Oh it has been gratifying these last weeks and months to see men who sexually harass, demean and assault women get pulled from their platforms of power! I’ve enjoyed it, I really have. Thanks to some very brave women, this is a good opportunity to examine the underbelly of our culture and bring it into the light. But, I find myself wondering, when we publicly yank these men down, can anything actually be lost?
I’m talking about Louis C.K. Here’s a comic who makes everybody cringe, no question. I happen to think he’s very funny, but his humor is not for the prudish, if you’ll excuse the word. Now he’s accused of repeatedly masturbating in front of women. Not good, though, given the crudity of his comedy, not that surprising. What’s even worse, in a couple of cases the women were comics who were hoping Louis could help their careers. Sound familiar? Ugh. But Louis C.K.’s fall from grace makes me sad, too, because his humor so often gets to the heart of our twisted culture. And it’s a voice we might need to hear.
Early on in his TV show there’s a bit where he’s fixed up with the friend of a friend. They don’t hit it off, really, but Louis ends up taking her home. They stop off at a bar for a drink, and in the parking lot the woman gives Louis a blow job. When she’s finished, she looks up expectantly, waiting for him to reciprocate. He declines, saying, “Well, I really don’t know you that well.” Perfect. And very funny.
But there’s another episode where Louis’ social commentary really hits home. It involves a woman who is overweight. He meets her in a bar where he is performing, and they become instant friends. She’s smart and funny, and he likes her. In the big scene, they’re walking along the river in New York City, talking. She tells Louis she wonders why he doesn’t ask her out. He makes some lame excuse, and she calls him on it, saying she knows it’s because she’s fat. No, he insists, she’s not fat! She stops in her tracks and tells him point blank that she’s disappointed in him. Of course she’s fat, and since they like each other so much, that is clearly the reason he won’t go out with her. She reminds him that he, too, is overweight. He has no idea what to say. The scene is sad and beautiful. Exquisite writing, and it’s all Louis C.K.
There’s also a brilliant new show that Louis produces called Better Things about a single mother who is an actress in Los Angeles. I think the star, Pamela Adlon, does most of the writing, but Louis’ mark is all over it. It’s poignant and uncomfortable and deals hilariously with the indignities of aging for women in America. What happens to that show now? Apparently because of Louis’ behavior, the premier of a new movie he’s involved with was cancelled. I understand why; you can’t go publicly celebrating a pervert.
So what I want to know is, are all these cases the same? Kevin Spacey, Bill O’Reilly, R. Kelly, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, Pee Wee Herman? You could argue that politicians should be held to a higher standard than entertainers, and not all positions of power are equal. Maybe Louis C.K. really didn’t hurt anybody or cost anybody their job. That might be true, technically. But he couldn’t have done what he did — without getting arrested, that is — unless he was protected by money and privilege and fame and, yes, power. So I’m happy those women spoke up, even if I’m not celebrating the loss of a voice that illustrated the double standard of our culture so well.