With the rebooting of programs such as the live-action sitcom “iCarly” and cartoons like “The Powerpuff Girls” and “DuckTales,” many are reflecting on media that impacted their childhoods. One show that has recently garnered attention from past viewers is the television series “Zoey 101.” The show ran for four seasons on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008, and it followed the titular character, played by Jamie Lynn Spears, as she attends a Malibu boarding school that recently became co-ed. A reexamination of the show by former fans was prompted by the release of Spears’ controversial memoir, “Things I Should Have Said.” The book — pitched as an unfiltered, unapologetic account of her life and struggles — has sparked an immense amount of backlash from the general public, her co-stars and her sister.
Originally titled “I Must Confess” after a lyric from her older sibling Britney Spears’ hit song “…Baby One More Time,” “Things I Should Have Said” was notable for claims Jamie Lynn made about castmate Alexa Nikolas and her sister, Britney. In the memoir, Spears accused Nikolas, who played Nicole Bristow on “Zoey 101” for two seasons, of being a bully who spread rumors about her around set. Of her sister, Spears alleged that the music icon strained their relationship. She also asserted that she supported her sister throughout her highly publicized 13-year conservatorship battle despite her silence on social media over the course of the #FreeBritney movement.
Drama on Set
Both women have since come out and refuted her claims. Nikolas denied the notion that she bullied Spears and spread rumors about her. Instead, the actress asserted that Spears herself tormented Nikolas during the two years she spent on the “Zoey 101” set. She noted that Spears convinced other cast members to ignore her or join in on the teasing. Each of her counterclaims was accompanied by specific stories where Spears manipulated or otherwise told actors to hurt Nikolas’ feelings. She did reach out privately to apologize in 2020, an admission of fault the actress did not acknowledge publicly. She also asked Nikolas to be in a “Zoey 101” revival music video, a production that received poor reception and reviews on YouTube. Nikolas tellingly declined.
One particular incident with Nikolas that has received significant attention involved Britney Spears. Nikolas, 12 at the time, was instructed by a production assistant to head into hair and makeup for an upcoming scene. The assistant, in actuality, had directed her to a trailer where she was surprised by the older pop star, who then proceeded to yell at her until she cried. Britney Spears, who was in her early 20s, wanted to defend her sister from the person she believed to be harassing her. Following this event, Nikolas decided to officially leave “Zoey 101” after its second season wrapped. The older Spears has since apologized to Nikolas and offered support via an Instagram post.
Britney Versus Jamie
Britney Spears has also made statements of her own, pointing out that she and her sister were not around each other much during the production of “Zoey 101.” The pop star was being overworked and was going through her own struggles with mental health. The older Spears went as far as to call her younger sister “scum” in an Instagram post and accused her of using her fame to sell copies of “Things I Should Have Said.” Additionally, Britney Spears has mentioned that Jamie Lynn Spears was involved in and has profited off of her abusive conservatorship that ended last year. This claim is evident in released court documents from the music artist’s legal battle against her father and now-former conservator, Jamie Spears.
How Victims Responded to Jamie Lynn Spears
Nikolas and Britney Spears received praise online for their honesty from multiple media outlets and “Zoey 101” fans. Many now believe Jamie Lynn Spears to be a liar who attempted to assassinate both of their characters. In addition to the criticism over her comments about her sister and former castmate, the actress has also been condemned for her praise of the show-runner of “Zoey 101,” Dan Schneider — a television producer now known for the inappropriate and sometimes harmful content he incorporated into his shows. Spears could have taken the chance to address the abusive, powerful figures she was surrounded by, like Schneider, but she instead chose to spread narratives that were swiftly disproven.
The reactions of her “Zoey 101” castmates further attest to the idea that the actor and singer is not genuine. Erin Sanders, who played Quinn Pensky, unfollowed Spears on Instagram, and Paul Butcher, who was cast as Zoey’s brother, Dustin Brooks, posted more than one TikTok where he talked about his strained relationship with Spears.
Is There a Possibility for New Projects?
This controversy even impacted other works that involve Spears. “Sweet Magnolias,” a Netflix television show, premiered its second season a few days ago, and viewers of the program have called for a boycott because of Spears. The general public has turned on her and is officially against any projects she will ever take on.
As a result of these disputes, childhood fans of both “Zoey 101” and Spears herself are now reassessing the program and their fond memories of it. For some, whenever they think of the show, they are not able to separate Spears’ actions from her character. This feeling extends to other characters like Nicole, whose actress went through emotional distress as a young teenager because of Spears. The happiness Zoey and her friends brought children is not enough to elicit the same warm feelings among their now-grown-up fans aware of her problematic actions.
With more reboots being announced, it would not be unreasonable to think that “Zoey 101” could have a second life. The previously mentioned music video, which featured much of the original cast, had functioned as a reboot of sorts. While a new program could come into fruition, a future version of the show would have to address whether or not Spears should be included. Even with the program centering around her and her life, there is a large portion of the fan base that would be angry if she were to reprise her role. Spears’ personal life has overtaken the program and will continue to do so. The damage is done and cannot be easily reversed. Would it even be possible for there to be a “Zoey 101” without Zoey? Only time will tell. For now, however, one thing is for certain: “Zoey 101” will never be viewed in a solely positive light ever again.