Double Coding Found In

  • iCarly has won the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Award for the category of best television show for three years straight.

  • 8.8 million people viewed “iOMG”, the latest iCarly episode to be released (April 9th, 2011).

However, there has yet to be any formal research done on the show. Considering the show's clear popularity amongst children, it seems that it could be worthwhile to do some serious research on the show. iCarly's popularity amongst children is driven by it's very new concept of incorporating the internet into a television show. After watching only one episode it becomes quite clear that the show is brimming with direct references to technology that most children viewers have everyday access to. This is significant because as children watch, they become influenced by the way in which the characters on the show present themselves.

After viewing and analyzing a few episodes of iCarly, I noticed that in addition to these technological references, there were many instances where the show's humor seemed to be geared toward adults, but at the same time humorous for children. These types of instances are referred to as double coding by Sarah Banet-Weiser, in her book Kids Rule! The idea of double coding struck me as very interesting. I began to wonder what effects double coding could have on a child's viewing experience and whether or not the children were picking up on any of the minor adult themes in the show.

Sarah Banet-Weiser Discusses Double Coding

"According to the Nickelodeon logic, if adults are sometimes not stuffy, just as children are sometimes not innocent and naive, it proves (or disproves) nothing about the 'essential nature' of adulthood or childhood, it proves only that adults and kids can play at being each other" - Heather Hendershot

Through out here book, Sarah Banet-Weiser admits that she constantly states that Nickelodeon is a network dedicated to kid's empowerment. However she does discuss the few instances in which the network can appeal to adults as well; double coding. Nickelodeon has been creating shows that incorporate double coding for quite some time now. In fact, After Nickelodeon's success with double coding, many other television networks began creating shows that used the same technique. The idea of double coding was that adult/ parent viewers will pick up on the ironic and campy details, while the children will be more attracted to the more straightforward visuals and sound effects. This gave kids a sense of empowerment, but at the same time helped adults to feel young by keeping up with the latest pop culture. One of the ways in which Nickelodeon uses this double coding technique is through humor. Most of the humor found in these shows is incorporated in an ironic way. In order for the humor to work, the irony must be rebellious but not so much to the point it lets on that it is such rebellion that Nickelodeon is attempting to display. Irony is a very important characteristic of cartoons. Viewers enjoy expecting the expected, but instead getting the unexpected. In fact, the unexpected (displayed through camp and irony) has become a very popular part of mainstream culture. New social, economic, and political factors of the twenty first century affected the way in which irony and camp have been interpreted and viewed. It is these new factors that have helped form the self-identity of Nickelodeon.

One Nickelodeon show in particular that makes use of double coding similarly to iCarly is The Fairly Odd Parents. This show stars a young boy, Timmy Turner,

who lives with his parents that never seem to have any time for him. Since his parents aren't around he is left with Viki, an evil teenage babysitter. Luckily for Timmy he has in hispossession two fairy god parents named Cosmo and Wanda who have the ability to grant any wish Timmy wants. Throughout the show, there
are many references to pop culture that many young viewers don't usually understand. In one episode called "Channel Chasers", Timmy wishes he can travel through TVchannels. As he goes from channel to channel, the writers stop to mock a different show each time. For example, Timmy is seen as part of the Fat Albert gang as well as the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. These double coded themes keep both the adult viewer entertained, as well as the child viewer.
**Cosmo undWanda Spiele**
Resarch Questions:
1. How is double coding used in iCarly?
2. What effect does double coding have on children viewers?
3. Are children picking up on any of the adult themed humor?

Approach to Gathering Data/ Methodology

In order to gather data on the subject, I watched numerous episodes of iCarly and wrote down each instance of double coding. I wrote down how I thought each instance was funny for adults and for children. Next I allowed 3 children of different age groups to screen each instance of double coding and interviewed the 3 children about whether each instance was funny or not and what exactly it was that made it funny. Here are the episodes that I chose to analyze:

iGo To Japan


As Sarah Banet-Weiser has clearly stated, double coding can be very beneficial to both children and parents. I feel that if done correctly, double coding also has the potential to encourage parents to watch television shows with their children. In fact, the two episodes that happened to have the most popular culture references were longer than usual and advertised as made for TV iCarly movies. This is most likely not a coincidence. The writers at Nickelodeon incorporate humor that adults might find funny into these movies because they know parents are more likely to watch a movie with their child, rather than a regular episode of a kid's television show. This observation, I feel, is very beneficial to the child because it allows them to spend quality time with a parent or parents.

On the contrary I believe that some cases of double coding can be extremely inappropriate. In iGo To Japan, the cultures of other countries are ridiculed in an attempt to create adult humor. While the children viewers don't understand these adult themes, the episode content still has the ability to teach children these themes. This is significant because the key difference between and adult and a child is that adults don't learn as much from what they watch on television, but children do. The way in which anything at all is portrayed in any piece of children's media, is the way that the child viewer is going to believe that anything is always portrayed.

So all in all, I believe that double coding can be very beneficial, but only if it is done the correct way! Similar to what Sarah Banet-Weiser mentioned earlier, the adult themes can be included, but they must not be so rebellious that they over-dominate the children's themes. Otherwise the attempt at double coding proves to be a complete waste of time and it might even begin teaching children viewers more about the adult themes than anything else.

Worked Cited:

  • Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). Kids Rule! Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship. United States: Duke University Press