Before I even start writing this article, just be aware... I do not consider myself qualified in any way to really make any sort of claim, accusation, or try to diagnose any sort of anything in any way. This is a disclaimer that this is just as much of an armchair diagnosis as anyone else on the internet is going to give.
Chloe Dykstra wrote an piece for Medium that you can read here. It is a harrowing piece that she even starts with a disclaimer for anyone who has been in an abusive relationship. She never mentions the abuser, but it would be hard for anyone who is not in the podcast space to not know, it is Chris Hardwick.
Chris Hardwick has been a podcast hero for myself, and for a lot of people, for quite some time. He created "The Nerdist", wrote a book on self-improvement, and instantly I was a fan. I never watched "Shipwrecked" or any of the other things he did early in his career, I was a fan of this man who was intensely interested in things I found interesting, and was successful in a realm I wanted to find success... I admire his accomplishments a lot. And I still do. The actions can be separated from the man.
But Chloe Dykstra is not wrong. As much as I admire Chris Hardwick for what he has done, this does not excuse his actions and the pain that he caused his girlfriend for 3 years. It had serious mental and physical tolls and became life-threatening for her. There is no way that any of that is excusable or should ever be tolerated or forgotten. These actions cannot be separated from the man. (My suggestion is to read the article above).
So what to do? There is no defense for this behavior and, especially in this #MeToo world we live in now, there is no space for people to treat anyone else this way. Dykstra claims she has video and audio of the horrible treatment, and I do not doubt her; more importantly, I am glad that she does. I am glad that we have women that are willing to stand up to abuse like this; and people like Chris Hardwick should be taken to task on it.
Our reactions to this story, as I see it, are going to fall into a couple of different camps:
- We are going to have those that defend Hardwick's behavior and claim that either Dykstra is crazy or that she is using this for publicity.
- There are going to be those that completely denounce Hardwick and will want his head on a platter.
- Some are going to accuse her of staying in a relationship because of money or fame and she didn't do anything about it so it wasn't that bad.
- There will be those that state that there was no physical abuse, so it wasn't "real" abuse.
- There are probably some views on this that I am missing.
Here is my feeling on this: Chris Hardwick abused Chloe Dykstra. It was awful, it is inexcusable, and it should be seen as another example of the patriarchal society and why it must crumble.
So, again, what to do?
We love redemption stories. If you question this, look no further than "Star Wars". Darth Vader is a serial killer, let's also not forget he killed children in cold blood, and terrorized the entire galaxy. But, in the end, he threw melty, lightning grandpa down some conveniently placed endless shaft and presto... redemption. Vader becomes the young and handsome Anakin again and gets to hang out with the good Jedi in the end... including the dude he cut in half, Obi Wan. We love redemption stories.
This is the chance for Chris Hardwick to do something different from other celebrities... don't run from this. Accept what has happened and own that this behavior existed. Denounce it yourself. Publicly apologize to Chloe Dykstra and genuinely mean it. Get the help you need to stop doing this behavior. Then, after all of that, make it your life's duty to not only adhere to a good human code, but enthusiastically do everything you can to make sure that this behavior can be worked out of our society through educating and really trying to help change other people's behaviors. Don't be the Chris Hardwick we deserve, be the Chris Hardwick we need: someone who can both sympathize with the victims of these crimes and help the perpetrators learn from their mistakes. Preach the values of consent, of respect, of freedom, and true equality.
Why do I think Chris Hardwick should do these things? Because I don't believe that Chris Hardwick is evil. I am not even sure he understands why he behaved the way he did. I don't think, in all honesty, that any abuser believes he or she is abusing until after they are told that is the case. That is why it is important that this doesn't kill Chris Hardwick's career, or make him a complete pariah... because it does not shed any more light on this behavior and how to stop it.
I do not feel sympathy for Chris Hardwick. I do for Chloe Dykstra and I commend her for finally pulling back the curtain. I feel that Hardwick is in a great position to do that on a much larger scale.
It is sort of like when someone stops smoking. No one preaches not smoking more than an ex-smoker. My dad quit smoking, and he would complain if anyone within 100 feet would light up. I actually mentioned that my dad was kind of a hypocrite about smoking and he agreed. My father agreed with me that he was a hypocrite, but he also let me know that he wasn't wrong.
It's not great to make mistakes, but let's learn from them. This is our opportunity to learn from Chris Hardwick's mistakes and learn how to identify issues earlier on in relationships. This is a chance for all of us to find the signs and find a way to approach abusers in a way that can be healing...
...but I am not confident that will be the result of this terrible situation. Chris Hardwick will be blacklisted and will become a pariah; it has already started to happen on Twitter and at the company he founded "Nerdist". Hardwick's appearance at San Diego Comic Con is almost surely not going to happen and his new talk show will, no doubt, be cancelled. All of this opportunity to do good will be wasted and abusers who see it will not even do the internal look to see if they are like him.
But there are more out there. I know, I have talked to victims of abuse... it is awful what it does. Most of those that abuse do not know why they do it and sometimes do not know they do it.
We have a chance at redemption, and I want more than anything for Chris Hardwick to be the man that starts that... the fallen hero that comes back and saves the day.