TV in Review: Louie, “Telling Jokes / Set Up”
July 8, 2012 4 Comments
For the second episode of season three, “Telling Jokes / Set Up,” Louie offers us rape as the entree. But first comes the appetizer, in the form of a little humor analysis. Louie’s daughters are telling knock-knock jokes, and Louie explaining to an audience at the Comedy Cellar just why he enjoys their humor so much.
LOUIE: I’ve been doing comedy for twenty-five years. I know every joke. Even if I haven’t heard it, you start to tell me a joke, I know how it’s gonna work. But her jokes — I have no idea what’s gonna happen. I have no idea. This is the joke she told me the other day. She said, “Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet? Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet?” Already I love this joke. I love this joke! I have not heard this joke.
On the whole, though, I found the episode a little clunky, never finding its full groove. Louie is set up by his friend Allan Harvey and Allan’s wife, Debbie. Allan and Debbie introduce Louie to Laurie (played by Melissa Leo). My favorite moment of awkwardness came during the dinner, before Louie and Laurie go off on their own.
DEBBIE: Louie’s a comedian, just like Alan.
LOUIE: Yes, I’m a comedian.
DEBBIE: Louie, why don’t you ask Laurie what she does?
LOUIE: What do you do, Laurie?
Oh, so horribly uncomfortable…
Understandably enough, though, it’s the rape that’s getting most of the attention around the interwebs. Louie and Laurie wind up in her truck at the end of the night. They’re getting along well for Laurie to suggest giving Louie a blowjob.
LAURIE: Whip it out. Let me blow you.
Cut to completion, when Laurie then demands that Louie returns the favor.
LAURIE: Let’s get some payback.
Only Louie says no. Laurie proceeds to accuse Louie of being gay, smashes his head into the car window, threatens to break his finger, and forces him to go down on her. Now, for Salon columnist Willa Paskin this all might be okay, because Louie has a double standard, and because Laurie is likable.
PASKIN: the portrayal of Laurie is far too sympathetic for her to just be another date rapist.
I’m stunned by this reasoning. Paskin really thinks that it might not be date rape so long as the rapist is sympathetic? That it’s okay to rape people so long as they exhibit a double standard?
Slate columnist Alyssa Rosenberg also makes excuses for the rape, calling it a “feminist classic.”
ROSENBERG: I found myself cheering for her ideas, even though Laurie is awful. She’s aggressive and violent, at one point threatening to break Louie’s finger, at another, bouncing his head off her passenger-side window. And Laurie’s emotionally nasty, too, implying that Louie is gay because he won’t reciprocate sexually. But even if she’s hard to identify with, even if her behavior is embarrassing or horrifying, even if I felt physically uncomfortable watching C.K. give in to her demands, there’s something powerful about the way this episode of Louie threw every possible objection at Laurie, made her as unsympathetic a spokeswoman as possible, and acknowledged that she was right anyway.
Okay, so here’s what I don’t understand. Yes, some of Laurie’s ideas were right. But one of her ideas was to beat up another person in order to get this person to perform sexual acts against his expressly stated will. Come on, columnists — is it really so difficult to recognize that one can have legitimate objections and make strong arguments regarding the injustice of societal double standards when it comes to sex and gender, but that making these arguments does not make one a heroine for forcing others into sexual acts? Have I gone insane? Isn’t “no means no” a more legitimate feminist classic?
Look, I’m okay with television portraying rape. I’m okay with a comedy like Louie dealing with rape. And I suspect that Paskin and Rosenberg forget that in Louie, it’s often the case that everyone is wrong. I don’t agree that Laurie is a fully sympathetic character, nor do I think the show tries to present her as that. Hence lines such as the following…
LAURIE: Where are the gentlemen? What’s wrong with this country? Obama.
Laurie is an idiot. So is Louie. His convoluted reasoning regarding the intimacy of giving versus receiving oral sex is inane. He can be an idiot. He makes that point in episode after episode. But rape is still wrong even if the victim is acting idiotically.
I’d happily join Paskin and Rosenberg in applauding Louie for diving into the question of double standards when it comes to heterosexual sex partners. But if we’re approving or condemning the specific acts and ideas, I’d like to suggest that the fact that Laurie has gone down on a bunch of guys just to be a “good kid” is not cause to celebrate her battering Louie. It’s cause to say to the screen, “Hey, Laurie, maybe you should stop doing that and seek out partners with whom you can have healthy communication and consensual reciprocity.” Now, I don’t expect Laurie to listen, because she’s a fictional character, but presumably Willa Paskin and Alyssa Rosenberg are real, and they concern me more.
Oh, well. I do believe in the potential for us all to grow and learn, but I also worry that Louie’s daughter Lilly is the wisest of us all.
LILLY: If you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.
I don’t get it.
FX first broadcast Season 3, Episode 2 of Louie on July 5, 2012.
Polentical: TV in Review: Louie, “Something Is Wrong” (Season 3, Episode 1)
The TV Guy: Louie: S03E02: Telling Jokes/Set Up
Dear Television: Jokes of Innocence and Jokes of Experience, or Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
phdtv: Awkward: Louie S3 E2 – Telling Jokes/Set Up