Last night, a much anticipated report in The New York Times revealed that Louis CK has been accused by five women of inappropriate sexual behaviour. These “revelations” can hardly be described as such, given that rumours of CK’s behaviour have been circling for years now, and were reported by Gawker in a blind item in 2012, and again in a follow up piece in 2015.
The new coverage of these allegations, in which Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov recount the time where they say Louis CK invited them back to his hotel room and masturbated in front of them, prompted the cancellation of the New York premier of the comedian’s upcoming film.
The movie, I Love You Daddy, written, directed and starred in by Louis CK, involves an affair between a 17-year-old girl (CK’s character’s daughter) and a 68-year-old film maker. It resonates, both in style and in substance, with Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979) in which a 17-year-old girl has an affair with Allen’s character, a 42-year-old man.
So, first things first, let’s just get the chain of events straightened out. Louis CK decides to make a film about sexually inappropriate behaviour. He does so knowingly paying homage to another film about sexually inappropriate behaviour, which has been made by a man accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour. CK’s premier then gets cancelled, as news of his own sexually inappropriate behaviour finally goes public.
Let’s remember this narrative when the “should you judge the merits of the art by the sins of the man” conversation rears its head. These men, Woody Allen and Louis CK, make films that are so fundamentally connected to real life alleged abuse that you can hardly believe what you’re watching. Louis CK makes a film called I Love You Daddy in homage to Woody Allen who has been accused of molesting his own adopted daughter, and who literally married his ex-wife’s other adopted daughter.
But: people will tend to yell, “It’s fiction! You can’t restrict the scope of art just because it doesn’t align with your own morality.”
That may be true; but the incensed commentators who shout this sort of thing probably haven’t felt the bitter, disgusting, absolutely sickening irony of sexual predators gaining esteem and riches from depicting the kind of messed-up, inappropriate, abusive sexual dynamics that they may perpetrate in real life.
We should be allowed to see depictions of sexually inappropriate relationships on our screens – of course we should. But why not, for a change, let them be written by the victims.
We don’t let the victims of sexual abuse or misconduct have the space to tell their own stories.
Instead, Woody Allen and Louis CK are given movie deals to tell and re-enact versions of the sins they themselves are accused of, while their alleged victims, the people who really have something to say on the subject, are kept quiet.
Goodman and Wolov revealed that after they told others about CK masturbating in front of them, they heard that his manager was upset by their discussing it.
Abusers will be given a platform, a premier, a world stage, whilst victims aren’t even allowed a private conversation and have to wait over a decade to be properly listened to by the press.
The conversation about artistic freedom needs to change. It’s not the case that some stories shouldn’t be told – it’s more a matter of who gets to tell them.
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