- Laci Mosley, a Black woman, was cast as the character of Harper in the upcoming “iCarly” reboot.
- She said she received a barrage of hateful, racist comments on social media.
- Experts explain how widespread this behavior is, and why it remains pervasive.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
A writer on the upcoming “iCarly” reboot tweeted that one of the stars of the show was being targeted with hateful, racist comments.
“Hey #iCarly tweeps!” Franchesca Ramsey, who has over 230,000 followers, wrote on May 17. “I’m seeing a looooot of racist abuse being hurled at one of our stars & I’d love if you’d join me in calling it out when/if you see it.” The tweet was widely shared and received over 12,000 likes.
“iCarly,” which is set to premier on Paramount+ on June 17, is a remake of the Nickelodeon show that ran from 2007 to 2012. It stars Miranda Cosgrove as Carly Shay, who runs a web show with her friends. In the new series, Carly and her friends will be “navigating work, love, and family in their 20s,” according to EW.
Following the tweet and subsequent comments from Laci Mosley, a Black actor set to join the cast of “iCarly”, Insider spoke to experts with experience in the way people of color are treated in the entertainment industry. They highlighted the pervasive racism from online trolls, many of whom struggle to accept diversity being newly introduced into television shows, and the importance of speaking out in order to effect change.
Laci Mosley spoke out about racist abuse she’d received from fans who were angry she was joining the ‘iCarly’ cast
It was announced in March that Mosley, an actor best known for her role in the sitcom “Florida Girls” and her podcast “Scam Goddess,” would be joining the cast in the role of a new character called Harper, who will live with Carly.
While many of the original cast, including Cosgrove, Jerry Trainor, and Nathan Kress, are returning to the reboot, fans noticed that the character Sam Puckett, played by Jennette McCurdy, was missing.
This appears to have led to backlash towards Mosley on social media, with fans angry that a beloved white character is not present, but a Black woman is.
“Laci’s character Harper isn’t replacing Sam,” Ramsey tweeted, following up with statements from her fellow writers condemning the racism. “No one could replace Jeanette McCurdy or her incredible talent! But it’s both racist as hell & completely unfair to decide that Laci hasn’t earned her role especially since the show isn’t even out yet!!”
-Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) May 17, 2021
Mosley tweeted that she had received racist TikTok videos and social media comments since the announcement, and it had broken her heart. She said “being a Black woman is exhausting” and “we all deserve better.”
She also posted a statement to her Instagram, saying that she loves being Black, but hates “how Black people are treated on this planet.
“I was shocked when a celebration of all the hard work we’ve put into making this reboot was overshadowed by the most racism I’ve ever experienced in my life over the course of 72 hours,” she said. “I felt silly being so upset because I’ve been in this little brown body my entire life and racism isn’t new but it still hurts.”
‘When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression’
The issue of racist backlash against women of color in entertainment is widespread. Amina Smith, a former Stadium Sports Network host who is now the on-air talent for NBC Boston Sports, told Insider she has experienced racism in many different ways. She’s had people calling her the N-word slur in messages, and has been told she’s not qualified for her job because she is simply filling a “Black quota.”
“It sickens me to see that people who have never met you have so much hate for you just based on what you look like,” she said, adding that anonymity makes it easier for people to be comfortable spewing hate.
“I think people often detach celebrities from being actual humans that can hear, see, and feel the hate that comes their way,” she said. “All of this just shows that racism isn’t something of the past and unfortunately, very much a reality in this country.”
Cheryl L. Bedford is the founder of social action organization Women of Color Unite, which focuses on fair treatment and fair pay for women of color in the entertainment and media industries. She told Insider that racism directed at the success of Black people is a blatant example of “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
Seeing more Black talent taking starring roles can cause an angry reaction from some white people because they are so used to being centered in every conversation, she said.
“Content has always been seen through the white male cis-gender heterosexual gaze,” she said. “So as we get more and more diverse, you will have that backlash.”
It’s particularly apparent when shows are rebooted because people tend to have a nostalgic attachment to them, she said, and don’t like to see them changed – especially when the show wasn’t initially diverse.
“They have these feelings from childhood that come up,” Bedford said. “What they fail to realize is that people like me, we never saw ourselves in that. You might be attached to it. We’re not. And if you want our dollars, you got to put us in it.”
That fallout is a spectrum, from casually racist comments to rampant, hateful abuse. And it will continue to increase until diversity is the norm, Bedford said.
“The work that I do is exhausting. The emotional energy that comes from calling things out over and over and over again is exhausting,” she said. “But it’s the work that needs to be done because we have to get to the point where it is normalized.”
The hateful campaign highlights a gendered form of anti-Black racism
Tyler Parry, an assistant professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Nevada, told Insider that directing racist hate towards people of color cast in television shows is common.
“This has been a pretty consistent thought process amongst racists on the internet,” he said. “Where even before the show begins, it is doomed for failure in their minds, simply because the network had the audacity to recast the part for better representation.”
He thinks campaigns of targeted harassment can be intended to psychologically damage the actor, but also to put pressure on the studio to recast them with another white person.
“We also have to consider that this is a gendered form of anti-Black racism, and this is just the most recent manifestation of that,” he said. “And I think that’s important because it does seem that Black women are the ones most targeted by these campaigns.”
For example, the same kind of vitriol was seen when a Black actor was chosen as the character of Rue in “The Hunger Games,” or when Javicia Leslie was cast as Batwoman.
Support from allies is vital to send a message that racism should not be tolerated
Philip McKenzie, the chief strategy officer at MediaVillage and the executive director of AdvancingDiversity.org, told Insider that when racist abuse happens, it is important for casts, productions, and studios to have a united front against the hate “to not only support the talent that is under attack but to send a clear message to fans this behavior is not tolerated or welcome.”
The Instagram account for “iCarly” on Paramount+ shared a statement following the tweets, saying the racist attacks were “not acceptable.” It was shared by Mosley’s costars Cosgrove and Trainor, who added that he never wanted to hear the phrase “iCarly fans are racist” ever again.
“Our company is proud to uphold the values of inclusivity and collaboration, where we work to embrace new and diverse voices, act with care, and work together,” it reads. “The upcoming Paramount+ iCarly series is one of many examples of this commitment, and we support our entire cast and crew and stand against all instances of hate and racism.”
Some experts think studios could do more. Marc Morial, the president and CEO of the civil rights organization National Urban League who has fought against racism in Hollywood, told Insider that in order for people of color to see themselves in the stories that shape our worldview, diversity and inclusion needs to be pursued “at every level and in every facet of the entertainment industry.”
“It is just as important for white America to see people of all races, ethnicities, and cultures represented realistically in the media they consume,” he said.
Bedford said this means hiring more people of color as writers, producers, and directors because “the marginalized can write for the ones in power.”
“The opposite is not true,” she said.
Insider has reached out to Paramount representatives for comment.
Parry said that with the rise of social media, even a small collective of online trolls “can have a very big voice.”
“It does amplify people who have prejudices that they want to let loose and unleash on specific groups,” he said.
The support shown for Mosley has also been huge though, according to her recent tweets.
“I just want to thank you all for being so kind and uplifting me over the past few days,” she said on May 19. “I can’t believe how a scenario that started out so negative has become SO overwhelming positive.”