Author's Note: This is an essay I've been meaning to write for a while. I figured I'd post it here, considering who this story is about. Sorry to anyone who thought this was a continuation to the story. Now, I know this is just a kids' show and there are going to be people who think I'm taking it to seriously. But, I think that just because something is aimed at children, it doesn't mean it should be exempt from criticism or analysis. Also, this is just my opinion. Feel free to post your thoughts. I'm curious what they are.
It's no secret that there's a group of Victorious fans that dislike the main character Tori. Go to Youtube and you'll find plenty of videos titled "Tori being the worst character for X amount of minutes". Even fans who don't necessarily hate her, think she's a boring character. Now, for reasons I'll discuss later, I can understand why people would not like the character. There are even some people who go further and suggest that Tori is actually the villain of the show, usually suggesting Jade is the true hero. And this isn't an uncommon opinion in the fandom. So what do I think? Do I think Tori is worse than Jade and Jade is just a misunderstood hero? Do I think the Tori haters are wrong? In this essay, I'm going to discuss this question and by the end I think you'll see how I feel about this attitude.
Why Do People Hate Tori?
The first thing we need to do is discuss why people don't like Tori. A common complaint about Tori is that she's too boring or bland. Of the main characters on the show, Tori is the only one that doesn't have a recognizable gimmick. Let's look at them. Jade is the goth. Robbie is the guy with the puppet. Cat is the ditzy one. Beck is the guy all the girls want. Andre is the cool guy. Trina is the diva. But what's Tori's gimmick? Can you name a defining characteristic of her?
Now, it's not unusual to have a protagonist that's a blank slate. It's common in fiction to have a bland protagonist so that the audience can better relate to them. This is especially true in fiction that involves an unusual scenario not everyone will be familiar with. The vast majority of Victorious fans haven't attended a performing arts school. Having a character with a subdued personality can be helpful in getting the audience to accept a show that's full of wacky characters. The problem is that the show also talks up Tori. She's presented as the best. She nails all her auditions. Other people talk about how talented she is. On top of this, she didn't really have to work hard to get this talent. The show presents her as naturally gifted. The times she is shown working, she's able to get by with the minimal effort. For instance, there was an episode where Tori needed to pass a test for her theater tech class. She spends one night studying and passes the test the next day. It's even stated that she scored the highest score ever on the test.
A good example of how the show presents Tori as the best is her rivalry with Jade. Jade has been training in the performing arts for years, whereas Tori just recently enrolled at Hollywood Arts and doesn't know basic acting concepts, like what an understudy is. Yet whenever the two are in competition, Tori ends up on top. For instance, in the episode "Sleepover at Sikowitz's" Sikowitz asks his students to compete in a method acting competition. The one who stays in the character the longest wins. Jade's character is supposed to be a sweet farm girl who is nice to everyone. Despite this character being the exact opposite of her personality, she's able to put on a convincing performance. She's even able to stay in character for a bit after burning her hand. Tori's character is a police officer. She portrays this by going around saying "I am a police officer". Tori ended up winning.
To be fair, Tori likes to goof around. It's entirely possible she did a deliberately bad performance to be funny. However, she still won over someone who put more effort into their performance. This is why I think people don't like Tori. It's not just that she's a blank slate. It's that she's a blank slate who the show insists is the best. I also think this is why people prefer Jade as a character. She works hard when it comes to honing her craft, but still ends up being beaten out. This is very relatable to many people. In addition, Jade is given a lot of depth. At first she's just a one dimensional rival to Tori. However, as the show went on, she was shown to have insecurities and given moments to show her softer side. I'd argue that she had the most depth of any character on the show.
So, if this just a discussion about which character is more interesting, I'd agree with the people who think Jade is a better character than Jade. But that's not what being discussed. This is about whether or not Tori is worse than Jade. So, what do I think about that viewpoint? Well, first we've got to look at each character and their deeds.
When people claim Tori is the real villain of the show, they usually point to three events. They are the time Tori kissed Beck in the pilot, the time Tori kissed Cat's boyfriend, and the time she got Jade's play cancelled. These aren't the only events people bring up, but they are the ones people bring up the most. They're also the bad deeds that hold the most water. I think a lot of the things people try to pin on Tori are pretty shaky, or things she did by accident, and some are cases of people taking jokes too seriously (I know, I'm not in a position to complain about people taking a kids' show too seriously). So let's discuss these events.
In the pilot, Tori takes part in an acting exercise where the students must improvise based off of the alphabet. She uses the exercise as an excuse to kiss Beck in full view of his girlfriend Jade. This is often brought up to paint Tori as a sneaky bitch, with some fans saying Jade's treatment of Tori throughout the rest of the show was justified because of this. Now, what a lot of people overlook is that this was done in retaliation for something Jade did. Earlier, Jade had assumed Tori was hitting on Beck. Angry at this, she pours coffee over Tori during another acting exercise. Now I'm not saying two wrongs make a right and I understand if you think kissing someone's boyfriend in front of them is a disproportionate response. However, it's unfair to act like Jade didn't instigate the situation. Not to mention, if you think Jade's treatment of Tori is justified because of Tori kissing Beck, why isn't Tori's kissing of Beck justified because of Jade's bullying?
Now I'm not going to try to defend Tori's other actions. She was clearly in the wrong in those situations. Though I will point out that Tori was remorseful after kissing Cat's boyfriend. So now let's discuss Jade's bad actions.
I already talked about how Jade poured coffee on Tori in the pilot. Just two episodes later, Jade would frame Tori for hitting her in the face while they were studying stage fighting. In season two, she would sabotage a blood donation so that Tori would be too weak to perform in a play, allowing Jade to take her part. To make matters worse, the blood donation was for a life saving surgery for Robbie. In the next episode, Jade's play accidentally gets cancelled to make way for a prom that Tori organized. Jade then tries to sabotage the prom so no one could enjoy it. Now, while I think Jade was justified in her anger, she was taking her rage out of people who had nothing to do with her play getting cancelled. That's why I'm counting this as a bad deed for her.
Another episode in season two is "The Gorilla Club". When she learns Tori is practicing for an audition with Beck, she pressures Tori into fighting a gorilla, which results in Tori getting her arms broken. Now Tori is capable of making her own choices. It's not Jade's fault she made the stupid decision to fight a gorilla. However, Jade clearly wanted her to get hurt and did what she could to ensure this outcome would happen. There's also an episode where Tori gets a spot on a game show. Jade steals Tori's identity and takes her spot.
Jade's bad actions aren't all directed at Tori. There are two episodes where she torments Cat. In one she shaves Cat bald because of something she did on accident. In another episode she forces Cat to eat peas to make her feel rotten, again for something Cat did accidentally. In neither incident, Jade doesn't feel sorry. I'd like to compare this to the time Tori kissed Cat's boyfriend. At least Tori was apologetic and got a comeuppance. Tori showed more sympathy for Cat than Jade, despite the former not knowing her for as long. Also, speaking of comeuppances, it's rare for Jade to get one. Most of the time, she gets off scot-free.
Then there's Jade treatment of Beck. Jade is constantly worried that Beck is cheating on her. She often accuses him of being unfaithful, is controlling of his actions, and once tried to force him to leave his friends. I know this is a kids' show, but these are all trademarks of an abusive relationship. The thing is, the show tries to portray these actions as an endearing trait. There's literally an episode where Beck claims he likes Jade's abuse, because he prefers girls who challenge him. So, if we're comparing Tori and Jade's bad deeds, it's clear that Jade has done way worse things than Tori could even dream of. It's not even a contest.
However, here's the thing, it's a bit misleading to focus only on the bad deeds. If I only showed Tori's bad actions, I could make her seem like an awful bitch. But that's only part of the story. See, I could point to any character's bad actions and make them seem horrible. Let's take Andre, a character who is pretty well liked by the fandom. But he has done some bad things. In the episode "Andre's Horrible Girl" he dates a girl he doesn't even like just so he can get close to her record producer father. He even abandons her after she gets injured in a earthquake so he can perform for her father. This is incredibly scummy and that was the only episode of Victorious that you watched, I'm sure you'd hate Andre. But there's more to Andre than that one episode. He's shown to be kind, supportive, and a true friend. Likewise, pointing to Tori's bad deeds overlooks the good things she's done and gives you only a partial picture of her. So now let's discuss good deeds.
In the show, Tori is presented as a nice character who is always helpful and supportive of her friends. Is that true? Let's start with her relationship with Jade. Throughout the course of the show, Tori tries to win over Jade. This starts in "Stage Fighting". In the episode, Jade makes it look like Tori hit her in the face. This gets Tori sent to detention. Later, Tori finds out about Jade's deception. However, instead of turning Jade in, she turns the other cheek and doesn't tell the teachers. She explicitly does this to avoid continuing their feud, showing she wants to bury the hatchet with her. In the same season, she acts as a go between for Jade and Beck when the two have broken up and helps them get back together. In another episode, Jade is having trouble putting on a play. Tori helps her out and even gets funding for the play. When Jade and Beck break up a couple of seasons later, Tori stays loyal to Jade. When Beck tries to kiss her, she refuses because of her friendship with Jade. It's safe to say that Tori has done a lot of good things for Jade. But how does she do for the other characters in the group?
In season two, Robbie needed a blood transfusion for a life-saving surgery. It's Tori who donates her blood. In another episode, Robbie sells his puppet Rex. It turns out that Robbie can't function without his beloved toy. To keep him sane, Tori comes up with a plan to get the puppet back. When Cat get's depressed after she thinks her favorite actress has died, Tori comforts her and even gets Jade to drive her to the actresses home so Cat can pay her last respects. In another episode, Cat falls in love with a boy, but is worried he won't like her because she isn't a natural blonde. Tori encourages her to pursue him and tells Cat to be herself.
There's an episode where Andre gets a recording deal. He ends up losing it after the producer she's a video of him performing for children. Tori comforts him and offers some encouragement to him. Another episode has Beck getting a part in a movie. While filming, the lead actress berates Beck. Tori stands up for him. Now, I know a lot of fans like to count this scene against Tori, mostly because this gets Beck fired. I won't deny that her actions were stupid, but she her intentions were good. Also, it's consistent with Tori's character to be naive about how things work in Hollywood. Later in the series, after Beck breaks up with Jade, she tries to help him get a new girlfriend so he can get over Jade.
I was trying to find an example of Tori being nice to Trina. At first I had trouble. Tori doesn't treat her sister too nicely, though I understand why. However, I finally remembered that Tori's the reason Trina's still at Hollywood Arts. In one episode, Hollywood Arts gets a new principal. She forces everyone to audition again. Naturally Trina doesn't pass her audition. Tori comes up with a complicated scheme to not only get Trina back into the school, but does it in a way so she doesn't realize she failed her audition, protecting her ego.
Now that we've looked at Tori's good deeds, let's look at Jade's good deeds. Believe it or not, those exist. When Cat thought her favorite actress had died, Jade drove her to her house so Cat could pay her last respects. Also, when Cat was forced to live out of Hollywood Arts because her parents had left the state to take care of her brother, it's Jade who tracks down Cat's grandma so she could have a place to live. Finally, there's Jade's action in "Tori Goes Platinum". In the episode Tori gets a record deal. Her producers demand she dress and act a certain way, even making her misbehave in public. Eventually, Tori has had enough and stands up to them. The producer then gives the deal to Jade, arranging for her to perform at an awards show. It looks like Jade has finally overshadowed Tori. However, Jade finds out that Tori turned down Beck's advances out of respect for their friendship. Jade decides to give up her chance of fame and let's Tori perform at the awards show.
In the end, I think it's safe to say Tori has an established pattern of being a kind, helpful, and supportive friend. While she has done some bad things, these deeds are clearly outweighed by her good deeds. Jade has also done some good things, but those are rare compared to her bad deeds, which are much more representative of her character.
So why did I write this? Believe it or not, Jade is easily my favorite character on the show. That might sound weird considering I spent so much of this essay complaining about her. However, the reason I like her isn't because she's a good person. I like her because the character has layers. Jade starts out the series as a stereotypical bitch, but overtime the audience is shown that she has depth and insecurities. This makes her an interesting character to me. My issue with Jade fans who try to whitewash her actions or present her as a misunderstood hero is that this ruins the character. By trying make her into a straightforward hero, she loses the complexity that made the character great. Likewise, while I agree Tori is boring, she does have her moments. One of the things I like about her is how she is always willing to help her friends. When Tori haters try to reduce her to a one-dimensional bitch, it removes the endearing character traits that she has. On top of this, it just feels unfair to the character to focus on the few bad things she's done and ignore the good things she's done. Anyway, as I said before this is just my opinion. Feel free to chime in. Do you agree with my assessment, or do you think I was off the mark? I'm interested in seeing what you guys think.