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Quiet on Set and the Internet’s Victim-blaming.

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

TW: Sexual Assault, Sexual Assult of Minors, Abuse

Recently, Investigation Discovery released a documentary titled Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV. This documentary investigated child exploitation and endangerment in Nickelodeon productions, created by predators such as Dan Schneider. The documentary explores the power dynamics between child TV stars and adult filmmakers in the Nickelodeon production studios during the early to mid-2000s, featuring major celebrities such as Amanda Bynes, Drake Bell and the young Leonardo DiCaprio. 

The documentary investigates the Nickelodeon creator Dan Schneider, who created TV shows such as The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, iCarly, and Victorious. Over the past few years, Dan Schneider has faced much scrutiny on the internet due to his blatant sexualization of children in his TV shows. Quiet on Set digs deeper than these internet rumours, finding proof of Schneider’s sexist and predatory behaviour on the set of his TV shows. Investigation Discovery took statements from people who’d worked with Schnieder for decades, with them exposing the damaging work environment that Schneider created due to his power in the industry. These statements ranged from highlighting Schneider’s sexist treatment of his staff writers, to the inappropriate and predatory way in which Schenieder engaged with child star Amanda Bynes.

In episode three of the documentary, it is revealed that fifteen-year-old Drake Bell was sexually assaulted by an adult Brian Peck. Drake Bell recounts how Brian Peck manipulated both Bell and his parents under the guise of friendship and mentorship.

Bell explains that Peck was arrested, sentenced to 16 months in prison and was forced to register as a sex offender, a paltry punishment. After Peck served his sentence, he returned to work on Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, despite his status as a registered sex offender and the abuse Bell had faced at his hands. This clearly exposes how the children’s TV industry does not protect their child actors, excusing horrifying behaviour and abuse. The documentary also investigates Jason Handy, who was sentenced to 6 years in prison after evidence was found of him sexually assaulting young girls under the age of 10, and a man by the name of Ezel Channel. Channel, who’d already been convicted of sexual crimes against a minor, was hired by Nickelodeon and was caught sexually assaulting a minor on the Nickelodeon film lot. Obviously, many people questioned how a work environment employing so many paedophiles could possibly be safe for children and why Nickelodeon continually hired sexual predators.

As the documentary gained major internet fame, people began giving their opinions regarding the presented information. Although people were sympathizing with the victims of these horrible work conditions, it soon took an ugly turn. People on the internet started to harass other ex-Nickelodeon child stars to share their feelings and opinions on the Quiet on Set documentary. Incredibly problematic, this internet harassment means that instead of focusing on the people proven to exploit children in the industry, internet users end up villainizing other ex-child stars for being quiet.

It is important to remember that everyone processes trauma in different ways, and no victim of child exploitation owes anyone an explanation. Forcing other ex-Nickelodeon workers to voice their experience in the industry does not further justice but encourages further exploitation, the attention taken away from the victims who are coming forward. You are not owed someone’s story. Asking other celebrities who have a bigger following to share their experience not only dismisses their trauma-healing experience but also invalidates the victims who have come forward by implying that their stories are not enough.

This documentary focused on holding the powerful people of kids’ TV accountable so as not to provoke harassment of victims online. At one point, Bell himself was forced to come online and ask the internet to treat other ex-child actors with kindness because some just weren’t aware of what was happening. This once again underscores how internet harassment takes away from victims’ stories, the focus moving from holding the true perpetrators of these crimes accountable to blaming other victims for not coming forward sooner. This victim-blaming is extremely dangerous, invalidating the experiences of a victim. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on the documentary’s actual story to pursue accountability in the children’s entertainment industry and expose child predators.

Investigation Discovery: Quiet On Set
Hi! I'm Zara Smith and am currently doing a triple major in Film, Media and English Literature. I love writing and am very interested in pop culture and how it relates to social issues. My writing mainly explores the film industry, music, fashion and of course celebrity news! I hope you all enjoy what I have to offer!