Growing up, my all-time favorite television network was Nickelodeon. Whatever craft or game I was playing in my living room as a kid was always accompanied by iconic shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Fairly Odd Parents, The Amanda Show, and All That playing in the background. But out of all of the shows on Nickelodeon, my all time favorite from the pilot to the series finale was none other than Drake and Josh.
Drake and Josh was sitcom from 2004 to 2007 and was created and produced by Dan Schneider, who was already working with the network and had a timeline of successful shows already at his disposal. Therefore, Drake and Josh was just his next hurdle to fly over.
The show stars former The Amanda Show actors Drake Bell and Josh Peck, and the series was centered around the two polar opposite teens that became step brother overnight. The concept of this show and the plot lines of episodes were always relatively simple, yet the dynamic of the two main characters made every scenario they were in hilarious. Many of the episodes consisting of day-to-day things the teens encountered such as waiting in line for a rollercoaster, building their neighbors a treehouse, or trying to wait out a storm the night of an outdoor concert.
One of characters Drake Parker (played by Bell) is your stereotypical popular guy in high school. Drake isn’t the most book smart, but he is always invited to parties, plays lead guitar in his own band, and always dating different girls. Since I was subconsciously shown at a young age this was “desirable”, I started to grow some innocent admiration towards the actor and hoped to have a boyfriend like him one day. I have since changed my perception, Drake Parker was an early 2000’s version of a f*ck boy.
Between the years of 2006 to 2009, Drake Bell dated fellow actress Melissa Lingafelt (who also goes by her stage name as Jimi Ono). Even at the time, the relationship was pretty controversial since Lingafelt was only 16 when the couple started dating while Bell was 20. So Bell was a full on adult while Lingafelt was still very much a teenager. That’s red flag number one. Aside from the age gap, the couple presented themselves to the public eye as being another one of mainstream, cute, and unproblematic young Hollywood couples. They finally parted ways and broke up in 2009 and the couple just became another part of the past, until it surfaced now.
On August 12, 2020, Melissa Lingafelt posted a video on TikTok discussing her past relationship with Bell and the things the masses hasn’t seen behind closed doors. The video went viral and accumulated millions of views and thousands of comments. Lingafelt moved in with Bell shortly after starting their relationship and after their first year she experienced “the worst type of verbal abuse you could ever imagine, and then it turned to physical — hitting, throwing, everything.” Worst of all, Melissa confessed there was a time when Drake dragged her down the stairs and had photo evidence of the incident.
Drake Bell quickly denied these allegations, saying the only time he ever called Melissa a name was when they were “breaking up and angry at each other” but would never abuse her. Since his response, the masses are left to deliberate if this was real abuse or a matter of “he said she said”. However, the fact that this is even a debate is why survivors are never believed when they come out with their experiences.
But, Lingafelt isn’t the only person who has been negatively affected in an abusive manner by Drake Bell.
After Lingafelt posted her video on TikTok, other anonymous people started publicly sharing their personal experiences with the fellow actor, and saying the experience they went through was very similar to Melissa’s. A Twitter user by the username of “gaiababyyy” shared an experience with the former Nickelodeon star when she was 14 years old. She talked about how he had asked her and her other minor friend for nudes when he was 25 at the time of the conversation.
The sad and harsh reality of the situation is celebrity status and economic classes of an individual doesn’t change the fact that someone can still put another individual in an abusive situation. Even with being one of the most successful Nickelodeon actors of the 2000’s, Drake Bell has still been exposed for treating women extremely poorly.
Despite the fact I had more of a crush on Drake Bell’s character in Drake and Josh more than him in real life, it’s still eye opening. Someone who can seem friendly and personable in the public eye can be completely different behind closed doors. And I think this initial shock to people on the outside can further lead into the fact that most victims and survivors are never believed for their stories. Everyone around them has the mindset of well, he/she was nice to me, so they can’t be abusive. And this thinking pattern needs to stop.
Using Melissa’s story as an example, no one truly knows what Melissa went through except for Melissa. Yet society continues to subconsciously justify whether or not other people’s feelings or trauma is justified. When people aren’t as quick to believe survivors, they won’t speak up. If survivors don’t speak up, it perpetuates more assailants to keep doing what they’re doing.
In the future, when someone is courageous and vulnerable enough to share their story with you, be an active listener. Instead of immediately shutting down someone’s experience, show them compassion and understanding. Refusing to believe survivors’ stories because their abuse seems like “good person” is only going to keep the cycle of abuse alive.
While Drake and Josh will always hold some kind of happy nostalgia in my childhood memories, it can’t go farther past that. Abusers can’t be rewarded for their actions, and that includes Drake Bell.