Nickelodeon Nightmare: Dan Schneider Accused of ‘Sexualizing’ Child Stars, Assaulting Staff Writers
Across two decades, Nickelodeon hitmaker Dan Schneider has been at the center of hostile workplace allegations, #MeToo controversies, and now, the allegations that his tween-targeted shows overly sexualized its stars, among the likes of Amanda Bynes, Ariana Grande, and Jamie Lynn Spears.
“Sam and Cat” actress Jeannette McCurdy, who co-starred opposite Grande in the “iCarly” spinoff series, alleged in her memoir “I’m Glad My Mom Died” that a Nickelodeon “creator” (believed to be Schneider) frequently supplied children with alcohol and requested massages on set. McCurdy alleged she was offered $300,000 in “hush money” to not come forward about the abuse; she declined the payment. The claims mirror those that have followed Schneider for years, and the showrunner was fired by Nickelodeon in 2018 following an investigation that found he had verbally abused colleagues.
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In a recent Insider report, dozens of former Nickelodeon employees ranging from female writers to child stars came forward to address Schneider’s tainted legacy. Schneider first joined the network as a writer on tween sketch comedy series “All That,” where both Bynes and Kenan Thompson got their respective starts to fame. Schneider’s first series was “The Amanda Show” starring Bynes; the actress later sought to live with Schneider and his wife Lisa Lillien in 2002 at age 16 in an attempt to emancipate herself from her parents.
Schneider became the “Norman Lear of children’s television” with his shows turning Nickelodeon into a multi-billion dollar network. Yet Schneider allegedly refused to hire female writers for his shows, despite the cast and target audience being teenage girls. “All That” writer Kayla Alpert told Insider that Schneider said that women can never be funny: “It speaks to something very dark and very wrong,” she added.
Former “All That” writer Liz Feldman, who joined the show as a teenager, tweeted, “I worked for Schneider 25 yrs ago. I can confirm inappropriate behavior was happening even then. #metoo.” She later became the showrunner for Netflix’s “Dead to Me.”
Jenny Kilgen, one of the two female writers on “The Amanda Show,” accused production company Storybook Productions of gender discrimination and of perpetuating a hostile work environment, citing Schneider’s repeated requests for massages (Schneider was not named in the official lawsuit, filed in 2000). The second female writer on the series wrote a letter claiming Schneider asked her and Kilgen to perform embarrassing acts for money, including simulating “being sodomized” while telling a story about her high school years. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.
And Schneider’s alleged behavior didn’t just happen behind the scenes: The multiple allegations against his toxic workplace led to on-set directives that encouraged young women to be overly sexual for the sake of “comedy.”
Alexa Nikolas, who starred opposite Jamie Lynn Spears in “Zoey 101,” claimed Schneider encouraged one “goo” scene to mirror a pornographic “money shot.”
“I think Jamie was 13, and they’re squirting stuff on her face to make it look a certain way,” Nikolas said.
“Victorious” actress Daniella Monet added that her outfits were “not age appropriate” and she would not wear some of the attire even as an adult in present day. “Do I wish certain things, like, didn’t have to be so sexualized?” Monet said. “Yeah. A hundred percent.”
Schneider also created web series “The Slap” for exclusive character videos tied to “Victorious” in 2010. Grande led the “Sam and Cat” solo spin-off, derived from “Zoey 101.” One category for the web videos was for “Cat’s Random Thoughts” showing Grande’s character self-taping a series of mini-episodes from her bedroom. Schneider wrote and directed all eight installments. Grande, at age 16 at the time, was shown sucking on her own toe, trying to “milk” a potato, and pouring water over herself while on a bed saying, “I’m soaking wet.”
A compilation of the sexualized content went viral in 2019, racking up over 11 million views.
Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s former president of content and production, told Insider that a standards-and-practices group read every script for Schneider’s shows, adding that programming executives watched every episode and stars’ parents and caregivers were always on set. “Every single thing that Dan ever did on any of his shows was carefully scrutinized and approved,” Hicks wrote.
IndieWire has reached out to representatives at Nickelodeon for further comment.
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