Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Have you ever heard the expression, a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

photo credit: Phil Wood

Being in my early twenties,  I have not been following Nickelodeon’s hit tween show iCarly that closely. Though I had never watched the show, I have heard of its popularity with the tween crowd.  In the 1990’s, I grew up with shows such as The Secret World of Alex Mack, All That, and The Amanda Show, which I thought was the funniest thing on the planet.

At first glance, iCarly looks harmless, even tame compared to the rest of  Hollywood’s offerings. iCarly is centered around a tween girl named Carly Shay who lives with her 26 year-old guardian brother while their father is in the air force. Carly creates an online web show with her two best friends, Sam and Freddie. After Freddie tapes the girls performing at a school talent show and posts it online, the trio becomes an internet sensation.

iCarly has been airing since September of 2007, with the star, Miranda Cosgrove, making around $180,000 per episode. This salary is sickening enough, but recently, the successful show has been making fun of others in less fortunate positions. The TV series has been airing jokes about “hobos,” and has been featuring pictures on the show’s website from a ‘Hobo party’ and a fake blog interviewing “Hollywood the Hobo.”

Among 12 things about Hollywood the Hobo that are mentioned in the blog are that he:

  • “Knows how to ask for change in 12 languages. He put this on this resume under special skills.”
  • Says, “Any moron can have a job. It takes a special person NOT to have one!”
  • Believes that “Anywhere from five seconds to five weeks is fair game for eating food off the ground,” and
  • “Thinks underwear is a conspiracy created by laundry detergent companies to sell more bleach.”

If this blog were really about hobos in the traditional meaning, the “interview” with “Hollywood the Hobo” would not be mentioning pride in lack of employment as a characteristic of a hobo.

The word ‘hobo’ was used in the 1930’s mean a transient worker, but are young children going to know the difference between a slag used in the 1930′s and homelessness today?

Also, from reading that blog, kids could conclude that people living on the streets are there by choice, and are strange and amusing to poke fun of. (People become homeless for many different reasons, and often through no fault of their own.)

If the blog was not bad enough, take a look at the show’s website. Here you will find an array of pictures taken from a “hobo party” where the cast dresses up as homeless people. I am not sure what is more disturbing, the fact the cast thinks it is entertaining to dress up as homeless people, or that the mismatched bubblegum flavor clothing they don could be viewed as impoverished.   The photo op also features such comments as “Carly got her hobo costume from that new store in the mall called C.J. Penniless.”

Homelessness is not a laughing matter. People who are homeless struggle with trying to survive, from eating three meals a day to staying warm or even remaining safe. Hundreds of homeless people have been beaten for no apparent reason other than the fact that they are vulnerable and homeless.   Kids watching iCarly may learn that the courtesies extended to most of us do not apply to the homeless. Do kids seeing these images understand that homelessness can happen to anyone, even to other children?

It makes me sad that the channel I loved as a kid is now promoting this kind of narrow-mindedness. Please write Nickelodeon and tell them that this is not okay. If not, this cruel joke will continue.

– Gaberiel Johnson
NCH Intern

Read more on Change.org

March 14, 2010 Update: Nickelodeon and the iCarly show have removed the use of the term “hobo” from their materials, and have committed to do no further episodes on the theme.  Read more.

On January 26, 2011, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), HUD and the Department of Education co-hosted an all day session dedicated to the word “homeless”. An entire day was spent assessing the feasibility of a common federal definition for homeless, including a single federal vocabulary and data standard that could be used in targeting homeless programs as well as mainstream programs.

The US government, across nearly two dozen domestic federal agencies, and people experiencing homelessness each have problems with the multi-defined use of the term “homeless”. Last year the General Accountability Office caused a welcome stir by publishing recommendations for the development of a common vocabulary for “homeless” and common data standards related to homelessness and housing stability. Though long held as a fact within communities nationwide, a single definition for homelessness has eluded the federal government for decades.

In the GAO report, Congress advised the session’s co-hosts of the important first step, in this correction process, of guaranteeing the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders. Ten of these stakeholders were current and formerly homeless men and women, who represented the homeless experience firsthand or Consumer Advocates.

The involvement of Consumer Advocates is a vitally important commitment made by the Obama administration and outlined in Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness 2010.