You're Not Interesting Because You're Cruel

[Content Note: Gun violence; terrorism; bullying; sexual abuse; fat hatred.]

It's been just over a year since Louis CK said he was very sorry for the sexual abuse he inflicted on his colleagues. His "inevitable redemption crusade," as Melissa called it at the time, seems to be really taking off, albeit with him revealing himself more fully as an angry, unapologetic sadist.

In a leaked audio clip from a recent gig, he mocks non-binary individuals and the Parkland school shooting survivors. A sample:
"Cause you went to a high school where kids got shot, why does that mean I have to listen to you? Why does that make you interesting? You didn't get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way and now I gotta listen to you talking?"
Louis CK is disgraceful and seems like a pretty miserable person.

What I can't stop thinking about in that clip, though, are the people guffawing at his commentary, in that sorta-guilty way that people sometimes do when they're laughing at something their deeper conscience tells them they maybe shouldn't be laughing at. I'm reminded of the people at the Trump rallies visibly delighting in Trump's calls to violence, reveling in the cruelty.

While many women in the public sphere are expected to spend their lives apologizing for their very existences, men like Louis CK and Donald Trump traumatize and re-traumatize with wanton, unremorseful abandon.

Toxic masculinity is the reality of endless numbers of men traversing the world with an attitude of, "Hey my dick, am I right?" expecting everyone else to laugh along and/or just fucking deal with whatever violent, rape culture bullshit they put out into the world.

Like gun violence, for instance.

Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death among youth in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of mass shootings in the USA are committed by men, with white men in particular committing more mass shootings than any other group, although you'll rarely hear them brag about that one.

That men commit the vast majority of mass shootings, often when they are not given who or what they want or feel is rightfully theirs, is a form of gender-based terrorism that the rest of us live with on a daily basis.

A violent male teen shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It's hard to find the punchline in that, but Louis CK, the man who masturbated in front of his colleagues, certainly tried.

Because Louis CK is an abuser, let's talk about the unspoken formula to his joke about kids who lived through a school shooting:

The inherent tension in the setup is that we, the audience, know that children endured a profound trauma by living through this mass shooting. Decent people likewise know that it would be cruel to make a joke at these kids' expense. Regarding the punchline, the kids themselves aren't trying to be "interesting," as he claims. That's simply a right-wing talking point Louis CK adopted as a red-herring. The actual punchline is simply that Louis CK is on the stage, as a confessed sexual abuser staging his comeback, joking about something that decent people would never joke about: kids who were traumatized.

That's it. That's the joke.

It's not creative or funny. People are simply laughing at the cruelty and the embedded fat joke. And yet, the real kicker is that because he dares to "go there," other men will continue to deem him a comedic genius. Toxic masculinity means always excusing shitty men's shitty actions as brilliance when they are more aptly explained by dumb cruelty and that its artiste always cares more about being "objectively funny" than about people's stupid, girly feelings.

Comedy about tragedy can actually be done well. But, that's usually when it's done in an intelligent, thoughtful way by its survivors rather than by rape culture's dopey, shock-value court jesters.

Hannah Gadsby's Nanette, for instance, is brilliant. As is Cameron Esposito's Rape Jokes. Both comedians acknowledge the toxic cultural conditions that gave rise to their trauma and they speak with an anger that is controlled, beautiful, and just, going much deeper into their pain than the hackish, sociopathic, "Heh, political correctness these days, am I right?"

Trauma is tragedy and, in the depths of it, many people are just trying to survive, cope with it, and/or transform it into something positive for themselves and others.

Being cruel in art, comedy, or politics doesn't make a person interesting. Cruelty is a refuge of people who have nothing profound to say yet who want more than anything to be viewed as deeply interesting wunderkinds.

Louis CK is not interesting because he's cruel. Louis CK is not interesting because he's an admitted sexual abuser. Louis CK, in fact, is not interesting at all. The main reason people like Louis CK have followings is because they give cruel, bigoted people permission to stay cruel and bigoted and there's always a market for that. 

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