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WHY IS CHRIS HARDWICK STILL A THING?

August 18, 2018

What if AMC and NBC found a mediocre nerd that doesn’t have allegations of emotional and sexual abuse leveled against them?

 Even after a detailed account of an abusive relationship from an ex-girlfriend, Chris Hardwick will return to his perch as a host for both AMC and NBC later this month. This is the phase in the news cycle where we’re expected to shrug and move on, treating the allegations as a footnote to be buried somewhere on Hardwick’s Wikipedia page. Hardwick was omnipresent before; in a little while, he’ll be omnipresent again. AMC has proudly anointed him their go-to professional fanboy—an eager conduit between its nerd-friendly shows and its most devoted viewers.

 

Could they have found another Walking Dead fan to moderate a Walking Dead panel—say, one who has not been the subject of a lengthy allegation of emotional and sexual abuse? Of course. In fact, they already did. While Hardwick was being investigated, Yvette Nicole Brown stepped in as a substitute. Hardwick is literally replaceable, by Yvette Nicole Brown or by hundreds of other talented people without that kind of baggage. But AMC has decided he’s worth keeping around anyway. Which raises the question: what the actual fuck?

Let’s review exactly what happened here. On June 14, Chloe Dykstra published an account that alleged abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. The story is comprehensive, harrowing, and painful to read—a portrait of an extremely controlling partner who isolated her both personally and professionally, coerced her into sex that was entirely on his terms, and vindictively attempted to have her blacklisted in the entertainment industry once their relationship had ended.

 

Dykstra did not identify the ex by name, but there was enough information to piece together that she was talking about Chris Hardwick. One day later, Hardwick confirmed that the story was about him, in a statement that firmly denied the specifics of her allegations. Hardwick’s statement pulled out all the usual tricks. He painted her as unreliable and disingenuous, explaining that she tried to reconcile with him for several weeks after they broke up. (For the record: If this is true, it would not be surprising or relevant. As any expert will tell you, it’s not uncommon for those who are in abusive relationships to seek to reconcile with their abusers.) He mentioned that she cheated on him—a detail Dykstra had already disclosed in her own piece—in an obvious attempt to shift sympathies back toward himself. He also did that thing where he describes himself "as a husband, a son, and future father," because these guys always end up couching their non-apologies in the context of their other relationships to women.

 

And that statement was only the first wave of an apparent retaliatory strike by Hardwick. A few days later, TMZ published a post-breakup text message exchange in which Dykstra reached out to Hardwick with an olive branch. "Sources close to Chris say it's hard to believe Chloe would try for months to get back with him if she was being emotionally and sexually abused, as she claimed last week," said the story, openly carrying Hardwick’s water for him. Call me crazy, but it certainly looks like TMZ agreed to publish a pro-Hardwick puff piece in return for an exclusive. Among other things, the text-message screenshots are a clear effort to move the goalposts—turning a deeply troubling story about an abusive relationship into just another juicy celebrity breakup for nosy readers to pore over. Dykstra has since stated that those texts were "chopped up and spun to discredit me."

 

Even after a detailed account of an abusive relationship from an ex-girlfriend, Chris Hardwick will return to his perch as a host for both AMC and NBC later this month. This is the phase in the news cycle where we’re expected to shrug and move on, treating the allegations as a footnote to be buried somewhere on Hardwick’s Wikipedia page. Hardwick was omnipresent before; in a little while, he’ll be omnipresent again. AMC has proudly anointed him their go-to professional fanboy—an eager conduit between its nerd-friendly shows and its most devoted viewers.

 

Could they have found another Walking Dead fan to moderate a Walking Dead panel—say, one who has not been the subject of a lengthy allegation of emotional and sexual abuse? Of course. In fact, they already did. While Hardwick was being investigated, Yvette Nicole Brown stepped in as a substitute. Hardwick is literally replaceable, by Yvette Nicole Brown or by hundreds of other talented people without that kind of baggage. But AMC has decided he’s worth keeping around anyway. Which raises the question: what the actual fuck?

 

Let’s review exactly what happened here. On June 14, Chloe Dykstra published an account that alleged abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. The story is comprehensive, harrowing, and painful to read—a portrait of an extremely controlling partner who isolated her both personally and professionally, coerced her into sex that was entirely on his terms, and vindictively attempted to have her blacklisted in the entertainment industry once their relationship had ended.

 

Dykstra did not identify the ex by name, but there was enough information to piece together that she was talking about Chris Hardwick. One day later, Hardwick confirmed that the story was about him, in a statement that firmly denied the specifics of her allegations. Hardwick’s statement pulled out all the usual tricks. He painted her as unreliable and disingenuous, explaining that she tried to reconcile with him for several weeks after they broke up. (For the record: If this is true, it would not be surprising or relevant. As any expert will tell you, it’s not uncommon for those who are in abusive relationships to seek to reconcile with their abusers.) He mentioned that she cheated on him—a detail Dykstra had already disclosed in her own piece—in an obvious attempt to shift sympathies back toward himself. He also did that thing where he describes himself "as a husband, a son, and future father," because these guys always end up couching their non-apologies in the context of their other relationships to women.

 

And that statement was only the first wave of an apparent retaliatory strike by Hardwick. A few days later, TMZ published a post-breakup text message exchange in which Dykstra reached out to Hardwick with an olive branch. "Sources close to Chris say it's hard to believe Chloe would try for months to get back with him if she was being emotionally and sexually abused, as she claimed last week," said the story, openly carrying Hardwick’s water for him. Call me crazy, but it certainly looks like TMZ agreed to publish a pro-Hardwick puff piece in return for an exclusive. Among other things, the text-message screenshots are a clear effort to move the goalposts—turning a deeply troubling story about an abusive relationship into just another juicy celebrity breakup for nosy readers to pore over. Dykstra has since stated that those texts were "chopped up and spun to discredit me."

 

In the midst of all this, AMC announced that they would mount an investigation into the allegations against Hardwick. Last week, in a brief statement, they announced that Hardwick would be reinstated as the host of Talking Dead and Talking with Chris Hardwick after all. "We take these matters very seriously and given the information available to us after a very careful review, including interviews with numerous individuals, we believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step," said the statement.

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