Racist ‘iCarly’ viewers came for Laci Mosley. Hollywood can learn from her response
Laci Mosley was excited when she sat down for the video call that would change her life : During the virtual meeting with Ali Schouten (“Champions”), showrunner of the “iCarly” revival now airing on Paramount+, the “Black Lady Sketch Show” actor learned that her character would be a “fully developed” person with dreams and aspirations.
“When we talked on the Zoom call, I was like, it’s mine,” Mosley told The Times.
But excitement quickly turned to hurt when Mosley became the target of racist viewers shortly after the announcement of her casting this spring. Based on the Nickelodeon original in which Miranda Cosgrove played pioneering web talk show host Carly Shay, the new version, which premiered in June, features Mosley as Carly’s best friend Harper. Mosley was inundated by racist messages on social media, including many that used racial slurs, from toxic viewers who complained that Mosley’s character was meant to be a “Black replacement” for Carly’s best friend in the original series, Sam Puckett ( Jennette McCurdy, who has since left acting).
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“She’s not a replacement of Sam,” Mosley said. “She’s not a substitution. She’s a completely different person. She’s queer, she’s Black — and not in a stereotypical way. We don’t even address her queerness as something odd. Harper never has a coming out. She’s just queer. It’s normal. No one cares, you know, and I love that about the role. But also, she’s really fun. She pushes Carly into doing crazy things all the time.”
While many of the posts have since been removed due to their offensive content, the pain the experience caused Mosley won’t dissipate as swiftly.
“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,” Mosley wrote on Instagram in May in response to the hateful messages. “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... Black is beautiful and no amount of slurs or vitriol you dump online will change that.”
Mosley’s experience is reminiscent of other Black women, as well as women of color, who have been targeted by fans of popular franchises, including Amandla Stenberg, who was the subject of racist attacks after being cast as Rue in the 2012 film adaptation of “The Hunger Games,” and Kelly Marie Tran, who suffered sexist and racist abuse against her and her “Star Wars” character. More recently, anti-Black Twitter trolls have even come after Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s daughter, Blue Ivy.
“I look forward to the point where being Black and getting a job in Hollywood is not a political statement,” Mosley said. “We are talented. We work very hard, a lot of times much harder to get where we are and we don’t deserve to be punished for that.”
Mosley’s response to the situation led to its own wave of attacks, and she suddenly found herself on the defensive.
Responding on Twitter to a TMZ video that captures her cursing at trolls, Mosley wrote, “I shouldn’t have been cursing in this response but I was really caught off guard by the onslaught of racist trolls. I deleted a lot of comments but they keep coming on every platform. Being a Black woman is exhausting. We all deserve better.”
Fans pointed out that such policing of Mosley‘s reaction to racist attacks is a form of misogynoir, a term used to describe the way Black women are uniquely discriminated against based on their race, sex and other factors, including their vocal tones.
This February, several Black creators went viral with videos that offered a more nuanced and in-depth exploration of the Black experience in America.
Mosley credited the “iCarly” and Paramount+ teams for coming to her defense in the face of the bullying. Mosley said writer/co-producer Franchesca Ramsey made sure “to protect this character and protect me as a person in and out. She was one of the main people speaking about the racism and vitriol. Also, she made sure that we had a Black hairstylist and she’s done so much on every avenue as a producer to protect Black actors, especially.”
While Mosley felt supported during the ordeal, not all marginalized actors are so fortunate. Mosley wants other companies to step up in turn.
“I hope that more networks will take the lead of Paramount+ in standing up to their fans when they treat their Black cast members or their people of color cast members poorly like this,” she said.
Still, despite the denouncements, Mosley said she still receives messages calling her a slur about “three times a week.” And while fans have become more supportive and some hateful commenters have apologized to Mosley, she explained that the Hollywood system will need to change if the work of Black actors, even the most prominent among them, is to be sustainable.
“I see John Boyega on too many Instagram lives fighting racists because he should have the support that I had,” Mosley said. “I’m so grateful for that because I know the actresses who have broken these barriers down for me in the past did not have this kind of support.”
Boyega, best known for his role as Finn in the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy and his Golden Globe-winning role in “Small Axe,” has received racist attacks from viewers throughout his career. Last year, Boyega gave an interview to British GQ in which he advised Disney not to “bring out a Black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side.”
A new report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. indicates that most of the burden of representation has fallen on Black talent and creatives.
The consequence of failing to support Black talent goes beyond the harm done to individuals: A recent report found that Hollywood is losing out on over $10 billion in annual revenue because of its poor record of Black inclusion.
While Black actors such as Amber Riley (“Glee”) have created movements like #unMUTEny in response to anti-Blackness in Hollywood, aiming to “end Black silence in the entertainment industry, hold power structures accountable for suppressing Black experiences and confront microaggressions with courage,” the experiences of Boyega and Mosley illustrate the long road to accountability and reform still ahead. .
“Black women deserve protection. We deserve care. We deserve to not be the mules for every single cause — and then when we need help and support, that’s nowhere to be found,” Mosley said. “Breonna Taylor deserves to be alive and her killers definitely deserve to be in jail. We’ve seen so many times Black women’s work is monetized, stolen from us, you know, and we’re abused. ... It’s time for Black women to get their share because Black women have been out here from day one fighting for everybody.”
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