Updated: Sep 30
“Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them? Especially moms. They’re the most romanticized of anyone.” - Jennette McCurdy
Many think Jennette McCurdy’s best-selling book I’m Glad My Mom Died is about a child actor and her complicated relationship with the mom who brought both her and her career to life—a career we benefitted from as we watched her on screen.
“Yeah, Jennette McCurdy’s mom wasn’t the best, but she was adorable in iCarly! And now she’s famous and gets to enjoy all the perks that come with that,” we try to assure ourselves.
The questions we don’t want to confront—“Is putting a child in the spotlight ethical though?” and “Can a child ever really consent to this?”—are pushed off to the side for our own temporary emotional convenience.
We refer to Jennette and others like her—Drew Barrymore, Macaulay Culkin, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Danielle Radcliffe, etc.—as “child actors” because that makes us feel better than calling them what they really are: child laborers.
We like shows and movies like iCarly, and E.T. and Home Alone—they remind us of our selves, of our own childhoods—so we tell ourselves comforting-to-us stories like:
“Those kids wouldn’t be smiling so much if they weren’t having fun.”
“I’m sure the child actors want to be there. Who wouldn’t like skipping school and all that attention?”
“Kids who get into show business grow up with more money so of course they’re happy.”
“I would’ve liked being a child actor so these child actors must love it.”
We want to believe the images of Little McCurdy and of the countless other “child actors” we see smiling back at us through our devices somehow mean everything’s fine.
“No child abuse to see here! Totally not happening! The money those kids are making couldn’t possibly encourage the adults who have control over them to abuse them. Pish posh!”
We say to ourselves, “I’m a good person. I’d never support an industry that perpetuates child abuse.”
If we are the ethical people we say we are, we need to read Jennette’s words as they really appear on the page and not as we want them to be. The real story she tells in I’m Glad My Mom Died is that of a courageous young woman who dared to speak the truth of her experiences not just to herself, but to all of us.
Quotes from Jennette’s memoir
1. “And I fear that I resent my mother. The person I have lived for. My idol. My role model. My one true love.” - Jennette McCurdy
2. “Calorie restriction has brought me and Mom closer than we already were, which is really saying something because we were already so close. Calorie restriction is wonderful!” - Jennette McCurdy
3. “I can’t make sense of it. If my weight isn’t enough to get Mom to wake up, then nothing will be. And if nothing can wake her up, then that means she’s really going to die. And if she’s really going to die, what am I supposed to do with myself? My life purpose has always been to make Mom happy, to be who she wants me to be. So without Mom, who am I supposed to be now?” - Jennette McCurdy
4. “I feel the wedge between Mom and I growing by the day.” - Jennette McCurdy
5. “If I start to grow up, Mom won’t love me as much. She often weeps and holds me really tight and says she just wants me to stay small and young. It breaks my heart when she does this. I wish I could stop time. I wish I could stay a child. I feel guilty that I can’t. I feel guilty with every inch I grow. I feel guilty whenever we see one of my aunts or uncles and they comment on how much I’m “growing up.” I can see Mom’s eyebrow twitch whenever they say that. I can see how much it pains her.” - Jennette McCurdy
6. “If Mom really didn’t want what was best for me, or do what was best for me, or know what was best for me, that means my entire life, my entire point of view, and my entire identity have been built on a false foundation. And if my entire life and point of view and identity have been built on a false foundation, confronting that false foundation would mean destroying it and rebuilding a new foundation from the ground up.” - Jennette McCurdy
7. “I had [Mom] up on a pedestal, and I know how detrimental that pedestal was to my well-being and life. That pedestal kept me stuck, emotionally stunted, living in fear, dependent, in a near constant state of emotional pain and without the tools to even identify that pain let alone deal with it.” - Jennette McCurdy
8. “I have no idea how to go about life without doing it in the shadow of my mother, without my every move being dictated by her wants, her needs, her approval.” - Jennette McCurdy
9. “I lock eyes with Mom so she’ll know I care about her, that she’s my priority.” - Jennette McCurdy
10. “I’m desperate to feel close with [Mom], but also desperate for that closeness to be on my terms, not hers. I want her to know me for who I’m becoming. I want her to allow my growth. I want her to want me to be me.” - Jennette McCurdy
11. “I’m processing not only the grief of my mom’s death, but the grief of a childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood that I feel I had never truly been able to live for myself. It’s difficult, but it's the kind of difficult I have pride in." - Jennette McCurdy
12. “I’m realizing for the first time how exhausting it is to constantly curate my natural tendencies, responses, thoughts, and actions into whatever version Mom would like most.” - Jennette McCurdy
13. “I take to calorie restriction quickly and I’m quite good at it. I’m desperate to impress Mom. She’s a great teacher because she’s been calorie restricting for so long, she tells me.” - Jennette McCurdy
14. “I think of Mom. I don’t want to become her.” - Jennette McCurdy
15. “It is an honor that Mom cares about me so much that something like me having my own favorite color would devastate her. True love.” - Jennette McCurdy
16. “I’ve spent my whole life studying her so that I can always know, because I always want to do whatever I can in any given moment to keep or make Mom happy.” - Jennette McCurdy
17. “I was conditioned to believe any boundary I wanted was a betrayal of [Mom], so I stayed silent. Cooperative.” - Jennette McCurdy
18. “Mom didn’t get better. But I will.” - Jennette McCurdy
19. “Mom made it very clear she had no interest in changing. If she were still alive, she’d still be trying her best to manipulate me into being who she wants me to be.” - Jennette McCurdy
20. “Mom pauses the way she does before she’s about to say something she thinks is a part of a big moment. She bends around to look me in the eye—still holding my unfinished hair strand. “So what do you say? You want to act? You want to be Mommy’s little actress?” There’s only one right answer.” - Jennette McCurdy
21. “Moms are saints. Angels by merely existing. NO ONE could possibly understand what it’s like to be a mom. Men will never understand. Women with no children will never understand. No one but moms know the hardship of motherhood, and we non-moms must heap nothing but praise upon moms because we lowly, pitiful non-moms are mere peasants compared to the goddesses we call mothers.” - Jennette McCurdy
22. “Mom’s watching me and I’m watching her and that’s how it always is. We’re always connected. Intertwined. One.” - Jennette McCurdy
23. “Mom wants this more than anything, not me. This day was stressful and not fun, and if given the choice, I would choose to never do anything like it again. On the other hand, I do want what Mom wants, so she’s kind of right.” - Jennette McCurdy
24. “My mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” - Jennette McCurdy
25. “Sometimes when I miss [Mom] I start to fantasize about what life would be like if she were still alive and I imagine that maybe she’d have apologized, and we’d have wept in each other’s arms and promised each other we’d start fresh. Maybe she’d support me having my own identity, my own hopes and dreams and pursuits.” - Jennette McCurdy
26. “The mom I know is the person sitting in front of me, the person who is strong-willed and forceful and sometimes vicious. This is the mom I know.” - Jennette McCurdy
27. “There was a time when I took the “Thanks for being such a good sport” comment as a true compliment. I took pride in it. Mom always taught me to be one growing up, always wanted me to be one so I’d book more roles and build a good reputation to help my acting career grow. So when I was called one, I knew I was doing something right. Yep. I’m a good sport. I’m a good egg. I’m the good one, the one who’s not difficult, the teacher’s pet.” - Jennette McCurdy
28. “This is the person who meant more to me than anyone or anything in the world. This is the person who was the center of my existence. [Mom’s] dreams were my dreams, her happiness was my happiness.” - Jennette McCurdy
29. “This thing in Mom drives me nuts. This thing where she yearns to be pitied.” - Jennette McCurdy
30. “When I’m drunk, I’m less anxious, less inhibited, less worried about what Mom would want or think of me—in fact, when I’m drunk, the voice of Mom judging me evaporates completely.” - Jennette McCurdy
31. “Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them? Especially moms. They’re the most romanticized of anyone.” - Jennette McCurdy
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