When Chloe Dykstra’s harrowing tale of abuse at the hands of her celebrigeek ex-boyfriend hit the interwebs this morning, I braced myself for the inevitable cries of “if it’s true” and “due process” and found myself yet again wondering why it is so hard for some people to just believe women when they come forward with their stories of abuse. And, sadly, I was spot-on to brace for backlash; though happily, it was not as much as I’d expected. Or maybe I didn’t dig deep enough into the comment threads.
Now every case is different, it can be easier to believe someone is an abuser if you aren’t invested in that person. So what happens when the self-crowned King of the Nerds is outed as a monster? I’m guessing he loses his beloved spotlight, loses most of his famous “friends” and retreats to his Scrooge McDuck moneyvault to do some laps with his model-socialite wife. Depending on how this shakes out, we could be hearing about his staging a comeback in no time; maybe he’ll let Louis C.K. test those waters first.
What I wanted was a partner, someone to confide in, someone to share things with, someone who wouldn’t judge me, someone I knew would be there for me. What I felt that this man wanted was a woman who would feed him, sleep with him, and go to events with him.
I watched and supported him as he grew from a mildly successful podcaster to a powerhouse CEO of his own company. He was obsessed with celebrity, being famous, famous people. He did not spend any time with people he considered “friends”, and only really made time for industry people who he considered “worth it”. I, myself, had very little personal support, as I’d been alienated from my own friends, other than an occasional party I was obligated to leave early when he decided it was time. Sometimes he’d let me go play D&D, but I always had a curfew. He would yell in his voicemails at me if I didn’t answer his calls. I was expected to follow him everywhere and exist pretty much solely for him, save for a hosting job once in awhile.
When cameras were on us? He was a prince. Turn them off, he was a nightmare.
Nerdist, and parent company Legendary, quickly issued a statement and scrubbed all traces of Hardwick; they also made sure to point out he’d been a non-entity at the company for the last 2 years of his contract (which ended in December 2017.) As of this writing AMC, San Diego Comic-Con and NBC have issued no statements or made any moves to remove him from his various hosting duties. For me personally, I’m keeping an eye on what NBC does. Hardwick is the host of the gameshow, The Wall which is produced by Mark Burnett, a man who has already shielded one abuser who hosted a hit show for him.
Fans have, in overwhelming numbers, accepted Chloe’s account. Which may be credited to her “doing it right” by stating the piece was written to give her some closure on an ugly chapter of her life AND not actually naming Hardwick as her abuser. Perhaps if she had named him, we’d be hearing a louder chorus of “attention seeker” and accusations of being “a bitter ex-girlfriend.”
What about the holdouts? The guys looking for the results of an investigation or that lauded “due process.” Sadly, nothing recounted in Chloe’s post is technically illegal; I don’t believe there are statutes against being a controlling asshole, and the sexual abuse wasn’t technically non-consensual. So folks holding out for some sort of judicial ruling before they’ll believe her are going to keep on giving Hardwick the benefit of the doubt.
I think this is where being invested in the abuser comes in. Hardwick was, for many, an example of “geek makes good”; he was a self-described nerd who got to rub elbows with, and geek out on, all the people that fans/geeks wish they could. That was his brand. He was the everynerd avatar, so his turning out to be a vile human being is going to be hard to swallow for some of those that need him to be the man they imagined him to be.
Hardwick issued a statement, hours after the story broke, denying the accusations of abuse in which he made sure to point out Chloe had been unfaithful in a classic attempt to besmirch the victim. He did not address her claims that he blackballed her career post-breakup.
For what it’s worth, the whisper network had Hardwick nailed as a racist asshole for some time now. So maybe we have to address why it took a white woman’s story of domestic abuse to take him down. In the meantime, let’s remember how hard it is for a victim of a abuse to come forward in our society and try to do better by them. We can start by just believing them when they do come forward.
Update June 16: AMC has issued a statement that they have pulled Hardwick from his various hosting duties on the network and that he has decided to give up his panel moderating duties at San Diego Comic Con.