Celebrity Bad Behavior Women Won't Forgive or Forget
Trigger Warning: This article discusses incidents of sexual misconduct.
I remember when I was introduced to the comedy of Louis C.K. I was a preteen and my family’s cable provider had recently added Comedy Central to our package. As a result, I had begun to ingest stand-up comedy specials ad nauseam for the first time in my life. I fell in love with stand-up as an art form and idolized many of the comedians I discovered during that time. One of them was Louis C.K.
I, like many people, was a fan of Louis C.K. for many years — his stand-up, his acclaimed self-titled TV series, even his film appearances. For a while, America could not get enough of Louis C.K., and I was happy to see him getting recognized. However, as his popularity grew, rumors swirled incidents of sexual misconduct by the comedian. I started to do my own research and what I found disturbed me. I took a step back from the comedian and his work, but many people refused to believe that a comedian they loved so much would be capable of such appalling behavior.
Taking a stand against bad behavior.
The authenticity of the allegations received a big boost from comedian Tig Notaro in August 2017. She detailed a falling-out between the two of them and subtly addressed the rumors levied against C.K. The next month, an episode of her Amazon series One Mississippi featured a character engaging in the same act of sexual misconduct that C.K. had been accused of. It appeared that Tig was doing what she could to spotlight his behavior. Not only was C.K. an executive producer on the show (though Notaro has said that having his name credited was always the extent of his involvement), years before (in 2012) he had become a champion of Notaro’s career when he promoted and sold her legendary Largo stand-up set about her breast cancer diagnosis on his website, lending his name to bolster hers. This set would go on to earn Notaro her first Best Comedy Album Grammy nomination. If Notaro was taking a stand against C.K., it felt obvious to me that something was seriously wrong.
Five women come forward.
The following month, in October 2017, Ronan Farrow’s article detailing Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults and harassment was released, kicking off the start of the modern MeToo movement. The month after, Louis C.K. faced a reckoning that had been a long time coming. The same week a movie that he had written, directed, and starred in was to premiere, The New York Times released an article in which five women accused the comedian of sexual misconduct.
The accusations were disturbing. In addition to sexual misconduct, C.K. and his manager had allegedly engaged in intimidation tactics to keep accusers silent. These tactics further abused the women and negatively impacted their careers in multiple ways. While Louis C.K. himself had been experiencing a rare level of success, he was hindering the careers of the women he had victimized.
The accusations were authenticated the next day when C.K. himself came out and admitted to them in a much-derided statement. There was no denying the comedian’s behavior anymore.
After the admission.
Many of C.K.’s fans felt disgusted and betrayed by his behavior, myself included. He had been a proponent of female comedians like Tig Notaro and Pamela Adlon. He had numerous stand-up sets dedicated to his respect and admiration for women and his sympathy for the plights we face as females. He had even won an Emmy for penning “For So Did the Fat Lady,” an episode of his series that explored the fat shaming and double standards that plus-size women face. I felt duped.
After the reveal and admission of his sexual misconduct, C.K. disappeared from the public eye — for a few months. For a comedian who had earned his name calling out hypocrisy, especially male hypocrisy, he was certainly demonstrating his own. That is just one of the reasons I find his recent Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album so appalling.
Although I’m someone who believes in second chances, there are times when a simple “Sorry” — the title of one of C.K.’s most recent comedy specials — just doesn’t cut it. There needs to be actions in addition to words to atone for misdeeds, steps to right your wrongs. Louis C.K. has not done near enough, or really anything at all, to try to make up for the horrible things he did.
Why should C.K. get to have a comeback?
What has he done to earn this second chance? The women whose careers he hurt will never be able to see what their lives would have been like without C.K.’s interference. They’re not seeing a career resurgence or getting nominated for major awards. The women he traumatized are receiving no benefit from this kind of career resurgence. If anything, seeing C.K.’s name back in the limelight has to be both triggering and disheartening.
Life-altering, career-hindering acts should not be so easily forgotten or forgiven.
The sexual misconduct that C.K. engaged in and the actions that followed were beyond reprehensible. They were life-altering, career-hindering acts that should not be so easily forgotten or forgiven. To reward someone who has shown this type of behavior is shocking, detestable, and dangerous. It sets a disturbing precedent. It's disappointing to see an institution like the Grammys willing to accept and uplift someone capable of these kinds of misdeeds.
This represents a sad reflection of society and a step backward in progress. Forgiveness, second chances — these things must be earned. Awards should be reserved to reward exemplary behavior — not the worst.