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‘Douche du Jour': Nickelodeon’s ‘iCarly’ Ridicules Homeless Americans

We Americans have long marginalized the poor among us. In a nation steeped in the mythology of “rugged individualism” and an “up by your bootstraps” mentality that rewards success, no matter how dubiously won, we commonly dismiss those less fortunate as somehow inferior and unworthy of our assistance. In this succeed-or-be-damned national environment, many Americans truly believe that the poor are poor because they deserve to be, and that they’ve got nobody to blame but themselves for their station in life. After all, in America, the myth goes, anyone can attain wealth if they work hard enough.

Of course, this has proven to be utter nonsense, especially in today’s stark landscape of economic attrition. The more the subject of poverty is seriously studied, the more we learn about the inherent structural mechanisms that create and perpetuate it. There’s a reason, for example, why the median income for a white American household is 60% higher than that of a black household, and it’s not because whites are harder workers. But examining the real causes of inequality and poverty would force Americans to confront an ugliness in their sacred capitalist system that most of us would rather ignore. And so we ridicule the poor and blame them for their own predicament. It’s much easier that way, and seeing others with nothing or next to nothing even  makes some of us feel better about our own diminishing wealth relative to the owners of the country, the plutocrats whose income has soared while everyone else’s has remained flat or has  actually fallen.

One of the biggest problems facing today’s poor, especially during the current epidemic of job losses and real estate foreclosures, is homelessness. With nearly 10% of Americans unemployed and close to 3,000,000 homes in foreclosure, there are currently some 656,000 homeless people in the United States. Many of them were, until recently, successful members of the shrinking middle class. Many of them are families.

And that brings us to today’s Daily Douche. You would think that a media outlet like Nickelodeon, which informs and educates millions of our children, would approach the subject of homelessness with respect and dignity for those affected by it. After all, there are thousands of homeless children in America and they’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve to live on the streets. But the network’s popular program iCarly, about a teenager who creates her own web show, has repeatedly mocked the homeless, who are referred to as “hobos.” Check out these photos of a “hobo party,” replete with mis-matched “hobo” clothing (“Carly got her hobo costume from that new store in the mall called C.J. Penniless,” reads one caption) and bootleg cook camp setup. And here’s a post from iCarly’s blog about a man named “Hollywood the Hobo” with ‘fun facts’ about him, like: “Most people have a five-second rule when it comes to eating food that has fallen on the ground. Hollywood believes anywhere from five seconds to five weeks is fair game.”

This isn’t just grabbing at low-hanging fruit for some cheap, tasteless laughs at the expense of people who probably aren’t going to be watching anyway. Nickelodeon influences the world view of millions of children who watch it. Internet producers the Fine Brothers made a video titled “Kids React to Viral Videos” in which children discuss what homelessness means to them. “You kind of have to steal your own food,” one of the kids says. Another refers to a homeless man as a “hobo.” “People make fun of them all the time, like on iCarly, and stuff. Like, “Ooh, a hobo,” another little girl says.

Nickelodeon ought to know better than to poke fun at such a decidedly un-fun subject as homelessness. By doing so, they not only demonstrate incredibly poor taste and a shocking disregard for their fellow Americans who are suffering from extreme economic hardship, they also perpetuate the prevailing apathy towards the homeless and the poor in general. When kids grow up viewing the homeless as dirty “hobos,” chances are they won’t have much sympathy for them or much desire to address their situation when they become adults. For this, Nickelodeon and iCarly are our Daily Douches.

Sign a petition demanding Nickelodeon apologize for mocking homeless people here.

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