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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

OPINION: Documentary exposes Nickelodeon, sheds light on the disappointing lack of protection for child stars

Isis Debrock / Hilltop Views
New Max docuseries “Quiet On Set” highlights the dark aspects behind the sets of popular Nickelodeon TV shows. Former child actors and Nickelodeon employees come forth and speak about the abuse and toxicity they endured during their time working on set.

On March 17, the streaming service Max released a new striking documentary. The show “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” features former child stars and employees speaking up about their experience working with Nickelodeon and the abusive environment on sets. The show instantly caught my attention, as I have heard many things in the past that have nodded to Nickelodeon’s abusive work environment. For example, enabling the toxic management tactics of Nickelodeon’s successful producer, Dan Schneider. 

Some stars have vaguely spoken about bad experiences at Nickelodeon prior to the release of “Quiet on Set,” such as former “iCarly” star Jennette McCurdy. In 2022, McCurdy released her captivating memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” in which she reflects about her experience of being forced into child stardom at the hands of her abusive mother as well as other struggles she faced during her acting career. She made several references to a man that she dubs “the Creator,” in which she mentions his controlling and toxic nature towards her and others throughout her time on Nickelodeon shows. Many people, including myself, speculate that she was describing Schneider, and this documentary supports that theory, as those on the show have described similar experiences working with the toxic producer. 

The series explores different perspectives from a multitude of child stars and set employees who came forth about the mental and emotional trauma they endured at Nickelodeon. Many cited instances of grooming, harassment, sexism and racism at the hands of Schneider. Additionally, the show exposed other former employees, such as Jason Michael Handy and Brian Peck, who were sex offenders and working with multiple child actors on the show shortly before they were convicted.

Nickelodeon star Drake Bell made a shocking appearance on the third episode of the show. He came forward publicly for the first time with his story of being sexually abused at the hands of a dialogue coach while he was a teenager. Bell’s recount of events is gut-wrenching and extremely difficult to hear.

Watching these former child actors talk about the abuse they, along with their co-stars, endured while on the shows we grew up watching is so heartbreaking. These actors, such as Bell, Alexa Nikolas from “Zoey 101” and Bryan Hearne from “All That,” also speak about how years later, the things they endured still remain fresh on their minds and are essentially the catalyst for issues they developed later in adulthood, such as alcohol and substance abuse and struggles with their mental health. 

“Quiet on Set” shows the constant lack of regard for the mental and physical well-being of children in the entertainment industry and the common abuse of power by trusted adults. Even though Nickelodeon took action against Schnieder and dropped him from the studio completely in 2018 due to multiple allegations from actors and employees, it is disappointing how long it took for the studio to address and take proper action to a problem that had been long-running. 

Additionally, the fact that all of this is being released more than 20 years after the first incidents is deeply saddening because much effort could have been done by Nickelodeon during that time to improve safety on these sets. It is disappointing that not enough was done to ensure that those kids were in a safe environment. I am glad that these former child actors and employees were brave enough to tell their stories, but the cycle of abuse in the entertainment industry cannot and should never be repeated.

I hope that Nickelodeon and any production company now and in the future uses “Quiet on Set” as strong evidence that child safety and employee treatment in the entertainment industry is something that needs to be taken seriously and not overlooked.

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About the Contributor
Zemira Recio
Zemira Recio, Staff Writer
Zemira is a freshman and this is her first year being a Staff Writer for Hilltop Views. She is a political science major and aspires to become a lawyer someday. When she's not writing or doing schoolwork, her favorite past times are reading and painting.

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