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Revealing docuseries showcases cycles of abuse At Nickelodeon

Fred Seibert | Flickr
Fred Seibert | Flickr

Although thirty years is too late to rectify what has occurred, rather than sit idly and deflect these allegations, corporations like Viacom CBS and The Walt Disney Company must act now. They should set a good example from the top down by owning up to wrongdoings and utilizing the present time to step in to save more children before something detrimental occurs.

The intricate layers of abuse in Nickelodeon’s culture were finally unveiled in “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” an Investigation Discovery documentary made by directors Mary Robinson and Emma Schwartz.

These offenders have been lying in plain sight on Nickelodeon sets during its golden age throughout the 1990s and 2000s when child actors were severely exploited and sexually abused by the adults they worked with.

The four-part docuseries, which premiered March 17, interviews former actors, writers, crew and family members who detail a sexualized environment ridden with discomfort and mistrust on and off-set.

The documentary addresses the misconduct of disgraced showrunner Dan Schneider, who “iCarly” star Jennette McCurdy grimly referred to in her 2022 memoir “I’m Glad My Mom Died” as “The Creator.”

Schneider’s time at Nickelodeon is characterized by years of harassment and inappropriate relationships with the children in his care, including forcing children to wear exploitative costumes or to engage in scripts that contained overt yet unnecessary sexual innuendos.

Former actors recounted feeling helpless in Schneider’s toxic environment which ostracized any voice of difference, enabling him to continue terrorizing these children, unscathed, until his departure from Nickelodeon in 2018.

The media and television industries have seen enough past abuses throughout their history that they should be incredibly skilled at identifying child abusers and serial predators in their workplaces.

As a surprise to many, 37-year-old Drake Bell, co-star of “Drake and Josh,” came forward in the docuseries to identify himself as the unnamed victim in the case against former dialogue coach Brian Peck – unrelated to Josh Peck — for the first time. “His entire side of the courtroom was full,” Bell said. “And my side was me, my mom and my brother.”

Peck was arrested on 11 charges of child sex abuse in violation of a child under 16 years old in 2004 and served a 16-month sentence in prison.

Bell, lost for words to express on camera, expressed in the third episode that the abuse was extensive and “the worst form of abuse that you can imagine.”

After his sentence, Peck walked off with a minor slap on the wrist and was promptly handed a brand-new manuscript upon being hired by Disney to work on its series “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”

The LA Times revealed that in 2003, Peck received over 40 letters of support, including from some familiar names such as James Marsden, Alan Thicke and former “The Amanda Show” co-star Taran Killam.

The amount of support Peck received is indicative of Hollywood’s consistent preference of perpetrators over victims. In that world, a child’s life goes down in value when positioned next to the jeopardy of the network’s success.

Disney’s role in rewarding the perpetrator is a despicable way of conveying its priority for profit over protection, sending a message to children in its own network and everywhere that they are not safe.

In 2021, Bell himself pleaded guilty to attempted child endangerment after sending inappropriate social media messages to a girl who was 15 at the time of the incident in 2017.

Very little time is spent on-screen challenging Bell or the allegations against him.

The victim is now carrying out the abuse himself. Approximately one-third of all individuals who are abused in childhood will become abusers themselves, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Justice.

Thirty years is too late to just begin delving into the atrocities committed at these networks and has proven to be more than enough time for the cycle of abuse to repeat. These child actors, now adults, will never get their lives back.

All responsible, in their entirety, must be held accountable and charged for destroying the lives and livelihoods of their victims. Unless every network that employs children is investigated and held to a firm standard of justice, no child under their watch will ever be safe.

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