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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, young Amanda Bynes seemed to have the world at her fingertips. She was a standout cast member on All That, had her own show at the tender age of 13, and found plenty of mainstream success in hit teen comedies like What a Girl Wants and She’s the Man. She seemed poised to have a long and prosperous career ahead of her. However, in the 2010s, it all came crashing down. In 2010, Amanda retired from acting, and in 2013, she had a public breakdown, behaving erratically and posting strange tweets, and was subsequently placed on a psychiatric hold. Her mother was then granted a conservatorship over Amanda, which remained in place until 2022. To the general public, this all seemed so sudden and surprising. Why did such a talented and promising young actress suddenly throw her future away and go off the deep end? What happened? But it has become increasingly clear that Amanda Bynes is not a child star “gone bad.” When you look back at the things she experienced at Nickelodeon and the adults in her life who failed her, it is clear that Amanda Bynes was not “crazy” but simply trying to process a lot of trauma.

Dan “Hold her tighter she’s a fighter” Schneider

In 1996, 10-year-old Amanda Bynes was performing at a comedy camp for kids at the Laugh Factory when she caught the attention of Dan Schneider, a producer for one of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows, All That. Dan recognized Amanda’s star potential and wanted to put her on All That immediately. Once on All That, Amanda was a hit. She had natural comedic talent, and great timing too. In fact, Dan liked her so much that he gave her her own spinoff show, The Amanda Show. Sounds great, right? Except it was not perfectly great. Dan and Amanda were very close. Perhaps a little too close. A lot of people on the set of The Amanda Show noticed that Amanda and Dan had a close physical relationship. She would often be seen hugging Dan or giving him a neck massage. In addition, there were times when Amanda would be missing when everyone else was doing schoolwork. Where was she? With Dan, of course! She was “pitching ideas” to him. When Amanda was 16, she attempted to get emancipated from her parents, during which time, she turned to Dan, who tried to help her in her efforts to get emancipated. In Quiet on Set, journalist Kate Taylor called Dan inserting himself into Amanda’s life during this period “ethically fraught.”  It is also worth noting that during this time, Amanda was considering moving in with Dan Schneider and his wife.

But unfortunately, this isn’t the worst of it. On her secret Twitter account, called Ashley Banks, Amanda Bynes alleges she had to have an abortion at 13 because her “boss,” who many believe to be Dan Schneider, impregnated her. Now, this is just alleged and there hasn’t been anything else to back this up, but if this is true, that’s horrible! Especially because it seems that Dan was someone Amanda trusted a lot. And even if it is not, the way Dan treated Amanda crossed a lot of boundaries and is definitely not the way a boss should be treating their employee, especially if said employee is underaged.

Her Parents

A lot of child stars have controlling stage parents who are living vicariously through their children, and sadly, Amanda’s parents are no exception. According to Leon Frierson, a former child actor from All That, “Parents on All That, I would say they tried to stay out of the way. With some of us, this was our first job, so it was in our best interest to kind of go with the flow, but Amanda Bynes’s parents were very hands-on with her career, specifically her dad.” While it may sound great for a child actor to have their parent involved with their career, it is not great if said parent is controlling about it. Katrina Johnson, another former cast member of All That, said she thinks Amanda’s dad treated her like a “wind-up doll,” and she had a lot of “pressure and high expectations from him.” Acting and performing should be something fun for a kid. It’s not fun if their parent is putting a lot of pressure on them to succeed. Leon also said that Amanda’s dad’s presence was “always felt,” and a big part of that was his relationship with Dan Schnieder, and her father and Dan “carefully crafted” Amanda’s career. In addition, it is said that Amanda was a “favorite of the adults who worked around her” because her parents “did not interfere at all.” Unfortunately, it is very evident that Amanda’s parents cared more about money and fame than they ever did about Amanda’s well-being and happiness.

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The general environment of the Amanda Show

Despite The Amanda Show having a cast of mostly children, the environment on set was anything but child-friendly. You would think that on a show with a cast made up of children, measures would be taken to ensure that the people working with said child actors are not a danger to them, But unfortunately, that was not the case here, and it led to devastating consequences. A huge example of this is Brian Peck, who was a dialogue coach on The Amanda Show. In 2004, Brian Peck was convicted of a lewd act against a child, who was later revealed to be Drake Bell. He went to jail, but only for 16 months, and then when he got out, he worked on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Drake was harmed by someone he should have been able to trust. Unfortunately, however, Brian was not the only one. Another example is Jason Handy, a production assistant on The Amanda Show. As a production assistant, it was his job to walk kids around the set — usually without the presence of their parents. In 2003, the police searched Jason’s home due to a tip about his inappropriate behavior towards children. What they found was disturbing. In his home, they found “an enormous treasure trove of child pornography.” Not only that, but the police officers found ziploc bags with girls’ names on them, containing girls’ underwear. They also found his journals where he called himself a “pedophile, full-blown.” While neither of these men have hurt Amanda that we know of, the fact that these were the people that Amanda was surrounded by shows that her safety, and the safety of her fellow actors, was not a priority.

When you put all these facts together, you can see that Amanda did not simply “go crazy” — that is rarely ever the case. She was dealing with the trauma of parents who didn’t protect her, a workplace that exploited her, and a boss who took advantage of her. It reminds me of something Cole Sprouse said on the topic of childhood fame, “When we talk about child stars going nuts, what we’re not talking about is how fame is a trauma.” Child stars go through so much. They get overworked. They aren’t allowed to be kids. They get sexualized at a young age. Is it any wonder why so many of them suffer from breakdowns? It is sad because when we watched so many of these stars when we were younger, their lives always seemed quite enviable. They got to star in TV shows and movies that everyone loved and it looked like they were having lots of fun doing it. We all wanted to be them. Little did we know how much pain and abuse they had to endure to provide us with some of our favorite shows, and how for some of them, it wasn’t their dream at all, but their parents’ dream instead. This is why we need to provide them with empathy and understanding when they are going through breakdowns like this because Cole Sprouse is right. Fame is trauma and we don’t know all that they endured during those years. This is also why we need to work to make the environment a safer and healthier one for the next generation of child stars, so they can grow up healthy and happy.

Nicole is a junior at the University of Connecticut studying communication and gerontology. Her hobbies include playing the flute, biking, and drawing.