We need to talk about the sick sexualisation of Ariana Grande and the cast of ‘Victorious’

We need to talk about the sick sexualisation of Ariana Grande and the cast of ‘Victorious’

Fans are criticising Nickelodeon for ‘infantilizing’ Ariana Grande and encouraging the teen cast to drink

OPINION: In case you’ve been living under a rock, the actress who played Sam in ‘iCarly’ and ‘Sam & Cat’ just published a book titled ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’. In the memoir she discusses the abuse and exploitation she experienced as a child star, including some shocking allegations about what it was like to work at Nickelodeon during the days of ‘iCarly’ ‘Victorious’ and their spin-off ‘Sam and Cat’.

The book has renewed discussions about the way the young Nickelodeon stars were treated, and has led some fans to call out the network for ‘sexualising’ and ‘infantilising’ Ariana Grande, who played Cat Valentine in ‘Victorious’ when she was just 16.

A video compilation has gone viral that shows a teenage Ariana being made to do all sorts of creepy things, like putting her fingers down her throat and talking about being ‘soaking wet’. Plus A LOT of stuff involving feet. 

I don’t even know if I should embed this, it’s so gross. Major content warning!

As a tween ‘Victorious’ fan you might have watched these moments and thought they were just Cat being goofy. But as one twitter user wrote  ‘As an adult watching this right now you can tell EXACTLY what they were doing’. Another said ‘When she stuck her finger in her mouth... She looked physically uncomfortable, and the feet thing... Just... Wow, disgusting’. 

What makes this even worse is that Cat Valentine was the most childish character among the ‘Victorious’ friend group. It feels like the camera singles her out - the naive and ditzy girl with a baby voice.

And we are really just scratching the surface with the feet thing.

As a young audience member I never picked up on how suggestive these clips were. I watched ‘Victorious’ for the toxic on-again off-again couple Jade and Beck, who in 2010 I was almost as obsessed with as ‘Twilight’s’ Bella and Edward (and we wonder why our generation is so bad at dating?). After asking around the office, it seems most of us watched the show for them.

We loved ‘Victorious’ because it felt edgy - at least compared to the other shows on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. The slapstick comedy and tween ‘will they won't they’ plotlines were pretty much the same as on ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ or ‘Hannah Montana’, but ‘Victorious’ had this other quality - you just felt like these were cool kids, these were kids who partied. 

It turns out that sense may have been true. And revisiting it with adult eye’s has kind of ruined my nostalgia for the show tween me thought was so cool.

In McCurdy's book she describes how ‘the creator’ of the two shows encouraged her and her underaged cast mates to drink, according to McCurdy the shows creator told her the ‘Victorious’ cast went out drinking all the time and the iCarly kids needed to loosen up and be more like them.

In 2020 Avan Joja, the actor who played Beck posted to Tiktok about how he doesn't remember filming any of the episodes, but remembers the parties. 

‘Victorious’ aired from 2010-2013, you could argue that was another era, before people started talking openly about things like sexual harrasment or mental health. But with the inappropriate things that have been said to the young ‘Stranger Things’ cast by some in the media, how much progress has Hollywood really made to protect child stars? 

I hold so much nostalgia for ‘Victorious’, but I don’t think I’ll be doing a rewatch any time soon. This show makes me shudder. 

Arlette Barraclough is a Digital Content Producer for The Edge