Can I Still Like Louis C.K.?

In the face of sexual assault accusations, should we separate the art from the artist?

A month or so ago I went against my own better judgment and stayed up past what should be my bedtime. Why, you may ask, did I choose to abandon sleep? If you asked me then, I would have said a stand up special by one of my favorite comedians, an accolade I hold in high regard.

But now, it is fair to say I am rightfully torn on what to refer to it as. On November 10th, Louis C.K. released a statement proving my greatest fears: “These stories are true.” I had read accusations in the past months against him rather skeptically, as anyone might do upon hearing that a man you respect has been forcing women to watch him masturbate. But in light of recent events, it was really only a matter of time before he denied or fessed up.

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It pains me knowing that not only Louis C.K., but countless other men in Hollywood are being ousted for past sexual assaults following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Not for the sake of the men, but rather for their victims; both the people and the work.

We must now ask ourselves if we can truly enjoy the work of people who have committed some of the most garish and atrocious crimes that the rich and powerful could get away with…until now that is.

This may be an easy decision for some, as I’m sure some of you reading now know that you can gladly abandon Chris Savino’s The Loud House after the accusations against him. But other readers may think it is not as easy to give up House of Cards after Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct with men and minors alike. The problem with this is the disassociation that famous people are often ushered into.

Being in Philadelphia it is hard not to revel in the historical significance of the city. Men like Thomas Jefferson once called this place a home, a workplace, a cradle for the liberty they were creating.

But, we often sweep under the run the fact that Jefferson, while aware of the moral flaws that came with slavery, continued to own people his entire life and fathered illegitimate children with his slave Sally Hemings, who was fourteen when he was in his forties.

This grizzly detail muddles up the idea of pure and just founding fathers, which is now slowly becoming undone. We can’t go back and change the actions of the Founding Fathers. But we can show these Hollywood personalities that such behavior will no longer be tolerated in this country as it used to be.

This is where I shall go back to my own predicament, what do I do about Louis? After respecting him for so long, condemnation was not an easy task.

In a tension-heavy discussion of this personal crisis with a fellow Temple student, freshman Megan McGraw, I was given some helpful words that may help you in your delineation of the work of the accused.

She told me, “I think you're still processing. This is someone you respected a lot, and this is something that goes so completely against your perception of who he was as a person. After so long of seeing positive traits, it's difficult to reconcile the negative we now see underneath.”

It was not easy for me to give up the childish denial game and see that people of fame can truly have a deviant face under their public mask.

Megan went on to tell me, “[Hearing these accusations makes] you question yourself and whether you're a good judge of character. You still want to defend him because in a way, it's defending yourself and why you supported him before.”

This may all feel like pretty inside baseball into my own predicament, but that is a big part of this. Up until the very night Louis released his statement, I defended him to several people, including my friend Megan.

We all see now I was on the wrong side of history, defending a famous person with the same fervency as I would defend someone, of no fame, that held my respect in any way. I was betrayed by my passion for comedy, willing to overlook accusation after accusation so that I could enjoy a stand-up special in peace.

I can also say that I believe that there is a middle ground that I and many others will undeniably end up on before this rightful witch hunt is through; acknowledging the crimes committed by these men while disassociating them from their work as to still enjoy it. It may be wrong, it may show the deep-set ideas of a normalized rape culture in America, and it may even show I am not as good of a person as I wish I was. But, to put it simply, art and its creators are flawed. It is not always in such a profoundly awful way, but these imperfect people make a lot of the things society finds entertaining.

I can say now that I have come to terms with some of my idols are problematic people, including Louis C.K. and I now have to view their art through a smudged lens.

None of this is said to undercut the importance of the issue at hand; I truly hope everyone guilty of abuse is outed and faced with the public shaming they deserve, that every victim is okay and retributed, and that the art these men created lives on for the sake of art and not them.

Waking up and writing this piece in a city where Bill Cosby walks away from a jail cell and remains in the comfort of his Cheltenham home is a blunt reminder that we still have a long way to go. Perhaps, though, this is the start of a revolution, so cheers.

Temple University