Louis CK Ready For His Redemption Arc, Mr. DeMille
This past Sunday evening, comedian Louis CK emerged from his underground fortress to do a "surprise" 15 minute set in front of a crowd of 115 people at New York City's Comedy Cellar. Reportedly, he got a standing ovation before he even began. According to the Comedy Cellar's owner, Noam Dworman, the set consisted of jokes about "racism, waitresses' tips, parades."
So now people are talking about how this is the first step, somehow, in CK returning to his career following his admission that he'd whipped his dick out and masturbated in front of at least five unwilling female comedians. For many people, including Mr. Dworman, this step is not only inevitable but the only possible just outcome.
Via the New York Times:
Mr. Dworman said that as a business owner, he was in a difficult position. "I understand that some people will be upset with me. I care about my customers very much. Every complaint goes through me like a knife. And I care about doing the right thing."
But, he added, "there can't be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong." The social standards about how to respond to errant behavior are inconsistent, he said, and now shifting ever faster, and audiences should have the leeway to decide what to watch themselves. "I think we'll be better off as a society if we stop looking to the bottlenecks of distribution — Twitter, Netflix, Facebook or comedy clubs — to filter the world for us."
Not being able to be a famous comedian is not a permanent life sentence. Most people are not famous comedians. Additionally, we impose "permanent life sentences" on people all the time, both literally and figuratively. A person who commits a felony can't vote, a person who gets arrested on a drug charge can't get financial aid, and an actress who gets labeled as "difficult" by a single male director will likely never get much work again.
Michael Ian Black, who is normally really good about this shit and whom I have personally had a crush on since The State, also doubled down on the necessity for Louis CK and other men who pull this kind of shit to have a redemption arc of some kind.
My empathy isn't for Louis. It's for the recognition that we're in a cultural moment in which some men who do terri… https://t.co/AiFWqhkllg— Michael Ian Black (@Michael Ian Black)1535458926.0
Of course, all Louis CK did was go away for a while, and then try to poke his head out, in order to test the waters to see if everything had blown over or if he had to go back into hiding for a while more. That's not redemption, that is Groundhog's Day.
Similarly, Matt Lauer has been going around telling people that he, too, is ready for this all to be over and done with so he can go back to TV:
Via Page Six:
Sources told Page Six that Lauer — who was fired in November by NBC over sexual harassment accusations — was recently spotted at an old haunt of his, Donohue's Steak House, telling fans that his return was imminent.
"A group of older ladies came over to Lauer, saying, 'We miss you!' " a source told us.
The source said that Lauer told the fans, "I've been busy being a dad. But don't worry, I'll be back on TV."
It's been clear from the beginning that there is a deep-seated desire among some for a roadmap to #MeToo redemption. For there to be some specific plan that famous men accused of sexual assault and harassment can follow in order to get their careers back, so that everything can go back to normal. The question, for them, hasn't been "if" but "how." That there will be some moment in time when everyone will go, "OK ladies! This has all been very nice and good and informative, but it's now time to get back to the important business of these men getting to be famous again." The idea that this moment might never come is, for them, pretty terrifying. It feels scary when something can't be "fixed." It feels scary to realize women have that much power.
This doesn't mean that they can't change. I fully believe that people can change. If I didn't believe that people could change, I would not only not bother doing what I do for a living, but I would probably throw myself off a cliff. I absolutely believe that Louis CK can go the rest of his life without whipping his dick out and masturbating in front of an unwilling woman. I definitely believe that Matt Lauer can learn to avoid locking women in an office and sexually harassing them. Millions of people don't do these things every day, so I imagine this is possible for them as well. What can I say? I am an optimist.
That being said.
It's not my job, nor anyone else's, to carve out a pathway to redemption for Louis CK so that he can just go back to being famous and beloved by all. To say, "OK, just wave an egg around your body while saying 10 Hail Marys, turn around in a circle three times and spit, flush the egg down the toilet and you're good to go." Actions have consequences. The consequence to people finding out you're a sex pest is that they may not be super interested in seeing you do any comedy or watching you host the Today Show. It's a celebrity's job, essentially, to be liked, but no one is under any obligation to like or support any person who wants to be a celebrity.
Whether or not someone gets their "redemption arc" is going to depend on the person, what they did, and what they actually do to "redeem" themselves and whether or not people actually do feel that it's enough. These men can change -- but they should change because what they were doing was awful, not because it's how they get their careers back.
It is also not as if Louis CK is one of two funny people in the entire country and he can't fly on a plane with the other one in case it goes down. There are myriad comedians out there who don't sexually harass people. For instance, the female comedians he masturbated in front of. Surely, they might enjoy a Netflix special or two.
What happens next isn't that Louis CK goes back to comedy and is eventually forgiven by the public. What happens next isn't that Matt Lauer says he's sorry for locking women in his office and goes back to daytime television. What happens next isn't that this all just blows over. What happens next is that the next man who thinks to himself, "Gee, I'd sure enjoy whipping my dick out and masturbating in front of this woman before ensuring that this is something she's into!" decides to refrain because he knows it's not going to work out well for him.
What happens is that he will be more afraid of ruining his career by doing that than the woman will be afraid of ruining hers by standing up to him.
Wonkette manages to be funny without ever masturbating in front of people who don't want to be masturbated in front of! Click to reward us!
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse