Fame is a status that few attain but many desire. From money, to luxuries, to public recognition, to a network of other famous individuals— it appears there’s an endless list of pros and little to no cons.
As underprivileged normies, we have a skewed perspective of the entertainment industry, looking into the lives of the famed and beloved through rose-colored glasses. In actuality, we have no idea what the hell goes on behind the scenes.
Jennette McCurdy—known internationally for her role as Sam Puckett on the hit Nickelodeon shows iCarly and Sam & Cat— gives us a real look into the downsides of fame in her memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died. Laced with dark humor about growing up in the limelight raised by a narcissistic mother, I’m Glad My Mom Died could crush the dreams of anybody hoping to be famous.
The main focus of McCurdy’s confessional, while likewise shading the lack of safeguards and protections for child actors, is the blatant abuse she endured from her mother. Though it’s rare for a mother and daughter to have a pure symbiotic relationship, McCurdy demonstrates how the delusion of such a relationship can cause a long chain of catastrophic events.
Contrary to popular belief, McCurdy reveals that she never sought out stardom; rather, it was her mother who pushed her to accomplish the aspirations she was unable to fulfill in her youth.
So, at the ripe age of eight, McCurdy was involuntary initiated into an industry with rigid rules, standards, and unattainable expectations. What’s worse—this isn’t even where her mother’s abuse began; the abuse manifested itself well-before the lights, camera, and action.
For example, McCurdy recalls her mother chasing her father around the house with a kitchen knife as she was conditioned to cheer her mother on in the process. Moreover, when McCurdy first started showing signs of puberty, her mother taught her how to calorie restrict so that she could keep her youthful body for longer, allowing her to book younger aged roles in the process. Church quickly became McCurdy’s only safe haven, as the three hour service gifted the peace and quiet that she could not find at home.
The book not only provides insight into McCurdy’s childhood, or lack thereof, but it also delves deep into the question of what do abused children owe their parents, if anything. Much of the latter half of the book is McCurdy struggling to come to terms with the abuse she was put through and how to move forward from the fame she never wanted.
In addition to clueing readers in on the realities of McCurdy’s upbringing, I’m Glad My Mom Died also reveals the destructive nature of the entertainment industry. Many anecdotes throughout her memoir recount unfavorable interactions with the infamous Nickelodeon producer Dan Schneider, cryptically dubbed “The Creator” throughout the book. She recalls the emotional abuse he inflicted on her and her coworkers; for McCurdy, work was barely an escape from her life at home.
McCurdy thus takes readers through her difficult therapy process and how she managed relationships with others, including her troubled family. It makes one wonder how all of this could have happened behind the scenes as nobody would could tell from watching her on their television screens. The “act” truly was an act and a half, and even watching reruns of either iCarly or Sam & Cat makes one wonder how much McCurdy had to struggle simply to get through each line.
Overall, I’m Glad My Mom Died is a must-read in every sense of the hyphenated word. McCurdy does a phenomenal job of not only navigating her emotions but articulating them so that readers understand her feelings on a personal level. Jokes and quips lighten up even the heaviest portions of the books, making this such an engaging read impossible to put down. The cover itself—a bright yellow sleeve with a smirking McCurdy holding a pink urn—exacerbates this overlay of humor and invites you to laugh at the ill-timed punchlines about death and abuse.
There isn’t a book quite like this one; hopefully, the candor that McCurdy bravely exhibits will encourage other child stars to out the abusers who have unfairly shaped their lives, too.