Comfort Entertainment: ‘Victorious’ and Theatre Arts

Screenshot of Avan Jogia in ‘Victorious’. Copyright goes to Nickelodeon.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Lately, a video completely analyzing the Nickelodeon show ‘Victorious’ has been making its rounds on Youtube. And while the video is five hours and I couldn’t possibly watch all of it, I did watch some of it and reminisce on the show. Because this used to be one of my absolute favorite shows to watch. This is the show I probably watched the most other than ‘Power Rangers’ and I desperately wanted to get into performing arts and have this community because the show draws you in so much with the school itself. So, that’s exactly what I did. I think I’ve mentioned that I was deeply entrenched in a Theatre Arts program before on this blog. So the trending Youtube video kind of made me want to go back and look at how the show portrayed Theatre Arts as a whole, and which of these characters would actually succeed in a Theatre Arts program. Now that I actually have the experience to get all the references the show threw at us as kids, I couldn’t not talk about it! So I’m going to go character by character and talk about the way these characters interact with the Arts and whether or not they would actually succeed at Hollywood Arts. (Please note that I have a college perspective on this and not necessarily a High School one, but I do know some things about lower grade Arts programs from my experiences.)

Tori Vega:

It’s difficult to not start with the main character of the show. Tori Vega initially starts out the show with no performing experience, but a great singing voice despite that. When she has to take over for her talentless sister Trina, the school sees her talent and offers her a place in the school. Which I guess makes sense after her performance. I just have no idea why the show let go of the music classes, which we know are there, to only focus on acting classes. When Tori first tries acting she’s kind of thrown into an improv scene, which I can’t blame her for, and breaks a bunch of rules of improv. Like, not going with the flow of the scene and directly addressing the audience watching her. But Sikowitz in this instance should have let Tori watch a couple of scenes before trying to tackle it herself without knowing any basic rules of improv. But, as we all know, Sikowitz is crazy. Still, Tori gets blatantly bullied in that class and I don’t blame her for wanting to quit. Especially because acting is not what she came to do. As we get more into it, Tori’s role at the school becomes even more confusing. Usually students in any Arts program have to pick an emphasis, but Tori is continuously doing concert performances at the school and consistently getting cast as the lead in plays and musicals. I want to mention here that singing for musicals and singing for Pop performances is an altogether different form of singing and the show never really acknowledges this. In fact, every time Tori gets the lead in a musical she seems to sing directly to the audience and sing in her usual Pop style, both of which are usually not present in musicals. The one thing I will give Tori, is I thought the use of “The Bird Scene” was pretty clever. In most Arts programs you have to go through juries; in my program that meant we had to perform a scene in front of all the professors in the department in order to determine if we would move up in the program. Usually, you didn’t get cast in main stage shows unless you had passed juries or already had other theatre experience. While juries is not used to teach a moral lesson, it can help you learn to be more confident in your acting. So I liked this addition. But, over-all, it seems like Tori gets a lot of preferential treatment that realistically would not be given in Arts programs. She probably needs to choose between her Pop-Star dream and her actress dream. She can take classes on both, but she shouldn’t be performing to this degree in both. It shifts her away from her goals too much.

Andre Harris:

Andre can suffer from some of the same things Tori does, but to a lesser degree. Andre is not cast as leads as much as Tori is and talks about taking music classes far more than Tori does. So here we see a more realistic balance of what would actually happen, though still not completely consistent. But Andre is doing a lot more of the tasks you would think Tori should also be doing considering her focus is on a singing career. Tori never writes her own music and instead constantly asks Andre to help her, which is something that Tori would probably be forced to do herself if she was actually taking more singing related classes. Ideally, Tori should not just know how to perform as a singer. In a program like this, she should also know how to write her own songs. I know that Andre wants to be a songwriter, so he would have more experience with that, but Tori doesn’t seem to know anything about what she claims her goals are, other than the singing part. Which would be fine, if she wasn’t going to a school where she should be taking classes that assist with this stuff. Andre learns to play various instruments, sings, and writes songs. Andre would probably be following a similar track to Tori, so it is interesting that the school prefers Tori when Andre seems to be doing so much better at this track. Music majors and Theatre majors are often split up, even in fully integrated departments. Andre demonstrates this while still being involved and he’s definitely one of the most chill of the group to be around. I’d definitely hang out with Andre.

Jade West:

I see her potential for this program. She has a deep love of horror movies and she does her own writing and directing as well as having a passion for acting. But I still can’t see how Jade would survive in an acting program. Going back to the first episode, Jade immediately calls out Tori for not following improv rules. But she repeatedly breaks some herself. For example, in most Arts programs you are never allowed to call (or end) your own scene. You can gain a reputation amongst the teachers for that and then you have much less of a chance of being cast in shows. Even small things like that can be seen as big forms of disrespect. So Jade interrupting the scene to complain to Sikowitz is a huge no-no. Not to mention that she bullies Tori and pours someone’s coffee over her. Not only are you usually not allowed to use props in improv, but taking coffee away from a theatre student on a bad day might cause a rampage. Bullying is everywhere, but bullying to that degree in an Arts program gives you a reputation that it would be difficult to break away from. As soon as Jade makes herself known as too much drama, she can still take the classes but she’ll never be cast as a lead or in anything substantial. If she does survive the lack of casting, it will be because the teachers cast her in some small background role in order for her to get enough needed credits to graduate. And I can’t see how she and Beck are still together considering their conflicting morals and the fact that neither of them seem to like the relationship the way it is. Beck deserves better. (Not Tori.)

Beck Oliver:

He is by far the most talented actor that we see in the show, and that’s because that’s what he focuses on. For me, Beck feels like the most realistic character in the combination of where his talents are and the classes that he takes. Beck only focuses on acting, and you never really see him jump too far into the Pop performance or strict musicality role. He’s an actor, that’s what he does. But he also learns the entire scope of things and you see him pull his talents from his acting emphasis on various occasions. Like working backstage, writing his own one act plays, and also directing. More than anyone else, Beck also auditions for things outside of the school and is consistently trusted by the teachers to star in productions. Beck does what he does and he perfects it. He’s good at it instead of the writing from the show spreading him far too thin. I also want to talk about Avan Jogia playing this role, because he was one of the best actors on the show and I don’t think any other actor could have made Beck that effortlessly laid back and cool. Beck feels real, and he’s also one of those characters that you just wish that you knew so that you could hang out with him. Beck just needs someone who actually feels like they care about him. He also constantly complains about his relationship for comedy, but I don’t view that as funny, so I am very confused at his relationship with Jade. Besides that, Beck is the type of calm laid back actor that every professor (and student) would love.

Cat Valentine:

Cat confuses me, just like she confuses pretty much all of her friends. Cat performs and she acts, but she never seems to commit to anything in particular. She generally doesn’t get any substantial roles in plays nor does she try for them. When someone is trying to get a leading role in a show, it’s usually Tori and Jade. Cat also performs, but she’s always a background singer and she never talks about taking any music related classes. From what I can tell, it seems like she mostly acts. But she also never writes or directs anything. Cat’s more of a wild card, which makes sense for her character type but makes her very difficult to place. She definitely has the personality to be a Theatre student, but she’s sidelined so much in performance shots and she talks about class so little that I don’t know what she does. I think I’ve seen her work behind the scenes as a tech student just as much as I’ve seen her on stage. She could probably scrape by with the credits that she’s getting, but she wouldn’t be a premiere student. Even though she definitely has the talent to be one. And the show could do with infantilizing her less.

Robbie Shapiro:

Ventriloquism has aged out for the most part, but I understand that this was an effort to make a student who wanted to become a stand-up comedian. Except, this never really comes across. There aren’t really any classes that help with that at this school and Robbie only seems to take some acting classes and some tech classes. He once takes a required dance class which is absolutely realistic, but the ballet class is mostly men which is definitely not realistic. Despite not actually being a tech student, he has the record for a tech class final for some reason. This is then taken by Tori (who skips tech classes), which is even more unrealistic. Robbie also never expresses any interest in comedy nor does he ever perform stand-up comedy. I have no idea why Robbie even goes to the school and he probably confuses me even more than Cat. One of the only things Robbie does that is shown to be one of his interests is journalism. Which isn’t usually covered by this kind of an Arts school. I have no idea why he’s even in the school to begin with. At least Cat is shown doing activities for the arts. Also, Rex being “urban” is very racist and it shouldn’t be in the show.

Sinjin Van Cleef:

I’m glad that the show decided to actually focus on a tech student, but this is a pretty bad depiction. Tech students have just as much to offer and are just as important as performance students. In most Arts programs now, you are required to take tech classes in order to get a better understanding of the Theatre in itself and also to better understand and respect tech students. I liked that this show took time to show all of the major characters working backstage, because that’s something that everyone is now being required to learn in real Arts programs. But the fact that none of them are actually tech students, and Sinjin is the only one who really is, makes the representation of tech students in this show pretty insulting. They are all shown as being overly nerdy and creepy. I wish that one of the main characters had been a tech student, because tech students deserve to be treated as just as important as performers.

Trina Vega:

Nobody knows why she’s here. The fact that she’s even in the school is a running joke. It’s kind of pointless to talk about her when she’s supposed to be a mystery that never gets solved. But, needless to say, she would never make it into an Arts school realistically.

Mr. Sikowitz:

A lot of theatre teachers are a little bit crazy. Not this crazy, but he makes sense for Hollywood. He seems like a fun teacher to have, and most theatre students will connect with their favorite professor more than people in other majors or academics. So the students closeness with Sikowitz is both amazing and reminds me of my relationship with some of my professors. My biggest complaint with him, is that he teaches method acting as part of his curriculum. His curriculum includes necessities such as improv, acting challenges (though these usually don’t include the entire class), and scene work. In one episode Cat and Beck do a cop drama scene that, other than the unnecessary slapping, really reminded me of a scene that I had to do. But method acting has been proven to be dangerous and we are actually taught in most programs to never method act and make sure that we’re drawing a line between ourselves and our characters. Method acting is never helpful or useful and especially should not be taught to High School students. Other than this, Sikowitz seems like a funny and fun teacher to have.

So that’s it! Some of the details in this show are actually really accurate, and other details are there for more drama or to try and show the main characters doing more activities. But I love how this show exposed the Arts to kids in a more realistic way than what people usually see. The show even sometimes goes into how messed up Hollywood can be. And even though it sometimes isn’t perfect with facts, I love the escapism of the show enough for it to be entertaining. Even if some things, such as toxic relationships and the use of the word “urban”, definitely did not age well.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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