Arts / Opinion

Quiet on Set: The truth behind Nickelodeon’s popular shows 

Quiet on Set – Dark Side of Kids TV is a five-part docuseries on Max (formerly HBO Max) detailing the behind-the-scenes of children’s television programs from the 1990s and the 2000s. This series discusses producer Dan Schneider’s rise to power and the hostile and frequently inappropriate environment that he created. Nickelodeon stars, child actors, and workers on set came forward to speak out against the traumatic environment they were forced to work in. This is a devastating and eye-opening must-watch, especially for teenagers and young adults who were the audience for the Nickelodeon shows.

Many Nickelodeon actors have alleged that they were sexually assaulted on set. For example, Amanda Bynes, a Nickelodeon star, had a disturbing relationship with Schneider. Bynes rose to fame through The Amanda Show and quickly became an inspiration for many young girls in the early 2000s. The docuseries alleges that Schenider was physically close with her, often hugging or giving each other massages in front of the cast and crew. People who worked on the show have alleged that Bynes was sexually assaulted by Schneider, and her declining to appear in the docuseries has only made that rumor bigger. 

Schneider wasn’t the only crew member who was accused of illegal sexual behavior. Production assistant Jason Handy went to jail for six years for possessing child pornography. Dialogue coach Brian Peck was also arrested for sexually assaulting actor Drake Bell, something that had been rumored for years. 

Female writers were also victims of Schneider. The two female writers on The Amanda Show were forced to split a salary. Both women were too afraid of being fired if they spoke up. One did eventually break silence, and Schneider was forced to pay them the same as the men. He asked her if she was conspiring against the company and told her that she would never get a job in the industry again if she were. 

Although Schneider claimed that Nickelodeon was a fun environment, many women did not find it so. The two female writers described their time at Nickelodeon as a domestic violence relationship, being treated terribly by Schneider.  Once, a female writer made a joking comment about Schneider not making good on his bets, and he got angry quickly, threatening her job and future and scaring her. The female writers felt devalued as comedic writers and even as human beings.

But Nickelodeon is ultimately to blame for all of this terrible behavior. While they may not have known the extent of what was occurring on set, they allowed and paid for Schneider to run an inappropriate and unsafe environment. All of these men’s horrible actions were ignored by Nickelodeon time and time again. Nickelodeon turned a blind eye to the abuse and assault and was negligent toward the employees, many of whom were children.

The #MeToo movement brought awareness of and justice to the sexual harassment and sexual abuse of women in the workplace, and it is time for children to now get justice. Unlike adults, children often can’t stand up for themselves against adults. The child industry altogether needs to work on making their environments a safe and secure place for children. Hundreds of children over the years have been sexually assaulted, and we can’t have their environment turn into their nightmare. 

Because of these allegations, Nickelodeon dropped Schneider in 2018.  However in 2021, he told The New York Times that he had written two pilots but neither had been produced. Nickelodeon has not commented on any current role he might have at the company. Schneider has not commented on any of the allegations other than to say on social media that “I definitely owe some people a pretty strong apology.” 

Nickelodeon shows are still being aired today, and each new generation is discovering these shows. But there lies the question: Are we putting money into a molester’s pocket? Although it’s not clear to what extent Schneider is still profiting from these shows, Nickelodeon certainly is. While we are not saying you need to stop watching Nickelodeon, it is important for everyone to be aware of what has gone on behind the scenes. Will people still want to watch their favorite childhood shows knowing the true nature behind them? 

This docuseries, Quiet on Set, reveals so much about the truths of Nickelodeon, but other companies in Hollywood need to be investigated. Who is to say that other companies aren’t doing the same thing? If children are being treated like this on a set especially made for children, we cannot even begin to imagine what they’ve faced on adult sets. 

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