iCarly (2021) Grows Up With its Audience

Cast photo of iCarly (2021) featuring characters Carly, Spencer, Freddie, Harper, and Millicent.

Last week, iCarly aired its first batch of new episodes in nearly ten years. The popular kid’s TV show is back and has come a long way in terms of representation. A meta joke in the third episode illustrates the strides iCarly has made to increase cast diversity since its original run. Picture it: a Millennial and Gen Z mob of wannabe influencers gathering in an art gallery, furious that the exhibit is mocking their love of the internet. A Black woman rushes forward, points, and shouts, “Look over there! Someone is saying something negative about a show you liked as a child” and the mob’s anger is instantly redirected.

The woman yelling in the art gallery is Harper, Carly’s roommate and best friend. She is one of two new main characters who have been added to the cast, both of whom are Black. This joke works well in Harper’s hands because she embodies what the fictional mob could feel upset over in their nostalgic attachment: a new character “replacing” a beloved old one. Here, specifically, a Black female character “threatening” the (white) status quo as a result of “wokeness gone too far” (read: progress). It brings the joke to another delicious level of meta. It certainly helps that Harper has not “hurt” the show, but enhanced it. She is a confident Black, bisexual, former one-percenter who is content (for the time being) working as a barista. She is a character that fits right into a more adult and more aware iCarly.

Harper is proof that iCarly is not just picking up where it left off. The kids who watched the original run of iCarly are all grown up, and the show has grown with them.

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