Why some fans support acts like Hedley, even after sexual assault charges

WATCH: Hundreds of Hedley fans packed the Powerade Centre for one of Hedley’s final shows in GTA. The band says it will go on indefinite hiatus after it wraps up its current tour in late March amid more allegations of sexual misconduct. Kamil Karamali reports.

Months after being accused of sexual assault by more than one woman, Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard was arrested and charged earlier this week.

Hoggard faces one count of sexual interference and two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm. The charges follow allegations from one woman and a girl in 2016.

After news first broke of Hoggard’s allegations, some fans flooded social media sites like Twitter with the hashtag #IStandWithHedley, while others called out accusers for being “liars” or “whores.” There was also commentary about Hoggard being innocent until proven guilty, which didn’t stop the band from playing a show in Kingston in February.

READ MORE: Hedley singer Jacob Hoggard charged with sexual assault

One of these diehard Hedley fans is 17-year-old Brianna Empey of Kingston, Ont., who has continued to use the hashtag even after Hoggard’s arrest.

“I’ve been a fan of Hedley for about four years now and my first concert was in 2015 with my mom,” she tells Global News. “I love their music and have been to three of their concerts and met them twice… meeting them was the best day of my life. They were genuinely great people to interact with and really cared.”

She says she still listens to the band’s music every day, enjoys the beats and the message of their songs. After Hoggard’s sexual assault charges and arrest, Empey says the band’s music is still meaningful to her.

Hedley singer Jacob Hoggard has been charged with sexual assault.

Hedley singer Jacob Hoggard has been charged with sexual assault.

TPS handout photo / Global News

“I have decided to continue supporting Hedley because the music they put out has helped me get out of some dark places,” she explains. “I’ve had to deal with a lot of mental health issues and their lyrics are motivating and inspirational.”

And although she believes Hoggard made “a mistake,” it doesn’t impact what the band has done for her.

“I don’t agree with any of his actions towards women… although that doesn’t impact the music they have put out in the past and how the band and have made fans feel.”

What our brain is telling us

The fact that fans still support celebrities after accusations of sexual assault or other forms of violence doesn’t surprise psychologist Maneet Bhatia of Toronto. He says many idolize celebrities and see them without human flaws.

“Just as we are shocked when celebrities die by suicide or suffer from mental health issues, a part of our connection to them is a sense of idealization, a psychological mechanism whereby we put others on a pedestal and see no wrong in them,” he tells Global News. “Additionally, when they do make mistakes, we rationalize any wrongdoings because it can cause us dissonance to love someone who does bad things.”

READ MORE: Juno Awards CEO responds to Hedley ‘serious’ sexual misconduct allegations

Celebrities, like musicians and athletes, also possess talents and abilities the average person does not, he says, which amplifies their attractiveness.

“We may then engage in the halo effect, a cognitive process where we generalize that if a person is good or great in one skill they are good across many areas.”

The artist vs. their personal life

It can be argued that even after allegations of sexual or aggravated assault or harassment, some celebrities have been able to keep their fan base and continue finding success. Singer Chris Brown, for example, assaulted his ex-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, but then went on to win a Grammy in 2012 on top of being nominated more than 10 times since the assault.

Actor Casey Affleck, who settled two lawsuits following sexual harassment accusations in 2010, picked up an Oscar last year for Best Actor for his work in Manchester by the Sea.

READ MORE: Neon Dreams on their undefinable music and leaving the Hedley tour

Bhatia says it can be hard for fans to separate the artist and their talent from their personal lives, which is why some find it difficult to stop supporting their favourite ones.

Empey believes in this theory, because she feels she doesn’t know Hoggard personally.

“I don’t believe it’s right that we turn our backs on them through this tough time… it shows how much celebs have an impact in our life. We look up to celebs and consider them to be like our role models, so when a celeb does something wrong it’s hard to change your opinion on them and move on to a new idol.”

But for others, the shift from being a fan to a non-supporter is pretty easy. On Wednesday, we asked social media users if they could separate their favourite artist from their personal lives, and some said they could no longer support groups like Hedley.


Our fixation with celebrities has also changed because of social media, Bhatia adds. Not only is it easier to follow exactly what your favourite celebrity is doing day-to-day, but it’s even easier to find like-minded fans from around the world in a matter of seconds. Instagram accounts, YouTube pages and threads on Twitter are dedicated to groups and artists.

READ MORE: Generation Z and the rise of digital influencers as celebrities

“It’s no surprise that people who obsess over celebs now have greater access to their lives which can serve to further reinforce obsessions and fixation,” he explains. “The inherent problems with social media-like addiction, the inability to disconnect and compulsive behaviours apply in this arena as well.”

The shame in showing support

While some fans feel no guilt or shame supporting work of celebrities that have had serious allegations against them, others have a tough time letting them go. Bhatia says when we idolize celebrities, we have to question our own values.

“Is what the celebrity stands for or are their actions consistent with my world view, ethics or values? If not, am I able to separate the person from the celebrity?” he says.

If your “relationship” with this celebrity becomes unhealthy or destructive, it’s time to take a step back and figure out what drives your obsession in the first place.

“There is no rule of thumb, but the key I believe is moderation of consumption and a healthy perspective that these are at the end of the day human beings like all of us.”

— With files from Rebecca Joseph 


© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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