Behind the scenes: The exploitation of child actors


Avel Chuklanov

Many uncomfortable moments remain a secret to the public and even the parent’s of younger actors.

Itziar Carrasco Gomez, Staff Writer

The film industry rakes in millions of dollars a year by producing TV shows and movies geared to excite and entertain kids. The glitz and glamor of walking the red carpets is a major factor in gaining from young children and power hungry parents. Unfortunately, major film companies have been turning out victims as fast as they air tv shows, many of which include children.  It needs to stop.

Companies such as Nickelodeon have created shows based around child actors, such as “iCarly”, “Victorious”, and “Drake and Josh”. Frankly, kids are easy to fool. Industries, such as Nickelodeon, know this and have used it to exploit children for years, continuing to silence them for many more. Through manipulation, non-disclosure agreements and ostracism, production companies try to keep their victims quiet, but some have still come forward with extremely disturbing stories. 

Scenarios of sexual harrasment, inappropriate physical touch and overly sexualized scenes of minors are coming forth from child actors. Still, their testaments of abuse mean nothing to companies such as Nickelodeon, Disney or Universal Studios. 

Dan Schneider, a producer for “iCarly”, “Sam and Cat”, and “Drake and Josh”, has time and time again been accused of engaging in inappropriate acts with minors working on his sets. He has asked them for massages, made comments about their bodies and depicted them in extremely sexual scenes on national television. One would think that Nickelodeon would take steps to ensure the safety of their child actors, but, instead, they protect their abusers for years on end. Other producers such as Schneider that have net worths in the millions are instantly rewarded with an immense amount of control in the industry. People in powerful positions often match their status with their exigence of obedience from others; expecting the naïve to sit quiet and keep their mouth shut. 

Nickelodeon actress Jeanette McCurdy, disproved these expectations of silence by vocalizing the abuse she received on the “iCarly” set growing up. She tells her story in her book “I’m Glad My Mom Died”. Prior to writing her book, she was offered a 300,000 dollar non-disclosure agreement from Nickelodeon to stay quiet. McCurdy did not take this money and instead chose to speak out, detailing the unsettling story of her abuse. 

McCurdy may have not taken the money, but others that find themselves in her position will. Companies with large assets know they can bend people’s boundaries to their will by paying them off, furthering their ability to abuse actors. As their revenues increase, so do their victims. Nickelodeon needs to fire and wipe its halls of cruel and exploitative adults instead of throwing money at their victims. Their actions only continue to demonstrate the lack of care and responsibility that runs rampant in their company and the entirety of the industry. 

Page Six interviewed Daniella Monet, who played Trina Vega on Nickelodeon’s “Victorious”, asking her questions regarding her experiences working on the show. She said, ¨Do I wish certain things, like, didn’t have to be so sexualized? Yeah, 100 percent,” referencing a scene aired of her putting on lip gloss before eating a pickle. She described feeling uncomfortable and even asked Nickelodeon not to air it, but they did anyway. This was a clear disregard of Monet’s boundaries even though she was older than the other actors. If an adult’s boundaries were disregarded, one can only imagine what would happen to minors and teenagers in the same circumstance. It is shameful that Monet had to endure watching this scene broadcasted against her wishes.

More recently, “iCarly” has been questioned for it’s content as it has been proven to depict uncomfortable sexual scenes involving minors. People who re-watched the show started to see darker themes due to the amount of screen time dedicated to showing inappropriate content such as the casts’ feet. This is yet another example of Dan Schneider coming under fire for alleged inappropriate comments towards those working below him. Though he has not been convicted, the claims his victims have made are disturbing and hard for the public to ignore.

Disney is another culprit of this unjust practice. In 2006, Disney hired Brian Peck to produce “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”. They hired him a year after he was released from prison for charges including oral copulation with a child, lewd acts, as well as sodomy and attempted sodomy with a minor. The fact that Disney would hire someone with such a disgusting history goes to show how little they care about their actors’ environment. 

Many believe that being a child-actor is an honor because it has cemented some of the most popular figures in Hollywood. However, the profession comes with dangerous downsides, and the risk of exploitation is ever present in the culture. The film industry is well known for its habits of breaking down boundaries set by cast members, especially young children. As long as that risk prevails, children should not be placed in such a risky environment. A contract for a show can end, but trauma will not leave their lives as easily.

Child actors bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars for production companies for shows and they help solidify the actor’s platform and standing in the industry. It can be easy to ignore what is going on behind the scenes when there is so much glamor in being a child actor, but it is essential that these flaws and exploitation in the film industry are acknowledged so that we can move forward towards the goal of protecting these children.