Rationale:
Parents of today are trying hard to raise their children to be kind, empathetic, and to avoid bullying each other. There have been efforts to enforce that everyone plays nicely in school. In the public front we push for equality among children, but shows like
Sam
Sam

iCarly use vocabulary and actions to promote children to discriminate against each other. If we wish to promote tolerance and acceptance among the youth, we need to understand what their media is teaching them.

Sam is a character on iCarly that embodies violent, sadistic, and selfish desires. Sam is everything we hope our children don't become, so why is it okay for children to watch her? Why does she hold the role of sidekick on a show for children? It is important to understand why Sam as a part of the show to understand what children are learning from watching her.

Research Questions and Approach:

Does iCarly’s use of hate words and violence promote bullying to children? What was the rationale of creating a character as mean-spirited as Sam?
I started by defining what hate words were so there was a single understood definition.
Sam steals Freddie's first kiss
Sam steals Freddie's first kiss

Hate (noun): 1. intense hostility and aversion; 2. an object of hate.
Hate (verb): 1. to express or feel extreme enmity; 2. to find distasteful
Hatred (noun): prejudiced hostility or animosity.
Hate word (noun): a word that expresses animosity or inspires hostility towards anyone
Hate action (noun): actions or mannerisms that express animosity or inspire hostility towards anyone
Put down Humor: Language or actions that imply something or someone to be distasteful in a light or subtle manner and is found funny by people who empathize that distaste.

I researched these questions by reading up on what other scholars had to say about hate words and their role in television. I also sat down and watched several episodes of iCarly. I made a chart of all the mean things Sam or Carly said or did. I wanted to compare Sam’s meanness to the main character’s behavior and how they are projected differently. I made observations on how both Sam and Carly were defined by their hate words. I also noted who they were being mean to and how it contributes to the plot.

Studying Episodes:

First Episode: iHurtLewbert
Character
What was said/done
To whom?
Why?
What part did it play in the plot?
Sam
“knock knock” “who's there” “not you” pushes freddie away
Freddie
she didn't care about what he was saying
moved show forward.

Sam
sam says she chooses to not think of anyone other than herself
everyone
because she cares more about not getting in trouble than how hurt Lubert is
no clue

Sam
eats Spenser's ribs
Spenser
she was hungry
comic relief

Sam and Carly
make jokes about freddie's mom dating lubert
Freddie
because he was enjoying his freedom
introduced idea of those two getting together

Sam
pulls down Freddie's pants
Freddie
to show why he should wear a belt
comic relief

Lewbert resting
Lewbert resting

This episode is a great example of how selfish Sam acts even towards her friends. All three of them are responsible for how hurt Lewbert got, but only Sam refuses to take ownership of her involvement. She lies to the police about what happened when Carly tries to tell the truth to escape punishment. She thinks only of how to save herself rather then to help the person she just hurt. Sam also lets Freddie and Carly do all the work in taking care of Lewbert. Despite being just as responsible she simply watches everyone else do the work. The only time in this episode that she helps is when they need to hurt Freddie so his mother breaks up with Lewbert. Only when she can satisfy her own need for violence does she ever help her friends.

Second Episode: iSaw Him First
Carly
“you know whats weird, that I keep inviting you over”
Sam
Sam dropped a lemon in her drink
hostility between the girls

Sam
drops a lemon in Carly's drink
Carly
because carly asked for lemon
to show sam being mean to Carly

Sam and Carly
they look away when Freddie said the being in AV does not make you a nerd.
Freddie
They called his friend in AV club a nerd
To show Sam's and Carly's bias

Sam
helping bra
Carly
to point out how she knew that Carly had a date
to show the girls picking at each other's weaknesses

Both Sam and Carly try to fix their crush's hair
Both Sam and Carly try to fix their crush's hair
This episode was important because it pits Sam and Carly against each other. Sam does not use violence to fight Carly, but the girls turn to verbal nastiness in order to best each other. The entire episode is filled with self-centeredness, put downs, and shows the negative side of both girls.




Third Episode: iMake Sam Girly
Carly
Insulted Freddy's new toy
Freddy
because it was preventing him from helping her
allowed her to bring up how much she wants to create an awesome party for Sam

Sam
“How can I have a crush on Freddy if I have to look at his face?”
Freddy
to explain why she put a bag on his head.
part of Carly's plan to make Sam girlier but making her practice.

Carly
called Sam cute and vicious
Sam
trying to say that's who she. Sam is defined by her violence
Set up that Carly thinks Sam is fine the way she is

Sam
“How bad would it be if I ripped her head off”
Carly
she wanted to deck the new school bully
shows Sam fighting within herself

Sam
I feel like a daffodil
Carly
she felt weak wearing women's clothing
showed how uncomfortable Sam is acting like a “girl”

Sam trying to be girly
Sam trying to be girly
This episode is interesting on several levels and can be read in many different ways. You can watch the show for how you can only be a girl if you dress up, act timid, and have perfect manners. The show can be seen as pro-tomboy because the guy ended up loving her tough side. For the purpose of my research I saw the episode as Sam being unable to fight her anger. She wishes to change herself, to become more passive and to be viewed as a nice girl. Despite her desire to change, she can't help her feelings of rage at the new school bully. She battles her anger the whole episode but ends up giving up and surrendering to her hatred. Her hatred is more powerful then her own will to change. She can't be Sam without it.


Fourth and last episode: iChristmas
Sam and Carly
force Freddie into Flashlight costume
Freddie
because the viewers voted
comic relief and to have a fight between Sam and Freddie

Sam
“too slow” and then pushes Freddie out of the way
Freddie
he was too slow in saying what she wanted
comic relief

Sam
let's Freddie hit the ground when she was supposed to help
Freddie
she didn't want to help him
to have conflict between them

Carly
“I wish you were normal”
Spenser
his invention lit their presents on fire.
started the plot

Carly
screams hateful things at the Christmas Angel
Christmas Angel
she was scared and verbally attacked him for scaring her and for not doing things the way she wanted
to show how stressed she was

Carly
screams at Nevell that he a jerk that no one likes and does so to Rona as well
Nevell and Rona
She was upset because this isn't how her life should be
Carly's rejection of her wished world and her acceptance of her real world
Sam in Juvi
Sam in Juvi

In this episode we are exposed to sides of Sam's and Carly's personalities. Sam's fight with Freddie showed off her love for a bullying and sadistic nature. She led Freddie to believe she was going to help him and when he needed her help the most, she walked away. Carly's mean side was shown off quite a bit in this episode. The episode showed the difference between how Sam gets angry and how Carly gets mad. Sam does it for fun, Carly does it when she is scared, hurt or confused. Her anger has meaning and reasoning behind it. Carly's anger is used to add depth her character instead of being her entire character. Another interesting aspect of this episode is that it implies that with Carly, Sam would be a hopeless bad kid with no future.

What do the Scholars say:
I ended up learning a lot from Larry Williamson's and Eric Pierson's article " The Rhetoric of Hate on the Internet: Hateporn's Challenge to Modern Media Ethics", even though the article had little to do with television shows, its theories on how hate is spread was worth noting. external image 75448_1674129263.jpgThey start their article talking about what counts as a “hate group”. They defined a “hate group” as anyone who advocates, “ beliefs or practices that attack or denigrate an entire class of people, typically for their beliefs or immutable characteristics”. At this point I started to examine if the characters on iCarly can be considered as a hate group. On several occasions the teens have been known to put down another person for how they look, like looking down on tech geeks because they are all suppose to be ugly. They also tend to put down and support the suppression of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They will simply label this person as a “loser”, the label of loser spreads the hate for them. Based on these observations, we can classify that the cast of iCarly is in fact a hate group. Once classified as a hate group, I had to look at how they spread hatred. Well according to Williamson and Pierson, hateporn aims to include children and allows them to feel power by interacting with this hatred. Hate groups create hateporn that entices people by being funny and playing on already existing stereotypes and bigotry.
iCarly is not as extreme of a hate group as the KKK and others, but it does use the same methods of hateporn to sell itself to young children. iCarly often presents their hatred in a comical light. Carly and Sam will hurt dorks like Gibby, who are considered a “losers”. From being at school children already have an understanding that being anything other than “cool” means you are a “loser”. No one cares when a loser is hurt, in fact it is expected. Children, from interacting in school have already learned a bias against “losers” and that it’s not okay to like them. Just like adults tend to, children also find delight and humor from having someone they don’t like belittled. iCarly only feeds the bias that already exists for school attending children and uses that hate to induce humor. iCarly does not create biases but merely enforces what kids already feel and experience. If a child does not have a bias against "losers", I don’t believe that they would find iCarly funny. Without the hatred, iCarly would lose all its appeal as a funny show.
At this point I understood why iCarly is so popular among kids and the importance hatred plays in the show. I also knew that the show just
Sam and Carly
Sam and Carly
fuels prejudices already instilled in children. The show promotes a belittling nature but there is no scholarly evidence that it teaches hatred. All that I was left wondering is why Sam is made into such a violent character. After reading the article "Producing Children's Television" by Robby London, things began to make a lot more sense. London said that having child-relatable characters is very important to whether or not a show will get produced by a network. Sam is a very relatable character in the sense that she loves violence and loves picking on others. Children can very easily understand the selfish lifestyle of Sam. She is the show's outlet for those negative emotions that the main character shouldn't have in their character. Carly, as the main character, is viewed by parents to be the hero or role model of the show so she can't engage in violence and still have the show be viewed as kid friendly. Sam being the violent sidekick helps bring a sense of balance to the show's characters but still allows for ample amounts of violence for children to enjoy.


Conclusion:
I went into this project expecting to find that Sam is a bad influence and is teaching violence to children. After researching and watching plenty of episodes, it becomes obvious that Sam is not a character that the producers try to paint in positive light. They often reference in the show that Sam is not a desirable person to be like. Sam's character exists to add dry humor, violence and attitude to an otherwise happy-go-lucky show. She isn't teaching but re-enforcing biases and hatred that has already been learned by children. The show can't be blamed for bullying and hate words that kids already understand and use. That being said, I think it would best for children's shows to not reinforce these learned biases and to show kids a more positive way to view their peers.

References:


London, R. Producing Children's Television. p. 1-3

Williamson, L. and Pierson, E. (2003) The Rhetoric of Hate on the Internet: Hateporn's Challenge to Modern Media Ethics.Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 18 (3&4), p.250-267