'iCarly': Open Season on Mental Illness in Kids' TV?

There's no question American society is prejudiced against people with mental disabilities. From the too-long fight to recognize post-partum depression to the debated demonization of the word "retard," we are slow to recognize that mental illnesses and handicaps should neither be be laughed at or laughed off.

So it's no surprise no one thought twice about the hour-long iCarly special that aired June 4 called  "iPsycho." In it, Carly, Sam and Freddie were held captive by a 16-year-old fan named Nora. Nora, as the title indicates, is a few megabytes short in the mental health department.

My question: Is there really a big difference between "psycho" and "retard"? With such a plot and title, I fear we're training kids to both ridicule and fear people in need of medication, counseling or other psychiatric help (who are much more common than those who kidnap teen web stars).

If you think this is an overreaction, imagine an episode called "iRetard", "iGimpy", "iTowelhead." No wonder merely taking medication for psychological stability still carries a stigma -- who wants to be considered a psycho?

I like iCarly and find it funny, and I'm not suggesting iCarly becomes a feel-good-about-everyone after-school special. But I don't believe in creating humor at the expense of humanity -- certainly not when such mean-spirited messages are being directed squarely at our kids. How can we expect them to grow up with respect for others if we expose them to funny celebrations of intolerance and ridicule? That's what I call an iMistake!

Is it wrong for kids' TV to ridicule or stereotype mental illness? Chime in now!

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