Ah…. the early 2000s tween television shows. Some of the more popular in my day (I’m 23, born in 1997 for your reference) being Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, Lizzie McGuire, The Suite Life, and of course, iCarly. These shows captured our 10 year old hearts with seemingly random comedy, eccentric characters and interesting living environments. All of these shows have a very specific cast of characters that make them successful- a general perfect formula of 3 lead teen characters. This group of three was always led by an extroverted idea-sparking leader of the group, the generally intelligent but hopelessly socially awkward boy, and my personal favorite- the edgy tomboy girl sidekick. All together this creates a fantastic chemistry that forged the many amazingly successful trios of my childhood.
The one thing that always bothered 10 year old me though, is that nine times out of ten, two people of these groups almost always ended up dating at some point in the series. Ned and Moze, Lilly and Oliver, Justin and Harper, Lizzie and Gordo, Cody and Bailey, and… Freddie with both Carly and Sam (scandalous!). Even though I didn’t exactly know about the concept of human sexuality as a kid, it gnawed at the back of my head that there was something unnaturally fabricated about these pairings.
As I got older and wiser, something dawned on me. The edgy tomboy gay girl sidekicks were always that ones forced into these random relationships. Oh no- I said what I said, you read that right. In a world of YouTube highlight clips and Disney+ resurrecting my childhood favs, I’ve had time to reflect. There was absolutely no way these iconic sidekick characters were not even a little bit on the queer spectrum. Obviously, as “family friendly” shows, these characters could not be blatantly portrayed as such in the early 2000s, but come on. The character traits, personalities and aesthetics alone basically wrote in gay characters without saying they were gay. (I am very aware that just presenting stereotypically gay or acting a certain way does not make you a lesbian, what makes you a lesbian is liking women. Just go with me here).
Disclaimers: 1. I’m going to focus on 3 characters for this article because if I included all of them in one you’d be reading a novel honey. 2. These are all my personal opinions and these characters are just that- characters. Just my comedic interpretation, proceed. 🙂
MOZE from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Let’s kick off with a classic- Moze from Ned’s Declassified. Starting off with simply her name- “Moze”’s real name is Jennifer Mosely. First, the fact that she goes by not only a nickname or her last name, but a nickname of her last name… suspicious. Second, I have never in my life met a Jennifer who was not gay (sorry to the “straight” Jennifers out there, your time will come). Being the perpetually taller of the group by a landslide, Moze expressed her incredible 2000s fashion sense à la LBH (long haired butch): long, straight, brown hair that she never did anything to and consistently androgynous outfits of jeans, t-shirts, headbands, and sweaters. She has an effortless talent for a variety of sports (volleyball, cross-country and cheerleading) and an undying passion for woodshop. She has a distinct hatred for a one Ms. Susie Crabgrass for seemingly no reason, (internalized homophobia rerouted into anger as not to admit feelings to herself or Susie), and crushes on men who are “too unattainable” i.e. Seth, the basketball jock, and Faymen, the foreign exchange student (unconscious ability to deny ever dating someone because of social differences). She eventually ends up dating Ned, her best friend of many years and inferior in every way imaginable, I believe out of comfort and convenience.
P.S., the next major role the actor who played Moze played was Paige McCullers in Pretty Little Liars, who is…. a closeted lesbian who expresses her feelings for her love interest by hating her instead… interesting.
Post-Show Life Diagnosis: Jennifer Ann Mosely is an athletic LBH who realizes she is a lesbian midway through her college years, when a girl on her D-1 volleyball team makes a move on her. She stays closeted to her high school friends until she and that same girl send out invites to their hand-crafted rustic wedding in Napa Valley. You can bet that she did in fact build the archway her and her wife say their vows under in her fully equipped woodshop in their cottage outside San Francisco.
LILLY from Hannah Montana
She’s got the best of both worlds… or does she? Lilly Truscott of Hannah Montana is the quirky, funny, ultimate tomboy of the group. Growing up in California her entire life, she is an avid skateboarder, surfer, hockey player and cheerleader. For the vast majority of the seasons of Hannah Montana, Lilly solely wears polo shirts over long sleeved striped shirts, baggy cargo pants, and sneakers, with the addition of accessories like every hat in the world, random braids or streaks of color in her hair, and those fuzzy sports wristbands??? on the daily. She has an alter ego for when she goes out with Hannah known as Lola Luftnagle, who is the polar opposite to Lilly in personality and looks. Lola wears bright short wigs, generally very bright, girly outfits and obnoxious accessories. I believe Lola acts as a foil to show Lilly’s perception of who she thinks she should be. She constantly fights Miley’s advances to make her “girly” which would make her “more attractive to the boys,” which Lilly goes along with because of peer pressure. She does love fashion; her outfits transform as the series goes on and she is always attempting to raid Hannah’s closet.
She exudes a general confidence outwardly while feeling very insecure about her pitfalls in private with her best friend. This gives her an external swagger and an internal anxiousness. She does have quite a few crushes throughout the series, but never one that sticks. By the end of the series, she is dating her best childhood guy friend, Oliver. I believe it’s the same circumstance as it is with Moze, easing into a relationship because of a comfortability with a mediocre guy she has a few common interests with and has known for years without having to confront her true feelings. She also has a huge enemy in one Joanie Plumbo, whose head she shaves as the punishment for losing a bet in gym class. (Beginning to see a theme here?)
Post-Show Life Diagnosis: Lilly Truscott is a classic in-the-closet tomboy lesbian who ends the series of Hannah Montana living in a dorm with her best friend Miley and eventually realizes she is ridiculously in love with her. She will keep it inside for decades, graduating college and end up marrying Oliver. She will have two kids with him before finally serendipitously reuniting with Joanie Plumbo in a bar at the age of 40, and after discovering her lost long love for her, she will ask Oliver for an open relationship. Eventually, she leaves Oliver for Joanie. She gains custody of the kids, as he is a huge stoner who has not been able to land a job in years, and she is a lesbian, and her and Joanie live a happy life together.
SAM from iCarly
And finally- iCarly. Oh boy I have wanted to talk about this for years. Ms. Sam Puckett is the most iconic non-lesbian lesbian I have ever had the pleasure of coming across in my entire life. From the most gender neutral first name to a last name that’s one letter away from sounding like an expletive, she is a legend. She constantly refuses feminine presenting stereotypes of “looking girly” and “acting dainty”. Although I didn’t identify with Sam’s general chaotic evil ways as a kid, I did find myself intrigued and inspired by her non-feminine characteristics. She’s superhumanly strong, always taking the opportunity to prove her physical strength and wrestling abilities. She takes absolutely no shit from anyone, especially men. Although, I will admit, more sardonic than sarcastic at times, her humor is whiplike and poignant, verging on the edge of as sexual as you can get in a “kid’s” show. She dresses exactly like Lilly Truscott minus the wristbands (were the Nickelodeon and Disney producers trying to tell us something via the wardrobe choices of the 2000s tween sitcom girls? Conspiracy theory). She has bangs which you can bet she cuts herself, she wears little to no makeup, her favorite activity in the world is consuming more food than humanly possible in one sitting. She consistently bags on her guy friends more than she ever does to Carly. She is eternally full of rage- again I believe from a crazy repressed case of internalized homophobia. Repressing who you are for that long takes its toll on your mood and behavior, leading me to believe there is some trauma there that she needs to unpack and might explain her tendency to act out.
The cherry on top is her relationship with Freddie. Her and her ultimate frenemy Freddie are more enemies than friends for the vast majority of the show. Sam is not shy about how much she cannot stand him, and how upset she is by how outwardly he adores Carly. A couple seasons in, she and Freddie share their mutual first kiss to “get it over with”. I watched this back recently because the video was on my YouTube recommended feed, and this is what rejuvenated my thoughts about Ms. Puckett in the first place. If you haven’t watched it, please, click this link right now.
Absolutely the cringiest thing I’ve ever rewatched. She never closes her eyes, never leans in, looks around and looks like she would rather be literally anywhere else in the world. I burst out laughing when I saw it again. Both of them looked understandably confused. Freddie just experienced his first moment of intimacy with someone who continually berates him, which blurs the lines of love and hate, and Sam has just figured out she is a lesbian. She continues on in the series to have a short flame of a relationship with Freddie, again I believe for the same reasons as Moze and Lilly. Familiarity, safety, confusion. In this case though, I do believe Freddie deserves better and Sam deserves a woman.
Post-Show Life Diagnosis: Sam moves to L.A. after high school, like she does in Sam and Cat, the spinoff series of iCarly’s Sam and Victorious’s Cat, where she embraces her motorcycle lesbian aesthetic and starts going out on Tinder dates with every single queer person in L.A. After her hookup phase, she moves to Colorado on her hog to focus on her professional fighting career and hobby of metalworking. She becomes the incredibly cool gay aunt to Carly and Freddie’s children, and ends up living in an all women’s comune where she meets her wife and her girlfriend.
From an early age I was very drawn to these characters and I never quite understood why. They are very strong, not stereotypically “feminine” presenting female characters and I think as a tween I thought that was because I was like “Yay Go Women.” As an adult, I agree, but also I would like to add just a very hearty “Yay Women!!!” Although not the queer representation gay youth across the globe should have, these character do exhibit qualities that can be identified as queer characteristics, and for me, that was enough to kickstart my thought process in thinking that I didn’t have to “be like other the girls” to be cool or liked or to be accepted in society. Again, although I would love to see more openly queer representation specifically in kid’s media, 10 year old me very much so appreciated the presence of these ambiguously “not typical” female “tomboy” characters…. who were most definitely gay.
Always a non gay tomboy sidekick, never an out main character. Sigh. One day.
Stay tuned for Part 2 with Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place, Miranda from Lizzie McGuire, and Bailey, from The Suite Life on Deck.