So the latest crank of the news cycle has us confronting yet another ugly chronicle of sexual harassment and assault, this time by comedian, Louis C.K. I can’t say I was really surprised, but this one bummed me out in particular. I was not an early fan of his, but he grew on me. Something about the way he delves the particularly cringey parts of the human experience made me a little nauseated, but there were nuggets of truth brought forth from the dry heaving. And then I watched his show, Louie, which showed a bit more of his parental persona, and I thought, OK, this guy is not just dark and awkward, there’s tenderness and insight in there, too.
So with the news of the really inexcusably bad ways in which he has behaved, I feel not just disappointed and disgusted, I feel a little betrayed. Because for a second there, I thought, even with all the darkness and the weirdness, there was some fundamental decency. What made me think this was this bit:
After hearing this, I thought, thank God, there’s a guy out there with a microphone who gets it. But what I mistook for wisdom and “wokeness” was, I suppose, just a confession of sorts.
And now Louis C.K. has issued a statement….another big *sigh*. I try not to drag people who are making an effort to be accountable, but I think he gets something glaringly wrong. He notes that he abused his power. Yep. But I’ll quibble with the suggestion that his power was derived from the admiration that the women that he exploited felt for him. Maybe they admired him, maybe they thought he was a pig. But whether or not he had their admiration, he had influence. He’s a big deal in the world of comedy, so the pressure to go a long with these situations was unquestionable, and the undeniable consequence for sounding the alarm about him was career suicide.
Louis C.K. says he is going to be doing some listening now…and there’s still a lot he needs to hear and understand. He’s made a career out of looking at some of the ugly sides of himself, so hopes springs eternal that with more listening and more reflection, he may have a more meaningful apology to offer.
And while it hurts to confront all the truly shitty stuff that has been happening to people who have been subjected to all the forms of discrimination, abuse, and violence that we are hearing about, I have to keep faith that sunlight is ultimately going to be the best disinfectant.
We have to stare down this nonsense, we have to quantify it, and wrestle it to the ground. This is a hard moment, but the challenge is to seize it and not look away.
In the words of Louis C.K. himself:
To me, it’s very exhilarating when somebody else does a great thing, and it’s not me.
Hope he’s prepared to be awed by the courage of all the people coming forward to take their power back. It’s quite a sight to behold.