Ariana Grande is Nickelodeon's Chosen One. All others' success is sacrificed at her altar.
The original cast of Nickelodeon's All That are cursed by a strange phenomenon that wards off any and all success.
This week it was announced that SNL star and All That alum Kenan Thompson is helming a reboot of the show. This calls for an examination of how the show has impacted its cast and their careers.
Let me back up. From 1994 to 2005, the sketch comedy kids show shaped 90s kids' sense of humor and made us believe that we could get away with saying anything if we said it in a funny voice. Cast members included Kenan Thompson and Nick Cannon as teenagers, as well as young Amanda Bynes and Britney Spears' little sister. Since the show's end, we've seen Bynes' bizarre behavior while struggling with addiction and depression and Jamie Lynn Spears' scandalous teen pregnancy. Instead of being fleetingly curious about our favorite childhood stars with "where are they now?" the more urgent question we're left with is: "what happened?"
Now, Thompson is appointed to executive produce and contribute writing to the reboot of All That. He told Variety, "It means everything to me. It was my first job that I ever had. It gave me an opportunity." Co-creator of the original series and current president of Nickelodeon, Brian Robbins, proposed the idea: "We think there's a great opportunity to find the next pool of stars. We want to bring the show back in a real fun way. This summer, we are going to bring back a lot of the original cast and the cast through the years, and let them introduce the new cast of 'All That' to the world."
But what the next generation of cast members needs to know is that the promising careers of the original All That cast were sacrificed to a greater plan at work behind the scenes at Nickelodeon. In hindsight, it's clear that only one network star could channel the powers of stardom to become a cultural phenomenon. Only one childhood actor could rise to prominence as the voice of Nickelodeon's coming-of-age generation: Ariana Grande.
Beam of light signifying Ariana Grande's birth
In her role as Cat Valentine, the Grande's television career started on iCarly and Victorious, but she was always destined for greatness. When Grande was born in 1993, a blinding pillar of light pierced the sky. This is what Nickelodeon was waiting for, a superstar who could gain the prominence necessary to redefine pop music and establish a new world order. Without delay, television execs cobbled together All That, shepherding together the company's first flock of sacrificial lambs. From there, they built more shows, more false TV idols, all in the service of Grande, the path to her success slowly being paved with the failed careers of lesser stars.
Jennette McCurdy, moments before being sacrificed.
As for the cast of All That, just look at the evidence:
1. Lori Beth Denberg (1994-1998) - "The Loud Librarian"
All That-The Loud Librarian youtu.be
One of the greatest performers on the show, Denberg went on to impress as Lydia on the The Steve Harvey Show from 2008 to 2012. Since then, Lori Beth has guest starred as "Lori Beth" on three TV series since 2017–and nothing else. Clearly, we miss her talent, but consistent success was never in the cards for her.
2. Josh Server (1994-2000) - "Ear Boy"
Ear Boy gets his ears pierced! youtu.be
Known as the only original cast member to remain for all six seasons, Server was the go-to guy for character freak outs. After All That, he guest-starred on other Nickelodeon shows like The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, and Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. Now the 39-year-old...has a Twitter account.
3. Danny Tamberelli (1997-2000) - "Fat Cop"
Danny Tamberelli On Fat Cop | All That Reunion youtu.be
The Adventures of Pete & Pete (1992-1996) had already cemented Tamberelli's place in the hearts of 90s kids. As a cast member of All That, the raucous redhead brought us "Fat Cop." After providing the voice of Arnold in The Magic School Bus, his guest-starring roles petered out to a voice acting role in Grand Theft Auto V. Apparently, he's released music with his folk/pop band Every Good Boy, but most recently he started a podcast in 2013 with Pete & Pete costar Michael Maronna.
4. Alisa Reyes (1994-1997) - "Island Girls"
All That- The Island Girls 2 youtu.be
Reyes' most memorable performance was as the most annoying girl to be stranded with on a deserted island, opposite Lori Beth Denberg. Her manic energy and nonstop talking were perfectly insufferable. After leaving the show, Reyes had a recurring role on NBC's One World and a slew of one-off guest appearances. Despite playing roles in obscure movies from time to time, she remains best known for her three seasons on All That.
5. Jamie Lynn Spears (2002-2004) - "White Chocolate"
Britney And Jamie Lynn Spears On All That youtu.be
One of her recurring characters was Thelma Stump, "the oldest bodyguard in the business." As an elderly southern woman, she once called Justin Timberlake "white chocolate" and pulled down his pants before sexually assaulting him with a kiss. After becoming a Nickelodeon darling with her own show Zoey 101, Spears infamously had her first child when she was 16 and quickly left the spotlight. Now the 27-year-old mother of two is only heard from when getting into trouble for promoting unhealthy diet shakes on Instagram.
6. Nick Cannon (1998-2000) - "Latanya in Dudco Enterprises"
All That Season 6 - Latanya in Dudco Enterprises youtu.be
The 38-year-old has gone on to have a short-lived film career, host the improv show Wild 'n Out, manage to stay married to Mariah Carey for eight years, and host America's most popular cringe-worthy talent shows. As current host of the bizarre celebrity singing competition The Masked Singer, Nick Cannon will probably host a whole generation of garbage reality TV unless someone decides to reboot his 2002 teen movie Drumline.
7. Kel Mitchell (1994-1999) - "Good Burger" sketch
Classic Good Burger Sketch w/ the Whole Cast of All That | #TBT youtu.be
90s kids owe Kel Mitchell a lot for introducing us to Good Burger's Ed, the worst fast food employee to ever not wash his hands after using the faculty bathroom. Mitchell's acting career mostly consisted of guest starring roles until the Nickelodeon Group tapped him to rejoin the network on Teen Nick in Game Shakers, "one of the lowest shows" on Nick network. Recently, he reprised his role as Ed in a "Good Burger" skit on Jimmy Fallon.
8. Gabriel Iglesias (2000) - "Pizza Guy in Class"
All That Season 6 - Pizza Guy in Class youtu.be
Iglesias tried to be funny during his one season on All That. Afterwards, he tried to be funny as a professional stand up comedian. For some mysterious reason, the comedy circuit decided to never let him go, putting him in the spotlight like a hamster on a wheel never getting anywhere. Gabriel Iglesias is forever trying to be funny, but to no avail. He's comedy's Sisyphus.
9. Kenan Thompson (1994-1999) - "Ishboo Goes to a Sleepover"
Ishboo Goes to a Sleepover | All That youtu.be
Arguably, Thompson never left All That, since he's been on SNL for 15 years, which has devolved into All That: Drunk Babysitters since Tina Fey's departure in 2006.
10. Amanda Bynes (1996-2000) - "Ask Ashley"
All That - Ask Ashley youtu.be
Amidst her highly publicized personal struggles, the 32-year-old actress has elected to become her volatile "Ask Ashley" character.
Clearly, the alumni of the original All That are all adrift in an ocean of despair. There are only two possible explanations for why Nickelodeon would want to bring this show back.
1. Kenan Thompson, along with Brian Robbins, is attempting to sadistically perpetuate this cycle of abuse.
2. The next Chosen One has been born.
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.