Jennette McCurdy (2022) I’m Glad My Mom Died.

The title struck me. I was glad my mum died too, but for different reasons. She had Alzheimer’s and her life wasn’t a life. The front cover has two quotes from famous people saying nice things about Jennette McCurdy’s autobiography. Jerrod Carmichael ‘Impressively funny’. I didn’t think so and I don’t know who that is. But before reading this book, which I did mostly in one sitting, leaving the last few chapters until the next day, I didn’t know who McCurdy was either. A picture on the cover shows a pretty-enough women. She was a child actress and face on Netflix. The book is geared towards an American audience as the use of ‘mom’ rather than mum implies.

Lena Dunham, who I believe is an actress, screenwriter and writer like Jennette McCurdy, offers another quote tagged on the cover: ‘An important cultural document’.

That’s nearer the truth. There’s an essential honesty here about Jennette’s relationship with her Mom, and what Karl Marx called the exploitation of labour. In this case, child labour. There is no dressing up a working-class child working eighteen-hour days as an extra. I thought those days were gone with the death of stars such as Judy Garland. An insider account of Hollywood and a play on Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearest, (I haven’t read the book but did see the film, although I can’t remember much about it). Her Mom instead of taking her to doctors and hospitals took her to auditions and classes and pushed her into acting. The equivalent of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

‘My mum didn’t deserve her pedestal. She was a narcissist. She refused to admit she had any problems, despite how destructive these problems were for the entire family. My mom emotionally, mentally and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact on me.

She gave me breast and vaginal exams until I was seventeen-years old. These ‘exams’ made my body stiff with discomfort.’

Her mom’s legacy was home schooling and calorie restriction. Fancy words and ways for starving a child who began to develop boobs when she was eleven. McCurdy looked back with something akin to fondness when she was anorexic. Bulimia was her constant companion. Food the enemy within. It had me thinking of Amy Whitehouse. Both tiny, girlish stars that tried to make themselves thinner, smaller as they tried to fit into a world that equated such measures with youth and beauty.  Ironically, our NHS hospitals don’t have enough room for such girls and boys with such conditions. They are full to overflowing. I’ve gone off track. Read on.    

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