Louis C.K., #MeToo, and accountability: Why binary thinking doesn't help

We may not learn and grow beyond the #MeToo era if we keep thinking in black and white, says comedian Pete Holmes.

PETE HOLMES: Obviously we're going through a spiritual evolution right now, and that involves a lot of suffering on everybody's part. And that's where growth comes. We'd all like to increase pleasure and minimize pain, but the truth is, suffering, even collective suffering that we're going through, is often the earmark that some real change is happening.

When I look at what's happening with #MeToo, my heart breaks basically for everybody involved. I think it's interesting -- I did a radio show where we were talking about Louis, and it was so interesting to me to see the comedians that saw Louis as a symbol of artistic freedom. They were arguing, 'He doesn't have to apologize.' And then I was saying, 'You're absolutely right, he doesn't. But wouldn't it be nice? Wouldn't it be great if he did?'

Because, like it or not, he's become a symbol. And I know he never asked for that, but he's become a symbol. And if he shared his growth -- and by the way, I'm a Louis optimist. I think he's capable of doing this, and if he sees this, I hope that he will and I'm hopeful that he will. I actually think he might. If he uses this platform and this becoming of a symbol to share his growth and his suffering and his development and his evolution, like it or not -- I know he never asked for that -- there's probably millions of people that would take that in a positive way, that would unhinge some of their calcified spots and maybe they'd grow with him.

Does he have to do that? No. But this is my point. So to these comedians, Louis represents, 'Nobody tells me what I can talk about.' Because he went back on stage and he was making all these dark jokes. And people were like, why isn't he talking about his abuse and what he did? And they were like, he doesn't have to. And I was like, ah, OK. So to them, he's a symbol of liberty, agency, artistic freedom. Great. Fine. To other people, though -- and we need to sit in the middle of these things, not either-or; it needs to be both-and -- to other people, he represents abusers.

And page one of the abuser handbook, especially if it's in your family, is if you're abused -- and he feels like he's in our family, doesn't he? He's like a relative. He's in our homes, he's on our phones, he's in our ears. He's part of us, and so he feels familial. And if you're going to do something like that, and we all know it, and if an abuser acts like nothing happened, that's page one of the abuser's handbook, is to be at Thanksgiving and just act like it didn't happen. So you're opening up a cosmic wound. So, to this side, Louis becomes a symbol of deceit and abuse.

Where's the truth? It's somewhere in the middle. Because on this side, I see people going -- I feel the fear -- going: If this is how we're going to whip this person for his ugliness -- and his... ugliness is the right word -- how are they going to respond to my ugliness, maybe if it's not even of the same caliber? But it makes us afraid. Is this what we're going to do? Are we going to beat people up? Are we going to spit on them and shame them and strip them of everything? We get afraid.

But I also -- my heart breaks, obviously, for the people that are going (this is bringing up a global unconsciousness): 'When I see him, I see my abuser.' It breaks my heart. But the truth is definitely somewhere in the middle. And it's a lot quieter, I think, than we're being. Because it's real fun to ring all the bells and bang all the pots, and it feels like we're casting out demons, but I think Martin Luther King was right: light casts out darkness, you know what I mean? And we feel so impotent and futile, especially with the president talking about grabbing pussies. And we're like, 'We can't seem to affect that. Well, let's marshal ourselves. Can we clean up this?' And I hope we can and I hope we change.

And then I also can -- I'm trying to also understand both sides, and I think that's important. Because we're a very binary world. We love being either-or. You're either Red Sox or Yankees. You see it even in sexuality, you're either gay or straight, you're either male or female. And this fucking world, especially when psychological wounds are at play, is so much more mysterious than we're giving it credit for. And we want to walk around and go like, 'No, Louis is a monster, let's burn him alive.' And then they're like, 'Louis didn't do anything wrong.' OK, guys, let's settle down and go, what now? What next? How are we going to change and grow from this?

I have a daughter. How are we going to change with it? I don't need a daughter, by the way. Fuck that. I take that back. I cared before I had a daughter. Fuck that shit. I hate when pastors have a gay son and then they become pro-gay. Fuck that shit. Be converted before the conversion experience. That's a big -- you know, like "Green Book"; you go on a road trip with a black guy and you become less racist. Fuck that. We don't have time for you to go on a road trip with every transgender or sexual abuse victim.

Be converted now. Start loving now, and then rationalize it later. We don't have time. There's too many people that need love and understanding for you to go on 75,000 road trips.

  • The collective suffering society is going through with the #MeToo movement is the earmark that real change is happening, says comedian Pete Holmes. Abusers need to acknowledge their wrongdoing and, where possible, be open about their evolution and growth.
  • Comedian Louis C.K.'s abuses and return to the stage have divided the comedy community and society on a broader scale. The debate predominately has two narratives: Either C.K. is a monster, or he is a symbol of artistic freedom.
  • The truth, says Holmes, is likely in the middle, and our need to take a binary stance won't help us confront and grow from these complicated issues.

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