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SEXUALITY IN

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FIRST AND FOREMOST WHY IS SEXUALITY IN ICARLY IMPORTANT AND WORTH LOOKING AT?
1) Sexuality is ALL over iCarly and the median age group is 7-12
2) Kids learn socialization through media (including TV) and LOTS of kids watch iCarly. What they watch can have a critical impact on their lives
3)Viewers (of any and every age) in today’s media literacy age need to learn how to effectively interpret and take apart what they are watching as TV can be more powerful than we ever expected.




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RESEARCH QUESTIONS
These are the questions I came up with that guided my research as I delved further into the subject of sexuality in iCarly.
1) How is sexuality used and displayed in iCarly?
2) Why is this appropriate or inappropriate in kids opinions and parent’s opinions?
3) How do kids learn socialization through television (Sarah Banet-Weiser)?
4) Why is sexuality used in children’s television and how do they interpret it?



MY RESEARCH METHODS
These are the research methods I used which helped me create and answer the above research questions.
1) Watching many iCarly episodes to pinpoint the use of sexuality
2) Looking at the Common Sense Media website and parents’ and children’s’ reviews of iCarly
3) Interview with children and the parents of children who watch iCarly
4) Reading scholarly articles on sexuality in kids television


DATA AND EVIDENCE

My initial opinion of iCarly was very low. To me it was a trashy show where Nickelodeon stratifies social spheres with pricey technology, alienates the “non-cool kids”, teaches kids how to be bullies, and uses inappropriate sexual innuendos and situations. By the end of my research I realized that the show itself was not necessarily as bad as I thought, though I still cant say I think it is a show necessary to be watched by and children.

My project became more of an evolving exploration of sexuality and its possible effects on iCarly viewers and my thesis became:

The sexuality presented in ICarly can both positively or negatively affect viewers of different demographics depending on their interpretations of the material.


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iCarly Episodes, research question 1:
In the episodes I noticed a lot of off-color sexual innuendos that I noticed as an adult viewer, but was not sure if they were picked up on by child viewers. For example, in the episode iLikeJake, season 1, episode 3, Carly falls for the recently single Jake who is the popular guy that every girl wants to be with. At one point Carly says to Sam “He's so hot I wanna bake cookies on him”, and Sam replies, “I’d eat those cookies”. This may seem like a funny joke to the girl, but I saw it as an adult joke. This was a sexual innuendo that can be interpreted by anyone who picks up on it in a very sexual way.

Throughout the episode Carly does everything she can to make herself attractive to him as she says out loud showing viewers that the most important thing to her is getting this boy to like her. Putting this much importance on sexuality for young children is not teaching them what the correct priorities are in the adolescent life.
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Take another example, episode iHave a Lovesick Teacher, season 2, where Ms. Ackerman their teacher is dumped by her boyfriend, consequently takes it out on her class, starts dating Spencer, and in the end is rejected by Spencer. At one point Ms. Ackerman is at Carly's house getting a Thai massage from Spencer, then later on she shows up dressed in a very sexy formfitting red dress in order to seduce Spencer, but gets stared at by Freddie as he walks by (sexy teacher syndrome). In this episode the sexual material is not even hidden, it is the basis of the episode.

A few more less detailed descriptions of instances I observed and what I thought they portrayed:
Dancing girls in music video episode (dress sexy and you can be in a video too!)
The talking bra (why should 10 year old's be looking at/caring about bras?)
iKiss episode, Freddie and Sam’s first kiss (shows a first kiss doesn’t need to mean anything, they're just getting it over with)



Common Sense Media, research question 2:
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To answer question two I used the media review website Common Sense Media. This website allows for parents and children to read reviews, write reviews and post on the page for iCarly on an honest platform unbound by marketing ploys. Reading all these reviews only my ideas about iCarly and the way it represents and uses sexuality. The majority of the negative reviews were from adults and the positive views from the kids. Picture_8.png

There is a section that’s shows percentages and one of them was that 75% of parents think the sexual behavior in the show is not age appropriate. One of the most interesting quotes I found was, “They produce a seemingly innocent show with underlying sexual meaning”. This confirms what I noticed by watching the episodes. The show teeters between harmless and overtly sexual. The younger the child the more positive the comments were about the silliness, the funny jokes, the crazy costumes etc. They were not picking up any of the sexual material I did when watching. Only with the older kids around 10 and up were there any mentions of feeling uncomfortable or like what they were watching was inappropriate.






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Banet-Weiser writes in her book about gender roles and socialization of children through media. I believe this is a very interesting connection to sexuality in iCarly. Oversimplification of difficult themes in kid’s television is very common and unfortunately perpetuates the use of stereotyped and exaggerated gender representations and situations in this type of programming. This is why iCarly can potentially be negative.

Young girls are using Carly and Sam as role models and picking up on their boy-craziness, skimpy outfits, and the sexual innuendos made into jokes. iCarly can be seen as positive because it is pro-female and shows strong female leads, but the integrity of what the girls portray is not always appropriate.



Scholarly research, research question 4:
For this part of my research I came across the article “Sex on TV: Do all Kids See the Same Show” on the Center for Media Literacy Website. In the article author Jane Brown says, “The short answer is that the effect depends on the kids. More specifically, it depends on the way they look at media and on what they've learned from their families about media and sexuality.” This information was generated by asking girls of various backgrounds (in private, so responses were candid) about their responses to media sexuality.

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This is a very interesting insight into the way kids are reading into the sexuality or difficult subject matter presented in kids TV shows. Another girl commented "I like stories that have kissing." This comment is also very telling about media in general and why we watch what we watch and how companies use sex to sell product. I believe that, like adults, kids like a little sexual tension to spice up their television. It is something intriguing, sort of forbidden, and still mostly a mystery to that age group, and the fact that iCarly uses it in their content makes kids want to watch. Nickelodeon is trying to get as many viewers and consumers as possible and may have realized that this element of sexuality in iCarly is potentially profitable, not only because it generates children’s viewership but offers something of interest for adults as well.




KEY FINDINGS

An interview with the parent of an iCarly watcher summarized all the findings of my project and supported what became my thesis which I stated earlier on, though the realisation of it really only came after this interview: iCarly is a show where we can see the complexities of TV as a media source and how thematical elements such as sexuality can be interpreted differently between viewers depending on their backgrounds.

The mother, a teacher very interested in media literacy, had a lot to say on the importance of watching with your child. She did not think iCarly was a bad show regardless of the sexual material because a) she thinks it is included partially in order to entertain adults b) her younger children don’t pick up on it anyway so its harmless and c) with her older children she used the show as an opportunity to watch and discuss when something inappropriate arises. This was a very interesting viewpoint and made me regard iCarly a little differently.


No, maybe iCarly is not the show of the century, but if a kid isn’t picking up on what I deem as negative aspects than how harmful can the show be for younger kids. The problem is with older kids who may not have a parent who co-views or discusses material with them. In this vein iCarly may have some negative affects for the older viewing group. This program shows us the importance of television in children’s lives today and how television can be interpreted differently by different viewers, therefore deeming whether elements such as sexuality are appropriate or inappropriate.
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References:

Common Sense Media Website
Center for Media Literacy Website
Banet-Weiser, Sarah. Kids rule!: Nickelodeon and consumer citizenship. Duke University Press Books, 2007. Print.