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The Big Story: The dangerous loyalty of Hedley fans

Last Updated Jul 26, 2018 at 5:44 am PDT

Hedley fans Valerie Rivet, left to right, Charene Gonschorek and Brandon Krys show their support for the band before the final concert of their current tour in Kelowna, B.C., on Friday, March 23, 2018. The band's tour has been overshadowed by allegations of sexual misconduct. The band was dropped from their management company, The Feldman Agency, their songs were pulled from radio stations across the country and a planned performance at the Juno Awards was cancelled. Following the tour, Hedley has announced that they will be taking an indefinite hiatus from music. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett

'She was being both the victim and the victim blamer within one conversation,' says freelance write of a Hedley fan

Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard will appear in court Thursday to face allegations of sexual assault.

Despite his arrest, a number of his fans — most of them female — still choose to stand behind him rather than his accusers.

In the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, why is there a fan base still so devoted to the band? What makes Jacob Hoggard different than other celebrities facing these types of accusations?

In today’s “Big Story” podcast, freelance writer Courtney Shea takes us into the world of die hard Hedley fans, and the extremes they take in defending Hoggard.

“In the brief history of #MeToo, there’s arguably no individual on the planet who has received the ferocious support that Hoggard and his bandmates are receiving from their hardcore fanbase — largely made up of girls and women. There are way bigger rock stars in the world than Jacob Hoggard — no question — but I can’t think of anyone, certainly not in these last couple of years of people being held to account for these types of allegations, who’s received this support. That’s pretty crazy.”

Shea watched fans on Twitter, where she saw very aggressive and sometimes vulgar show of support for Hoggard. “Some of these girls responded to accusers saying, ‘You only wish you’d been raped by Jacob’ or ‘I wish I could get raped by Jacob’ or ‘You’re too fat to get raped by Jacob.'”

She points out Hedley rose to fame before social media became what it is today.

“Their fans started meeting on message boards, even before Twitter and Facebook. So, they created this really organic, devoted fanbase who felt a real ownership over the band. They’re Canadian, so it’s a lot smaller of an audience than an American band. When they toured, they didn’t just tour Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver — like a lot of bands would. They were touring tiny towns in Saskatchewan, tiny university towns. They’d stick around afterwards and sign posters for hours. These fans really felt that authentic connection with them.

“Teenagers and teenaged girls throughout history, in particular, is a time when you feel really misunderstood. You feel alienated, you feel the world doesn’t get you. I think Jacob Hoggard, in his image, was that of kind of a ‘safe bad boy.’ He’s the Canadian Idol bad boy. Now, he’s turned out to allegedly be something totally different. But at the time, he was the tattooed guy who your mom would really like.”

You can hear the full episode and subscribe to The Big Story podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

You can also hear it online at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Shea spoke with a woman who had been following the band for a decade.

“She’d had her tattoo removed and when I asked her what her tattoo was of, she wouldn’t tell me because, to a certain subset of people, that would be like giving her first and last name. They’re so in the Hedley subculture — they’re so well known to each other… Her life had been so entangled with the band.”

She says that same woman told her some “disturbing” stories.

“I would imagine they were incidents that she might be able to go to the police with. But what was really interesting and sad is how conflicted she was, even as she was talking to me about them. She’d tell me about this degrading incident… then two minutes later, she tells me, ‘they’re really good guys'”

“She was being both the victim and the victim blamer within one conversation… She still kind of loved them, even though she was speaking to me as someone who had sort of been a victim of that culture of fandom.”