Grooming and Gak: The Dark Side of Nickelodeon
Chances are, you grew up under the slimy auspices of Nickelodeon, but the odds are just as good that you have no idea exactly how slimy things truly were beneath the network’s shiny orange facade. It turns out that big splashy blimp was flying obliviously over some seriously dark stuff.
The Logo Was Designed to be Distressing
The designer of the Nickelodeon logo intentionally chose bright orange and green because they’re “international distress colors.” Basically, they kept viewers watching by causing a tiny panic in their little baby brains.
No Parents On Set
Back in the old days of You Can’t Do That on Television, Nickelodeon shows were non-union productions, which meant they weren’t bound by silly constraints like requiring guardians on set. In fact, parents were explicitly prohibited because producers didn’t like stage parents interfering with the production or, you know, maybe objecting to kids being filmed in their underwear.
They Stiffed Their Child Actors
It also meant they could get away with paying their stars in Gak and popsicle sticks. Even Josh Peck, one of the most famous faces of kids’ television as half of Drake & Josh, was only paid about as much as a mid-level software engineer. They also, unlike most TV stars, don’t get residuals, so if you’re pretty sure you saw your server on Nick at Nite the other day, don’t ask why.
The Game Shows Were Traumatizing
It turns out those Temple Guards were even scarier than they looked. One former Legends of the Hidden Temple contestant said she burst into tears when one jumped out at her and, even in her thirties, she’s “deathly afraid of things popping out of closets and doors.” A GUTS contestant said he was teased for years about losing to two girls because “every time I thought it was done, they would repeat the episode and the cycle would begin again.”
They Were Also Impossible to Win
For budget reasons, the producers of Legends of the Hidden Temple were only allowed to award eight championships per year, so the temple run was deliberately built to be way too hard. Most of those kids never even had a chance at space camp.
The Hair Love Plagiarism Scandal
In 2020, after the network announced its new show Made By Maddie, people noticed that it looked suspiciously similar to the 2019 Oscar-winning short film Hair Love. It didn’t help that Made By Maddie, a show about a black family, had been created by a white woman. Nickelodeon tried to show receipts dating back to 2017, but it turns out that was also the year Hair Love was funded by Kickstarter, so they just scrapped the whole thing.
Gak is Whack
In 2013, Double Dare host and all-around face of Nickelodeon Marc Summers revealed that Gak was named after a slang term for heroin. Possibly the most unsettling part of this news is that Marc Summers somehow knows about heroin.
All That Abuse
Former All That star Angelique Bates has claimed that she was constantly “physically, emotionally, mentally abused” by her mother “in front of the producers and cast members … but nothing was done to help me.” In fact, even after CPS was called to the set, she was pressured to stay silent.
The Invader Zim Murder
In 2005, a 16-year-old boy killed his neighbor in an apparently random and frankly gross attack, and it was later uncovered that he’d told his friends an episode of Invader Zim piqued his interest in organ collecting. The show had been canceled three years before, much to a small but devoted audience’s dismay, so there wasn’t much to be done on Nickelodeon’s behalf except say, “See?”
In 2017, Nickelodeon fired animator and producer Chris Savino after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct. He’s unique among disgraced Nickelodeon employees in that he apparently only targeted adults. Yep, it’s about to get real dark.
The creator of Ren & Stimpy has been accused of grooming underage girls who were interested in becoming animators, resulting in one of them moving in with him when she was 17. He admitted to the relationships but blamed mental illness and addiction, which we all know turns everyone into power-abusing creeps, and he’s subsequently been cut out of all future Ren & Stimpy projects.
In 2004, Jason Handy was sentenced to six years in prison for using his status as a production assistant at Nickelodeon to sexually abuse children. He promised kids from his church and neighborhood that he could get them on shows but also targeted children who were already working at the studio, so he was a real equal-opportunity predator.
When Nickelodeon hired Ezel Channel as an animator in 2003, they hadn’t bothered to check whether he was a registered sex offender, which ended predictably when he started offering children tours of the studio so he could abuse them. He was convicted of sexual battery and attempting to show harmful material to a minor, though the last one was later thrown out because it might not have technically been porn. Maybe it was a Dan Schneider show.
As the creator of The Amanda Show, Zoey 101, Drake & Josh, iCarly, and Victorious, Schneider was basically the king of Nickelodeon until he abruptly left the network in 2018 after an investigation found that he’d verbally abused his young stars. iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy later accused someone she called “the Creator,” believed to be Schneider, of offering her alcohol and giving her shoulder massages without consent. The investigation turned up no evidence of sexual misconduct, but…
Sexualizing Its Stars
Nickelodeon has a long history of sexualizing its young stars, particularly on Dan Schneider shows and especially concerning Ariana Grande, who has been bukakked with water guns in a bikini and shown licking her own toes. Young girls’ toes and feet are a bizarre focus on Schneider’s shows as well as his Twitter, and one of his shows’ official accounts even solicited pictures of fans’ feet with writing on them. Schneider claimed the gags were supposed to be “goofy and funny,” but if you don’t know not to ask little girls for feet pics, children’s television might not be for you.
Top image: Nickelodeon