If 2016 was noteworthy for its multitude of dead celebrities, 2017 may be remembered as the year celebrities became dead to us.
In the latest shocking but totally not surprising takedown of a Hollywood hypocrite, The New York Times found enough brave women who would go on the record about the onanistic exploits of Louis CK.
Part of the reason the story’s only been bubbling below the surface has been an apparently sinister network of enablers and endorsers of Louis CK’s behavior, as chronicled in Jezebel. (Note how many of those supportive tweets are from anonymous accounts.) Earlier this month, former Gawker reporter Meghan Koester wrote something equally disturbing for Vice.
But what’s most unsettling about this whole horrible story—hey, I really liked Louis CK, too—is what lies beneath. That a previous transgressive subject matter can be extrapolated forward to other subjects must be discussed.
As The New York Times story notes, Louis CK has made masturbation jokes a staple of his TV shows and standup routine. Turns out, the jokes have a nasty reverberation in real life.
What can we say about Louis CK’s repeated comic riffs about pedophilia and child sexual abuse?
His now forever buried (hopefully) Woody Allen pastiche "I Love You Daddy," which was supposed to open this Friday is about a successful writer who kinda-sorta pimps out his teen daughter to an eccentric but powerful filmmaker (played by John Malkovich) with a reputation for jailbait. It’s the most immediate example, but there are others.
Does anybody remember this controversial SNL standup routine? [relevant material starts at the 5:50 mark] The one where he compared having sex with a child to eating a Mounds candy bar? Check out the comments from people on that linked Deadline Hollywood story; they’re pretty cavalier/disturbing, too.
We should also remember one of the opening segments from his TV show, with its comic riffs on his own children being sexually abused. The punch line: "If we minded child molesting less, fewer kids would die."
Louis CK has often joked about psychology, Sigmund Freud and how you can never really know who someone is. So let’s turn to Freud when looking at CK’s masturbation jokes and the subsumed guilt he may have felt about his behavior toward women.
In 1915, Freud wrote “Some Character Types Met with in Psycho-analytic Work,” an article that addressed criminality rooted in guilt. Freud’s thesis was we all bear the burden of unconscious Oedipal guilt, which is perverted into an subconscious desire to transgress, get caught and punished. (Psychology Today).
Thus, following Freud’s theory, a nagging sense of guilt may have lurked behind CK’s many jokes about compulsive masturbation. If so, what about his other transgressive jokes?
Meantime, some reporters are already noting how popular comedians are going softly on Louis CK, especially his close pal Stephen Colbert, who has spent hours ripping on Trump for being an abusive perv. Colbert’s attempts to tangentially link Jesus Christ to Louis CK—the subtext being “See, hey, everybody loves the guy!” — was particularly sinister.
And what about all of us? I watched Louis CK’s show, and it often made me uncomfortable, but I also laughed a lot and considered him brave for pushing the envelope.
There were things I considered beyond the pale—like the pedophile jokes—but I glossed over that because I appreciated his
other stuff. He was loaded with canny insights and hard truths.
But where would the inflection point have been if he joked that raping kids was OK? What if Louis CK had made it racial, too? What if he was only talking about black kids? Would people have cried foul then?
Of course, they would. As they would if he had made it about Jewish kids, Asian kids, Indian kids or any racial distinction.
Why is race even more of a hot-button then child abuse?
Could it be because there is money to be made in sexualizing children? And nobody—but nobody—has made more money from sexualizing kids than the media. Just ask Discovery/TLC, or Nickelodeon’s Dan Schneider.
Louis CK has been making a joke out of child rape for a while — and we gave him a pass. Too many assumed if it was on TV, it must be OK.
But we shouldn’t have, and it’s not.
Finally, I’ve not seen anybody do a numbers check on Louis CK’s apology “statement,” and that, too, is telling.
Here are the numbers checked from Louis CK’s own so-called “apology” statement (“I,” 27 times; “my,” 14; “me,” 7; he’s “admire(d),“ 4; “My dick,” 2; Sorry/Apologies/Apologize”: zero).