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'Shhhh' now lets chat about Quiet On The Set

“My hope is that with every voice that comes out something changes. Maybe todays the day i don't know”- MJ, Quiet on the Set, 2024. 

This quote comes from a mother of a daughter who so desperately wanted to be a child actor but instead right at the beginning of her career faced sexual assault in the form of receiving an inappropriate image from an adult who worked at nickelodeon on the very show she was on. This quote is important and highlights just how crucial it is to listen to survivors. 

"Quiet on the Set" premiered earlier this week in America, on March 17th and March 18th, with two episodes airing each night. The series has highlighted an industry that is gradually acknowledging and addressing issues of abuse and misconduct, finally beginning to validate the experiences of victims (baby steps and so far not nearly enough). It's widely recognised that Hollywood has long been plagued by toxic behaviours, including method acting and an unhealthy work culture. Horrificaly, a dark aspect of Hollywood has always involved instances of child abuse, spanning from the black-and-white film era to the present day. For millennials and Gen Z individuals who grew up watching beloved Nickelodeon and Disney Channel shows during the '90s, 2000s, and the 2010s, this documentary provides new insights into the behind-the-scenes realities of some of their favourite childhood television programs. While Nickelodeon's troubled period under Dan Schneider is not entirely new information,this docuseries has created a never before seen buzz and public interest in the matter. Jeanette McCurdy has previously spoken out about it in her memoir, "I'm Glad My Mom Died," published in 2022, McCurdy discusses the abuse without explicitly naming Schneider, referring to him simply as "the creator" throughout.

"Quiet On The Set,", features actors, crew members, and relatives of child actors sharing accounts of the harrowing conditions and environments on Nickelodeon sets from the '90s until 2017. This was the year when Dan Schneider, the showrunner often hailed as Nickelodeon's golden boy, was fired. Under Schneider's tenure, the network experienced exponential growth, resulting in major successes such as the annual Kids' Choice Awards and catapulting child actors to stardom.

As a kid who grew up watching these shows, even back then, I recall sensing that certain elements felt off. The fixation on feet was particularly uncomfortable and stayed on my mind. I distinctly remember a time when Nickelodeon requested kids to submit photos of their feet, which struck me as weird and at the time couldn't understand why, now I do. Moreover, scenes in iCarly often left me feeling uneasy and unable to fully grasp why certain jokes and scripted bits made me uncomfortable. While these instances might seem harmless on their own, they are indicative of a broader pattern that cannot be dismissed or deemed unnecessary to revisit by those labelled as "woke." This documentary sheds light on key moments in the history of children's television that cannot be overlooked, including the sexual innuendos uttered or acted out by child actors. It's unsettling to think that these jokes were crafted and approved by adult men, raising questions about who was complicit in this behaviour and how many remained silent due to the overwhelming power that figures like Schneider held over everyone on set.

"Quiet on the Set" delves into the personal relationships between Nickelodeon staff, such as Dan Schneider and Brian Peck, and the child actors, while also featuring insights from parents, relatives, coworkers on set, ex-Nickelodeon staff, journalists, and more. The inclusion of voices like Drake Bell's, one of Nickelodeon's most famous child stars, adds a poignant layer to the discussion of the cycle of abuse and its aftermath. Drake serves as a living embodiment of the long-lasting effects of trauma resulting from childhood sexual abuse (CSA). I'll delve deeper into Drake's experience shortly.

After watching this documentary, many, including myself, began to understand why Drake, as an adult, fell into the cyclical trap of abuse. It's crucial to recognise that understanding the experiences someone faced doesn't excuse their behaviour, but it provides important insights. This documentary teaches us that there's never a "perfect" victim, and we must comprehend the circumstances surrounding abuse and trauma to break the cycle. Drake's story illustrates this profoundly. Despite his fame and the perception of knowing him through his public persona, his experiences led to his actions. He has taken significant steps towards healing and recovery, undergoing extensive rehab, counselling, and therapy, acknowledging that his behaviour stemmed from untreated trauma. His willingness to own up to his actions, though perhaps not all, is a rare glimpse into accountability that we don't often see.

In the years following #MeToo, there has been progress in understanding and societal perceptions surrounding victims speaking out, but there's still much work to be done. It's important to note that Drake, as a white cis heterosexual able-bodied man, has received more credibility compared to women and gender-diverse individuals, especially those within queer, disabled, and culturally diverse communities. Despite voices like Amanda Bynes, Alexa Nikolas, and Jeanette McCurdy speaking out in various capacities over the years, this documentary series has created a platform that demands attention like never before. I hope that it sparks changed perceptions in society and fosters greater openness to listening to those who have been trying to raise awareness about these issues for years, ultimately leading to meaningful societal change.

Drake Bell speaks out for the first time publicly about the abuse he suffered under Brian Peck, a very famous dialogue coach who has worked in the industry for decades and done extensive work with children. 

I want to first state that i acknowledge the victims of those who have in turn suffered abuse under Drake Bell, sadly i cannot find much information about his victims especially now this documentary has come out, but i will always stand with survivors, i want to discuss the cycle of abuse and Drake Bell serves as an interesting example. The cycle of abuse can really be demonstrated in this story. 

Drake was a household name when i was growing up, my sister adored Drake and Josh and we both LOVED iCarly. Being a child star in itself is a very dangerous situation, being in the public eye can have many downsides especially when you are a child. To deal with this level of fame and work this young would have deep repercussions alone, let alone experiencing abuse. Drakes father shares his experience and how the staff at nickelodeon manipulated Drake and his mother to push his father away as he was growing more and more concerned with the way adult men on these sets were treating children. Sadly Drakes father sensed it from the beginning and upon voicing these concerns and keeping his son away from Brian Peck, this man used the tactics so often used by groomers, enablers and paedophiles to sink their hooks into their victims. Drakes father was eventually pushed out and removed as his manager. Drake’s father however specifically warned his mother to not let drake close to Brian Peck as he was very weary and did not trust him, sadly however his mum did not take this warning seriously which led to Brian Peck in turn spending lots of unsupervised time with Drake such as letting him stay at Brian Peck’s home which Drake did not want to do which in turn led to these assaults. Drake expresses how he should have seen the signs and red flags, a sentiment often expressed by victims of grooming and abuse, lets make it clear however the onus IS NEVER on victims, the onus and blame always lies with the perpetrator. As an adult sadly, Drake fell into the typical path that so often falls upon victims of trauma and abuse, as an adult he turned to drugs and unhealthy coping mechanisms and sadly as he had not been given the correct treatment and support he then too became a perpetrator. Some of Drake’s thoughts on this abuse mirror many sentiments we hear from victims such as:

 “I had no way out”

“I didnt think anything of anything that was happening in hindsight i should have been able to see but as a kid you have no clue”

 “ I didn't know how to process it and I think that led to a lot of self destruction, and a lot of self loathing. So i would try and just escape with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, really just anything to escape really” 

“stints of sobriety, and then the pressure would be too much and all of these demons that i had were very difficult to work through, so i think a lot of my self destructive behaviour was a temporary fix and it would always creep back up” 

Its crucial that we listen to victim survivors and never place the blame on them. 

In the intricate webs of abuse, victims can find themselves trapped not just in the trauma of their past, but also in a disheartening cycle that threatens to continue the pain they've endured. It's a tragic reality that those who have suffered at the hands of abuse may, in turn, become perpetrators themselves. This isnt always the case and not everyone who has suffered abuse will go on to become an abuser, but it is important to note that in some cases victims with no support, resources or healing can in turn, abuse someone out of this pain and trauma.

This phenomenon, known as the cycle of abuse, illustrates how deeply ingrained patterns of behaviour can manifest across generations. For some, the trauma they experienced becomes a malignant seed, planting itself within their psyche and influencing their actions in unforeseen ways. In seeking to regain a sense of power and control, some victims may unconsciously replicate the abusive dynamics they once sought to escape. Despite their desire to break free from the chains of their past, they may find themselves unwittingly perpetuating the very cycle they vowed to dismantle. The journey toward healing and breaking this cycle demands immense courage, introspection, and support. It's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit that many individuals, despite the odds stacked against them, ultimately find the strength to defy the cycle, rewriting their narratives with compassion, healing, and empowerment.

I hope what we see come from this is changed perceptions from society and more openness. On the series Alexa Nikolas says; 

“It unfortunately takes the people that witnessed it and experienced it to speak up to really change it.”

If there's one crucial takeaway from this documentary, it's the urgent need for a shift in societal perception—one that centres around victim survivors. Last year's high-profile case of Danny Masterton, and the subsequent defense of him by numerous celebrities through letters to the judge, highlighted a disturbing trend, particularly prevalent in child abuse cases. The practice of using reference letters in such cases should be unequivocally banned, but that discussion deserves its own dedicated platform. These instances, where prolific celebrities' abuse is publicly exposed, mark a significant step toward societal reform. It's time for individuals in positions of power and influence to be held accountable for their abusive actions, as well as complacency and enabling. 

Equally important is recognising how adept abusers and perpetrators are at concealing their true nature within society. They excel at maintaining a favourable public image, a necessity for their manipulative endeavours. An abuser isn't always the person you'd expect, and that's a fundamental aspect of this issue. They often present themselves as friendly, approachable individuals who build trust with their victims. Brian Peck's case is a prime example—he manipulated adults enough for them to feel comfortable leaving their children in his care. This underscores a crucial point: predators and abusers are among us in society, skillfully adept at concealing their abuse and manipulation beneath a veneer of normalcy. Recognizing this reality is essential for protecting vulnerable individuals and preventing further harm.

It is really important we also recognise how abusers and perpetrators can be hidden so well in society. Abusers are good at public image, they need to be in order to manipulate those around them and continue to operate. An abuser isnt always who you most expect and that's a major part of this. People who appear to be friendly, approachable and relate to their victims in order to create this trust. Brian Peck did this. He manipulated the minds of adults enough for them to feel comfortable leaving their children with him. This is the key. Predators and abusers are people among us in society, good at hiding their abuse and manipulation. They are our neighbours, our teachers, our priests, our politicians, people you walk by in the street, people you know in the community. Predators are good at hiding in plain sight. This is a fact many dont want to come to terms with because it means even those they know could be an abuser. Its the courage and bravity of victims and their loved ones calling this out that begins to shine a light on these abusers. 

Abusers often possess a disturbingly adept ability to camouflage their true nature beneath a facade of charm and charisma. They master the art of creating deep, seemingly genuine connections, which serve as the perfect guise for their manipulative agendas. These individuals strategically create and nurture relationships that gradually unveil their abusive tendencies over time, slowly entwining their victims in a web of control and dependency. Through their skillful manipulation, abusers not only deceive their victims but also manage to convince those around them of their benevolence. This tactic serves to invalidate the experiences of their victims, as the abuser's outward persona contradicts the reality of their actions. Consequently, when survivors muster the courage to speak out against their abusers, they often find themselves facing disbelief and scepticism from those who have been tricked by the abuser's personality and image they put out to society. This betrayal of trust can further exacerbate the trauma experienced by survivors, making it exceedingly difficult for them to seek justice and validation for their experiences. 

So please if you take anything from this docuseries remember to believe and listen to victims and do not assume just because you have a good relationship with someone that this automatically justifies their innocence.


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