André should be the heartthrob of ‘Victorious,’ but Nickelodeon and its viewers are racist

Illustration+by+Hailey+Akau+

Photo: Illustration by Hailey Akau

Illustration by Hailey Akau

By Mariyam Quaisar, Content Managing Editor, Business Managing Editor

André Harris should be the heartthrob of “Victorious:” it’s as simple as that. 

Since I thought up this “hot” take, I’ve asked a number of peers and friends what their outlook is, and everyone has agreed with me. Upon further discussion with fellow fans of the hit Nickelodeon show of the 2010s, “Victorious,” I’ve realized not only that I’m ridiculously correct, but also that the audience’s undying heart eyes for Beck are so, so wrong. 

“Victorious” is a four-season sitcom starring Victoria Justice as Tori Vega, the female lead who has an incredible singing voice and delivers cringey lines. Ariana Grande plays Cat Valentine, a ditzy redhead; Avan Jogia plays Beck Oliver, an aspiring actor with a scary girlfriend; Elizabeth Gillies plays Jade West, Beck’s scary girlfriend; and Matt Bennett plays Robbie Shapiro, a nerd with a puppet. 

The characters attend Hollywood Arts, a high school full of talented, creative students, where they sing (amazing songs) whenever they can and make rather hilarious jokes. However, the most important character is played by Leon Thomas III, who plays André Harris: the subject of this piece and who should have been the eye candy on the show. 

André has it all. He sings, he plays, like, 4,000 instruments, he writes songs, and he’s hecking adorable. The quirky, protective, and compassionate personality André displays pulls my heartstrings almost as much as my detestation for Beck’s boring characteristics. I’m not saying Beck isn’t attractive—he definitely has his “oh hot damn” moments—but André is unrivaled. 

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So, why isn’t André the center of every girl’s attention? Nickelodeon’s audience may not be purposefully racist—considering it’s made up of viewers ranging from two to 15 years old—but  since we are inherently prejudiced as a society, shows like “Victorious” tend to other people of color, which influences the perspectives of the audience. This concept is comparable to how children tend to follow in their parents’ footsteps. If you grow up eating smoked salmon on an everything bagel, then it’s a delicious habit you will maintain. Similarly, if a child grows up watching shows that place the spotlight on the white guy with flowy hair, then the child will most likely be drawn to such people because that is what they were exposed to through television. 

The creators of “Victorious” basically pushed an agenda to ignore André and fawn over Beck instead. When the camera lands on Beck, the wind is always perfectly blowing his hair and sometimes there’s even special sound effects that highlight Beck as a “hottie.” On the other hand, André’s scenes tend to show him as Tori’s little helper, especially when she plays a damsel-in-distress in need of a new song to whip her uncombed hair to. The writers never gave André the spotlight he deserved. 

Despite being responsible for basically every single song in the series, André was never portrayed as more than a good musician who hates brussel sprouts. The few times Nickelodeon (kind of) delved deep into his character was to introduce his “crazy” grandma, giving audiences ammunition to make fun of André, not celebrate him.

Growing up as a person of color, I’ve noticed white people love to ridicule members of my family. Whether it’s for how they speak, dress, act, whatever, my white peers always found a way to judge my parents, brothers, and even grandparents. 

Linking such a negative character to André is another mockery of his “unimportant” role, even though his character is easily one of the most—if not the most—essential. André is one of the only characters of color on the series, and he’s literally the sound of the show. 

It’s crystal clear that Nickelodeon itself—not only its viewers—is prejudiced. Numerous series from this network emphasize disrespectful stereotypes of different races and cultures. People of color are placed in characters that are stereotypical projections on the color of their skin, particularly in Victorious. André’s “crazy” grandma is not the only one. 

Season 1 episode 19, “A Film by Dale Squires,” introduced André’s cousin Kendra Harris. For those who don’t remember, Kendra was hired by Tori and her posse to violently embarrass director Dale Squires for taking all the credit for a short film Tori made. This part of the episode exhibits a Black woman brought in to help a spoiled white girl and frames Kendra as a stereotypical angry Black woman. 

She is characterized by white characters as “sassy” and  “intimidating,” and her scene aggressively screaming at the exploiting director is stretched upon belief. Once again, a “crazy” character is tied to André, belittling him and his family even more.   

This is not to say that the other characters do not have stereotypical relatives—like Tori’s bratty, ditzy sister and Robbie’s inept grandmother—which just further solidifies that Victorious and Nickelodeon shows in general use marginalized communities purely for comedic relief.

Can anyone think of a single episode where André had a romantic scene with any of the other female characters? No you cannot, because it never happened. Even Rex—a literal puppet— got his “hot scene” when he smooched Tori. Even the bonafide nerdy character Sinjin got a little peck on the cheek for doing Tori a favor. How is it possible that an inanimate object and a boy who collects teeth from relatives of past presidents got a smacker but not André? 

The writers continuously teased viewers with a potential relationship between Tori and André. But that never evolved either, because how could they possibly illustrate an interracial couple despite maintaining a ridiculous amount of sexual tension throughout the entire first season?

Throughout the series, every single thing André does reinforces his swagger. His undying passion for music, his catchy and charming lyrics, his dance moves when he vibes to Tori’s singing, and even his desperate attempt to get stung by a bee are all a hundred times more enticing than Beck’s handful of sexy moments. 

On top of it all, Beck is whipped. Jade may occasionally be a badass, but at the end of the day her role is to be an unaffected mean girl whom Beck enables. Their relationship is surface level and monotonous. 

If André was actually given the chance to be in any relationship that went beyond platonic, he would set a beautiful example for how a boyfriend should be. It’s obvious through his friendships with female characters that André is caring, loyal, and passionate. He would make any girl the happiest she could be, if given the chance to prove himself. 

Nickelodeon and networks like it often overlook characters of color or use their cultures and backgrounds as comedic means to an end. Off the top of my head, the only other Nickelodeon shows with a character of color are “True Jackson VP” starring Keke Palmer and “Zoey 101” with Christopher Massey as high schooler Michael Barret.

As a society, the concept of diversity has stuck superficially, but applying inclusivity hasn’t at all. Simply casting people of color is not enough—it is necessary to show they belong. It is important for audience members to celebrate characters of color. 

André Harris was not acknowledged enough despite all his character offered. This opinion may seem childish to some because “it’s just a show,” but these viewer tendencies are reflective of our society’s innate behavior. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of growing up and out of old-fashioned ideals. It’s about time André got his moment, don’t you think?