The Show Cannot Go On: Why Does Hollywood Protect Child Predators?


Machelle Kabir ’26
Staff Writer

Content warnings: sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexism, workplace violence

Time and time again, audiences have watched Hollywood shamelessly protect sexual predators. The industry refuses to learn from yesterday’s mistakes, making them today’s reality. The new Hulu docuseries Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV delves into the realities of the child actors who mesmerized us with lives of glitz and glamour while adults exploited their vulnerability. 

In the 90s, as Nickelodeon and Disney’s children’s television empires contended for top numbers, producer Dan Schneider of The Amanda Show and Zoey 101 inserted himself as a dominant force on his sets. Schneider has been accused of aggressive and predatory behaviors on set and was known to include sexual innuendos in his programs played by his underage female stars. The docuseries recounts an incident of a then fourteen-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears having to partake in a “cum shot” joke on Zoey 101. Spears’s coworker, Amanda Bynes, was also subjected to playing a character named “Penelope Taint” on The Amanda Show

In 2017, Nickelodeon parted with Schneider in a seven-million-dollar split due to increased complaints about his actions creating a toxic work environment. After the release of Quiet on Set and having to face these accusations, Schneider issued a statement to NBC, agreeing that he was a harsh boss: “Facing my past behaviors — some of which are embarrassing and that I regret — and I definitely owe some people a pretty strong apology.” Schneider, however, only incriminates himself further as he pursues no genuine apology for the accusations made. He was not a demanding boss at your average fast-food chain; he was a sexual predator. 

Despite Schneider’s bad behavior, however, he was never convicted of any crime against minors. A member of the Nickelodeon crew, Brian Peck, was arrested in 2003 on eleven counts of child sexual abuse that included “forcible penetration, oral copulation, and sodomy.” As Nickelodeon established their next generation of stars, they hired Drake Bell on The Amanda Show. Following Bell’s start on the show, Peck encouraged Bell to come to his house, even arranging sleepovers with the minor to “make it on time for early morning auditions.” Although the relationship seemed innocent, in which Peck mentored Bell, the budding prodigy, this was not the case.

Bell describes the abuse that he endured at the hands of Peck during those sleepovers. “The worst stuff someone can do to somebody as a sexual assault,” Peck said in the docuseries. Peck slowly but surely broke Bell and his family apart. Peck encouraged Bell to dismiss his father from acting as his manager. After a tug of war in which Bell fought against his own father at Peck’s request, Drake’s father let go, saying: “I want what my son wants … it’s killing me, it’s hurting me, it’s breaking my heart, but I want to do what Drake wants.” 

Bell claims that because of the abuse he experienced, he later exhibited self-destructive behaviors, including one that landed him in jail following a DUI. Bell endured years of suffering and pain while Peck was supported at the stand by 41 of his co-workers. In fact, following Peck’s 16-month jail sentence, he was offered a job at the Disney Channel on The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Meanwhile, the cycle of abuse continues. Bell pleaded guilty to charges of attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles in 2021.

When looking at each of these stories, I ask myself: why were predators protected while children were left to suffer? It took nearly two decades before Nickelodeon separated itself from Schnider’s dark mark. It took months before the authorities caught Peck — and he received hardly any jail time while also remaining employed at the network. 

The answer is clear: financial gain. By the time Schnider left Nickelodeon, he had created seven successful programs for the network. iCarly, for example, had over 11.2 million viewers. As horrible and sexist as Schnider was, Nickelodeon did not want to lose their golden boy, their cash cow. Nickelodeon became even richer than before, but at what cost?

The network claimed their inappropriate behavior had gone unseen, as the two were outwardly kind to both children and parents. This excuse holds no basis. It is the network’s way of brushing child sexual abuse under the rug in an effort not to unmask their disguise of a kid-friendly, healthy work environment. 

Not only does the network make faulty excuses for their behavior, they have failed to take preventative measures so that this abuse does not occur again. Recently, the network released a statement to ABC News that it apparently has “adopted numerous safeguards over the years to help ensure we are living up to our own high standards and the expectations of our audience.” Sure, a background check or two is nice, but what is Nickelodeon really doing to protect children? Nothing.

Hollywood’s biggest mistake, however, in all of these cases was their refusal to listen to cast members who claimed abuse. It is essential not to be a bystander to the toxic environments perpetuated in the entertainment industry, and it seems Nickelodeon was just that: a company of enablers. I ask you, reader, to take this horrific story as a lesson, to always listen to victims of abuse that surround you.

Photo Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

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