I like iCarly a lot, but one of the major weaknesses of the show is the character of Carly – or, more precisely, the lack thereof. She’s smart, but not a nerd! She’s cool, but not too cool! She’s not particularly temperamental or particularly laidback or particularly interested in things or particularly anything. She’s not zany like Spencer or aggressive like Sam or nerdy like Freddie. All she ever gets to do on the show is react. This is not a good or strong or entertaining centerpiece for a television show!
On the other hand, there's Sam, who is the very best part of the show, and the complete opposite of Carly in that she's absolutely bursting with personality. Sam is played by my tween BFF Jennette McCurdy, and Jennette McCurdy’s amazing hair. Seriously, I know I’ve said it before, but this hair is magical. Check it out:
Anyway. Sam is loud. Sam is uncouth. Sam is ill-behaved.
Sam is a fantastic role model.
Obviously kids should not model their behavior on Sam’s. Sam doesn’t do her homework, she sasses the teachers, she attacks kids in the hallway on little-to-no provocation. She’s violent and rude and a bit of a bully, and her moral compass is a little borked. This is not a good way to behave!
Sam is a girl on TV, and yet she still gets to be loud and uncouth and ill-behaved. She gets to eat enormous quantities of meat and push people around and buff her feet on Carly’s couch, and…that’s just Sam. The show doesn’t make her worry about her weight or tell her to nibble daintily at a salad. It doesn’t restrain Sam in any way. She just gets to be Sam, and her friends and her audience love her for it.
Which is why I was so very disappointed when iCarly pulled the same stupid bullshit Hannah Montana did, way back in Season 1. In “You Are So Sue-able To Me,” otherwise known as the Most Infuriating Hannah Montana Episode Ever, Lilly has a crush on some random Boy of the Week, who is obviously equally smitten with her, but Miley tells Lilly that she (Lilly) is “not a girl” and thus cannot attract him. Miley gives Lilly a makeover, but the boy stands her up, so Lilly takes him to some kind of teen court TV show, where she discovers that the boy liked her just the way she was, and happily goes back to the old Lilly. Because it’s not okay to be yourself unless a boy likes you that way!
The iCarly version of this, “iMake Sam Girly,” sidestepped some of the problems with the HM episode. Sam really is uncouth and undainty, as opposed to Lilly, who had those attributes slapped onto her for an episode and forgotten the next week. Carly totally accepts Sam the way she is and only agrees to make her over when Sam asks for help, instead of Miley’s fairly nasty and totally unwarranted attack on Lilly. And Sam goes back to being herself in order to protect herself and her friends by fighting a bully. But she’s still subjected to half an episode of “you are wrong for being yourself,” and she is still validated by the Boy of the Week continuing to like her. Both episodes even have their tomboys eat spaghetti messily to prove how unladylike they are. And both episodes turned my stomach.
“I want to be more like you!” Sam tells Carly at one point. “You know, all soft and girly and weak.”
It’s a funny line, but when I heard it I thought of a comment I’d once seen on the official iCarly website, left by some little girl out there in viewerland: “I think Sam is the coolest, strongest girl I have ever seen.”
And I wondered what that little girl would think of Sam – the strongest girl she’d ever seen – begging Carly to teach her how to be weak, because that’s how girls are supposed to be. Unless, of course, a boy tells them they can be otherwise.
Come on, iCarly. You can do better. Let Sam be Sam.