On November 4, almost a month to the day after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey reported for the New York Times on the accusations of sexual harassment and abuse leveled against Harvey Weinstein, Mark Harris tweeted: “Thing I've been hearing a lot from Hollywood people in recent weeks: ‘I’m dreading the moment news breaks about someone I actually like.’” For many of us, that moment came this past Thursday, when Kantor, Melena Ryzik, and Cara Buckley reported for the NYT that “after years of unsubstantiated rumors about Louis C.K. masturbating in front of associates, women are coming forward to describe what they experienced.” The following day, Friday, Louis C.K. released a statement: “These stories are true. . . . There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for.”
The implication in Harris’s tweet is, of course, that Weinstein, and by that point, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, James Toback, and others—the list grew so long so fast that the entry “Weinstein and Co.” has simply become too large to take on more updates and still be somewhat manageable, hence this new one—were not liked. Some of their work might be admired, but on the whole, these are not men who will be missed now that they’ve been expelled from the public sphere. There’s next to no personal connection. But that’s not the case with Louis C.K. Dana Stevens has done fans—like me—a tremendous service by struggling openly in a marvelous piece for Slate with a flurry of mixed feelings, most of them in the neighborhood of anger and sadness. Along with the stand-up comedy and his show, Louie—and here, I’d personally add Horace and Pete—she liked the guy.
His willingness to visit what seemed like the darkest places of his own psyche (as it turned out, there were darker places) read as vulnerability. And vulnerability—God damn it, even this observation sounds creepy now—can be sexy. . . . I’m not sure if this way of framing the fall of Louis C.K.—that I once found him both hilarious and hot, and when I think of that from now on, I will always feel dirty, compromised, and gross—is appropriate or ladylike or even professional. I know I’m supposed to assume the proper critical distance and evaluate his latest movie as a work of art, then ponder abstractly what the proper relation between a life and an artistic legacy should be. But like a lot of women right now, I’m sort of past caring how I sound. I haven’t noticed a lot of men suppressing what might generously be called their impulse for self-expression.
“There’s no reason to feel remorse for disinvesting affection we sunk into artists who are later revealed to be criminals or abusers,” argues Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture. “There’s no reason to have qualms about stamping their work ‘Of Archival Interest Only’ and moving on to something new—not just new work, but a new paradigm for relationships in show business, and all business.” At RogerEbert.com, Seitz writes: “In retrospect, much of Louie now plays like a dry run for what he’d do on the big screen with I Love You, Daddy. The show exposes its true self deftly enough that you aren’t sure you saw what you saw. This film leaves the raincoat open while its owner makes eye contact and dares you to deny what’s happening. My notes consist of a single sentence: ‘It’s like he's rubbing it in our faces.’”
I’ve updated the entry on I Love You, Daddy with more reaction to the film since the NYT story and C.K.’s statement, and as Maane Khatchatourian and Brent Lang report for Variety, the distributor, The Orchard, has called off the release. Reaction overall has been swift and sweeping. FX has cut off all ties; as Time’s Daniel D'Addario notes, “C.K.’s long-on-hiatus series Louie had been a key building block in establishing the network’s critical credibility, and C.K.’s clout in Hollywood had been another, as he was producing two shows for the network and another two through the network’s production offices for other networks.” Netflix has called off a second stand-up special; HBO has dropped him from Saturday’s Night of Too Many Stars benefit; TBS has suspended production on his animated comedy series with Albert Brooks, The Cops;Universal and Illumination Animation have yanked him from the cast of The Secret Life of Pets 2; and, as Denise Petski reports for Deadline, “Louis C.K. has lost his longtime manager, 3 Arts Entertainment’s Dave Becky, publicist Lewis Kay as well as APA Agency, which had repped his successful comedy touring business.”
“I have written numerous laudatory commentaries on Louis C.K.’s shows and appearances, and they are all out there for the public record, and I’m going to have to live with that,” writes Variety’s Sonia Saraiya. “It does not escape my notice that a seal of approval from feminist critics or comedians gave him a shield from accusations of misogyny; I have to live with that, too.”
Back at Slate, Willa Paskin reconsiders Louie: “The revelations, as damning as they are, don’t make the show worthless, though they do make it a very different kind of document. It’s no longer an honest consideration of a man and all his foibles, but a dissembling, secretive one—which might, in a way, make it even truer than it was before.”
And at Buzzfeed, Alison Willmore argues that I Love You, Daddy is “the work of a man who’s been expecting consequences to come calling, and who decided to lean into the coming anger with a have-to-hear-all-sides affront that inadvertently echoes so many of the excuses and denials that men adjacent to or accused of misconduct have offered up in the past few weeks. . . . C.K., for all his other insight, proves himself incapable of wrapping his head around the sexual and professional power dynamics that he thinks he’s exploring, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling comfortable commenting on them. Or from suggesting that the what-the-hell moral of the film, delivered (of course) by another teenage girl, is that ‘Everybody’s a pervert. I’m a pervert, we’re all perverts, who cares.’ Turns out, people are starting to care a lot.”
Update: “One fallacy about criticism is that it can be practiced objectively, as if we could see and write about movies from some sort of out-of-body experience,” writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. “When I watched I Love You, Daddy a second time, the jokes no longer landed; its shocks felt uglier, cruder. But for once a filmmaker seemed to be admitting to the misogyny that we know is always there and has often been denied or simply waved off, at times in the name of art. The revelations about Louis C.K. and others are killing any pretense that any of this is objective. It’s very personal, and it always has been.”
Updates, 11/13: As Hunter Harris reports at Vulture, C.K. betrayed one of the most famous rocky friendships in comedy. On his latest WTF Podcast, Marc Maron says that, when he asked C.K., “‘This story about you forcing these women to watch you jerk off, what is that, is that true?’ He goes, ‘No, it’s not true. It’s not real. It’s a rumor.’ And I would say, ‘Well, are you going to address it somehow? Handle it? Get out from under it whenever it shows up?’ ‘No I can’t, I can’t do that. I can’t give it life, give it air.’ That was the conversation.”
“‘Truth in comedy’ is an expression out of the improv world, but it generally is held as a tenet for stand-up as well,” writes Jesse David Fox at Vulture. “Louis C.K. was the contemporary hero of that philosophy. . . . Considering his prominence in comedy and the prominence of honesty in his act, it makes you rethink all supposedly truthful comedy of the last fifteen years.”
This entry already threatens to become as bloated as last month’s “Weinstein and Co.,” and if it proves to be as unmanageable, we’ll simply open another in December. “This is a long awaited reckoning,” writes Ellen Page in a furious, infuriating and widely cited post on Facebook. “It must be.”
“Anthony Edwards has come forward to claim that he and his friend were molested by Broadway producer and theme-park designer Gary Goddard,” reports Jackson McHenry at Vulture, where Jada Yuan talks with writer Jessica Teich, who claims that Richard Dreyfuss “harassed me for months.”
In the wake of protests staged during its recent Roman Polanski retrospective, the Cinémathèque française is “indefinitely postponing an imminent retrospective of French director Jean-Claude Brisseau in a ‘move of appeasement,’” reports Henry Samuel for the Telegraph. “Mr. Brisseau was convicted of sexual harassment against two actresses in 2005 and sexual assault on a third the following year.”
Screen’s Sam Warner and Tom Grater report that Alicia Vikander “is one of 584 women who have called for the Swedish film and theater industries to address a culture of sexual misconduct. The call comes in the form of an open letter published in Swedish paper Svenska Dagbladet. The letter contains numerous accounts of sexual harassment, assault and rape suffered by women in the Swedish industry, all recounted anonymously.”
“I think that we clearly need to get a lot of the leaders in our industry together to discuss what can be done,” Judd Apatow tells Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “It seems essential that we create ways for people to come forward. Obviously, people don’t come forward when ex-Mossad agents are creating fake identities to dig up dirt on accusers and journalists, trying to find out what’s happening. . . . You can feel that it’s just the beginning, because there are a lot of people who’ve been afraid to talk for a long time, and they feel like things are changing, and they can finally come forward. And I would assume this is going to happen through the summer.”
Update: “Nine women have come forward to speak about their experiences with ‘sexual harassment, degradation and bullying’ at Zentropa, the Danish production company co-founded by Lars von Trier,” reports Michael Nordine for IndieWire. “Many of the accusations center around Peter Aalbæk Jensen, the company’s other founder, who is ‘highlighted by several sources one of the main figures perpetuating the system of degradation.’” Lea Wind-Friis and Camilla Stockmann’s story for Politiken, “one of the oldest and most widely read newspapers in Denmark,” is here.
Updates, 11/14: “The truth is,” writes Rebecca Traister at The Cut, “the risk of exposure that makes us feel anxious about the well-being of our male friends and colleagues—the risk of being named and never recovering—is one of the only things that could ever force change. Because without real, genuine penalties on the line, without generations of men fearing that if they abuse their power, if they treat women like shit, they’ll be out of jobs, shamed, their families devastated — without that actual, electric, dangerous possibility: Nothing. Will. Change.”
“This is a society still permeated and shaped and limited by misogyny, among other afflictions,” writes Rebecca Solnit at the Literary Hub. “Being groomed to be a predator dehumanizes you, as does being groomed to be prey. We need a de-normalization of all that before we can try to rehumanize ourselves.”
For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.