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Research Question: With the hit show "iCarly" having a homogeneous cast, that does not include any minorities, how do minority children between the ages of 8 and 12 identify with the characters?

Rationale: Normally, Nickelodeon strategically places minority characters in its programming to make their shows relatable among minority children and to correspond with the increasing amount of diversity among various institutions. However, when the popular Nickelodeon series “iCarly” (which features an all-White cast) aired the episode "iGot a Hot Room" it received 7.7 million viewers according to Nielsen Ratings. Among that 7.7 million it cannot go without being assumed that portions of those viewers were minority children.

Making Connections to Other Scholarly Works: “Racial stereotypes in cartoons are particularly interesting because they are shown to children, particularly young children, who are still developing their sense of the world and their sense of identity.” (DeGaetano, 2005; Strasburger, 1999; cited in "Bratz Friend or Foe to the Movement Towards Racial Equality"). Although iCarly is not a cartoon and I am not particularly speaking on racial stereotypes, Carlos E. Cortes (the author of “The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teaches About Diversity”) explains that children are always extracting information from what they see on the screen whether is consciously or subconsciously and whether its from educational programming or pure entertainment. Cortes also points out that with the ever-increasing power and influence of media, it is becoming a dominant educational component to children’s learning experience and socialization. iCarly, specifically, has yet to be called into question from a scholarly perspective. But the question of what and how children identify, grasp or recognize from various media images has always been called in for observation and through survey and observation we can begin to uncover what keeps minority viewers attracted to iCarly?

Expectations: Based on Cortes' observations of how children are always extracting information from media images and because these children are all minorities, I expected for the children to notice that iCarly featured an all-White cast.

What Questions Are Important to Ask: Banet-Weiser says that minorities are cleverly placed in programs to validate the shows "coolness". But if there are virtually no minorities placed in the episodes iCarly then what makes this show cool enough for minority children to watch and relate to?
How are minority children able to identify with a show that does not feature characters that represent a minority figure?
How is iCarly able to increase its ratings with a homogeneous cast?

Methodology: I conducted two surveys: one at Russell Byers Charter School, asking twenty-four minority children between the ages of 8 and 12 if they’ve ever seen iCarly? Who was their favorite Character? And why? And the other asking my two little brothers between the ages of 8 and 10 asking them the same questions. But because of my surprising results, I went back to the drawing board and conducted an observation based study.

My Results
100% of the children asked have viewed the show once. Only 2 children (my brothers) admitted to not exactly enjoying the show and did not watch it enough to have a favorite. Therefore I did not count their responses in the data below. The children at the Byers school appeared to be avid fans of the series. Twenty-three of the children chose their favorites based on their personalities and things they’ve done on the show.


VOTES
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Who Liked Who? And Reasoning
Names of Characters












Carly
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21%
More girls tended to like Carly. Reasoning: because she's nice.
Sam
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43%
Boys and girls equally liked Sam. Reasoning: because she's violent and funny.
Spencer
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8%
More boys liked Spencer. Reasoning: because he's funny and creative/inventive.
Freddie
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13%
More Boys liked Freddie. Reasoning: because he's smart and likes technology. One girl said he was her favorite because he was cute.
Gibby
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9%
Boys and girls equally liked Gibby. Reasoning: because he's weird.
Guppy
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4.3%
One person (a boy) named Guppy as their favorite. Reasoning: because he's weird.
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Surprisingly only one of the children mentioned liking a character solely for physical attributes. The rest of the children did not mention anything about the White-ness of the show or how else they could relate with the characters besides their personality traits. Also the children did not ever mention of talk about the minority characters that do appear on the show from time to time. For me, the question then became why wouldn’t they talk about, identify with, or even mention the minority characters that do appear on the show.


So as a part two, to my methodology, I went back and watched a few episodes of iCarly and watched out for how minorities or ideas normally associated with minorities were used.


Episodes vs.
iPilot
iLike Jake
iWant More Viewers
iNevel
iWanna Stay With Spencer
iSpy a Mean Teacher
Who, What, and Why a Minority Child Might Not Identify
Carly and Sam are forced to hold auditions and their friend Freddie offers to help. He offers a helping hand to record the auditions but ends up finding out how funny Carly and Sam are and records it.
A boy who hasn't been available since the thrid grade finally broke up with his girlfriend and every girl at school is trying their hand. He takes a liking to Carly and her show, sings on it and makes amends with his girlfriend.
Two teams: Carly and Sam, Spencer and Freddie, go against each other in a contest to find the most creative way to get viewers.
When Carly rejects her competitions kiss he goes on a rampage describing how horrible her show is. Her, Sam and Freddie find a way to make him change his review on his website.
Carly and Spencer's grandfather tries to get Carly to live with him because he thinks Spencer is unfit to take care of Carly.
Carly, Sam and Freddie decide to find out what, their mean teacher, Mrs. Briggs does outside of school.
Who
Ted Franklin: principal of Carly's school African American male,
only minority on the show to have a reoccuring role. African American, male ballet dancer, and rapper/beat boxer.
2 random gossiping Black girls
Seattle Beat Host: Black woman
Emit: Asian kid who lives two floors below Carly, and
Black/Hispanic/Latin American cop
No minorities on this episode. But there was a White boy dancing in an over-sized velor sweat suit with his hat turned to the side krumping. One could assume he was not a serious Krump dancer.
Black fireman
No minorities on the show but there were subliminal references to the stereotypes of Rastafarianism.
What Were They Doing? Saying?
Principal was silly, he was not taking himself or his faculty seriously and was joking around with Carly. Boy auditioned as a ballet dancer was in an emasculating outfit and he was messing up his routine. And beat boxer/rapper boy is acting silly and is clearly not a beat boxer or rapper.
No lines, just extras. They were talking amongst themselves, which is common at predominantely White high schools; minority kids end up being alienated or alienating themselves unless they completely assimilate with their White peers.
Seattle Beat host was supposed to be an urban, head shaking Black woman. Emit was a tester on iCarly's show to see if you could drink spaghetti and cop arrested Spencer for causing high-way accidents.
White kid was krumping covered in peanut butter. Krumping is an art form of dance practiced amongst mostly Black underprivileged youth on the west coast. Clearly this boy was not a serious. This scene toned-down the seriousness and significance of Krump dancing. When he was speaking he used slang and it sounded like he was trying to imitate a language he had never spoken using what he's seen on television.
He was eating the chicken stir-fry that Spencer cooked which is how the fire got started in the first place.
The show featured a White guy wearing a t-shirt with a picture with the continent of Africa on it, sitting at a desk with a tiny Jamaican flag on it. laughing hysterically at iCarly.
How a Child Might Not Want to Identify With This/These Characters/Ideas
All three of these roles cannot be taken seriously. They make what they try to do ie be a stern prinicipal, a serious ballet dancer and rapper/beat boxer look silly.
They weren't significant at all. They were just standing there talking amongst themselves. And then on top of that they were assumed to be gossiping about Jake. Black women and women in general are stereotyped as gossipers which has a negative stigma attached.
The image of the urban, head shaking Black woman is a prevelant image. It is seen over and over again. The head shaking represents attitude which is noted as negative because if women, in general, have an attitude of opinion of something their word is not welcome and they're considered as "bitchey", "unsatisfiable", "ungrateful". Carly, Sam or Freddie could'v drank the spaghetti themselves but they used Emit. Emit was somewhat of a tool. Through the tones of Sam and Carly one could assume that they were deeming him to be weird which can either be negative or positive on the show but in this case negative. The cop that arrested Spencer was silly. He was only concerned with how, when Spencer's sign was malfunctiioning, it said "Pee on Carl" which happened to be his name. He was not concerned with the lives that Spencer had endangered. He was silly and someone that one would normally take seriously was not.
This coincides with the overused image of hip-hop. Baggy clothes, not speaking proper English, and dancing. Alongside that it's a White boy pretending to krump while covered in peanut butter. Krumping, which is an outlet for youth to express their anger and frustration of their circumstance is now being perverted or made to look silly.
The one line that fireman has is “This is some gooood chicken stir fry.” -> perpetuated stereotype of Blacks loving fried chicken. PROBLEMATIC
I'm not sure if these hints would even be understood by children watchiing the show. The subliminal references to stereotypes of Rastafarian believers and the religion itself, which is, stereotypically, practiced by minorities makes it seem silly as if it should not be taken seriously as peoples belief and lifestyle.
Conclusion: Although iCarly features an all-White cast only using minorities, stereotypes of minorities and anything culturally related to minorities as comedic tools by deeming them as negative or not coinciding with iCarly's rules of what's socially accepted, the results of my non-findings should not be wasted. They could lead to more questions which will lead to more answers. Minority children did not recognize that there were virtually no minority characters. What does this mean? Do these results reflect our blindness or normalization of White-ness as a society? Do we, as adults who understand more, give media too much credit of really how much it is influencing our youth? Is this evidence of an overly P.C. nation? Is race a learned concept that children do not necessarily know the pros and cons of until they reach adolescence or adulthood?

Sources:
Cortes, C.E. (2000). The children are watching: how the media teach about diversity. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). Kids rule!: nickelodeon and consumer censorship. Durham, NC and London, England: Duke University Press.

Rose, L. (2010, August 3). icarly's hot roomrakes in ratings!. Retrieved from http://justjaredjr.buzznet.com/2010/08/03/icarlys-hot-room-rakes-in-the-ratings/#ixzz1JDWznZvY

Burns-Wright, A. (2008, July 10). Bratz: friend or foe to the movement towards racial equality?. Retrieved from http://www.engagediversity.net/Bratz.html

I'd like to send thank you to the bright and wonderful children at the Russell Byers Charter School of Philadelphia and to their helpful and supportive teachers and academic leaders.