Comedian Louis CK

Poor Louis C.K., the #MeToo Movement Ruined His Life for Five Whole Months

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Whenever another man makes the news for abusive, predatory, or just generally creepy behavior, there are always plenty of people bemoaning the irreparable damage being done to that man’s–or, if they’re in an especially hyperbolic mood, all men’s–careers. These are the critics who see the women speaking out, the women whose voices together have formed the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as bullies, who callously or even joyously tear these men down, ruining them forever.

Except it’s never forever. Hopefully, in the worst cases, like Harvey Weinstein, it will be. But for most men who have been accused of sexual harassment or assault of their colleagues, the punishment is short-lived. Take, for instance, Louis C.K.

For years, there were rumors about C.K.’s inappropriate behavior, most notably of him reportedly forcing women to watch him masturbate. He admitted to a few individual instances of these actions in response to a New York Times article detailing the allegations. That happened back in November. For everyone worried about how this would affect C.K’s career, or his life moving forward, no need to fear. We’ve gotten the first of what will surely be many sympathetic puff pieces, all of five months later.

In an article published in The Hollywood Reporterwriter Stuart Miller takes it upon himself to hypothesize what C.K.’s return to comedy might look like. He makes the less than stunning claim that that return might well take place via comedy clubs.

Many of C.K.’s fellow comedians seem to think that comedy will be his road back to public atonement as well. That, rather than do the “mea culpa interviews,” he should put it all into his stand-up. Comedian Christopher Titus says, “He needs to work on his best comedy about how he was a douche and how he is trying to make amends to women.”

But these colleagues make it clear that it’s not just about laying low for a while and then returning to his usual comedy. Sean Patton told THR “The only way he comes back is if he heals,” and Miller himself says that “C.K.’s redemption can’t seem too easy.”

I don’t want to nitpick semantics here, but shouldn’t we also put emphasis on it not being easy? Noam Dworman, owner of the famous Comedy Cellar said that he didn’t think people wanted C.K.’s penance to be a “life sentence.” Again, no, no one was saying that. But there has to be a middle ground between a life sentence and five months of silence, no? A good start could be to include women in this conversation–the women C.K. harassed, the women forced to decline opportunities in their careers for fear of being subjected to his behavior.

Instead, these women are still being largely ignored, as the conversation remains centered on C.K. Some are even suggesting that he’s in a position to lead, to teach.

Aida Rodriguez, whose comedy THR describes as “fierce on female empowerment,” notes that because of C.K.’s hordes of male fans, “he has the chance to atone and to educate. If he uses the opportunity to address his shortcomings, maybe he can change a few minds among his fans and maybe he can save a couple of girls from unnecessary and unwanted incidents.”

Sure, that is a possibility. But do we really believe that C.K., who spent years not just engaging in abusive behavior, but gaslighting his victims, denying the behavior he knew to be inappropriate, is suddenly in a position to “atone and teach”? Does anyone actually believe that he’s so deeply and fundamentally changed in five months that any sort of atonement tour would be anything more than a well-crafted script?

(image: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.