Welcome back to Her Campus @ Geneseo’s iCarly theme week, where we celebrate the beloved 2007 sitcom in an uncomfortable amount of detail for a whole week. This is a continuation of my series “Queering iCarly,” where I apply a queer theory lens to some topics of interest within the show. Part one can be found here, which gives a more detailed explanation of what queer theory is and why I’m doing this (answer: it’s because I can!).
Before we get started, I have one small addendum to “Queering iCarly, Part One”; specifically the introduction. My definition of queer theory focused solely on the theory’s approach to gender and sexuality. While it’s true that much of queer theory is focused on breaking down the binaries that define gender and sexuality, it can also be applied to breaking down the binaries potentially associated with any identity such as race, religious affilitation, and, as you’ll see soon, conventional unattractiveness. Hence, you can “queer” literally anything. Such as, oh, I don’t know, an American sitcom made by a potential pedophile (yes, I’m writing this into the article in case we don’t write about it this week; you can read up on here and here).
Queering: iCarly’s Approach to Conventional Unattractiveness
(Or, To Live[stream] and Die in Seattle)
Attractiveness is the measuring rod used within the iCarly universe to distinguish who poses a threat to the trio of webcamming teens and who can be trusted (save for rare circumstances where this is meant to be the episode’s twist see: “iGo to Japan”): who is deserving of love and who deserves to be deprived of it, who is an acceptably normal character and who is the comedic relief. This attractiveness is shown in a plethora of ways: in the traditional sense (i.e., a character’s physical appearance), in plot points (i.e. who we as an audience are supposed to like for the sake of the plot), etc. These character types can be somewhat reliably organized into three categories, something I like to call the “Tripartite Model of iCovet.”
Created by Jessica Bansbach
Existing outside of the margins of acceptability sits three main classes of iCarly characters: “The Ugly,” “The Crazy” and “The Side Joke.”
“Ugly” characters are those whose outer appearances are unattractive—think Lewbert and his mole. This outer appearance is usually due to some kind of unchangeable physical trait.
Then, there are “The Crazy.” These are the characters suffering from some generalized mental illness and/or who are just a little bit beyond “quirky” usually at the harm of the inner tripartite forces (more on that soon). These would be our Ridgeway Junior High School teachers who keep obsessive shrines to Randy Jackson while verbally abusing their students with sadistic glee. While these characters are not always physically ugly, their personalities are what make them unattractive.
Frequently, “ugly” and “crazy” mix together as the plot demands, but plenty of characters also sit contently within a single boundary, usually save for “Side Joke,” which shares a unique relationship with the other two. “Side Joke” is exactly as it sounds: it’s relegating a character as a “side joke,” making them unimportant to the overall plot. Being a side joke in and of itself is not a trait unique to a character’s attractiveness, but notice that “Side Joke’s” connecting lines are red. It rarely exists without relying on the other two; most jokes about characters in the show usually rely on some jab at their physical appearance or their mental state. Side Joke is important in rendering a final blow to a character’s attractiveness—the character is so unworthy due to their lack of attractiveness in either of the former classes that their main purpose is for mockery. Mainly, this is the fate that awaits “ugly” or “crazy” characters after their story arcs have drawn to a close, usually in the form of callback jokes.
Inside of the triangle are three attractive classes stratified by importance. These inner classes are the focus of the outer classes’ attention; in other words, the inner triangle is what the characters of the outer triangle revolves around episode after episode. Lewbert, “Ugly,” wants to inconvenience iCarly and co. at his leisure. Nora, “Crazy” and “Ugly,” only exists to kidnap the trio. In short, these inner forces always possess what the unattractive outside lacks—what they “covet.”
At the top we have “The Beautiful,” often the home of Carly herself. It’s usually her beauty, both inwards and outwards, that attracts the attention of the outside forces for better or for worse. The Nevel arc is the most obvious example of this.
In the middle is “A Little Bit of Everything.” These are major players in the iCarly universe that have an acceptable amount of the outside traits, but are still considered reasonably attractive. Sam and Freddie are both a little crazy, can both be considered “ugly” under the right circumstances (whether through Sam’s insults to Freddie, the episode dedicated to feminizing Sam or Freddie’s frequent regulation to “nerd” throughout the series), and can be the focus of many one-off jokes regarding the aforementioned traits.
Sitting at the bottom is “everyone else,” characters unworthy of “Little Bit” and “Beautiful’s” attention for too long. In similar fashion, we will not be paying them much attention, either.
Let’s put some more names to the terminology for visualization.
A recurring theme throughout iCarly for the “Crazy” archetype is that they do not outwardly appear to be crazy, or least no more crazy than is permissible—they might perhaps infiltrate into the “Little Bit of Everything” category. It is, instead, them being crazy that constitutes the episode’s “twist.” The Japanese hosts Kyoko and Yuki of “iGo to Japan” fame are a good example of this—they are attractive web hosts whose somewhat manic betrayal of the trio (complete with binding their guardians, kidnapping and gratuitous karate for seemingly no reason) pushes the plot along. Their purpose within the special is to antagonize the inner triangle, “coveting” their position as a potential winner to the Japanese comedy awards. Additionally, Carly’s boyfriend Griffin in “iDate a Bad Boy” is depicted as devilishly handsome but is betrayed as crazy for breaking his bad boy social norms when it’s revealed that he likes beanie babies. Or how about the kind-appearing Missy, who’s secretly hellbent on reclaiming Carly as her best friend in “iReunite with Missy”?
Notice that all of these characters have one thing in common—they covet something that the inner triangle has, whether it be fame, love or friendship, respectively.
“Crazy” and “Ugly” are often combined together for the series’ most notoriously persistent antagonists; namely, Nora, Nevel, Lewbert and the school teachers. All three are recurring characters throughout iCarly and, within episodes that they are not relevant in, become “Side Jokes.” Lewbert is the easiest example of this. He antagonizes Carly and friends throughout “iHurt Lewbert,” and once the episode concludes, is usually referred to thereafter in quick side jokes. Of course, Lewbert isn’t free from jokes regarding his outer attractiveness during his titular episode:
… but he doesn’t get respite afterwards, either, thanks to the iCarly segment dedicated to pulling pranks on him.
It’s worth mentioning that not all of the characters on the outside of the model are necessarily villainous, despite being overwhelming stacked that way. Freddie’s mom can absolutely be classified as “Crazy.” More important than their morality is, again, their relationship to the inner triangle. Freddie’s mother obsessively covets her son’s safety and health.
You’ll notice a glaring omission of one character in particular. Don’t think that I’ve left Gibby out of my analysis. In fact, Gibby might just be the most important player in the “iCovet” model—he is the exception that tests the rule. Gibby is unique insofar that he is a transient between the inner and outer triangle. He rapidly pinballs between “Ugly,” his overweightness being played for a “Side Joke,” and all the while can be considered “Crazy,” wildly yelling out his name at random intervals. This is not entirely unique; other characters on the outskirts have been known to do the same (though arguably, Gibby does it the most out of the other cast members).
What is unique, however, is that Gibby manages to break his outer status to join the inner hierarchy, becoming “A Little Bit Of Everything” as the series progresses and he becomes a member of the main cast. Depending on episode need, he can easily be redistributed to the outer triangle (see “iStart a Fanwar,” where he becomes a “Side Joke” with his “Crazy” grandfather while they miss the convention in order to order soup) or brought inside as a major player (see his part in “iParty With Victorious,” where he helps Carly bust her cheating boyfriend). What does this teach us? Mainly, that while the “iCovet” model is not without its flaws, it is the first serious attempt to breech class identification within the iCarly universe.
Think I missed someone? Want to contribute to the growing field of iCarlyology? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.