing channels, and you stumble upon, stop for a few minutes. You might be surprised by the show’s depth and ability to put average teenagers in absurd situations. Don’t simply enjoy the show (which you will), but think about what it is saying about our society. Maybe you too will find yourself following Miranda Cosgrove on Twitter.