Growing up, I never could get into iCarly. Trust me, I tried. With my love for Drake & Josh, I certainly tuned in for Miranda Cosgrove’s star vehicle, but not for long. Maybe I’d aged out of Nickelodeon’s live-action content by that point. Who knows? What I do know is that Cosgrove was outshined by her co-star, Jennette McCurdy, the one who only got second billing. And, knowing what I know now, having read her book, I’m simultaneously impressed by and saddened for her. McCurdy was, like many, a child actor who was thrust into acting, and that wood chipper they call Hollywood, on the back of a parent’s desires, as opposed to her own. This wasn’t what she’d envisioned for herself until her mother put that expectation on her. She wasn’t particularly suited for the job either; in fact, from what she tells us about her early days, it’s a miracle she got as far as she did. She had to fight her own insecurities, the ones piled on her by her mother, and a growing hatred of the craft that she was stuck in. But, as long as her mother lived, she couldn’t free herself from any of those shackles; hence, “I’m glad my mom died.”
I was hooked from opening pages, which were an absolute gut punch. As her mother lay in a coma, and her family took turns trying to rouse her from it with exciting news, she shares hers (after the rest of the family has left), that she’s hit the (clearly unhealthy) weight her mother had set for her. And when this doesn’t do the trick, when she can’t be of service to her mom now, like she has been in other ways, she feels like a failure. Right from the jump, McCurdy makes clear what the dynamic is here, and it’s positively heartbreaking. Most people are sure to gravitate to this book for tasty deets about her time at Nickelodeon, about Dan Schneider, referred to here simply as “The Creator.” While there’s some of that, it’s really just a garnish to grab some extra eyes. The meat of this story is about McCurdy and her mother, how deeply she broke her psychologically, and what it’s like trying to come back from that.
It’s not as simple as “Dan Schneider bad,” or “Hollywood bad,” or even “mom bad,” though. There’s so much at play here, and none of it’s pretty, despite the relative success McCurdy managed to enjoy as an actor. And there’s so much she has to say about all aspects of the business, about mental illness, and about emotionally abusive parents. It took her years after her mother died to realize the depth of what her mother had done to her, to strip her from that pedestal she’d been on all her life, and maybe telling her story will help others recognize the signs for themselves. Maybe her story will help kickstart some positive change for child actors. What I know for sure is she is doing more for mental health awareness than most people out there, and I love her for it. So please seek out this book and listen to her podcast. It’s not easy reading, or easy listening, but it is required, I’d say. We can’t keep scuttlebutting this stuff in the hopes that it will go away on its own. Thank you, Jennette McCurdy for doing your part in shedding some light.
P.S. Now I just need to manage to type up reviews for Chainsaw Man volumes 2-11. This is what happens when you move into a new house and it takes you days to dismantle and reassemble the IKEA gaming desk you found for $40 at a yard sale. Kind of hard to review anything without a computer. But I’m all caught up now except for those!