Louis CK is the latest to be accused of sexual harassment. If proven guilty, should we look at his work in a different light?
With the walls of Hollywood crumbling around us, names we used to respect and admire have fallen in disgrace.
In CK’s case, his latest film I Love You, Daddy has a planned release for Thursday, but the studio decided to halt it after a New York Times investigation claimed the comedian forced five women to either witness or hear him masturbate.
These are serious allegations, which CK has yet to address. If proven true, or admitted to, they will change my perception of an artist whose work I deeply respect.
Louie, his half sarcastic/half dramatic series, didn’t just change the format and tone of comedy, it changed the history of television.
Louie, with its 25 to 30 minutes episodes, paved the way for other great auteur shows like Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None and Donald Glover’s Atlanta.
It’s a personal, beautiful and even, sometimes, hilarious show which makes us question the whole nature of television, parenthood and masculinity.
Louie is everything I hoped Louis was.
His hilarious jokes about masturbation now seem in bad taste and aggressive. His on-stage perversion now seems predatory. But is it?
Like with Spacey, Weinstein and many others, we have heard accusations but no verdict.
Trial by Twitter is now being used as an expression to warn of the dangers of judging people outside the rule of law.
On the other hand, were it not for the social media movement we’ve seen in recent months, where would we be?
Would anything have changed? Or would victims continue to suffer in silence, and a culture of abuse perpetuated for the sake of career progression?
It’s a fine balance, to embolden people to name their abusers, while being careful not to pick up our pitchforks before the show is over.
The worst reactions, perhaps not surprisingly, have come from Hollywood institutions, whose fear of losing money rushes them to cancel shows and erase actors before proven guilty.
Louis CK’s body of work is impressive. He not only directed and starred in films and TV shows, he is perhaps the most accomplished stand-up performer of our time and has personally banked the career of many other great artists.
When allegations were made against Woody Allen, Hollywood ignored them and, because of that, so did we. He was forgiven before ever being judged.
Because of that, we may perhaps never know if he is or isn’t guilty of the things he has been accused of. Perhaps if we had boycotted his films, hurt his pocket, made more noise, things would have been different. Perhaps there would have been closure.
Personally, I love Manhattan. I think Annie Hall is one of the best films of the century and don’t even get me started on Deconstructing Harry.
When faced with allegations made against the artist, I look away. I tell myself and those around me I love the art independent of the artist. I enable.
The curious thing about it is that both with Allen as with CK, their work is so much a part of who they are. Their on-screen personas are meant to be themselves. Sometimes, they won’t even change their name. Louis is Louie, Allen is Al or Alvy or Val.
Being so personal is what makes it so good. Art is best when it reflects the artist.
Maybe by choosing to ignore one in favour of the other, I’m fooling myself. Maybe by streaming their shows or films, I’m being a hypocrite.
But if we chose to boycott every work from artists’ whose conduct or actions we don’t approve of or respect, the prospect is even scarier: is there anything left for us to watch?
(c) Sky News 2017: Should we separate the art from the artist?