Yes, It’s The “Good Guys” Too

This may be a Harvey Weinstein moment, but Louis C.K. is not your average Weinstein.

Louis C.K.

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Well, it happened — and depending on who you are, you either greeted the news with a gasp or a sigh of relief that it was finally out. Louis C.K. is the latest high-profile man in the entertainment industry to be accused of sexual misconduct. Five women have gone on record against the beloved comedian, claiming he masturbated in front of them without their consent.

The New York Times dropped the bombshell report this morning, though variations of it have been around for years. The “whisper network” has echoed into Gawker, Jezebel, Daily Beast, various podcasts, and even an episode of TV since 2012. Now those whispers are on-the-record in the Times and they are being heard. A film premiere has been cancelled. Work is being pulled from subscription services. Appearances limited. Apologies from those who feel complicit given.

No, all this doesn’t constitute justice or confirmed guilt (Louis C.K. has denied requests to publicly comment on the allegations), but it’s enormous progress for the women making the accusations. For these women — and many others in the comedy scene — this is a Harvey Weinstein moment. And it’s important because Louis C.K. is not your average Harvey Weinstein.

The Monster Myth

Harvey Weinstein is a monster — for many reasons, sure, but especially because he conforms to the myth of one. Weinstein has been accused of rape and sexual assault and harassment and coercion and all manner of other sexual offences. He is a large man who has been accused of looming over women, dominating space and blocking paths (both physical and metaphorical). His voice is deep and self-assured; we heard it boom over the bone-chilling recording. He works in the shadows, pulling strings. It’s the nature of his job. His power makes stars and it can also break them.

Over the past month, Weinstein has become shorthand for sexual assault. His gnarled face looms large on magazine covers and his name is almost a verb. Is this a Weinstein situation? Weinstein alert. Accusations have flowed against James Toback, Kevin Spacey and more, but the framework is always Weinstein. The Weinstein saga. 

This is necessary, of course. It’s a systemic problem and the list of Weinstein’s alleged crimes is one of the longest we’ve seen. He’s the figurehead of an industry and its problems; the pressure point the media need to push. But as we’re listing “our Weinsteins”, it’s important to remember Weinstein, in this context, also just means a fucked up man.

If every woman is saying #metoo, surely we all know predatory men? Every man knows someone who’s crossed a line, whether they meant to or not. You probably know someone who’s still doing it now. You may have done it yourself. To borrow the inelegant words of Louis C.K. himself — which he reportedly said to woman who asked for an apology about his alleged sexual misconduct — these are men who claim to “misread people”.

These men aren’t all Harvey Weinstein — in fact, most of them probably seem a lot more like Louis C.K.

The Good Guy

Yes, people are being harassed by the school captain with the good grades and the cute haircut. That guy who loves his mum and sisters has called at least one girl in his year a slut. Maybe he’s in a groupchat. Maybe it went too far one time. Maybe he sent some pics.

Yes, people are assaulted by their best mates. The sweet chubby dude who thought he was in the friend zone. Even if he thought he was making a grand gesture, even if he did help his crush home when she drank too much. Even if she doesn’t remember the whole night.

Yes, ‘progressive people’ can be predators. It’s the climate activist and the union member and the one who shares Junkee articles. It’s the guy who liked your #metoo post.

Now — and this is far from the first time — we’re talking about the fact it’s comedians. And not only that. It’s left-wing comedians. It’s the comedian’s comedian. Louis is the guy with jokes about white male privilege and homophobia and rape that (arguably) punched in the right direction; the one who bolstered the work of female comedians and invigorated every mediocre comedy bro to ‘get woke’ while keeping his edge.

Louis C.K. is a schmo — an unattractive and sad everyman who finds life hard and gets rejected by women constantly. I’m not being mean; this is his brand and it’s been a successful one. Louis is Louie. Louie Louie Louie. You can’t hate Louie! You can’t be a victim of Louie! Louie can’t even get a date. In the words of Pamela (Louis C.K.’s character’s on-screen love interest in his FX TV series), Louie is too stupid for sexual assault.

I don’t want to conflate the actions of Louis C.K. and his on-screen counterpart (though, arguably, he’s prided himself on doing just that in a number of ways). We don’t yet know the full story around these allegations and there will surely be more to come from C.K.’s response. But his persona — this character — is already influencing the way many people respond.

Run the news by your housemates or put it on your timeline. You’ll see it’s harder for many people to accept than the other increasingly regular bombshells. Really? I can’t see him doing that. Couldn’t the women have left? It’s not really a Weinstein situation though, is it? 

These moments matter. And of course, they all do. But these feel particularly true to everyday life.

I’m not a survivor of sexual assault, but I know many people who are. Friends, family, workmates, acquaintances whose stories have travelled along our own, much smaller whisper networks. The stories they tell of these men (and it is predominately men) are terrifying and heartbreaking. But none of their abusers are Harvey Weinsteins. They’re all schmos; the everyman who gets overlooked for years because everyone stops to ask … him?

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit an emergency, call 000.

Men can access anonymous confidential telephone counselling to help to stop using violent and controlling behaviour through the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.

Meg Watson is the Editor of Junkee. She tweets @msmegwatson.