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Culture

Nickelodeon's Murky History Of Child Sex Abuse

By S.G. Cheah·· 7 min read
Amanda Bynes Instagram

Want to hear something creepy? Way back in 2011, the hacktivist group Anonymous released a video in which they announced that they were going to war with Nickelodeon's Dan Schneider because they had reasons to believe that he was sexually abusing the children on his show.

This declaration from Anonymous was from all the way back in 2011, long before the idea of a ring of pedophiles lurking in Hollywood was even suspected by the public. To give you an idea of pop culture back then, 2011 was the year of Charlie Sheen's monumental public breakdown and subsequent firing from the hit show Two and a Half Men. Looking back in hindsight, it’s as clear as day that Hollywood was filled with problems including the sexual abuse of minors.

How Dan Schneider Abused His Power at Nickelodeon

But back to Dan Schneider and the accusations of child abuse from Anonymous in 2011. What was the cause of concern which notified the hacktivist group about the possibility of abuse behind the scenes at Nickelodeon? Let’s start with Dan Schneider and his weird obsession with kids’ feet.

Having a foot fetish by itself isn’t a crime. The problem is when that fetish is extended towards children. Take for example, in 2013, the Twitter account for Sam and Cat (one of the shows created by Schneider) which put out a Tweet asking kids to submit pictures of their feet. Unsuspecting children who were fans of the show did what was asked and sent in pictures of their feet. While this isn't necessarily a sign of anything amiss, this isn't the only instance of Schneider discussing young children's feet (and toes) on social media.

Schneider tweeted cryptic and bizarre tweets for years about his star's feet and toes. This included posting pictures of young girls' toes and asking his followers to guess whose toes they were. It's definitely not the type of behavior you would expect from someone used to working professionally with children.

Sexualizing Young Women in His Shows

If asking children to send in pictures of their feet wasn’t creepy enough, Dan Schneider also wrote a bunch of weird and inappropriate situations for the child actors on his show. There are so many sexualized scenes of high-schoolers in his show Victorious. Take a look at this clip where the main character, played by Victoria Justice, was “made into a sandwich” where she was the meat inside of a hamburger. Or this highly sexualized deleted scene in an episode of Victorious. Keep in mind, this is supposed to be a children’s show. 

Then there is also that really inappropriate clip from a "behind the scenes" of The Amanda Show where Schneider is in a hot tub with Amanda Bynes. Amanda Bynes, as you may remember, had a high profile public breakdown and accused her father of sexually abusing her. She later retracted that statement, but it does make us wonder if the sexual abuse was from a “father figure” instead of her biological father. 

Then there was Jamie Lynn Spears (Britney Spears’ younger sister), the star of Zoey 101, who ended up having a baby at 16 years old.

But the worst and most egregious of sexualization and exploitation of a minor on-screen by Dan Schneider was with Ariana Grande. Here’s a small compilation of the blatant pedophilic flavor Schneider sprinkled in his shows through Ariana Grande’s Cat Valentine character on Victorious. Can anyone (besides a pedophile) actually watch that and say it isn’t icky that a kid’s show would have these blatant sexual acts written into it? 

Ariana Grande – Exploited, Broken and Damaged from Her Time at Nickelodeon? 

Poor Ariana. As a woman, I can’t understand or relate to why someone would want to be associated, let alone date a man who would make jokes about raping babies. I'm referring to Pete Davidson and his awfully distasteful stand-up routine about wanting to rape a baby. In Ariana’s defense, they were already broken up by the time he made that joke. 

The problem, however, is how she was attracted to a man who possessed these dark thoughts to begin with. Bad life decisions like these do make you wonder if she was already so desensitized to pedophilic ideas from years of exploitation and grooming in the entertainment industry that she subconsciously couldn’t even recognize why the men she dated tended to be self-hating and self-destructive

Of course, the accusations against Dan Schneider and the possible abuse of the child stars on his shows are all mostly speculation. However, these speculations aren’t unfounded if you take a moment to think about what has happened in the personal lives of child stars from Schneider’s shows. Why do so many of them end up as troubled adults with dysfunctional lives? Is it simply the nature of show business that child actors are doomed to grow up with a multitude of problems in life? 

Nickelodeon Isn't the Only Network with Problematic Actors

Sadly, Nickelodeon isn't the only network to blame for turning out some pretty messed up kids. Nickelodeon's main competitor, Disney, hasn't had a much better track record. Several Disney stars from the same generation have had public meltdowns or simply gone off the deep end.

The most famous ex-Disney star is, of course, Miley Cyrus. At first, it seemed like she would make a graceful transition from child star to pop star. But in 2013, Miley made headlines after her shocking and controversial twerking performance at the MTV VMAs. While she seems to have calmed down a little since then, she's still managed to get a divorce, and has very publicly explored her sexuality. And who can forget the infamous "Wrecking Ball" music video?

Another sad Disney star tale is that of Bella Thorne, star of Shake It Up. Thorne has gone from a cute Disney star to a dark, troubled adult. She, like Cyrus, has also come out as "pansexual." In 2018, Thorne admitted on her Instagram that she had been molested from the age of six to 14, during which time she was working for Disney. She's never publicly named her molester (although we can probably rule out her dad, who died when she was nine). She's talked about how horrifying it was to be molested and then have no one - not her agents at Disney or the paparazzi - know or even care about what was happening to her.

Now, remember That's So Raven? Raven Symone first captured our hearts as a little girl on the Cosby Show, and kept her career going with a hilarious Disney Channel show about a girl with psychic powers. While Symone seems to have turned out fairly well, her co-star Orlando Brown hasn't done so well. It seems like he's experienced some serious mental health issues since his time at Disney. Watch the video below and you'll see what I mean.

Not Every Child Star Turns Out Terribly

Thankfully, every child star in the business hasn't met the same fate. There are still many child actors who have transitioned to adult life and seem to be pretty successful.

Their biggest Disney Channel star of that time, Hilary Duff (of Lizzie McGuire fame), is today a proud mother of two beautiful children and happily married to boot. Kids like me who grew up watching Lizzie McGuire and Cadet Kelly are still able to relate to Hilary Duff because she isn’t weird and self-destructive (unlike Amanda Bynes or Ariana Grande). 

Even Duff’s co-star from Cadet Kelly, Christy Carlson Romano (of Even Stevens and Kim Possible fame), went on to have a successful, scandal-free career. She is also a mother of two, happily married, and a graduate of Barnard College. 

Closing Thoughts

It seems like the sexualization and abuse of children might be an industry wide problem, with Nickelodeon as just one example of many. If there isn't a culture of abuse, why have child actors like Ariana Grande and Amanda Bynes turned out to have such troubled and problematic adult lives? Could it be possible that they were groomed and abused as children on Dan Schneider’s shows and thus carry the trauma with them through their adult life? That is indeed the question, isn’t it? Perhaps Anonymous might one day shed light on this riddle. 

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