Sam & Cat won the Nickolodeon Kids’ Choice Award last night for Favorite TV Show, thanks to the appeal of stars Ariana Grande and Jennette McCurdy. However, beyond the popularity of Grande and McCurdy, the appeal of this show remains a mystery.
McCurdy’s Sam, the character spun off from the popular Nickolodeon show iCarly, which finished its run last year, is a scrappy sort of girl with a seemingly unending appetite. She would sooner start swinging than ask questions, but therein lies part of the problem. Sam & Cat is designed for the 7-year-old to 11-year-old set, and teaching these girls that it is okay to hit instead of talking about what is bothering them is not a great message to send to this age group. She is often insulting and though there is an attempt to pass this off as lighthearted teasing, the character is just meanly insulting those around her.
Grande’s Cat, previously of Victorious, is as airheaded as they come, and this is definitely not a message that should be relayed to young girls. There are many preteen girls who believe that if they pretend to be airheaded and not all that bright they will ultimately become likeable by others. While the message about finding an unlikely friend is clear and a valuable one for anyone, never mind preteen girls. Grande also took home the top prize at the Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite TV Actress, which proves that her airheaded, whispery portrayal of Cat continues to win fans for some inexplicable reason.
It is inexplicable why shows like Nickelodeon’s Sam & Cat continue to be popular with the preteen set. Somewhere along the way, the preteen girls of society appears to have gotten the message that you can be appealing if you are incredibly naive to the point of seeming unintelligent or if you are rude and insulting. The messaging is not much better for boys; the two male characters on the show fall under the dumb jock stereotype or the cocky preteen.
While somewhat sweeter in nature, Disney’s Austin & Ally also conveys much the same sort of message. Austin, portrayed by Favorite TV Actor Ross Lynch, is a preternaturally likeable pop star on the rise who is just a little slow on the uptake. His songwriting partner Ally, portrayed by Laura Marano, is sweet and a little naive, with the cast being rounded out by loveable lunkhead Dez, aka Calum Worthy, and acerbic and insulting best friend Trish, played by Raini Rodriguez. The characters in this show all genuinely like each other, but again, girls are sent the message that if they are either incredibly sweet and understanding or snarky and insulting, people will like them.
There are an increasing number of young girls who have self-esteem and self-image issues without being taught that snarkiness and being an airhead is all right. While there have been rumors Nickelodeon is looking to cancel Sam & Cat following the leak of McCurdy’s age-inappropriate selfies, nothing has been confirmed, and given the Favorite TV Show and Favorite TV Actress awards the show has just won, it could be that Sam & Cat could continue for a while yet. This means that the messaging that is going out to the show’s preteen audiences are continuing to get the message that it is okay to be rude, insulting or just simply not that bright in order to be liked. Websites such as Common Sense Media, which gives parents and educators some tips and advice as to the best television shows out there for children today, have denigrated the show for its complete lack of connection to realistic scenarios and its portrayal of kids. If shows such as Sam & Cat and Austin & Ally continue to hit the airwaves with their messages of it being okay to act the way the teens on these shows are acting, parents and educators alike are going to be fighting an uphill battle with the media-obsessed generation that is today’s youth.
By Christina St-Jean