The Way Back

I know Louis CK. I am friendly with him, but not friends. I haven’t spoken with him since before his sexual abuse allegations came out. When they did (and were subsequently confirmed), I think I was one of the first comedians who called on to him to explain himself. I condemned him then and I condemn him now for what he did.

This morning, I wrote that I am happy to see him try to make his way back.

This is not a defense of Louis. I will not defend him, and have no vested interest in his ability to reclaim his career or not. My interest is in having a nuanced conversation of what we do as a culture with men, like Louis, who fucked up. Do we think they are all irredeemable, disposable? For some people, the answer might very well be “yes.” If so, then the conversation is over. That’s ok.

Other people, and I include myself in this group, believe that for some of these guys, there ought to be a way for them to return from exile. Not because it matters if a celebrity like Louis gets another chance. It doesn’t. But because I believe that the important, vital, and necessary work of the Me Too Movement will only survive if men feel as invested in its survival as women. Will that happen if men feel like there is no way back from their worst moments? 

Men need to be called out and face consequences for their bad behavior. I don’t think there’s any debate on that topic. Sometimes that behavior rises to the level of criminality and those men ought to face criminal consequences. Sometimes it does not, and those men need to face the public opprobrium that follows.

No matter what happens from this point forward, each of these men will wear always their scarlet letter. Is that enough, or do we need more? Do we need a better public apology than the one Louis offered? Rehab? Reparations of some sort?

Everybody’s case is different. On the scale of horribleness, I place Louis somewhere in the middle. He did some terrible shit. He abused his power. He hurt people. Many people have done different terrible shit, abused their power, hurt others, and found their way to forgiveness.

When I said I was happy Louis is trying to find his way back, I am happy that he is trying to move into the uncharted territory of finding redemption at a time when redemption is hard to find. Maybe you think he did it in a bad way. If so, I fully support you. But what is the right way? Maybe you think it’s too soon. When is it long enough? What is the correct penance? What is the way forward? At what point do we show some grace? What do we need for somebody to come back in from the cold and find a little warmth?