Hannah Who? Why Kids Love and iLove iCarly
As a mom, I like to take an interest in what my kids are doing whether it is playing the latest computer game, listening to a new song or watching the latest animated movie. Of course, television is no exception. In fact, I find myself watching endless hours of shows that I probably would never stop and watch if it were not for my kids. I have been through marathon viewings of The Suite Life on Deck, Spongebob Squarepants, Victorious and Jessie. I have watched these shows more times than I can remember. But out of all of them, Hannah Montana was the one show my daughter enjoyed and watched the most.
We all remember that young, sweet girl who turned into a super pop star and moved to a beautiful beach home in Malibu with her older brother and father (who was also her manager). The twist was that she had to lead a double life—one as pop star Hannah Montana and the other as regular girl-next-door, Miley Stewart. With the exception of her two best friends, Lily and Oliver, no one knew Miley’s secret and she chose to keep it that way in order to lead a “normal” life. The show was an instant hit for The Disney Channel and girls as young as three years old loved her and wanted to be just like her. Hannah Montana represented every little girl’s dream of being rich and famous along with a huge, rotating closet full of funky clothes, hats and accessories.
But as Hannah Montana was hitting its peak and winding down, another tween was coming onto the scene. She did not lead a double life, she did not live in a big fancy beach house and she was not nearly as famous as Hannah Montana. And yet, none of this seemed to matter to all the kids who were starting to fall head over heels for this cute young girl from Seattle named Carly Shay.
When my daughter first stumbled upon iCarly, I thought the show was too silly and immature for her to watch. The show revolves around Carly and her best friend, Sam (short for Samantha), and the popular web show they star in and produce each week. Along with their technical director and love-stricken friend, Freddy, these three kids put together the zaniest, most outrageous antics they can come up with and upload them to the Internet for everyone to see. Most of their skits are downright whacky—even gross at times. I often cringed or shook my head in disbelief when I watched iCarly with my daughter. Initially, I could not figure out why this show was so popular or what the appeal was for kids. But as my daughter watched endless hours of iCarly repeats and would bust out laughing at everything Carly, Sam and Freddy did, I decided that maybe I was missing something. So I watched some more.
A few seasons and many episodes later, I now find myself doing as my daughter often does when it comes to watching iCarly—I laugh out loud. Sometimes I find myself singing the very catchy theme song sung by Carly herself (a.k.a. Miranda Cosgrove). I soon came to the conclusion that this show is a lot more enjoyable and entertaining than Hannah Montana. So why do I (and millions of kids) love iCarly? Let us count the ways.
Looking back, Hannah Montana was based on a lie—a girl who has to lead two lives in order to have it all. This sends the wrong message to kids that success means you cannot be who you really are. This must have been confusing to all the young girls who wanted to be rich and famous just like Hannah. Yes, Miley chose to lead two lives so she can go to school and have friends like every other girl her age, but most rich and famous people do not walk around with a separate identity. Even Miley Cyrus herself does not use a disguise or a fake name when she goes out in public.
Hannah Montana’s other problem was that the two best friends who knew her big secret were also leading double lives so they could go with “Hannah” to concerts, events and parties without being recognized and without letting people know who Hannah Montana really was. Even though her friends loved Miley for the person she truly was, they still wanted to hang out with her rich and famous friends even if that meant they also had to wear a disguise and use pretend names. This is a bit of a mixed message since Hannah was trying so hard to keep her two lives completely separate from each other, but in this case she was not.
iCarly, on the other hand, is completely different. Carly has a very popular web show, but she is not nearly as famous (or as rich) as Hannah. Kids love watching whatever she, Sam and Freddy have put together for their weekly webisodes. Carly goes to school like a normal girl without any hidden identity or big secret. What is even more impressive about Carly is that you often see her at school and doing schoolwork either at home or in class. She is a straight “A” student and you see that she works hard for those “A’s”. So without being super rich and famous she still manages to have it all—lots of friends, a successful web show and good grades.
Adding to Carly’s unique and sometimes crazy life is her older, loveable brother, Spencer, who is as immature as he is responsible. With their dad at sea as part of his military duty, Spencer is her legal guardian. He is a struggling artist who dropped out of law school after less than a week, but his love for Carly and the encouragement and support he constantly gives her shows a brother/sister relationship at its best—another great message for kids.
Probably the biggest reason to love iCarly though is the character herself. Carly Shay represents just about everything a mom would want her daughter to be—smart, creative, kind, ambitious, funny and charming. She lives in a modest apartment, does not own fancy clothes or own expensive things and that is just fine with her. She never whines about not having this or that. She accepts life as it is and can “see the brighter side of every situation”, as the theme song says.
Even more appealing about Carly is that she is a true friend. Her BFF, Sam, would rather use fists than words to explain herself, but Carly knows that this is who Sam is and underneath that tough outside is a really good person and an even greater friend. Carly appreciates Sam for who she is and Sam values their friendship even more than she values Fatcakes.
When I asked my daughter and her friends if they think iCarly is better than Hannah Montana, they all answered a quick “yes”. In their words, iCarly is “way funnier.” Who can argue with that? But there are many reasons to love iCarly. I cannot help but smile at Carly’s charisma, Sam’s sarcasm, Freddy’s fumbling and Spencer’s silliness. iCarly is a great lesson for girls about being themselves, respecting people’s quirks and differences, and enjoying every bit of life even if you do not have lots of money or fame. The show gets this message across loud and clear while making us all crack up laughing in the process.